Madurodam makes you feel like Gulliver in Lilliput! The city is set in motion by little trams, cars, trains and ships and bridges are going up in down to let them pass!
Built in 1952, this amusement park is a display of the best landmarks of the Netherlands at a scale of 1:25. If you happen to be in the Hague area and do not have much time to visit the country, then you might consider spending 13 euros and one hour or so of your time to get familiarized with some key places and sights – they really look authentic and a lot of time and effort is put into making these little toys. The park’s administration says that, for example, to create a faithful copy of the Schiphol airport it took them over 2 years!
The park has a strange story: it was created as both a war memorial and a charity foundation. Mrs. Boon-van der Starp was inspired by the English miniature park of Bekonscot (apparently the first such park in the world but I would argue that some Japanese gardens have long before used similar concepts) which was able to attract many visitors and raise a lot of charitable funds and decided to create something similar. She benefited from the financial support of a Jewish family, Maduro who initially wanted to erect a war monument in memory of their son, George who had died as a Second World War prisoner. However they were persuaded to invest in the charitable park – hence the name Maduro-dam (dam stands for nothing else but “dam”, but since most Dutch cities were created by harnessing the waters by dams, it just made more sense to call a village or town – the dam of Amstel (Amsterdam) or the dam of the Rotte river (Rotterdam) and so on).
Be advised though that today the park is, not surprisingly, packed with children as I’d say it is now an attraction mainly for kids and parents wanting to entertain and also enlighten their off-springs.
But walking around little Dutch tilted buildings and streets brings out the inner child and it incites you to bend down to watch the Lilliputians in their every day life – sitting at a table in the sun, crossing the street towards Magna Plazza shopping centre in Amsterdam or going to work in a speeding train or tram – this place reminds me of a huge toy museum or a toy store for kids, but not only. There is even a football stadium where “real” matches take place and many other displays are singing and moving around, taking you by surprise.
But above all here you can discover all major highlights of the country – I am listing just a few:
- Schiphol Airport – a faithful copy of the real one (you can even see passengers and planes taking off) and as an extra – here is the only Concorde still in use 🙂
- The Royal Palace of Amsterdam – used by Queen Beatrix for official receptions
- The National Monument on Dam square in Amsterdam – symbol of those who died in World War II
- Museum Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – famous art museum; if you bend down you might be able to spot the “Night Watch” by Rembrandt
- Church Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam – one of the most famous churches in Amsterdam, where Queen Beatrix was crowned in 1980
- Ann Frank House Museum (Anne was a Jewish girl who wrote a moving diary while hiding from the Nazis in this house between 1942 and 1944) and even the Gay Monument in Amsterdam (did you know there is a monument dedicated to gay people in Amsterdam, one of the most open-minded cities in the word?)
- Cathedral Tower Dom in Utrecht – at 112 metres, this is the highest church tower in the Netherlands
- Alkmaar Weighting House and Cheese market – Dutch cheese has acquired an international fame and Alkmaar is famous not only for this delicacy but also for the tradition of weighting cheese in the market, which has the value of a festival today and attracts thousands of tourists
- The Town Hall of Gouda – another place famous for its orange colour cheese but also for its beautiful Gothic Town Hall dating back to the 15th century
- Kaatsheuvel amusement park and some famous Dutch fairy tale characters
- Europe Monument of Maastricht – dedicated to the unity of Europe
- Rotterdam with its Harbour area, Euromast tower (a 185 metre high leisure tower with a turbo lift at the top which takes you round at 360 degrees for enhanced views), Erasmus Bridge (nicknamed “the Swan”) and others
- The Hague with its Parliament Building and International Court of Justice (Peace Palace)
- The New Palm Tree corn mill in Schiedam – the mills in Schiedam are among the highest in the world (see below)
And many- many other places and symbols of Dutch culture.
The park was and is dedicated to young people and to charitable deeds. It was set up as a charity, donating all its net profit to the Student Sanatorium in Laren until it closed down in 1964. Since then Madurodam has been providing financial support to institutions involved with young people like the Youth Sports Fund or the Tuberculosis Fund.
Madurodam is nevertheless a good marketing tool for big companies and organisations who must have paid huge amounts of money to feature in the park. Just a few examples: Unilever, Shell petrol station, ING, Nationale-Nederlanden insurance company or… Mars who have gone so far as to invest in miniature lorries which for a few pence drive to you with a little chocolate bar… All for the entertainment of little or grown-up children:).