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For some reason that I’m not sure, a lot of people that I know are nervous about visiting Amsterdam Noord. This part of Amsterdam is just across the water from the historic city center, so if you think that you’ve seen Amsterdam, take a ferry across to explore Amsterdam Noord. This post will be covering cool things to do in Amsterdam Noord, so be sure to rent a bike and follow my lead.
Why visit Amsterdam Noord
So many people think that they have Amsterdam pinned down as the city of sin, but I think that Amsterdam Noord gives you a different perspective on Amsterdam. This lively part of Amsterdam is full of colorful graffiti, lively neighborhoods, cool cafes, and art galleries. Simply, it’s the modern edge to Amsterdam that many people miss.
Tip: If you’re looking to save money on your trip to Amsterdam, Amsterdam Noord makes a great base as you simply need to take the ferry across towards Amsterdam Centraal. You’ll find affordable hotels in Amsterdam Noord that are a fraction of what you’d pay for those within the historic center. For instance, you can stay in the A’DAM tower with panoramic views of Amsterdam or at a boutique hostel. For something truly unique, you can stay in one of three suites of the Crane Hotel Faralda, the highest crane hotel in the world (shown above). (You can bungee from the top!)
Even if you don’t stay in Amsterdam Noord, I recommend taking a day exploring Amsterdam Noord by bike. You can take the ferry for free from Amsterdam Centraal to either NDSM or Buiksloterweg depending on what you want to see in Amsterdam Noord. (Note: Amsterdam centraal -NDSM ferry runs less often than the Amsterdam Centraal to Buiksloterweg ferry, which runs very regularly.)
You can bring your bike onto the ferry, so just wait until everyone else gets off the ferry before hopping on with your bike. If you’re not fully comfortable biking, I recommend letting others go in front of you as I find getting off the ferry by bike stressful. I usually end up walking my bike after the first wave of mopeds and bicyclists go.
If you’re on foot, I recommend taking the ferry across to NDSM as you’ll be more limited in terms of what you can see. It’s still worth the trip, even if you’re not comfortable on a bike in Amsterdam.
History of Amsterdam Noord
Amsterdam Noord largely stood by as the rest of the city of Amsterdam developed across the weather, however cheap land and access to the IJ made the other side of the IJ river an attractive prospect to sailors and merchants looking for a cheap place to build ships. (It was also where convicts would be hung.) This new growth as well as new canals resulted in the villages that stand in Amsterdam Noord today.
After the canal from Amsterdam to the North Sea was opened in 1876, Amsterdam gained a lot more influence as steamers were capable of reaching the city center. Several shipping lines were created with shipyards in Amsterdam Noord as they tried to import/export goods from abroad, including the Dutch colonies.
During World War II, many of the factories in Amsterdam Noord were targeted by Nazi planes, which unfortunately killed and wounded many civilians in the area. The decline of the ship industry in Amsterdam resulted in many of the factories closing, leave large spacious warehouses without a tenant. Until recently, Dutch law allowed people to legally squat, however this right is no longer the case. (There is still a squat in Amsterdam Noord!)
The warehouses first attracted the hipsters, however Amsterdam Noord is now a thoroughly modern neighborhood with many office buildings as well as start-ups. As Amsterdam’s population has continued to grow, people have flocked to Amsterdam Noord for affordable housing as the Amsterdam housing market has pushed many families out of the city center. You’ll still find remnants of Amsterdam Noord’s past as you cycle around this fascinating borough!
Things to do in Amsterdam Noord
Visit the free EYE museum to learn about movie history or see a movie
The EYE museum is one of the best free attractions in Amsterdam. This stunning architectural piece has fantastic views across the water, perfect for a nice day. Inside, you can learn about movie history or even see a movie on a bad day. They often show indies in addition to blockbusters (English with Dutch subtitles).
Browse the IJhallen (monthly*)
I love the IJhallen. The IJhallen is Amsterdam’s biggest flea market. It only happens once a month, however it’s always fun to browse. You can check the dates online. I recommend bringing at least twenty euros in cash to cover whatever curiosities you find in addition to the admission. (Take it out before you head to NDSM unless you want to wait in line for the ATM with everyone else!)
You really have no idea what you’ll find here, which is part of the fun. In case you get hungry, you can stop off at one of the poffertjes or Dutch snack food booths.
Discover art and culture in NDSM
As you walk around NDSM, you might be surprised by how modern this former warehouse area is. Instead of picturesque canal houses, expect to find warehouses full of studios, innovative shops, great restaurants, and cool cafes.
Come hungry to sample some of the local food (mentioned below) and with your camera ready to photograph this different area. I recommend avoiding the weekends when the IJhallen is happening as the flea market makes it harder to cross NDSM and get photos without the crowds.
MX3D Visitor Center
One of the new(er) additions to NDSM is the MX3D visitor center. This cool former warehouse is free to visit during the day and it holds numerous artist studios. There’s a number of interactive exhibits and during the day, you might be lucky to meet some of the artists. I encourage you to bring a bit of money to purchase art with–and to donate to the center.
Go graffiti hunting in NDSM
All throughout NDSM, you’ll find numerous walls filled with graffiti, some of the best in Amsterdam. Although there’s often new artists, expect great things as NDSM blooms.
Explore the cute former villages of Nieuwendam or Ransdorp
Many people don’t realize that there are two former villages within Amsterdam that will make you wonder if you entered the Dutch countryside! (I recommend heading to these on bike or taking the bus as they’re a bit further from the ferries.)
Randstad, a charming former village within Amsterdam, was a trading hub in the medieval ages, but most of it was destroyed during the eighty year war. Come here for classic Dutch architecture and some breathing room from the crowds. (Click for more Amsterdam secrets!) (You can also visit Nieuwendam, but I personally prefer Randstad.)
Have dinner in a former greenhouse
One of my favorite places to eat in Amsterdam Noord is Noorderlicht. This cafe named for the Northern Lights is a hub for cultural events as well as dining (reserve ahead). Both vegan and meat-eaters will find something tasty and healthy at this unique cafe in NDSM.
Lay out on the IJ (summer* if you’re lucky!)
If you’re lucky enough, it will be warm out! On a nice day, a lot of people head to the beach in front of Pllek, a restaurant built of shipping containers to lay out on the fake beach along the IJ river. (I’m also guilty of this!) Even if it’s not so great out, you can always head inside to enjoy the interior of this unique cafe.
Have drinks at the coolest cafe in Noord: Café de Ceuvel
Cafe de Ceuvel is one of the coolest cafes in Amsterdam Noord. This sustainable cafe located on a former ship-wharf actively recycles, creates their own sodas, and grows their own vegetables!
The building was constructed out of old mooring posts by a Dutch architect and if you’re looking for friendly vibes and a unique environment, head here for a delicious vegan-friendly meal and a tasty drink. It’s not the easiest cafe to find, so be warned that you’ll want to have Google Maps enabled prior to biking here.
Head for a cocktail on top of the A’DAM Tower (and skip the A’DAM swing)
One of the most scenic places to watch the sunset in Amsterdam is from the A’DAM tower. Many people head here to go on the A’DAM swing, but I’m not a fan. However, I’d recommend coming to the bar for a scenic drink with an incredible view of Amsterdam from across the water. The cocktails are worthwhile and there are often great DJs playing on Fridays/Saturdays.
Enjoy experimental craft beers at the Oedipus Brewery
One of Amsterdam’s best craft breweries is Oedipus. Their flagship brewery is located in Amsterdam Noord. It’s open to the public and the perfect place to head on a nice day to enjoy a good beer. There are often cool beer events here, so if you’re into craft beer, be sure to try their experimental beers. My current favorite is Polyamorie, a gose beer.
Indulge your hipster tendencies in Van der Pekbuurt
Van der Pekbuurt is one of the greenest neighborhoods of Amsterdam. This neighborhood in Amsterdam Noord is one of the upcoming areas for families to live-in due to the charming one story houses that were intended for labourers.
Although this area was damaged badly during World War II, it has been rebuilt with its signature red roofs in tact. As this area is starting to gentrify as housing prices have gone crazy in Amsterdam, you’ll find a lot of cute hipster shops and cafes.
Dance the night away at Shelter
Shelter is one of Amsterdam’s best known nightclubs for electronic dance music. If you’re looking to experience Amsterdam at its best and you’re looking to dance all night, head to Shelter to dance until the sun comes up. During the ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event), it’s a big hub for events, so check here for big name acts!
Have you been to Amsterdam Noord?
For more insider tips for Amsterdam, click for secret places in Amsterdam, your perfect itinerary for three days in Amsterdam, what to know about biking in Amsterdam, day trips from Amsterdam, and don’ts for Amsterdam.