From shipping hub to creative quarter, the ever-changing Amsterdam Noord neighbourhood has cemented itself as one of the Dutch capital’s coolest spots. With a new Noord/Zuid metro line supplying quick access, this once obscure ‘hood is gaining traction as the innovative hotspot of the Dutch capital.
Patrons lounge on a beach at art festival Kinetisch Noord, held at NDSM Wharf © fokke baarssen / Shutterstock
Separated from the rest of the city by the IJ river, Noord’s industrial warehouses and residential areas can feel a world away from the city’s famous Golden Age canals and crooked, dollhouse-like buildings. But what the neighbourhood might lack in the quaint and charming department, it certainly makes up for in edge and excitement.
Noord boasts a maritime heritage dating back to the 1600s, but when shipbuilding declined in the 1980s, the industrial parts of Noord were left to crumble. Abandoned and in disrepair, the area attract squatters and artists in the 1990s before – as is so often the case – the hipsters and creative industry followed.
Fast forward 20 years and Noord has transformed into a ‘place to be’ where there’s always an uber-cool new hotspot drawing in crowds from all over the city. The recently opened Noord/Zuid metro line provides a fast link to central Amsterdam and will no doubt play a role in the area’s growing appeal to residents and visitors alike.
Housed in a converted industrial crane, the Faralda Crane Hotel has three suites and stellar views © Claire Bissell / Lonely Planet
There is no better representation of Amsterdam’s shipbuilding legacy than NDSM Wharf. Hop aboard the free ferry from Amsterdam Centraal Station and upon arrival you’ll feel as if you’ve docked in a completely different city.
The Faralda Crane Hotel, a trio of suites perched atop an industrial crane, hangs overhead while at ground level Amsterdammers make the monthly pilgrimage to the IJ Hallen. One of Europe’s biggest flea markets, the IJ Hallen is spread across a huge warehouse area. The market has an entrance cost of €5 and sells everything from dusty antiques to bikes. After rummaging for bargains, take a short stroll to the iconic Pllek restaurant and bar, which blends effortlessly into its surroundings. Constructed completely from shipping containers, it’s particularly popular during the summer months thanks to its man-made pebble beach. Outdoor film screenings take place on Tuesdays throughout the summer, and yoga classes are held every Sunday morning.
NDSM Wharf is a popular location for festivals, exhibitions and other cultural events, so it's always worth checking what’s going on there. The DGTL electronic music festival takes place each spring over three days.
Bikes in front of Noorderlicht, a cafe housed in a building made of reused and sustainable materials © Claire Bissell / Lonely Planet
Whether you’re inside with a local craft beer or enjoying a spot of music on the outdoor stage, nowhere in Amsterdam feels more bohemian than Noorderlicht. This bar and eatery, inside an impressive, greenhouse-like setting, boasts an outdoor area with river views and plays host to live music and small festivals.
Venture further east and you’ll discover the wood-clad Cafe de Ceuvel. Located on the site of a former shipyard, the restaurant is all about sustainability. The building itself was crafted from recycled materials, while the menu is made up of organic, home-grown and locally sourced dishes. The waterside location and ample outdoor seating make it even more popular during the summer months.
A beer from Oedipus Brewing, in east Amsterdam Noord © Claire Bissell / Lonely Planet
Craft beer, skateboarders and tacos
On the east side of Amsterdam Noord, a host of hip venues have continued to pop up. Oedipus Brewing was the first in the area, offering thirsty patrons the opportunity to sample their signature beers at the source. The taproom is set in a warehouse and decorated with colourful murals. Favourite tipples on tap include Thai Thai, an experimental Tripel from the brewery’s early days.
Nearby on Gedempt Hamerkanaal, one of the more recent additions to Amsterdam Noord is SkateCafe, which opened its doors in 2017. The venue does it exactly what it says on the tin, featuring a mini skate ramp set in a casual bar and dining area. The large warehouse space is very much in keeping with the Amsterdam Noord vibe. It has unfinished concrete walls adorned with plants and furniture that looks like it’s straight out of the classroom.
Feeling hungry after all that skateboarding? Just around the corner you’ll find Mexican cuisine and cocktails at Coba Taqueria. This eatery has all the laid-back qualities of the typical Noord establishment, but with surprisingly gourmet small plates, including tacos and tostadas.
One of Noord’s most striking buildings is the cutting-edge EYE Film Institute. Angular and bright white, the architectural masterpiece makes quite the impression when looking across the river from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Up close, it’s equally as impressive and plays host to exhibition spaces, cinemas and a light and airy cafe with riverside views. Meanwhile the 22-storey A’DAM Tower provides quite the contrast to Amsterdam’s relatively low-rise cityscape. The A’DAM Lookout, located atop the tower, offers one of the best views of the city. If you’re feeling brave, Europe’s highest swing kicks out over the edge of the building at a lofty 100 metres. Don’t worry – you’re strapped in!