The Coolest Neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Gaurav Jain
Gaurav Jain | Unsplash
Tom Coggins

Amsterdam has a lot more to offer than the Red Light District‘s X-rated windows and smoky coffee shops. From its food scene to its raft of museums, boutiques and bustling outdoor markets, this is a cosmopolitan city with a village feel, thanks to its 17th-century Unesco-protected waterways and striking canal houses. To truly get to know the Dutch capital, take the time to explore some of its different neighbourhoods – from bustling De Wallen to uber-cool De Pijp, these are the best neighbourhoods to visit in Amsterdam.
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1. De Pijp

Architectural Landmark

For a long time, De Pijp, like most of Central Amsterdam’s outlying neighbourhoods, housed the city’s working class. It was mainly constructed in the 19th century to fulfil increased demand for housing. Vestiges of this fascinating urban history are still visible throughout De Pijp and the neighbourhood is known for its narrow townhouses, originally built to accommodate low-income families. The whole neighbourhood revolves around Amsterdam’s most famous market, Albert Cuyp Markt, which attracts hundreds of visitors every day. De Pijp is also home to many excellent cafes and restaurants, and is well known by locals for its amazing brunch restaurants, such as Little Collins, Bakers & Roasters and the Scandinavian Embassy.

2. De Wallen (Red-Light District)

Architectural Landmark

Although De Wallen often gets a bad rap because of its connection with prostitution and drug tourism, it is actually the oldest neighbourhood in Amsterdam, and has been an important cultural centre for over 600 years. Several buildings in De Wallen attest to this long history, such as De Oude Kerk – the oldest building in Amsterdam – and a perfectly preserved clandestine Catholic church, Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, located inside the attic of a 16th-century townhouse. Many cultural organisations have moved into De Wallen in recent years. Red Light Radio, for example, broadcasts shows from inside a set of former prostitution windows. Elsewhere in De Wallen, visitors can sample delicious beers at a socially conscious brewery called Brouwerij de Prael.

3. Nieuwmarkt en Lastage

Architectural Landmark

Nieuwmarkt en Lastage trails southwards from Centraal station towards the River Amstel and contains several diverse areas. The northern side revolves around a large, former industrial harbour called Oosterdok, which has developed into one of the most architecturally innovative parts of the city, while its skyline features many impressive, modern buildings, such as the NEMO Science Museum and Amsterdam’s towering central library. Many other cultural hotspots reside beneath these structures, including Mediamatic, an eco-conscious creative initiative. Then there’s the southern inland section of Nieuwmarkt en Lastage, which houses an impressive number of historical sites, such as the 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 here, namely Waterloopleinmarkt, which centres on second-hand goods, and Nieuwmarkt, which features a wide selection of food stalls.

4. Buiksloterham (Amsterdam-Noord)

Architectural Landmark

Amsterdam’s northern shoreline has undergone rapid development over the last few decades, turning the former industrial district into a new cultural centre. At the core of these changes are two architecturally stunning buildings located in Buiksloterham – the EYE Film Insititute and A’DAM Toren. Together they contain a wide range of cultural buildings, including cinemas, a film museum, several restaurants and a subterranean nightclub. Heading west, visitors can explore Northern Amsterdam’s rustic industrial landscape at NDSM Wharf, an area renowned for its excellent nightlife, street art and impressive cultural calendar. Although Buiksloterham may appear further afield than other neighbourhoods, a ferry service from Centraal station regularly travels to two ports along its coastline.

5. Westerpark

Architectural Landmark

Westerpark, named after the largest park in the neighbourhood, 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 characterised by red-brick facades and graceful, flowing arches. Elsewhere in Westerpark, visitors can roam through a former gas plant, Westergasfabriek, which has been converted into an enormous, multifunctional cultural centre.

6. Oud-West

Architectural Landmark

Vondelpark runs down the eastern limits of Oud-West and the neighbourhood is only a short distance away from Amsterdam’s city centre. Despite its centrality, Oud-West is relatively laid-back and features several wide streets lined with dozens of trendy bars, restaurants and concert venues. Most of these establishments are spread over Oud-West’s main thoroughfares – Overtoom, Kinkerstraat and De Clercqstraat. Each of these roads has its own distinct vibe and its 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 decked out in art deco panelling.

7. Oud-Zuid

Architectural Landmark

A trip to Amsterdam isn’t complete without a jaunt into Oud-Zuid and its museum quarter. The neighbourhood boasts the Rijksmuseum, which holds Dutch and European art and artefacts from the Middle Ages to the present day. A short walk away is the Van Gogh Museum, the Moco Museum – home to works by Dalí and Banksy – and the Stedelijk, with its large collection of international modern art and design. On Saturday morning, head to zuiderMRKT, a small outdoor food market bursting with selections of cheese, made-to-order crêpes and fresh fruit and vegetables. At night, head to traditional Italian restaurant Le 4 Stagioni for its glorious pasta and pizza selection, before sauntering along to the corner of Cornelis Schuytstraat and Willemsparkweg to grab a drink at one of its brasseries.

8. Oost

Architectural Landmark

Amsterdam Oost is one of the most diverse cultural hotspots in the Dutch capital. Kick your day off with a caffeine hit at Coffee Bru or Bar Bukowski, two of the neighbourhood’s best coffee shops, before visiting Tropenmuseum, one of Amsterdam’s largest museums, where artefacts and art celebrate cultural diversity. The Hermitage Museum is also worth a trip, thanks to the top examples of 17th-century Dutch art on display. If the sun is out, grab some picnic supplies from Gallizia Deli on the bustling Javastraat and hit Oosterpark, the first public park in Amsterdam.

9. Haarlem

Architectural Landmark

Hop on a 20-minute train from Amsterdam Centraal station to reach the charming medieval city of Haarlem. Here, you’ll find a spread of museums, historical sites, quirky boutiques and cosy restaurants all within walking distance. Make your way to the Cathedral of St Bavo, the second-largest church in Holland, which is worth a visit for its zany neogothic architecture. Another Instagrammable landmark is De Adriaan windmill, a wooden towered mill originally built in 1778; wind your way to the top floor for spectacular views over the old town. For more great vistas, hit De Dakkas, a trendy roof terrace restaurant inside a huge greenhouse.

10. De Plantage

Architectural Landmark

Get your nature fix with a trip to Amsterdam’s often overlooked De Plantage district. This leafy neighbourhood – dubbed the Cultural Garden of Amsterdam – is home to Artis Zoo and Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, dating back to 1638. Meanwhile, culture comes in the form of the Royal Theatre Carré, the Dutch National Opera and Ballet and the Rembrandt House Museum, which allows you to visit the house where the painter lived and worked. If you love a good bargain, head to Waterlooplein flea market (open six days a week), which has 300 stalls selling everything from vinyl records to vintage clothes.

11. Amsterdam Centrum

Architectural Landmark

You’re spoiled for choice in Amsterdam’s vibrant city centre when it comes to cute stores, hipster coffee shops, top-rated restaurants and Instagrammable streets. Come nightfall, this district comes alive. After taking an evening stroll and grabbing a bite to eat, roll into bed at one of the neighbourhood’s many hotels, such as the Hoxton and W Amsterdam.

12. 9 Streets

Architectural Landmark

This area, Negen Straatjes in Dutch, is one of Amsterdam’s most photogenic micro-neighbourhoods, with cute thoroughfares straddling some of the city’s grandest canals. Spend the day shopping at stores such as Scotch & Soda and Dr Martens, before heading to one of the neighbourhood’s many eateries. Restaurant ‘t Zwaantje, which dates back to 1973, is known for its Wienerschnitzel, mussels and hot apple pie; Bar Brasserie OCCO is loved for its caviar and oysters, and Chocolaterie Pompadour and Urban Cacao are must-visits for sweet treats.

13. Nieuw-West

Architectural Landmark

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.

14. Zuidoost

Architectural Landmark

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.

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15. Weesperzijde

Architectural Landmark

This small neighbourhood in Amsterdam-Oost runs down the eastern side of the River Amstel and looks onto de Pijp. Its main thoroughfare, Wibautstraat, is named after a famous city planner and was once seen as one of the ugliest streets in Amsterdam. However, during the late 20th century, the area was altered by several urban development projects and is now among the trendiest parts of Amsterdam, partly due to the presence of Volkshotel – a stylish boutique hotel that features a restaurant, ateliers, and a rooftop nightclub. Though it is easy enough to spend entire weekends chilling out inside this all-in-one boutique hotel, there are many other hangouts spread around Weesperzijde.

16. Overhoeks

Architectural Landmark

Although Amsterdam-Noord might seem far off, the area is actually only a few minutes away from the inner city and is accessible via a speedy ferry that leaves from Centraal Station. Overhoeks is the most southernly part of Amsterdam-Noord and is immediately recognisable due to its monumental skyline, which is framed by EYE Film Institute and A’DAM Tower. A design hotel is actually contained within this second building, alongside a subterranean nightclub and several high-end restaurants. Other nearby highlights include a wine bar-cum-cinema called FC Hyena, which screens the latest arthouse releases and is the only bar in Amsterdam with an indoor skateboarding halfpipe.

17. De Jordaan

Architectural Landmark

This charming, residential neighbourhood in western Amsterdam is renowned for its welcoming atmosphere, photogenic townhouses, and impressive culinary sector. Despite being part of Amsterdam-Centrum, de Jordaan moves at a more relaxed pace than the rest of the inner city, making it perfect for quiet, urban getaways. Its central location also means that visitors based in de Jordaan can easily access many of the city’s main sites such as the Anne Frank House, Dam Square, and the canal belt by foot. Many of the neighbourhood’s hotels are located inside renovated canal houses. For instance, there’s Linden Hotel on Lindengraght, which overlooks two parallel canals, or Mr. Jordaan Hotel, which is housed within a spacious, 19th-century building.

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18. IJburg

Park

Ijburg is an architecturally stunning neighborhood on the eastern borders of Amsterdam. The area is actually built upon completely artificial ground, reclaimed from the sea in order to address Amsterdam’s housing crisis. This premeditated approach to urban planning means that Ijburg has a unique civic layout, and its streets are arranged around a grid system – a design which is almost unheard of inside the Netherlands. Ijburg has an impressive quota of modern architecture, and most of the neighborhood’s residential buildings recall Dutch neoplasticism. A magnificent bridge called Nesciobrug connects Ijburg with Amsterdam-Oost, which can be mounted by cyclists.

19. Oosterdok

Museum

Over the past two decades, Amsterdam’s eastern docklands has gained an increasing number of monumental buildings. This post-modern skyline is the result of an assertive planning policy developed by the city’s municipality which was devised to rejuvenate the area and to decongest Amsterdam’s town center. To accomplish this, the municipality gave planning permission to several important cultural initiatives, leading to the construction of a series of impressive, ultra-modern structures that includes NEMO, ARCAM, Muziekgebouw aan ‘t Ij, and Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam. Like most of Amsterdam, Oosterdok contains a remarkable system of cycle paths that pass under the area’s towering architecture.

20. Amsterdamse Bos

Forest, Park

This massive, man-made forest lies adjacent to Amstelveen and is three times larger than New York’s Central Park. The area was built in the early 20th century as a suburban retreat for Amsterdam’s residents, giving the city a large, green belt that could be easily accessed from its urban center. A system of artificial lakes and rivers wind around Amsterdamse Bos‘ luscious grasslands, and the whole park is connected by a series of cycle routes. The park’s wooded areas are ideal for off-road biking, and its larger terrains possess hills – a geographical feature that is exceptionally rare inside Noord-Holland.

21. NDSM-werf

Bistro, American

Amsterdam’s northern shore has experienced a massive cultural revival over the past decade and is regularly called the trendiest part of the city. Although there is a lot of ground to explore in Noord, Overhoeks and NDSM-werf are undoubtedly the most popular destinations in the neighborhood, mainly due to their outstanding architecture and cultural establishments. A number of cycle routes run between these areas, and each has its own ferry terminal. Overhoeks is primarily associated with two monumental, modern buildings, namely the Eye Film Institute and A’DAM Toren, whereas NDSM-werf is significantly more industrial with most of the area’s restaurants and clubs built inside repurposed shipping warehouses.

22. Amstel

Architectural Landmark

After the Ij, the Amstel is the largest body of water in Amsterdam, and its banks are lined with a long list of historical buildings. The river begins in central Amsterdam and then flows southwards towards a small, rustic village called Ouder Kerk aan de Amstel. Inside Amsterdam, the Amstel runs past several important landmarks including the Jewish Quarter, Hermitage Museum, and Magere Brug, each of which is exceptionally photogenic. After around five kilometers, this picturesque route turns into a large park called Amstelpark, which features several beautiful flower gardens and a petting zoo, and then continues onwards beyond Amsterdam’s borders.

Sadie Whitelocks contributed additional reporting to this article.

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