Amsterdam, or the “Venice of the North,” is a bucket list-worthy travel destination, with good reason. The fascinating Netherlands capital has everything, including a rich historical and cultural heritage, romantic structures, thriving nightlife, festivals, and delectable cuisine. Moreover, the Dutch capital offers something off the beaten path, including quirky ex[eriences like sex tours.
Consequently, numerous tourists flock to Amsterdam annually, with one statistical report showing the city received 14.6 million overnight stay guests in 2022’s third quarter. Amsterdam features seven districts divided into neighborhoods, each with distinct charm and proximity to specific attractions. Below is an overview of the city’s top 5 districts and neighborhoods to help you find a best accommodation when you visit.
- Amsterdam Centrum
Oude Amsterdam Centrum (directly translates to Old Central Amsterdam) is the Netherlands’ Capital epicenter. The district has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2010, thanks to the numerous canals that constitute its streets and neighborhoods. The district is the best tourist destination owing to its proximity to numerous Amsterdam attractions.
As the name suggests, Amsterdam Centrum is the Dutch capital’s oldest district and, as such, features monuments dating back beyond the Dutch Golden Age (1575-1675). One such building is Oude Kerk dating back to 1306; the church building is an art institute as of 2012.
Besides being Amsterdam’s oldest building, Oude Kerk is its most central point and is at the heart of the oldest neighborhood, De Wallen, popularly known as the red light district. Although De Wallen is an acquired taste with a notorious reputation dating back to the 60s and 70s, it has the most stunning ancient architecture in Amsterdam.
Besides architecture and fascinating history, Amsterdam Centrum has numerous heritage, arts, and culture-based attractions, including the Royal Palace, the Van Gogh Museum, and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Other must-visit museums include the Anne Frank Museum, Rembrandt House, Houseboat Museum, Body World, and the Dutch Resistance Museum.
Second, although cycling is the Netherlands’ most popular commuting mode, Amsterdam Centrum has a well-connected transport system, Amsterdam central station, boat canals, and Metro and Tram lines. Therefore, numerous nice hotel in Amsterdam campsites, holiday parks, and group accommodation options allows you to explore the city effortlessly.
People across the globe visit Amsterdam for various reasons, including a love of history and the city’s tolerance for alternative lifestyles. However, if you speak food and culture, Jordaan is the best place to immerse yourself in both while in Amsterdam.
Jordaan is among the oldest neighborhoods in Amsterdam, dating back to the 17th century. The area began as a haven for European refugees fleeing political and religious persecution. However, the refugee influx in the region triggered a population explosion.
Consequently, Amsterdam’s city council proposed plans to rebuild Jordaan in the early 1900s. However, protests forced them to develop the Monuments Care Program to facilitate gradual sub-neighborhood upgrades that involved the community and encouraged monument preservation. Monument care is behind the numerous monuments dotting Jordaan’s streets, telling a story of cultural diversity.
Jordaan’s culturally diverse history has a ripple effect felt in its numerous art galleries and music festivals. Additionally, you can taste the diversity in Jordaan’s numerous restaurants and cafes; Jordaan has a strong brunch culture.
The neighborhood also has food culture-themed markets to punctuate your stay with some retail therapy. Consider visiting Lindengratch food market for tantalizing cheese assortments (Fun fact: the Dutch created gouda cheese), fish, seafood, assorted mushrooms, sausages, waffles, bread and more.
Another must-visit Jordaan is the Noodermarkt flea market, selling everything from clothes and jewelry to books, paintings, ceramics, and classic records. Jordaan’s proximity to Amsterdam Centrum allows you to cover more area during your travel exploits.
- Oud Zuid
Amsterdam has numerous accommodation options, from boutique luxury hotels to budget hotels and hostels. However, Oud Zuid (Old South) is the place to stay if you speak luxury.
First, most travelers to Amsterdam prefer to stay in Centrum due to the district’s central location and equidistance to most areas, unfortunately causing congestion and noise.
However, Oid Zuid is 3km from Amsterdam Centrum and has a lower tourist volume. Therefore, OUD Zuid offers peace, tranquility, and a touch of exclusivity away from the bustling city center.
Oud Zuid is an upscale neighborhood featuring lush boulevards and manors. The tree-lined boulevards lead to townhouses and high-end flats bearing stunning Dutch architecture.
Moreover, various luxury brands, including Gucci, Hermes, and Lois Vuitton, have set up shop stores along the neighborhood’s Hoofstraat shopping street. However, Oud Zuid’s primary attraction is the Museum Square featuring several must-visit Dutch museums, including Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum.
Oud Zuid is more of a family-friendly residential area; it even has public leisure parks like Vondelpark and Beatrixpark. However, the neighborhood also offers hotel accommodation options. Also, a commute from Oud Zuid to Amsterdam Centrum takes 11-19 minutes, depending on the mode of transportation used.
- De Pijp
Amsterdam has a reputation for a hip entertainment scene, and DePijp, also known as the Latin Quarter, is at the center of it. De Pjip is a district on Amsterdam’s Southern side and is the heart of the city’s vibrant nightlife.
First, De Pijp is home to Leidspelein and Rembrandt squares. The two squares are Amsterdam’s entertainment hub and feature numerous pubs, clubs, and eateries, offering their services well into the night.
However, besides an epic entertainment scene, De Pijp is home to Albert Cuypmarkt, one of Europe’s largest street markets. The open market sells everything from fresh produce to household essentials and trinkets. Therefore, De Pijp is the best place to stay if you intend to immerse yourself in Dutch Culture.
- Canal Belt (Grachtengordel)
The 400 yar-old Amsterdam Canal Belt gets its name from the concentric canal rings that form Amsterdam’s popular waterways. Besides giving Amsterdam its signature crescent shape, Canal Belt is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Grachtengordel enjoys fantastic connectivity thanks to its romantic waterways. Additionally, The district has canalside bike paths where you can rent a bike and enjoy a pleasant ride as you explore the city.
Amsterdam’s Canal Belt began as a humble area with small shops along nine streets. Fast-forward to 2023, and the nine streets are a must-visit shopping hub spotting various artisanal, craft, and boutique shops. Other attractions in the Canal Belt include galleries and Museums.
Amsterdam’s main districts have diverse attractions to cater to different travelers. Therefore, consider booking accommodation in a district with the most attractions in your itinerary to save commuting fees.
However, the high number of tourists in Amsterdam makes security an issue. Therefore, conduct due diligence on neighborhoods and hotels before booking your stay. Also, a normal level of alertness while exploring the city should help you keep your belongings safe.