Amsterdam is a favourite destination for many. It is a compact city offering a multicultural melting pot of open-minded residents. It is not called ‘the city where anything goes’ for nothing. There are many wonderful districts in Amsterdam. Every neighbourhood situated in and around the canal belt has its own particular character and charm.
What makes Amsterdam so special to me are the countless show-stopping museums and incredibly diverse range of shops, from vintage and design to the latest happening pop-up stores. You will also find these establishments in local neighbourhoods outside the city centre, as well as an incredible range of restaurants representing all corners of the globe, coffee shops and pubs. You will also encounter lots of festivals, underground parties, flea markets and other fun-filled attractions on the outskirts of this amazing city.
I find it hard to say which the trendiest district of Amsterdam is. I suppose this depends on who’s asking. For example, Amsterdam is divided into “West lovers”, “East fans” and a group that is absolutely convinced that Amsterdam Noord is the most up and coming area of the city. There are of course many other great neighbourhoods in Amsterdam. I have listed a few of them for you here.
Amsterdam Oud-West has been very popular with local residents and other Amsterdammers (a local term of endearment) for years. Its borders touch the city centre and is a really special part of Amsterdam. The atmosphere is laidback. It has a lovely mix of old Amsterdam pubs where Hazes’ popular songs about life reverberate through the loudspeakers. It offers the tastiest and trendiest restaurants, the hippest design shops and flashy, contemporary cafes. The busy Overtoom, parallel to the Vondelpark, is the best place in Amsterdam to shop for furniture.
The Foodhallen (Food Halls) is a cultural hotspot in Amsterdam West. This beautifully restored old tram depot now houses a food market, cinema, hotel, shops and restaurants. I really recommend a visit here. You will find it at Bellamyplein 51. With more than 20 different food stalls, ranging from Michelin-star concepts to international street food, the Amsterdam Foodhallen is an international foodie hotspot like no other. A true feast for the most demanding of culinary connoisseurs
Here are a few of my favourite addresses in the Amsterdam West district:
‘De Amsterdamse Pijp’ (The Pipe) is a melting pot of yuppies and market stall holders. The Pijp is actually an island. This district is located south of the city centre and is surrounded by the Amstel river, the Singel canal and the Boerenwetering canal. The district is connected to the ‘mainland’ via a total of sixteen bridges,
De Pijp was created by Amsterdam’s huge population explosion in the 19th century. This used to be a real working-class neighbourhood, but today it attracts the in-crowd. The best market in De Pijp is the Albert Cuyp market. You will find all manner of cool and unusual items here.
The Sarphati park is situated behind the market and is one of the most beautiful parks in Amsterdam. De Pijp is also known for its many foreign eateries, where you can enjoy the best of Nepalese, Indian or Surinamese dishes.
De Jordaan and the 9 Straatjes (9 Lanes)
De Jordaan (Jordan) is a hotchpotch of narrow streets, canals and alleys. This district, on the western edge of the city centre, is bordered by four canals: the Prinsengracht, the Leidsegracht, the Lijnbaansgracht and the Brouwersgracht.
To this day, De Jordaan is a characteristically local neighbourhood and is still seen as the best place to live in Amsterdam. The ‘good old days’ just keep on going; for a night out you can still visit the glitzy and over-the-top Café Nol, which first opened its doors in the mid 60s, on the Westerstraat.
De Jordaan also boasts the Westertoren, the Noorderkerk, the Anne Frank House and many courtyard houses, some of which are open to the public. The Johnny Jordaanplein with its 5 busts of local musicians (including Tante Leen) is a tribute to this popular folk singer. Every Saturday you will find a market on the Lindengracht, there’s a farmers market and flea market on the Noordermarkt, and on Mondays the textiles market in the Westerstraat and at the Noordermarkt.
- Sample the ultimate in apple cake at Winkel 43 on the Noordermarkt
- Great food at De Jordaan’s Mazzo
- Make sure you take your place in the crowd at the Jordaan festival
- ’t Hotel is my tip for the best place to stay
Amsterdam Oost and the Plantagebuurt
Amsterdam Oost is not as well known as West, but as far as I am concerned it is still very much worth a visit. It is slightly more bohemian than West. Multicultural Amsterdam Oost is known for its broad streets packed with 19th-century architecture, countless green spaces and a high number of cultural attractions.
In this district of Amsterdam you can also enjoy an ample choice of shopping, eating and drinking experiences. There’s plenty to choose from near the Javastraat. The highlights of this neighbourhood are without a doubt the stunning Oosterpark and the majestic Tropenmuseum.
The Plantagebuurt or Plantation district also lies on the eastern side of the city and offers its residents and visitors atmospheric terraces, seriously trendy restaurants and lots of retail therapy. This is the greenest, quietest area of the city, which I find very pleasant. But it is certainly not boring, and with so many places to see you will certainly find something to do or see. The Plantagebuurt is the location of Artis zoo, the Rembrandt House, the Hortus Botanicus and the Jewish Historical Museum. Bargain hunters should definitely go to the Waterlooplein market, the city’s number one flea market.
A few of my favourites in these two neighbourhoods are:
- Bloem Restaurant (inside a really cool 17th century warehouse)
- De Dappermarkt (Dapper market) on Saturdays
- Kadijk café and restaurant
Today’s Amsterdam Noord is nicknamed ‘Amsterdam’s Brooklyn’. According to the New York Times, this district is the fourth ‘hippest’ district in the world. You won’t find any crowded cafe terraces here, but complete gardens and beaches to spread out in, free from crowds of tourists and the rattling of the trams. The movie museum EYE, A’DAM Lookout, cool restaurants and vintage furnishings stores can all be found here.
Even though Amsterdam Noord may be less accessible due to its location on the other side of the IJ, the trendy Northern district is definitely worth the trip. I especially love the cool bay-front restaurants.
My top three:
- Loetje aan ‘t IJ (the most melt-in-the-mouth filet mignon you will ever eat)
- Hotel Goudfazant (is actually a restaurant, not a hotel)
- PLLEK ( a restaurant constructed from shipping containers)