Almere: An innovative city and a shopper’s paradise
TEXT: MICHIEL STOL | PHOTOS © MAARTEN FEENSTRA AND ELJEE BERGWERFF
It might be one of the youngest cities in the Netherlands, but Almere has already claimed its position in the top ten of largest ones, citizen-wise. Thanks to its unique location, renowned architecture and its striking, modern city centre, Almere is the city of the future, according to Nik Smit of Almere City marketing.
Almere is in Flevoland, a province that was man made, by closing off the Southsea and partially filling with land. In the 1970s, the first houses were built. “While the city is only 42 years young, 12 years ago, the city council came up with a plan to modernise the centre in order to create an eye-catching heart to the city. A place where living, working, studying and leisure would go hand in hand,” Smit explains.
It resulted in a shopper’s paradise with breathtaking architecture by well-known international architects such as Rem Koolhaas, William Alsop and the firm SANAA. In this setting, over 400 shops open their doors daily to citizens and city trippers. The city features eight squares, each with its own character. It is not difficult to see why Almere’s city centre was recently proclaimed Best Inner City of the Netherlands for the period 2017 to 2020. One can enjoy busy city life at the Stadhuisplein – especially on market days – and feel the spacious, vibrant flair of this city at the Esplanade.
Three layers of harmonious living and shopping
“The city centre effectively consists of three layers,” says Smit, while referring to the Almere Masterplan. “The underground layer is where all the parking lots and public transit are located. This gives visitors all the space they need to enjoy a day of shopping and leisure, without being disturbed by traffic.”
Strolling along the beautiful green avenues, you will find a wide range of boutiques varying from high-street favourites such as Zara, H&M, Primark and Rituals to more exclusive brands including Hugo Boss, Hudson’s Bay, KIKO Milano and Superdry. “Het Belfort and Grote Markt are the perfect places at which to have a nice break whilst exploring the centre. These are the restaurant squares, where you can pick your favourite restaurant, be it one with a local speciality cuisine or a world renowned chain-restaurant such as Five Guys or Vapiano, both of which recently opened their doors here.”
The third layer is located above all of the shops and is a residential area with houses and gardens, perfectly combining nature with architecture. “Thanks to the residential area and the shops, there is always something going on in the streets. It makes the city lively.”
As the population continues to grow and more and more people move to the cities, this has a major impact on our food production, our environmental footprint and how much we pollute. Almere wants to make a difference and create innovative solutions to those issues.
“Look at pollution,” Smit elaborates. “It is not just about Earth anymore, even space is now full of waste.” To make a stand against that, and let people know what is going on, Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde created the Space Waste Lab, an art installation and exhibition at the Kunstlinie Almere Fleveoland (KAF) in Almere. It is accompanied by a working laboratory supported by experts from ESA and NASA, where students and visitors can investigate how to upcycle space waste.
For Roosegaarde, Almere is the perfect place for his project, with its dedication to innovation and pioneering urban development. The light installation will be held outside the KAF, the cultural centre in the heart of town, near the Weerwater waterfront. It will premiere on 5 October after sunset, and the installation will be displayed multiple times up until January. See pages XX for more information and an exclusive interview with Roosegaarde.
City and nature come together
Almere is a great getaway for those who want to see more than the bustling life of Amsterdam. It is located just a 20 minute drive from a direct train connection from Amsterdam, so perfect if you want to have a day of doing something else. Besides the impressive architecture and shops, the city boasts 42 kilometres of coastline and a rich natural environment. “Take a bicycle ride through the acclaimed ‘Oostvaardersplassen’ nature reserve or ride along the coast. If you want more excitement, shop till you drop in Almere Centrum, and grab a drink and something to eat at the end of the day at Het Belfort. There is always something to see and to explore: certainly a recipe for a perfect day out.”