It's easy to get caught up in Amsterdam's city centre; its boat-filled canals, mega art museums and pungent coffeeshops might tempt you never to leave. But by venturing that bit further you'll find bohemian clubs, hotels atop cranes and hidden cocktail lounges await you in neighbourhoods on the fringe. They're also great places to mingle with locals.
Here are some of Amsterdam's hippest neighbourhoods.
Amsterdam Noord (North)
The avant-garde thrives in Noord, the vast community across the IJ river from downtown Amsterdam. Ferry over to the gleaming EYE Film Institute for arthouse movies and the view-tastic bar-restaurant at water's edge. The A’dam Tower dominates the skyline and offers one of the best views in the city. A few steps onward the Tolhuistuin cultural centre hosts African dance troupes, grime DJs and more on its garden stage under twinkling lights.
Fifteen minutes upriver, NDSM-werf is a derelict shipyard turned edgy arts community that is home to Europe’s biggest flea market, the monthly IJ-Hallen. It wafts a post-apocalyptic vibe: an old submarine slumps in the harbour, and abandoned trams rust on the streets. Industrial castoffs get repurposed into lodgings like the Faralda NDSM Crane Hotel, with three rooms set at dizzying heights, while old shipping containers morph into restaurants such as organic-focused Pllek.
Free ferries depart behind Centraal Station for Noord's hot spots.
Less than 500m west of the train station, Haarlemmerbuurt is a bustling commercial zone. The main veins are Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk, which together formed the old road to Haarlem. Today Mediterranean delis, record stores, denim boutiques and cookbook shops pepper the thoroughfare, and make for a delectable stroll.
Sniff out Petit Gâteau, a family-run patisserie that bakes tarts sweet (salted caramel and pistachio) and savory (bacon and Gruyère). Swanky cocktail bars, canalside bistros, and cafes hide in the surrounding streets, including the minimalist coffee bar Toki. Everything pops up in a densely packed, one-kilometre span.
Westerpark and Western Islands
Artsy young professionals beat a path to the enclaves in Amsterdam's northwest corner. Here pond-dappled Westerpark blends into the Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks renovated into a complex of wildly popular cafes, leafy patios and pop-up restaurants.
The Western Islands float next door. Several artists have studios in the wee drawbridge-crossed neighbourhood. Foodies flock in for sausage-y tapas and wines at Worst Wijncafe. Scenesters take the party a few kilometres onward to REM Eiland, an oil-rig-like platform 22m above the IJ river. The bar-restaurant is a haul to get to but rewards with unforgettable drinks on the old rooftop helipad.
Trams 3 and 10 swing by Westerpark. Bus 48 runs to the Western Islands and REM Eiland.