From flea markets in industrial warehouses to canal-side cafés and 17th-century gabled architecture, this guide takes you through Amsterdam's diverse neighbourhoods, showing you the highlights according to global travellers.*
Architecture in Amsterdam City Centre
Find rows of rainbow tulips at Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market
Particularly if you’ve never been to Amsterdam before, the first neighbourhood you should explore is the centre. Although it encompasses the old bohemian Jordaan area, the Anne Frank Huis, Dam Square, the Bloemenmarkt (the world’s only floating flower market, founded in 1862), the infamous red light district, and more – it’s still surprisingly small and walkable. Get lost wandering the cobbled alleyways on foot or book a canal cruise for an informative and relaxed way to see the crooked, gabled houses that line the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht; these three concentric canals were all dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age and make Amsterdam one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Stay in an original 17th-century canal-side mansion at the Ambassade Hotel, just 6 minutes' walk from the Bloemenmarkt's rows of rainbow-coloured tulips.
Parks in Oud-West
Don't miss Oud-West's food hall at De Hallen
Oud-West is a historic, central neighbourhood with a village feel. Spanning from the edge of the Jordaan to the Vondelpark, it features 19th-century architecture and the same pretty canals but far fewer tourists than you’d find in the middle of the city. But it’s not simply a residential area; there are cafés, concept stores and boutiques everywhere, as well as festivals, cultural events and the Ten Katemarkt, a local outdoor market selling fresh veg, artisanal cheeses and street food. Just a few minutes’ walk away, you’ll find De Hallen, a renovated tram depot that’s now a buzzing food hall with a cinema next door. Check into Pillows Anna van den Vondel next to Vondelpark, and dine in its restaurant with white marble tables, pistachio velvet chairs and floor-to-ceiling windows providing views of the greenery.
Food in De Baarsjes
De Baarsjes is home to one of Amsterdam's most popular nightclubs (and restaurants), De School. Photo: Sarah van Rij
Next to Oud West, De Baarsjes is an up-and-coming neighbourhood filled with yoga studios, cafés, galleries and parks. It’s also one of the city’s most multicultural areas, so you’ll find a number of fantastic Surinamese and Turkish restaurants serving popular dishes like roti bread with chicken curry and fluffy pita stuffed with grilled vegetables. Then there’s De School, one of Amsterdam’s most popular nightclubs, which also houses a world-class restaurant, gym and hosts cultural events with groups like independent music and arts platform, Subbacultcha. Stay at the art-filled, contemporary Hotel Not Hotel and have a cocktail in the living room before heading out to De School.
Bar-hopping in Bos en Lommer
Enjoy a picnic in Bos en Lommer's Erasmus Park
Nicknamed BoLo, Bos en Lommer spans from De Baarsjes to the edge of Westerpark. Another multicultural neighbourhood, it’s home to an ever-growing number of restaurants, pop-up stores, lively markets and the pocket-sized Erasmus Park, where you can take a picnic or grab a drink from the terrace café, Terrasmus. Spend a few hours exploring Jan Evertsenstraat, the street bordering BoLo and De Baarsjes, where you’ll find vintage boutiques and plant shops alongside wood-oven pizzerias. WOW Amsterdam is a creative venue that hosts exhibitions, has a restaurant, houses permanent artists in residence and also offers hostel accommodation.
The Harbour in Amsterdam Noord
A 2-minute ferry ride from Centraal Station, you'll find a waterfront area crammed with culture
Take the 2-minute ferry ride from Centraal Station to Amsterdam Noord and you’ll discover a waterfront area crammed with culture and creativity. You disembark right next to the EYE Film Institute, a futuristic white structure on the edge of the River Ij, which houses several cinemas and has a packed calendar of exhibitions, workshops and lectures. Stop to grab a bite to eat next door at Tolhuistuin, a canteen decked out in midcentury furniture and serving great-value cocktails and tapas-style food, or head up to the top of A-Dam Toren for the highest swing in Europe and panoramic views of the city. There’s also a different ferry that leaves from the same place but takes a little longer (10 minutes) and further into the Noord; here, you’ll find restaurants in cavernous waterside settings like Plekk, eccentric bingo nights and a regenerated sustainable patch of land called De Ceuvel that also hosts creative events. And If you’re visiting on the first weekend of every month, Ij Hallen is a huge flea market held in two huge, old industrial warehouses. Stay at the Sir Adam Hotel, a hotel set in the A'DAM tower overlooking, the EYE Film Institute, the River Ij and the rest of the city.
Atmosphere in Oost
The Oost neighbourhood is filled with bars and brunch spots, including Bar Basquiat
As of relatively recently, Oost is considered the neighbourhood for young creatives, having drawn them in with more affordable housing that’s still close to the city centre. Here, you’ll find some of the city’s best brunch spots, such as Aussie-inspired Drovers Dog, the IJ Brewery (located in a former bath house next to the De Gooyer windmill, the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands), and bars including the plant-filled Bar Botanique and Bar Basquiat. There’s also Dappermarkt, a no-frills market selling everything from exotic fruit and spices to clothing and other bargains. And Flevopark, a beautiful green space with one of the city’s few outdoor swimming pools. A short walk from Oosterpark, Q-Factory is decorated with a mix of modern art and vintage furniture, looking like a luxurious and welcoming art studio.
Museums in Oud Zuid
Check out the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp, Oud Zuid
Oud Zuid is the area where you’ll find the famous Rijksmuseum, as well as the Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk (modern art) – all condensed into one square, Museumplein. Once you’ve soaked up enough culture around Museumplein, walk to De Pijp, home to the 300-stall-strong, open-air Albert Cuypmarket (the fresh flowers here are gorgeous), the soothing Japanese gardens of Sarphatipark and concept stores like Ninour, an organic café that also sells beautiful handmade jewellery, plants, books and interiors. Dine at Mana Mana, a tiny Middle Eastern restaurant that serves phenomenal food, or the superbly-kitsch and enormous Bazar, located in a former church and serving Moroccan and North African cuisine. Stay at the highly rated B&B Emma Ln, just a short walk through Vondelpark to Museumplein.
Cafés in Westerpark
Hang out by the canals that line Amsterdam's popular Westerpark
The popular Westerpark area in Amsterdam is your all-in-one neighbourhood, with plenty of breakfast and lunch spots, trendy pubs, bars and restaurants. A popular choice amongst Amsterdam locals is Pacific Parc, where you can grab a cold one on the terrace or stick around for some late-night dancing. For something the next morning, De Bakkerswinkel is perfect for a relaxed breakfast or brunch, where the scones are especially good. A good dinner spot is Raïnaraï, serving up Algerian delicacies for munching around their campfire. On Sundays, Westerpark plays host to the monthly market, and keep an eye on the agenda at Westergasfabriek, a renovated gasworks that hosts festivals, concerts and events aplenty. Check into the Conscious Hotel, located in a magnificent old building in the middle of Westerpark.
** The data scientists at Booking.com looked at the top endorsement for each of Amsterdam's neighbourhoods.