Nice areas for a stroll, some coffee, some shopping
The part of the centre called De Jordaan is really nice. Beautiful 17th century houses, canals, quaint shops and restaurants. Good for a full day of strolling around. Don’t miss Brouwersgracht, often voted prettiest street of the city. And keep an eye out for hidden courtyards, many of which are open to the public in daytime, but please respect the residents’ privacy.
The ‘grachtengordel’ (canal belt) right next to De Jordaan is what catches the eye the minute you study Amsterdam’s map. It’s the unique set of 17th century semi-circular man-made canals, now UNESCO World Heritage. It’s part of the city centre and consists of Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel. Study the gable stones as you stroll past the houses.
Watch a beautiful animation of how central Amsterdam expanded and the canals were built from 1600 onwards.
Credits: Stadsarchief / City Archives Amsterdam
I especially love the giftshops in Herenstraat and Prinsenstraat (not to be confused with the much bigger Herengracht and Prinsengracht).
One of my favorite places for coffee or lunch is Spanjer & Van Twist on Leliegracht.
Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk
This is actually one long street changing its name in the middle. It was nominated best shopping street a few times. It has many unique, cute little shops, no big chains, although the tourist boom is causing more and more Nutella waffle shops to take over those unique shops….
But ecological and humanitarian fashion store Nukuhiva on Haarlemmerstraat 36 is worth a look for example. There are also various restaurants, coffee bars and lunch cafes. The Movies is a lovely little cinema with art deco style restaurant.
9 straatjes (9 little streets)
One particular block of 3 x 3 streets in the canal belt is known as 9 straatjes and is very good at promoting itself. It has various expensive shops, some restaurants and bars and nice architecture.
Why do tourists never go here? Very centrally located Prinseneiland (Island of Princes) is a very picturesque historical area with beautiful old houses, draw bridges, canals. You’d never guess you’re in the capital city of a country.
Lots of quaint little shops, hairdressers, brown bars and terraces. If you’re into music don’t miss Concerto, the city’s best record/ cd shop. This street can easily be combined with a visit to the photography museum FOAM or with touristy Rembrandtplein. Cafe Krom and Cafe Marcella are lovely brown cafes with a local feel that serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.
Often overlooked, this quieter part of the center is rich in Jewish history, with museums to show for it. The area also hosts Artis Zoo, and is generally a very pleasant and beautiful area to walk around in. For example Henri Polakstraat is very pretty, as is Plantage Muidergracht. And while you’re in the area, take in Entrepotdok with all its warehouses turned into homes, and Hoogte Kadijk and Laagte Kadijk. This also brings you close to Brouwerij ‘t IJ beer brewery & windmill.
Eastern islands (modern architecture)
If you’re into modern architecture, then a visit to the eastern islands of Amsterdam is well worth it. Wander around on Java-eiland and on KNSM-eiland. Kanis & Meiland is a lovely cafe on KNSM-eiland.
South (Amsterdamse School architecture, tranquility)
Southern Amsterdam has a lot of beautiful multiple-storey houses in Amsterdamse School style, an art deco related architecure style from the early 20th century. For example walk the full length of Jan de Goyerkade, Pieter Lastmankade to see a very tranquil side of Amsterdam. This can easily be combined with a visit to Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Concertgebouw or Vondelpark.
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