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Like most other larger European cities, Amsterdam is divided into several boroughs that each have their own distinctive charms, attractions and architectural styles. In order to make sense of the city’s main urban districts, Culture Trip has put together a short guide covering Amsterdam’s principle neighbourhoods.
The river IJ separates Noord from the rest of Amsterdam, and for a long time the borough was primarily associated with shipping. However, over the last few decades, Noord has undergone considerable regeneration and today its shoreline features several impressive cultural institutions including the EYE and A’DAM Toren. As well as these modern architectural wonders, Noord is also renowned for its rustic, industrial buildings, many of which have been converted into trendy restaurants, bars or ateliers.
Despite its large parks, excellent restaurants, and numerous museums, Oost is probably the least explored part of Amsterdam. In many ways, this understated reputation works in its favour, and means that places like Dappermarkt, Oosterpark, Brouwerij ‘t IJ or Roest are rarely overcrowded. Moreover, Oost is actually exceptionally near to Amsterdam-Centrum, making the neighbourhood perfect for travellers looking for quieter accommodation within biking distance from the city centre.
Amsterdam-Centrum is contained within the city’s historical limits and resembles a crescent due its iconic canal belt. Centrum is undoubtedly the busiest and most popular part of Amsterdam, partly because of the legions of visitors streaming through the Red Light District, Centraal Station and Dam Square. Although the area is renowned for its more touristy sites, its periphery is noticeably quieter and includes several historical charming locales such as the de Jordaan or Plantage.
During the 19th century Amsterdam started to expand beyond its western limits, and the city’s municipality began building large residential areas in order offset housing issues. Although these developments were originally utilitarian, today Amsterdam-West is famed for its photogenic townhouses and typical Dutch architecture, making it particularly attractive to residents and visitors alike. Furthermore, the area recently experienced a culinary boom and is among the best places in Amsterdam to find unique restaurants, bars or take-out joints.
Museumplein marks the northern border of Amsterdam-Zuid, while Vondelpark trails down the western side of the neighbourhood. Considering these monumental landmarks, it is somewhat unsurprising that Zuid is regularly cited as the most affluent part of Amsterdam. Besides these cultural attractions, Zuid is also known for its luxury retail street P.C. Hooftstraat, which contains a large concentration of high-end fashion stores. In the late 20th century, Zuid’s southern tip rapidly developed into Amsterdam’s main business district and today this area features some of the finest examples of modern architecture in the Netherlands.
After World-War II, Amsterdam’s western neighbourhoods began to encroach upon several villages outside the city’s former limits. Eventually, these smaller settlements became part of Amsterdam proper and are today known as the Nieuw-West. This sprawling nieghbourhood is centred around an enormous lake called Sloterpas and its surrounding green belt. Recently, many cultural initiatives have set up shop in Nieuw-West, such as Radion or the Appel Arts Centre, and the neighbourhood is becoming an increasingly popular visitor destination.
Geographically speaking, Zuidoost doesn’t actually border any other bourough in Amsterdam, meaning that the area is considered an exclave of the city. To many Amsterdammers, Zuid-Oost is synonymous with Bijlmer, a massive, modern neighbourhood that was built according to Le Corbusier’s architectural principles, and contains several impressive high-rise apartment blocks. Several important buildings are located inside Zuidoost, including Ajax FC’s home ground, Amsterdam ArenA and the largest concert venue in the Netherlands, the Ziggo Dome.