City Guide

Amsterdam Neighbourhoods

The Dutch capital has a fairly compact centre, which means that it’s easy to feel like you know the city inside-out after just a short stay there. However, each of Amsterdam’s neighbourhoods have a distinct character and a unique cultural DNA, which means once you scratch the surface you can discover new bars, attractions and hangouts which you may have missed first time round.

Check out our guide to Amsterdam’s neighbourhoods below, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to make one of them your home-base next time you visit…

Amsterdam Centrum

Amsterdam’s city centre region, Centrum is home to most of the Dutch capital’s most famous attractions. Chances are if you’ve ever been to Amsterdam then you’ll have wandered through Centrum on your way to Leidsplein, Rembrandtplein, the Canal Ring or Dam Square.

The Centrum region is home to the famous baroque architecture and canal houses which you see on postcards and in photos of Amsterdam, which makes it one of the most scenic areas in the city. It is also a region packed with bars, shops and restaurants, so there’s plenty to discover here.

Eat/drink: Café Belgique is a cosy beer bar hidden away in Centrum with a surprisingly large range of beers and décor from a London graffiti crew.

Shop: De Bijenkorf is a beehive-esque department store located in Dam Square with a number of brand shops and boutiques inside.

Do: Visit Science Center NEMO and its 5 floors of hands-on science exhibitions.

De Negen Straatjes (The 9 Streets)

A micro-neighbourhood which is located in Amsterdam Centrum, but has more than enough character to be included here on its own, De Negen Straatjes is the best shopping district in Amsterdam.

A historic trading region, even the street names of De Negen Straatjes refer to goods and produce which were historically sold in the shops there. These days, however, you’re more likely to find trendy boutiques and art shops.

Eat/drink: Relax with a coffee at Screaming Beans, one of the best cafés and lunch-spots in the Negen Straatjes region.

Shop: For a full list of shops in the region, head to the Negen Straatjes website.

Do: Indulge yourself in a little bit of retail therapy, but don’t forget the museums dotted around the streets. For more information, head to the Negen Straatjes website.

The Jordaan

Beginning at Brouwersgracht, just west of the Centraal Station and ending at Leidsegracht, The Jordaan is a region famous for its winding, disorderly streets and its leafy, green courtyards.

In the past the region housed the working class of Amsterdam, as well as being a popular region for immigrants. This means that the region is simultaneously vibrant and multi-cultural while maintaining a strong Dutch folk tradition.

Eat/drink: Wander The Jordaan and you’ll be amazed at the range of international cuisine available to choose from, thanks to the area’s multicultural history.

Shop: The Jordaan is home to a number of fantastic open-air markets. The ideal place to pick up a bargain or two.

Do: The annual Jordaan Festival takes place each September and celebrates the area’s folk music tradition.

The Museum District

Home to a number of Holland’s most famous museums, Amsterdam’s Museum District is one of the Dutch capital’s premier cultural hubs, and its most affluent area.

Construction of this region began following the completion of the Rijksmusem, with the plan drawn up by that museum’s architect, P J H Cuypers. These days, it houses the city’s 3 most major museums, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum.

Eat/drink: The House of Bols Genever Experience will teach you about Holland’s most famous liquor and have you sampling cocktails galore!

Shop: PC Hoofstraat, named after P J H Cuypers, is probably Amsterdam’s premier shopping street outside of the Negen Straatjes region.

Do: Educate yourself in the city’s most amazing museums and be amazed at masterpieces by the Dutch Masters and more.

Red Light District

Everybody has heard about the Red Light District, and lots of the stereotypes about the area are true, however there is plenty more to this misunderstood region than what you’ve probably heard about.

That being said, it is important to look out for pickpockets in the area, who regularly target tourists, and remember not to take photos of the prostitutes. This rule is strictly enforced.

Eat/drink: The Red Light District also contains Amsterdam’s Chinatown, so why not treat yourself to a delicious Chinese meal?

Shop: Go hunting for bargain streetwear and vintage clothing in the region, with many of the famous glass windows now converted into gallery and showcase space.

Do: Amsterdam’s oldest building, Oude Kerk, is also in the Red Light District and offers a glimpse into the past of the Dutch capital.

Nieuwmarkt

A large square in Amsterdam’s Chinatown, near the Red Light District, Nieuwmarkt was once a large and open canal, but this was filled to make way for the market.

One thing you may notice about Nieuwmarkt is the bilingual street signs, this is because the area was once an old harbour where Chinese traders settled. These days it is also home to large Korean, Japanese and Indonesian populations too.

Eat/drink: Indonesian food in Amsterdam is truly spectacular and is so established that many see it as Dutch, rather than foreign, cuisine.

Shop: Nieuwmarkt takes its name from the markets which take place there regularly, including an organic market every Saturday.

Do: Celebrate Chinese New Year in the region, with amazing firework displays.

Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk

For a totally unique shopping experience, Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk are your best bets. Located in The Jordaan, these 2 streets have such a fantastic offering of hip and quirky boutique stores that they’re worth spending extra time in on their own merit.

Eat/drink: Stout! (which means “naughty!” in Dutch) is a cheeky little restaurant with a menu which changes every 6 weeks. Worth a repeat visit.

Shop: There are 235 shops across the region, so there’s no shortage of places to indulge yourself!

Do: Hollandaluz is a delicatessen offering the best of southern Spanish cuisine and produce, worth investigating.

Nieuw-West

Literally translated to the New West, this region is the greenest and largest neighbourhood of Amsterdam. It is also the newest region in the list, having been formed as late as 2010!

Home to a number of business and industrial parks which have been renovated with cultural attractions, gardens, bars and restaurants, it’s a cool and trendy suburb.

Eat/drink: Bret, the newly opened bar-restaurant, has its own bee sanctuary, vineyard and sustainable garden.

Shop: Buy local produce from farmer’s markets and experience Dutch cheese at its finest.

Do: Head to Sloten to take a glimpse into Holland’s past with its wonderful windmills and learn about how Rembrandt, son of a miller, grew up in the region.

Ijburg

The easternmost neighbourhood of Amsterdam, IJburg consists of 4 separate, reclaimed islands, man-made from 1996 onwards.

There is a bridge connecting the islands, with more planned for construction. IJburg is one of the most modern and progressive regions of Amsterdam.

Eat/drink: The café by the urban beach offers great food and fantastic views of the city.

Shop: IJburg is a great place to shop for kids’ items, with a number of child-specialist shops.

Do: Head to Blijburg, the city’s hippest urban beach, and enjoy the parties which take place when the summer sun comes out.

Amsterdam Zuid

Next to Vondelpark and below Museumplein lies Amsterdam Zuid, home to some of Amsterdam’s most wealthy inhabitants and most desirable postcodes. Unlike most of Amsterdam’s grid-like streets, Amsterdam Zuid’s pathways curve around Vondelpark and wind through the beautiful, leafy neighbourhood.

Eat/drink: Citroën Restaurant, located on the site of a former car factory, is one of the city’s trendiest new eateries.

Shop: Albert Cuypmarkt is one of the largest open-air markets in Amsterdam, with a broad, multicultural offering.

Do: While Vondelpark gets the tourists, Willemspark is one of the Dutch capital’s best parks to visit.

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