To understand Amsterdam is to explore beyond its historic centre and to delve into the myriad and diverse neighbourhoods that ring and intertwine its iconic canals. By Nick Walton
One of the city’s most beautiful (and pricy) enclaves, Jordaan is located west and north of the city centre, and is famed for its narrow streets and tree-lined canals. Now lined with beautifully preserved homes (including one that once belonged to Rembrandt), chic art galleries and trendy canal-front cafes and restaurants, this former working class district is extremely pedestrian friendly, with visitors able to trace the banks of the serene canals as they window show. Jordaan is a foodie haven, with favourites including private kitchen concept Daalder (daalderamsterdam.nl)and brunch hotspot Café Brix (cafebrix.nl). Be sure to leave time to visit the organic markets at the café-lined Noordermarkt square and at Lindengracht; look out for the intimate hofjesconcerten, concerts held in the neighbourhood’s often-hidden inner courtyards; and if you’re walking the canals by evening, treat yourself to the city’s best apple pie at local icon Winkel (winkel43.nl).
A must visit for art and culture lovers, Amsterdam’s Museumkwartier is home to both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, two of the city’s biggest attractions (you’ll also find the city’s Diamond Museum if you’re looking to brush up on your four Cs). A quiet, leafy neighbourhood a short tram ride from the action of the city centre. The Museum Quarter is also popular for its large parks, including the expansive Vondelpark, the city’s largest, but the neighbourhood has increasingly become popular as a luxury shopping precinct, making for a rather seductive mix of culture and couture. Local institutions include Rivièra Maison (rivieramaison.com), a two-storey concept boutique selling everything from design books to luxury candy; and local lingerie designer Marlies Dekkers (marliesdekkers.com), although international brands like Canali, Chopard and Chanel are also in attendance. Finish off your retail therapy with the city’s beautiful at the Conservatorium Hotel’s Tunes Bar (conservatoriumhotel.com), a magnet for the city’s glitterati that boasts a selection of over 40 gins
One of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, and one that attracts shoppers from around the world. De Pijp is located south of the city centre and has steadily gentrified as real estate prices soar. Most people come to De Pijp (sometimes refered to as the city’s Latin Quarter) to visit Albert Cuyp Market, which runs between Ferdinand Bolstraat and Van Woustraat and is named for a beloved 17th century painter. An eclectic setting of stalls and shops lining a now pedestrianized avenue, the market is now open six days a week and sells everything from vintage cameras and clothing through to fresh vegetables. The neighbourhood has traditionally been home to the city’s Surinamese, Antillean, Turkish and Moroccan communities, so expect a multicultural vibe as well as some of Amsterdam’s best food stall grazing, especially at The Bazaar, a former church turned North African food hall.
A fascinating micro-neighbourhood at the heart of Amsterdam’s historic centre, De Negen Straatjes or ‘The Nine Little Streets’ is a precinct bursting with colour and vitality thanks to innovative, chef-driven restaurants, cozy cafes and plenty of local designer boutiques. Part of the larger Grachtengordel canal ring district, and connecting the main canals between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat, Nine Streets’ construction dates from the 17th century, when its narrow lanes were the domain of tanning workshops (hence the streets’ curious names, including Cow, Bear and Roe Deer). Today things are rather different; its canal houses now play home to chic galleries, vintage jewellery boutiques, cigar divans, and vintage Champagne palours. Look out for breathtaking vintage watches at the Amsterdam Watch Company (awco.nl), beautiful examples of Dutch Realism at Galerie Lughien (Reestraat 17, 1016; +31 20 625 3193); and if you get puckish, some of the best snacks in town at T’Kuyltje (http://kuyltje.nl), which has been preparing its signature warm pastrami and cheese sandwiches for over 50 years.
Like so many of Amsterdam’s coolest enclaves, the Eastern Docklands started out as a thriving port servicing the Dutch East Indies. Today it’s shrugging off its rather grimy industrial persona and replacing it with cutting-edge architecture, stunning water views and some of the city’s best cultural hubs, including the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ (muziekgebouw.nl), Amsterdam’s magnificent ‘Music Building on the IJ’. If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, the adjacent Bimhuis hall (bimhuis.nl) is often cited as one of the best live jazz venues in the world. After your show, head down to the Delirium Cafe Amsterdam (deliriumcafeamsterdam.nl), home to over 500 beers as well as gourmet bar snacks.
The city’s fastest emerging neighbourhood, Amsterdam Noord is a vast community located across the IJ River. Free ferries make Noord easy to reach, but bringing your own bicycle will help you navigate better and also fit in with the locals. If you’re a lover of arthouse movies, head to the beautiful EYE Film Institute (eyefilm.nl) with its waterfront restaurant and regular screenings. At NDSM-werf up the road there’s an edgy arts community scattered among the likes of abandoned trams and half-sunk submarines. During the weekend Noord hosts the mega flea market IJ Hallen, an Aladdin’s cave of potential bargains, and once you’ve snapped up great deals make for Café-Restaurant Stork (restaurantstork.nl), a stellar seafood restaurant housed in a former ship engine factory, or order cocktails under the fairy lights at Tolhuistuin (tolhuistuin.nl), a former canteen for Shell workers that’s now a thriving events space and open beer garden.