While all neighborhoods in Amsterdam are effortlessly cool, some parts of the city go the extra mile. Read on to discover the trendiest and most culturally engaged areas of the Dutch capital, including iconic haunts, such as de Pijp and de Oud-West, and modern hotspots such as industrial haven Buiksloterham in Amsterdam-Noord.
As with most of central Amsterdam’s outlying neighborhoods, for a long time de Pijp housed the city’s working class, and was mainly constructed in the 19th century in order to fulfil demand for housing. Vestiges of this fascinating urban history are still visible throughout de Pijp and the neighborhood is renowned for its typical, narrow townhouses which were originally built to accommodate low-income families.
The whole neighborhood revolves around Amsterdam’s most iconic market, Albert Cuyp Markt, which attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Besides these stalls and trestles, de Pijp is also home to many excellent cafés and restaurants and is well known by locals for its amazing brunch restaurants, such as Little Collins, Bakers & Roasters and the Scandinavian Embassy.
Although de Wallen often gets a bad rep because of its connections with prostitution and drug tourism, it is actually the oldest neighborhood in Amsterdam, and has acted as an important cultural center for over 600 years. Several buildings inside de Wallen attest to this long history, such as the Oude Kerk, which is recognized as the oldest building in Amsterdam, and a perfectly, preserved clandestine Catholic church, called Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, which is located inside the attic of a 16th-century townhouse.
In recent years, many culturally orientated organizations have moved into de Wallen, partly due to the government’s ongoing efforts to redevelop the area. Red Light Radio, for example, broadcasts shows from inside a set of former prostitution windows, while elsewhere in de Wallen, visitors can sample delicious beers at a socially conscious brewery called Brouwerij de Prael, or enjoy vintage coin-op arcade games at TonTon Club Centrum.
Nieuwmarkt en Lastage trails southwards from Centraal Station towards the river Amstel and contains several, diverse areas. For instance, the northern side of the neighborhood centres around a large, formerly industrial harbour called Oosterdok, that has developed into one of the most architecturally innovative parts of the city over the past few decades. This area’s skyline features many impressive, modern buildings, such as the ship-shaped NEMO science museum and Amsterdam’s towering central library. Many other cultural hotspots resides beneath these structures, including Mediamatic – an eco-conscious, creative initiative that organizes events and exhibitions related to sustainability.
Then there’s the southernly, inland section of Nieuwmarkt en Lastage, which houses an impressive number of historical sites, such as Rembrandt House Museum, the first Protestant church in Amsterdam, Zuiderkerk, and several sites associated with the city’s Jewish Quarter. Two regular markets also take place in the neighborhood, namely Waterloopleinmarkt, which mainly revolves around second-hand goods, and Nieuwmarkt, which features a wide selection of food stalls.
Amsterdam’s northern shoreline has undergone rapid urban developments over the past few decades, turning this once-industrial district into a new cultural hotbed. At the centre of these changes are two architecturally stunning buildings located in the Buiksloterham neighbourhood, called EYE Film Institute and A’DAM Tower– which together, contain a wide range of cultural buildings, including cinemas, a film museum, several restaurants and a subterranean club.
Heading west, visitors to the neighborhood can explore northern Amsterdam’s rustic industrial landscape at NDSM-wharf – an area that is renowned for its excellent nightlife, street art and impressive cultural calendar. Although Buiksloterham may appear further afield than other neighborhoods, a ferry service from Centraal Station regularly travels to two ports along its coastline.
Named after the largest park in the neighborhood, Westerpark is among the greenest parts of Amsterdam. Besides its wonderful recreation grounds, Westerpark also has an impressive concentration of Amsterdamse School architecture – a style of early-20th century urban design, characterized by red-brick façades and graceful, flowing arches.
Elsewhere in Westerpark, visitors can roam through a former gas plant, called Westergasfabriek, that has been converted into an enormous, multi-functional cultural center, or experience Amsterdam’s booming club scene at de Marktkantine.
Vondelpark runs down the eastern limits of the Oud-West and the neighborhood is only a short distance away from Amsterdam’s city center. Despite its centrality, Oud-West is actually relatively laid-back and features several exceptionally wide streets that are lined with dozens of trendy bars, restaurants and concert venues. Most of these establishments are spread over the Oud-West’s main thoroughfares, namely Overtoom, Kinkerstraat and de Clerqstraat.
Each of these roads has its own distinct vibe and fair share of excellent watering holes. Foodies and cinephiles should definitely stop by de Hallen on Kinkerstraat, which contains a massive indoor food hall where local culinary experts sell their wares, as well as an independent cinema which is decked out in Art Deco paneling.
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