A summer night on Pampus

Pampus is a UNESCO World Heritage site close to Amsterdam. Part of the former defense line of Amsterdam, the uninhabited island boasts an impressive 19th century fortress. In summer you can have dinner on the island, which is what I recently did with family.


Zomerlicht (summer light) is the name of the special event; when dinner nights are hosted on Pampus from Thursday through Saturday. A boat leaves from IJburg and sails to Pampus in about half an hour. Making a reservation is compulsory.

Upon arrival, you get a drink and an introduction to the island. For the first course you can pick up a picnic basket with mostly local treats and take it with you to settle down anywhere on the island. You could join a tour of the fortress, which we didn’t do because we were enjoying the food, company and view. We did roam around for a bit before the main course was served at 9 PM.

Pampus Zomerlicht appetizers
Local cheese, bread and sausage: the best appetizers!

History of Pampus

To protect Amsterdam from enemy attacks, a defense line was conjured up and put into place between 1880 and 1920. Dozens of fortresses were built then as part of the 135 kilometer long water defense line.

Pampus is part of that defense line. The build of the island – which was nothing more than a sand bank initially – and its fortress was started in 1887 and finished in 1895. It was never used in a hostile situation and became derelict over the years.

At the end of the 1980’s a foundation took over the upkeep of the island from the state and saved it from total neglect. The island and fortress were reinstated in its former glory with the help of many volunteers and Pampus became UNESCO World Heritage in 1996.

Pampus' impressive 19th century fortress
Pampus’ impressive 19th century fortress

Voor Pampus liggen

In Dutch, we have a saying ‘voor Pampus liggen’, which translates literally to ‘lying in front of Pampus’. It means being exhausted or passed out drunk. The saying is said to have originated from the time of trade shipping in former centuries. Back then, due to the shallow water, ships often had to wait in front of Pampus before they could move on to Amsterdam. It could take a few days before the tide or assistance in the form of a hoisting device came. In the mean time, sailors would amuse themselves with booze and women, hence the figurative meaning of the saying. 

Roaming around the Pampus fortress
Roaming around the fortress

Visiting Pampus

These days Pampus is a tourist attraction and location for events and parties. The season runs from October through September for day visits. Boats depart from IJburg, Muiden and Almere. More info at https://www.pampus.nl/en/visitors-info/ferry-service/. You can also go there with your own boat.

Pampus can be visited at night during Zomerlicht in summer as well as during Winterlicht (winter light) in Winter.

Spiderweb Pampus
Spiders have been active here

Spending a night on Pampus

It is a very special experience to go to such a wonderful island at night. We enjoyed the sunset, each other’s company and the food. Since we didn’t have a chance to join the tour, we’ll have to come back some day!

Pampus sunset
Sunset over Pampus: Amsterdam can be seen in the distance

More things to do in and around Amsterdam here

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