The best travel tip that I ever received about exploring Amsterdam was to get the hell out of the center and explore Amsterdam-Noord (one of the awesome neighborhoods). This came to me from a rep from the “I Amsterdam” team when I was visiting this city back in July 2017.
Since then, I have revisited Amsterdam-Noord every single time I visited Amsterdam, even if it was a quick weekend trip.
Don’t get me wrong – the Amsterdam city center is spectacular but after a while, the crowds will get to you (like they got to me).
I started getting annoyed with Amsterdam’s city centre. I actually had enough of seeing stoned and drunk tourists on their beer bikes celebrating their Bachelor or Bachelorette parties and painting the city red. (Yes, central Amsterdam is the perfect place for trips like these).
Out of our first few visits to Amsterdam, our most enjoyable one was when we did NOT stay in the center, but in Amsterdam-Noord instead, a borough of Amsterdam that’s unlike the rest.
If you are looking for something different to do in Amsterdam, then spend one day in the Amsterdam city center and then the second one in Noord.
PS: here’s a post with essential travel tips for Amsterdam which will help you save money.
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Where is Amsterdam-Noord? [+ Map of Places to visit]
Amsterdam Noord means Amsterdam North and it is just beyond the IJ, which by the way is the river beyond Amsterdam Centraal Station along with Amstel.
How to reach Amsterdam-Noord?
Super simple – there is a free government ferry that runs from Amsterdam Centraal to Noord. If you’re traveling to Amsterdam by bicycle (like we did), you can also take them on this ferry.
There are two ferry services from Amsterdam Central to Noord – one goes towards the A’dam Tower and the other goes towards NDSM Werf.
So decide where you’d like to go first and get on the ferry accordingly. If you’d like to skip A’dam Tower then just take the ferry to NDSM Werf, otherwise, the walk from A’Dam Tower to NDSM is a long one. Of course, if you have a bicycle, then things would be easier.
Why should you visit Amsterdam Noord?
Well, because Amsterdam’s center is too mainstream! (hehe) Kidding – personally for me – Amsterdam-Noord won my heart because it’s stress-free if I compare it to the main city. (Btw, if you’re planning a Euro trip and are looking for places that aren’t usually crowded, check out these hidden gems in Europe.)
It’s fun, vibrant, and just 15 minutes away from the center by the ferry. This part of Amsterdam has hip art spaces, a former shipyard turned into an interactive gallery space, quirky cafes, great restaurants, and an extreme swing with panoramic views of Amsterdam.
Moreover, it’s cheaper to stay here and you will most likely have a bigger room/hostel as compared to the center. Don’t assume this part of Amsterdam to be small. It isn’t and if you’re wondering what to do in Amsterdam Noord, there are a lot of amazing places.
How to Explore Amsterdam-Noord?
On a bicycle of course! If you aren’t confident riding a bicycle in Amsterdam’s main busy areas then you should definitely check out Noord.
Cycling in Amsterdam-Noord is awesome because it isn’t crowded and you have loads of open space instead of fighting for your spot with 100s of other cyclists in a small lane on the other side of the river.
Just Arrive in Noord on the ferry from Amsterdam central (did I tell you it is free), you can bring a bicycle with you on this ferry. Or you can arrive here, rent a bicycle, and explore Noord like a king.
Where to stay in Amsterdam Noord?
I love the newer generation of trendy hostels that are a little more luxurious than the older ones. ClinkNoord is one of the newer ones and is one of the best places to stay in not just Noord, but the entire Amsterdam. It is comfortable, affordable, conveniently located, and has a great atmosphere.
It is not just a hostel but also a hotel where you can book a private room. The dorms are lovely and every bunk bed has its own plug sockets with USB and a reading light.
Here are things to do in Amsterdam Noord – you can do all of them in just one day if the weather is good:
Things to do in Amsterdam-Noord
The good this is that Amsterdam-Noord is not huge so it is possible for you to cover most of these things in a day or two on a bicycle if you’re short of time. If possible, I’d recommend you spend at least 5 days in Noord.
1) Kunststad at NDSM Werf on a Bicycle
What was once a shipyard is now one of the quirkiest places to chill in Amsterdam. Every corner in NDSM Wharf displays creativity in some form. NDSM Werf and NDSM Wharf are the same and they are on NDSMPlein.
The Kunststad at NDSM is a free-to-visit open-air exhibit. Kunststad is a Dutch word that means art city. It is also called NDSM Kinetisch Noord. It is a great place to start your Amsterdam-Noord experience!
Kunststad in NDSM Werf is exciting, colorful, fun, and arty and as for me, it is one of the top Instagram spots in Amsterdam. Literally, every wall is covered with colorful artwork and you can see old machines that have been transformed to resemble something out of an alien movie.
Expect to see some of the most random things that are artistically placed here in this former shipyard. Over 250 artists created unique art installations here and some are interactive.
The art installations keep changing but some of them stay there for a long time. It was interesting to see that old shipyard tools turned into art exhibits.
I’d like to talk about one of the interactive art installations that we saw twice at NDSM Kunsthall. We saw a funny Barbie peep show for just 1 euro in 2017, and guess what, it was still there when I visited Amsterdam in 2021. (I have a separate post about NDSM on my website, check it out too.)
Cycling is a very important part of Dutch culture, hence literally the entire Netherlands is built in such a way that it can be explored very easily on two wheels. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, check out this guide to exploring the Netherlands on a cycle tour.
If you like street art, then you’re going to love our post about the nearby European city of Berlin. Berlin is perhaps the most famous city in the world for its art scene, go look at the photos of the East Side Gallery in Berlin here.
2) Cycle Around Nieuwendammerdijk
Nieuwendammerdijk is one of the cutest neighborhoods of Amsterdam with low-rise storybook houses on both sides of the street.
Considering how loud Amsterdam’s main center and Dam Square can be, a visit to quiet Nieuwendammerdijk was a refreshing change. But hey, respect the residents, and don’t be loud here. Just cycle through Nieuwendammerdijk to see the pretty streets.
Here’s a little history about Nieuwendammerdijk which I found interesting. This neighborhood was formed in 1514 when one of the dykes broke and a new one had to be built. By the way, a dyke is a wall to prevent the river from covering an area.
Amsterdam is one of the biggest port cities, and many locals who lived in Nieuwendam were involved in shipbuilding and repairs.
3) View of Amsterdam from A’Dam Lookout (+ Try the Extreme Swing)
From Nieuwendammerdijk, make your way to Overhoeks to arrive at A’Dam Tower for something super exciting.
This is Europe’s highest swing and it is on top of Amsterdam’s highest viewing deck – A’dam Tower in Noord. If you’re not as adventurous, you can simply enjoy a panoramic view of Amsterdam from up here.
A’DAM Tower is also called A’DAM Toren or just Dam Toren. It is 328 feet high if you also include the spire.
The viewing deck on top of A’Dam Tower is called the A’Dam lookout. To reach, you will have to pay an entrance fee of 13, which is a decent prize considering the awesome lift show, panoramic view from the top, interactive guide, and loads of other entertainment. But, it is free to visit with the I Amsterdam city card.
When you reach the top, you can check out the swing and decide if you want to experience it or not. The cost of the swing is 5 and it is totally worth the cost for an experience of a lifetime.
You can also get a cool picture of your visit, which costs around 7 euros.
Even if you’re not planning to experience the swing, you should definitely visit A’dam Tower to enjoy an amazing panoramic view of Amsterdam from the observation deck on top. You can also try the restaurant inside A’dam tower which also looks over the view.
Amsterdam is expensive and not everyone gets to visit this awesome city twice. So, splurge where you need to, because you may regret it later. Spend your time well while you’re in Noord Amsterdam doing the things that you will remember for a long time.
4) EYE Film Institute
Right next to A’Dam Tower is the Eye Film Institute – a museum, film archives, and cinema. You will spot Eye Film Museum’s futuristic building from far away.
Inside the EYE Film Institute, you will enjoy the permanent exhibit, but also interactive exhibits. There’s the camera equipment collection from the earliest time to the present, and you can try some of them yourself.
There are also booths inside the EYE Film Museum where you can check your film knowledge with rounds of trivia. The building also has a few movie theaters with different film choices of what’s playing.
If you do visit the EYE Film Institute, then don’t miss the EYE Bar and Restaurant which has great views of Amsterdam city across the IJ River.
5) Vegan Meal at De Ceuvel Café
Arty and one of the most delicious vegan meals of my life – De Ceuvel Café is quintessentially very “Noord-ish”. Give yourself enough time to explore the area around this café.
You’re not into vegan food? I get it and I usually eat fish but I loved the food at De Ceuvel and would visit it over and over for their Dhaal.
De Ceuvel is one of those places where one can happily get stuck for hours because it’s awesome. I did not really see typical Dutch food here but it was mostly fusion.
I had daal (Indian lentils cooked in a soupy form), bread with sweat potato paste on top, a nutty salad, and amazing drinks. If you love food, then be sure to check out this post by a local about the best places to eat in Amsterdam.
Being an Indian, I am super picky about my comforting daal but the one at De Cuvel Café was surprisingly delicious. No doubt the food was delightful but don’t just come here to eat.
Honestly, De Ceuvel is more than just delicious food. The space is interesting and it is nice to see an old shipping yard converted into a creative space and an environmentally conscious cafe.
The seating was interesting and creative. Expect to see a random shipping container turned into something else. We also saw a table for two on a boat.
Give yourself a few hours before and after your meal to experience the atmosphere at De Cuvel Café.
6) Shop at IJHallen (Only in Summer)
IJhallen isn’t just your regular flea market but a massive industrial space that’s full of colorful stalls.
IJhallen is open only in summer and just on ONE weekend in a month, so you have to be really lucky to be visiting at a time when it is open. If so, do go inside and enjoy the experience.
You will find everything here, from furniture to home decor and vintage clothing – and it is all sold in a massive industrial space.
You will see hundreds of stalls with clothes, souvenirs, and stuff for your home. A visit to IJhallen is not purely for shopping but to soak in the experience.
If you like to wear unique clothes, you will not be able to stop yourself from losing it. You will see hundreds of stalls with vintage clothes. Also, it is better to buy unique souvenirs here instead of buying the typical ones at the main city center.
Expect lots of people, but also expect to make lots of friends. This is the perfect place to do some shopping, find yourself some nifty souvenirs, get a cup of coffee, and nibble on yummy snacks.
[Box] Please note that the amazing IJHallen is open only in summer on just one weekend in a month. You can enter anytime between 9 a.m. to 4:30. [/box]
7) Spend your Evening in Pllek by the IJ
Pllek in NDSM is perhaps one of the best places where you can spend an evening or get the best of nightlife in Amsterdam. This definitely is my favorite thing to do in Amsterdam Noord, and that’s why I keep revisiting Pllek
There is a river beach, an amazing view of the IJ river, an outdoor terrace with a lovely atmosphere, and live music on Sundays – an amazing combination for sure. So you get to sit on the other side of the IJ of the Amsterdam city center.
There are yoga classes too in Pllek during weekends. Pllek means “the place” or “the spot” in Dutch and this place is mostly constructed using old shipping containers.
Even if you’re not staying in Noord or have no plans to visit this part of Amsterdam, do everything you can just to visit Pllek and enjoy the amazing atmosphere.
Arrive here early so that you can get a place to sit on the beach facing the water. I bet you wouldn’t want to leave. It can get really busy in the evenings, so be prepared to share a table.
I last visited Pllek in July 2021 during the leaner months of the Corona pandemic and loved the contactless ordering option. You can just scan a QR code and order your drinks online. Pay online and leave your name, soon a server will walk around announcing your name. Isn’t this super convenient?
8) Spot the Crane Hotel
Believe it or not, there is a crane that’s parked in NDSM that has been converted into an a hotel. It is called Crane Hotel Feralda and it has got to be the quirkiest place to stay in Amsterdam (also mega lavish). This place even has a rooftop Jacuzzi!
You can’t just go inside but you can look at it from around it. It is surely one of a kind!
Never in our wildest thoughts we had ever imagined that a crane could be converted into a hotel, so looking at it from the road was a “WTF” experience (in a good way).
A suite in Crane Hotel Feralda costs around 700 euros per night – and no I did not stay here but you should if you can. Maybe we will go back and stay here for a night, and spend hours in the rooftop hot tub that overlooks the city.
9) ..Or See Alternative Housing – Recycled Containers & Tram
Using old tram and ship containers for alternative housing is something that you may never see elsewhere so why not do it in Amsterdam? Seeing Feralda Crane Hotel kind of prepared us to see a few more unconventional architectural works of art in Amsterdam-Noord.
Some of the most memorable things were unconventional and alternative houses that were made using giant ship containers and an old tram. Ride your bicycle around NDSM to see these alternative houses and enjoy the unique sight.
10) Go Check out Windmill D’Admiraal
Now that you are done exploring Overhoeks & NDSM, it is time to cycle to a windmill. Wait, a windmill? How very Dutch!
There’s a lovely historical windmill near Amsterdam-Noord and like most of the historical windmills in the Netherlands, this one has a masculing name too.
Sounds like one of the most obvious things to do in the Netherlands, but trust me I did not end up visiting even a single windmill the first few times I visited Amsterdam. Windmill D’Admiraal is the first typical Old Dutch windmill that San and I got to see from this close.
Windmill D’Admiraal is in one of the quieter areas of Amsterdam and is next to a canal, which makes it a perfect setting for a great picture.
Right outside this windmill, my bicycle got unchained and I got yelled at by an extremely polite local. Dutch people are normally very nice but somehow they seem to think that they are the only ones who know how to ride a bicycle.
So, even if my bicycle chain got off on an almost empty street, I had to stop but I still got yelled at by a middle-aged Dutch guy who said “You don’t know how to ride a bike or what?” One can only laugh!
11) Chill at Hunter’s Filiaal Coffeeshop, Noord
Amsterdam is famous for its coffeeshops, so while you’re here and in the mood to be lazy in a coffeeshop, I’ve got the perfect recommendation for you. Head to Hunter’s Filiaal, which is conveniently located near Café De Ceuvel.
You will find fewer tourists in Noord’s coffeeshops as compared to the ones in the Centrum. And hey – do check out my detailed guide to coffeeshops in Amsterdam.
12) End Your Day in Clink Noord – ZincBar
A good way to end your day in Amsterdam is by going back to ClinkNoord and meeting new people in this hostel’s common areas.
ClinkNoord also has its own in-house restaurant with amazing food and a bar, which doesn’t feel like a hostel bar. Of course, you can only do all these things if you stay here (and you should).
After spending time in ClinkNoord’s social rooms, go sleep on an extremely comfortable bed in your dorm or a private room. Start your next day in Amsterdam with an amazing breakfast at ClinkNoord.
..Or in NH Amsterdam Noord
Yes Clink Noord also has private rooms but if you’re looking for a place that doesn’t have hostel vibes, then you can consider NH Amsterdam Noord which is a high-end hotel. The entire NH Hotel chain is absolutely the best in terms of beds, luxury, and perfect stays in the Netherlands.
I did stay in the NH Hotel chain once but that was in the city center. I still remember how massive the bed was and it felt like a cloud when I went to lay on the bed.
NH Amsterdam Noord has a lovely location, the vegan cafe that I mentioned earlier – De Ceuvel Cafe is right next to it. They also have a free shuttle service from the Amsterdam Centraal station to the hotel.
Have you been to Amsterdam-Noord?
If you’ve been to Amsterdam Noord already and have a few tips to share, we’d love to hear them. Leave a comment and let us know. Check out I Amsterdam’s website for more information about Amsterdam-Noord.
I know you have a few questions in your mind about this awesome neighborhood, so here you go –
Is Amsterdam Noord a good area?
Right across the River IJ, Amsterdam Noord is an amazing area to unwind and get away from Amsterdam city center’s hustle and bustle. You will find creative spaces, riverside bars, interesting art installations, and a whole different vibe which is very different from the mainstream part of Amsterdam city.
What is Amsterdam Noord known for?
Amsterdam Noord is famous for music festivals in summer, riverside bar Pllek, IJHallen market, NDSM Werf art installations, Street Art museum, A’Dam Tower, wide open spaces, and overall a relaxed atmosphere.
Is North Amsterdam Worth Visiting?
If you are looking for something different, then definitely North Amsterdam (Amsterdam-Noord) is worth visiting. Get on the free ferry from Amsterdam Central Station that goes across the IJ river and spend a few hours (or days) in Amsterdam’s coolest neighborhood.
What is the most hipster part of Amsterdam?
Amsterdam-Noord (but of course!)
Disclosure: San and I were invited to ClinkNoord on a press trip but all opinions and bad jokes in this article are ours.
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