Five Alternative Amsterdam Neighbourhoods To Explore

Escape Amsterdam’s crowded centre with our pick of five under-the-radar neighbourhoods in the city

Skip De Wallen's red lights and the busy streets around Herengracht. We've peddled away from Amsterdam's four main city canals and hopped on one of the free ferries over the IJ to find five alternative neighbourhoods worth visiting in the Dutch capital. Whether you're wanting a taste of the city's hypnotic nightlife, a chance to explore some of the coolest urban developments in Europe, or you're just hoping for a quiet stroll away from the angry dings of bike bells in the historic centre, get under the skin of Europe's most progressive city with our pick of five lesser-known neighbourhoods around Amsterdam.

Five neighbourhoods beyond Amsterdam's historic centre


Take a free ferry across the river from the city centre to IJplein and head east along the riverfront to enter Nieuwendammerham, a waterside stretch of former industrial buildings that have been co-opted into a neighbourhood hangout by Amsterdammers living north of the river. Spread out under the cloudy belches of a still-functioning cement factory (don't worry - it's water vapour), corrugated metal sheds and old brick builds house the waterfront Monk bouldering gym, independent cinema FC Hyena and a duo of craft brewery taprooms, Oedipus and Walhalla, where the brews are served in colourful, psychedelic-inspired cans. Stop by Skatecafé to scoff elevated street food by candlelight beside a sometimes-in-use skate ramp, then finish the night nodding to synth beats at Garage Noord, a club sequestered into an old car repair shop.

Where to stay: BUNK Hotel Amsterdam

Photo credit: Daniel Doorakkers /


More of a road than a neighbourhood, Nieuwendammerdijk is one of the few areas of Amsterdam-Noord that gives the city centre's distinguished looks a run for their money. Squeezed between the area's utilitarian, post-war estates, this slice of historic housing once belonged to fisherman and shipbuilders. Dinky homes, some dating back to the 1500s, jostle the narrow street and spill out into surrounding lanes. Take a gentle amble beneath the precariously sloping and frivolously designed eaves to snoop into effortlessly elegant interiors (not having curtains is common in the Netherlands, stemming from a Calvinist ethos of "we have nothing to hide"), then stop by the century-old, community-owned Café 't Sluisje. Visitors can sit by the canal lock or inside a belle époque dining room for a coffee, or beer, and some favourite Dutch dishes. Our order? A fresh-baked apple tart, please.

Where to stay: SWEETS Hotel Buiksloterdraaibrug

Photo credit: Arne Elgersma / Café De Ceuval

De Ceuvel

Also in Amsterdam-Noord, this innovative post-industrial development has seen a former shipyard on the Johan van Hasselt canal transformed into a community for entrepreneurs and artists. The self-sufficient complex houses a café, offices and hotel all made from salvaged boats and reclaimed industrial materials, lending the area a bohemian, Mad Max aesthetic. Drop by the plant-based waterside restaurant Café De Ceuval for beers, coffees, burgers and croquettes, then meander along the boardwalk jetty, between plants specifically chosen to help cleanse polluted soils, to peer into mural-painted old boats dragged ashore and turned into office space. A fleet of still-bobbing vessels makes up the suites of Hotel Asile Flottant, too. Don't miss the nearby pop-up pizza restaurant Klaproos, and Semai, an Eritrean restaurant in the neighbourhood.

Where to stay: Hotel Asile Flottant


NDSM Wharf

The best place for a drink in all of Amsterdam? We're saying Pllek, the riverside restaurant, bar and man-made beach that promises front-row seats to sunsets over the River IJ. This eco-conscious initiative is a stalwart hangout in the street art-tattooed NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard area that's been transformed into a creative quarter packed with artists' studios, galleries and nightlife venues. Start a Saturday's explorations at circular bakery BBROOD, seek out experimental artworks in the 80 studios housed within the vast Kunststad and in the neighbourhood's other creative spaces (the NDSM Wharf website has a full breakdown of what's happening in the area), then grab an on-the-go lunch of fresh herring from Ciska Jonk's fish stall, near the ferry port. Afternoons are best spent strolling the huge, hanging exhibition of street art at STRAAT Museum, before taking a leisurely evening meal at Pllek (think steamed mackerel with horseradish-spiked crème fraîche and salt-baked celeriac) accompanied by live music from local bands.

Where to stay: Faralda Crane Hotel

Testafel, Interiors


Made up of four smaller neighbourhoods, Amsterdam-West is the city's most densely populated borough. Spreading from the edges of the city centre out to the Teleport district, its sprawl encompasses the hip, canalside streets of Oud West, Bos En Lommer's Moroccan supermarkets and Turkish bakeries, the elegant architecture of waterside Westerpark, and De Baarsjes' indie store-filled streets. It's also Amsterdam's greenest area. If you're wanting to soak up some sun, head to Westerpark, or hit Vondelpark's Blauwe Theehuis for a beer. Elsewhere, we'd recommend grabbing coffee at Lot61 Coffee Roasters, and fuelling up for further exploration on anything from dim sum to modern Mexican at De Hallen's food hall, Visiting on a Saturday? In the northern edges of the district, towards Sloterdijk station, the experimental restaurant TestTafel serves seven-course meals for a minimum donation of £22, with any additional profits supporting it's parent non-profit De Sering in providing a people's kitchen, and food for refugee programmes and protests.

Where to stay: BOAT & CO

Read about the city of Amsterdam's innovative spirit in Vol. 40: Visionary

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