Amsterdam-Noord, the Netherlands
Amsterdam doesn't want you to visit. Well, not quite. Overtourism has led to officials in the Dutch city actively taking steps to limit crowds - and deter the wrong types of tourists - in an attempt to protect the character of its creaking, crowded centre. The red-light district is on the move; the tourist office is no longer advertising Amsterdam; and new rules are changing how non-residents experience the city (no spliffs in the street, please). But don't think you shouldn't visit. Instead, consider this the time to chart alternative neighbourhoods, exploring beyond the central canals to find the districts Dammers actually live in (and love).
Take Amsterdam-Noord, a modern, once industrial neighbourhood located on the other side of the IJ from the most traditional tourist itineraries. Jump on a five-minute free ferry from Centraal station, grab a coffee at Polly Goudvisch, beside the terminal, then get exploring. Head east along the waterfront towards the belching chimneys of a still-functioning cement factory to find Nieuwendammerham, a stretch of former industrial buildings that now houses all-day hangouts such as the airy Monk bouldering gym and independent cinema FC Hyena. You'll find yourself strolling between sites co-opted by city chefs, craft breweries and creative projects. Out west, meanwhile, edgy cultural spots including Eye Film Museum and Nxt Museum have popped up, and, a little further afield, there's the graffiti-scrawled, art studio-filled NDSM Wharf. Former shipbuilding sites now house artists' studios and street art galleries.
It's not all steel girders, though: this area of the city was once home to fishing communities. Those houses - smaller and quainter than the towering townhouses of the city centre - still line meandering streets that curl between post-war residential buildings, and have become hot property for the city's creative professionals. As is the custom, most residents don't have curtains over their expansive windows - perfect for those wanting a glimpse into the lives of the city's coolest residents.
Sweets | Photo credit: Mirjam Bleeker
A sunset at Pllek. This restaurant and bar in NDSM Wharf has an artificial beach set up beside the water. Grab a beer, take a seat at a picnic bench on the sand, and watch darkness descend to a soundtrack of eclectic live music.
Where to stay
Swap a traditional room for an innovative Sweets Hotel studio. These characterful stays (totalling 28 citywide) were once the houses of the city's bridge keepers - the workers responsible for opening bridges to allow boat traffic through. A centralised control system rendered the properties obsolete until, in 2021, the Sweets team reimagined them as tiny, tactile hotel suites, all individually designed. Of the four in Noord, our favourite is 103 Buiksloterdraaibrug, a lakeside, window-wrapped hut tucked between historic housing. An 18th-century windmill is within walking distance.
Where to go for dinner
You have options. There's pizza and pasta at the candlelit Klaproos; Asian-inspired dishes such as langoustine broth and confit duck in a soy reduction at minimalist Corner Store (with a vinyl soundtrack); sustainably produced fare from the rustic Café de Ceuvel (Amsterdam is packed with eco-friendly eateries); and French-inflected plates at the Hotel de Goudfazant, an airy, industrial dining space housed inside an old garage. Try Skatecafé to feast on street food favourites beside a sometimes-in-use skate ramp, or head to Garage Noord to roll from rotis in the evening into techno till the early hours - the relaxed restaurant transforms into a strobe-flickering club come nightfall. For lunch, make tracks to Café 't Sluisje, a century-old, community-owned canal lock café in the historic Nieuwendammerdijk district open for coffee, beer and Dutch food favourites.
And for a drink?
Oedipus Brewing, for space-age beers served inside a former steel factory. Open Wednesday to Sunday, the wacky taproom is famed for its strange experiments: expect half-beer, half-soda concoctions, tangerine-flavoured tipples and more.
Who to take with you
Those keen to experience the Dammer good life beyond Herengracht. There's more to this city than stroopwafels and cheese shops.
Essentials to take home
Noord is home to some of the city's hottest vintage stores and flea markets: source some old-school Dutch crockery for your dinner table at Van Dijk & Ko.
How to get there
It takes just under four hours to travel from London St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal on a Eurostar train. From there, take the ferry across the IJ to get to Amsterdam-Noord. No need for a ticket; simply step aboard the next service to Buiksloterweg at the station's ferry port. Other ferries will take you to NDSM Wharf and IJplein, too.