What’s that one place in Amsterdam that’s different than all others? It is NDSM.
NDSM Werf (or NDSM Wharf in English) is in Amsterdam-Noord. It is unique because it is unlike any other neighborhood in Amsterdam. You won’t see the typical narrow buildings or canals but don’t be disappointed – there’s something else here.
What is NDSM Werf (or NDSM Wharf)
What was once an industrial shipyard is now a space with art installations, graffiti, beachside bars, vintage markets, environmentally conscious cafes, and an amazing creative hub with contagious creative energy. In short, it is an edgy, arty cultural hotspot.
Sounds a bit too much? Well, that’s the best way to describe Amsterdam’s NDSM Werf.
The word Werf is Dutch and it translates into “wharf” in English. A wharf is a quayside area in which a ship may be moored to load and unload.
It was once the Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij (NDSM) shipbuilding company, which existed till 1984. When it closed, companies like Red Bull, Greenpeace, MTV, ViacomCBS, and Pernod Ricard took up the buildings for offices. That’s why in the 2000s, the NDSM area turned into a cultural incubator zone.
When you visit this former shipyard, expect to see a lot of strange-looking old shipyard tools that are transformed into something arty or beautifully functional in another way.
Technically NDSM Plein is a neighborhood of Amsterdam. The word “Plein” means a square or a plaza. Honestly, NDSM isn’t just a typical neighborhood or a square, it is a vibrant social space.
Table of Contents
If you’re traveling to Amsterdam, then make sure you include NDSM in your itinerary. No matter how long or short your Amsterdam trip is, try to spend at least half a day in NDSM for a change of scenery. I have visited NDSM Werf on most of my Amsterdam weekend trips or even the longer ones.
How to reach NDSM Amsterdam
In my numerous posts about Amsterdam, I have mentioned over and over again that the best way to explore the city is on a bicycle.
Even though Amsterdam’s tram, ferry, and metro network is great, you probably won’t need a bicycle. Nonetheless, having one while you visit NDSM will give you much more freedom to explore.
There is a free ferry that goes from the city center, from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Amsterdam-Noord, and another one directly to NDSM-Yard. (In Dutch, central is “Centraal”). The ferry leaves from the other side of the Amsterdam Centraal train station, the exit that’s not towards the main city but the river.
The ferry point is just outside the central station and you won’t miss it because you will see people waiting with their bicycles or scooters. Yes, you can take the bike on the ferry.
Look for ferry 906 towards the NDSM yard. The ferries leave after every five minutes and they cost nothing. It can’t get better than this.
Remember, if you don’t have a bicycle then don’t get on the ferry that goes to A’dam tower because that’s 3 km away. Instead, take the ferry that’s going directly to NDSM Werf.
Ferry 906 will leave you near NDSM but if you want to check out other spots in Amsterdam-Noord, like the A’Dam lookout tower then you can ride your bicycle there, it is just 3 KMs, so will take you 15 minutes on the bicycle.
If you’re scared to ride a bicycle in Amsterdam city, then you should know that riding it in Noord is super easy because of the wide empty spaces. So maybe rent one from the city centre or just near the ferry point, and ride it in Noord. My friend who didn’t have enough biking experience did this while I was with her and it worked!
Things to do in NDSM
Cycle Around NDSM Werf + Top Sights
When you arrive in NDSM, then the first thing you’d want to do is to explore the area on your bicycle. This will give you a sense of this space and will give you an idea of where everything is. This way, you can also keep a lookout for a brand new cafe or bar that looks interesting and is not on my list.
Here are some spots to look at while you cycle around NDSM Plein. These are the spots where you don’t have to necessarily stop, unless you’d like to click a photo. They can be enjoyed as you cycle around them too.
“Let me be Myself” mural of Anne Frank by Eduardo Kobra
While Cycling in NDSM Plein, you will come across a massive face of Ann Frank smiling at you. It is called “Let me be Myself” and is by Eduardo Kobra.
I spent a long time looking at this mural because it has so many interesting bits that collectively form one face. The giant scale of this work of art is magnificent and it is not easy to photograph it unless you have a wide-angle lens.
Let me be Myself mural of Ann Frank is actually the entry part of STRAAT – a museum dedicated to street art. I will talk more about that in one of my next points.
Spot the Faralda Crane Hotel
Imagine a big old crane that’s converted into a high-end bed and breakfast. Yes, that’s what Faralda Crane Hotel is all about. There’s even a hot top on top.
The rooms in Faralda Crane Hotel aren’t cheap and cost at least 800 euros per night for a crazy unique experience. I did mention this place in my earlier post about Amsterdam-Noord and I still say that this is a super interesting sight.
If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Amsterdam that’s one of a kind, then consider staying here. It would be my dream to stay here with my family.
See Alternative Housing – Trams and Containers
NDSM takes recycling to another level by using up old trams and old shipping containers. It was interesting to see some of them converted into houses.
Cycle around and hopefully, you will find even more interesting things to see that I didn’t notice. If you do, then please let me know too so that I can include the information on my website.
Head to Kunststad to see the Art Installations
The most obvious thing to do in NDSM Werf is to check out the art installations. They are mostly situated in a huge hall with a high ceiling, which is called Kunststad (meaning Art City). It is also known as NDSM Kinetisch Noord.
Kunststad is a massive industrial building and you won’t miss it. You can take your cycle inside this hall. Kunststad features the works of 250 artists. Some of the art installations are super interactive and will blow your mind.
Some art installations change over time and others stay here for a while. I saw something unique in 2017 here which was still in the same spot in 2021. It is called the Barbie Peep Show and is hilarious.
The Barbie Peep show is all about putting a coin in the slot and seeing naked Barbies. Once you put a coin, then a peephole opens and you can peep for some time.
I mean, no one ever needs to see naked barbies but it is a funny concept for collecting money. Moreover, with its pastel pink wall, it makes an amazing photo spot and is on my list of top Instagram spots in Amsterdam.
IJ-Hallen Flea Market
IJ-Hallen is a flea market that occurs in the same spot as the art installations in the first point. However this market takes place just once or twice a month, so make sure you check the website to plan your visit.
They say IJ-Hallen is the biggest flea market in Europe with 400 stands, I’m not sure because I have definitely seen massive flea markets in Puglia and another one near the Germany-Poland border. Yes, it may be one of the largest flea markets but I’m not sure if it takes the top spot.
Honestly, because this market occurs just once or twice a month, I always ended up missing it. I did visit Waterlooplein, one of the other flea markets in main Amsterdam. Just because I didn’t get to visit it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I still want to recommend this one-of-a-kind flea market in Amsterdam to you.
Head to Pllek – Beach Bar, Movie Night, Yoga
I have mentioned Pllek in many of my Amsterdam posts. It is a lot of things combined in one. It is a restaurant, a bar that faces the IJ river, and a spot for movie nights and Sunday morning Yoga sessions.
Pllek is a Dutch word that means “the spot” or “the place”, it is my favorite place in Amsterdam to relax and drink. Pllek is more than just a place, it is a vibe.
While you’re in main Amsterdam, you may not realize but the city can sometimes get stressful because it is busy. This part of Amsterdam has somehow managed to stay under the radar of tourists and is the perfect place to relax the mind.
Pllek is fun, it is colorful and perfect for couples or solos alike.
If you’re looking for a spot to enjoy the sunset, Pllek is actually the best place because the beach chairs face the west side and you can see the magical sunset colors as you sit by the water. It is one of the most romantic things to do in Amsterdam.
I love Pllek’s contactless ordering service. You can just scan a QR code that’s displayed everywhere here, see the menu online, and order. You can also pay online. When the order is ready, they will call your name, and then you can enjoy your food and drinks.
Pllek gets a bit busy in the evenings so try to get here early. Be prepared to share a table if you get here late, but that’s not a bad thing because Pllek is a social spot.
Relax at Café de Ceuvel
Pllek definitely is an interesting spot but another one that stole my heart was De Ceuvel. It is arty, interesting and beautiful.
Cafe De Ceuvel is one of those places where you can chill for hours and would not want to leave. There are interesting places to sit around the water and streams. If you’re lucky then you can get a houseboat table on the water.
Vegans would love De Ceuvel because of the variety of food options. The food isn’t Dutch but a fusion of many different cuisines. As an Indian, I can say that Cafe de Ceuvel is one of the few places in Europe that get “Dhaal” right. Dhaal is an Indian preparation of lentils.
Apart from eating and drinking, De Ceuvel is a spot for many workshops that are focused on sustainability. In fact, the whole restaurant is sustainable with their kitchen waste going into the garden.
For me, eating at Cafe de Ceuvel was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. All the tables looked different and some sitting areas were truly unique. The space was beautifully used and it had a very airy, free kind of vibe.
So, if you are getting off the beaten part and visiting NDSM, then eat a meal at Cafe de Ceuvel too.
Remember “Let Me Be Myself”, the Ann Frank mural that I mentioned in my earlier point about cycling in NDSM werf? Well, that’s actually a part of STRAAT – a museum that’s dedicated to street art.
Amsterdam is famous for its museums and STRAAT is truly one of a kind. It is the largest street art museum in the world. So, if you are into street art then give this place a visit.
STRAAT is kind of like Kunststad but is much more intense. It isn’t free and it features some of the most famous artists from all over the world. In STRAAT you will find the works of Banksy, Keith Haring, etc.
The art in STRAAT is divided into 5 themes. Expect to learn about the stories, the art form, the history of graffiti, street art, and NDSM Werf. Moreover, it also features different international street artists from time to time.
If you’re visiting STRAAT with your children aged 6 – 12 years, you will be happy to know that they can take part in a treasure hunt – just ask at the entry point about it.
Where to Stay near NDSM Werf
Even though I don’t like hostels as much anymore because I love my own personal space, I had a decent experience in ClinkNoord. The bunk beds were private and every bunk had its own plug socket, reading light, and whatnot. The buffet-style breakfast was perfect and I couldn’t have asked for more.
Final Thoughts about NDSM Amsterdam
If you think this list contains information about too many places to visit in a small square called NDSM, you will be surprised to know that it has even more.
I include NDSM in every single of my Amsterdam itineraries and every time I visit Amsterdam, I notice many interesting things to do in NDSM and a few new cafes and bars.
Amsterdam main has an old-school charm but NDSM has a contemporary new look (and vibe). Spend a few hours or days here for a change of scenery and you wouldn’t want to leave.
PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.