Travel Guide: Amsterdam’s Coolest Neighbourhoods

The Dutch capital is all about the laid-back vibe with European charm – and its quaint neighbourhoods also just happen to make it the perfect weekend getaway.

Photo by Jason Kennedy.

Photo by Jason Kennedy.

Amsterdam is a classic European getaway all year long, but in the springtime? It’s a no-brainer. Cafes open their patios along the narrow cobblestone streets, the city’s famous flowers are blooming at every corner and locals shrug off the winter chill with a welcoming energy. The weather is ideal – just warm enough for sightseeing, outdoor festivities like Koningsdag (King’s Day) and getting lost in the midst of the fresh-smelling tulip festival. It’s so perfect the thought of ducking into one of Amsterdam’s famed museums may seem like sacrilege, so instead we say get on your bike, feet, or on the tram and cruise through Amsterdam’s prettiest, chicest and most cultural areas with our essential Amsterdam neighbourhood guide.

CENTRAL AMSTERDAM might be best known for its countless, always photographed canals. The core of the area, known is as Canal Ring, was built in 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. Toady it’s Amsterdam’s busiest tourist hotspot (and a part of UNESCO World Heritage List) lined with beautiful seventeenth-century mansions, hundreds of cafes, restaurants, shops and luxe boutique hotels also situated in coveted spots along the main canals, Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht and Herengracht.

WHERE TO STAY The Ambassade Hotel
The Ambassade Hotel has prime location to its advantage in the heart of the Canal Ring overlooking the pristine Herengracht waterway. If that’s not enough to tickle your Dutch fancy, it also happens to be one of the most luxurious and opulent hotels in the city (thanks to it’s gilded embrace of the Golden Dutch style). It’s the perfect combo of old-world (carefully preserved elements of original architecture and decor are present everywhere) mixed with everything your could need from the modern world. And art lovers can rejoice – the hotel’s extensive art collection draws the artsy crowd and prolific writers (many who write their books in the comfy rooms.

TAKE A STROLL Central Amsterdam is saturated with cultural and historic sights all within walking distance from one another in the labyrinths of canals. Amsterdam’s famous flower market on Singel canal, where flowers are displayed on floating barges, is just steps away from city’s best shopping areas Staalstraatat and De 9 straatjes (The Nine streets). De 9 straatjes is a cluster of streets located between Prinsengracht and Singel canal well known as home of trendsetting fashion stores of the city. Staalstraatat is a small pedestrian shopping street and home to a flagship store of avant-garde design collective Droog (a haven for design buffs). Cutting through the central core, on the way to Dam Square and Central Station, don’t pass by the opportunity to try a traditional herring snack from one of the many herring carts (Frens Haringhandel). Served on a bun with pickles and onions it is a healthy Dutch alternative to North American hot dog. Central Amsterdam gets pretty crowded escape the busy streets at Museum Van Loon, a former residence of Van Loon family, which is now open to the public. Take a moment to appreciate the peaceful setting of museum’s inner garden over a cup freshly brewed coffee.

DE JORDAAN is that more off the beaten path, artsy neighbourhood that you fall in love with instantly. Originally a working class neighbourhood, today de Jordaan has emerged as a vibrant community that offers a relaxed, less-tourist-packed vibe with quiet nooks, streets lined with eclectic galleries and one-of-a-kind vintage shops to devour your hours in. Grab a bike, because the calm streets equal easy cycling and sightseeing.

TAKE A STROLL De Jordaan is the consummate spot to soak up Amsterdam’s traditional charm. Think streets lined with city gardens, traditional cafes, old-fashioned pubs, and unique shops all lining the tony canals. One shop you simply should not stroll past? Hutspot, an eclectic plethora of high-end designs and vintage finds for your home and your wardrobe. Even better, poke around for a bit, then plunk yourself in a chair in the café for an afternoon espresso, a drink from the bar or a quick bite, before getting back to perusing the curated shop. Tear yourself away from Hutspot after an hour or so to take in Noordermarkt, the largest flea market of the city, located at the square of Noorderkerk church. Every Monday Noordermarkt attracts crowds of locals and tourists in search of bargains and every Sunday it turns into farmers market stocking local produce and freshly baked bread. And once you’re filled with local goodies, tour through the Tulip Museum, Anne Frank House and The Jordaan Museum, which tells the story of the neighbourhood.

OUD ZUID (Old South) is located on the edge of the city’s largest park, Vondelpark. This prestigious, upper class neighbourhood is a home to the cultural centre of Amsterdam, Museum plaza (Museumplein), so culture buffs will be in heaven here. And for those looking to do some damage on their credit card, it also happens to be Amsterdam’s best shopping neighbourhood.

TAKE A STROLL It’s easy to spend a day in Oud Zuid wandering the streets, but it’s most popular attraction is the mecca for museums, Museumplein – home to the Van Gogh Museum, newly renovated Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the well-known Rijksmuseum showcasing the riches and splendour of Dutch heritage – all within walking distance. The kicker? The Diamond Museum – filled to the brim with precious stones curated by the oldest diamond-polishing factory in Amsterdam, Coster Diamonds. You can easily lose an afternoon immersing yourself in the history of Dutch art. Tear yourself away from the museums to take in the luscious grounds of Vondelpark. The largest park of the city is the place to be during the warmer months. Locals love to spend weekends here biking, picnicking, throwing impromptu parties or having a pint at either of two parks’ restaurants. From Vondelpark take a stroll along Hooftstraat often refereed to as the Rodeo Drive of Amsterdam. After all, post-museum-visits always conjure up some new ideas for an artful wardrobe.

DE PIJP (the Latin Quarter) is a vibrant multicultural neighbourhood located just east of Oud Zuid. This typically working class neighbourhood’s humble beginnings started in the 19th century, and today it’s become the hub for those searching for unique character and a miss-mash of cultures. Similar to de Jordaan today’s de Pijp is one of Amsterdam’s fastest and most on-trend communities with loads of cafes, bars, restaurants and daily finds at Albert Cuyp market.

TAKE A STROLL Start your day off at the Heineken brewery (no worries about what hour it is, you are in Europe and on vacation), and then with a tummy sufficiently filled with the local beer, make your way to Albert Cuyp market. Famous for great bargains and casual down to earth attitude the market is a perfect spot to Amsterdam’s cultural diversity. With the multitude of Syrian, Moroccan, Surinamese restaurants, Spanish, Indian and Turkish delicatessens and grocery stores on every corner this is the “it” spot to people watch and get your food/culture fix. At night the neighbourhood becomes lively and entertaining – you won’t want to miss out on the best bar crawl in the city that happens right here. One stop? The Butcher – a secret bar disguised as a burger joint that will surely lead to many stories once you return home (Take note: You need a guest list password to get in, so make sure to call in advance so you’re not disappointed).

WHERE TO STAY On the edge of Albert Cuyp market is elegant Sir Albert Hotel. Embracing the eclectic spirit of de Pijp the hotel is occupying the building of former diamond factory infusing its original structure with clean lines of modern design and luxury decor. Spend the evening here mixing with stylish crowd in sophisticated setting of the hotel’s Asian Kitchen & Bar Restaurant Izakaya.

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