amsterdam canal in the jordaan

Where in Amsterdam to Stay & Explore: 8 Cool Neighborhoods

Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities on earth, and I can’t rank my favorite neighborhoods because I love them all for different reasons. Sometimes I think De Pijp’s vibrant streets, Oud-West’s local charm, and Oud-Zuid’s artistic vibes are my top picks. Yet, the history and charm of the Jordaan and Oost’s off the beaten path gems are unbeatable too. You’ll just have to explore them all and decide for yourself which Amsterdam neighborhood is your favorite!

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If you’re wondering which Amsterdam neighborhoods are the best to spend time exploring, or where in Amsterdam you should stay for your upcoming trip, this post is for you!

I’m going to walk you through all the main neighborhoods in Amsterdam (plus a few that are a bit more off the beaten path) and let you know which ones are the most interesting and most worth your time. I’ll also link you to my favorite hotel picks in each neighborhood in case you’re still looking!

I couldn’t possibly rank my favorite neighborhoods in Amsterdam because I love them all for different reasons, so this list is organized counter-clockwise from the city center.

If you’re currently planning an Amsterdam trip, don’t forget to check out my full Amsterdam hotel guide, as well as my other posts about Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands

Okay, let’s get into it!

Delve into the Netherlands

8 Cool Areas to Check Out in Amsterdam

1. Centrum: Where to stay in Amsterdam for nightlife, shopping & sightseeing

canal buildings in amsterdam's city center

Centrum is certainly not known for being off the beaten path, or for its lack of tourists. But that’s okay, because what it is known for is for being convenient, stunningly beautiful and quaint, and full of some of the best shopping in the city. That being said, there are also a few areas that I would avoid (Centrum is large, and like most city centers, there are less ideal areas), so I’ll be sure to note specifically where I like.

9 Streets is definitely my top area in Centrum to explore. This is where all the best shopping is, both vintage and boutique, not to mention dozens of super cute cafes and quaint buildings. I highly recommend La Condesa Taqueria, which has some surprisingly good Mexican food, and Pulitzer’s Bar for a classy cocktail spot.

A bit south of 9 Streets I like Bocca Coffee and Zero Zero sandwich shop. There’s also an absolutely stunning movie theatre, Pathe Tuschinski, that is an experience in itself. I also love Pancakehouse Upstairs for their Dutch pancakes but also the really cool vibe.

The area around Spui square has a great American bookstore, and you can also explore the Begijnhof, which is a notable historic street. This area also has endless great restaurants to explore. 

There are also two excellent bakeries around Spui: Van Stapele Koekmakerij (known for its decadent chocolate cookies) and Lanskroon Bakery (serving up delicious stroopwafels and speculaas). Honestly, this whole street is great, because we also enjoyed The Sandwich Bar, which serves simple and traditional yet delicious Dutch sandwiches called broodjes.

I would avoid the Red Light District and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, both of which feel kind of sketchy, in a city center, tourist trap vibes kind of way.

P.S. When you book using my links, you help support Rachel IRL at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win!

2. The Jordaan: Where in Amsterdam to stay for first-time visitors

bloemgracht in amsterdam's Jordaan district

The Jordaan is the best Amsterdam neighborhood to stay in if you want to have the quintessential “Amsterdam” experience, without being in constant tourist trap turmoil. 

Located on the West of the Canal Belt, bordering Oud-West and 9 Streets, the Jordaan has the gift of being central but relatively local. Here you’ll find some of the quaintest streets and most charming old houses, as well as plenty of local cafes, bruin cafés (brown cafe; basically a classic Dutch pub), and loads of cute little shops.

The Jordaan is one of my favorite neighborhoods to just wander around with no particular destination because there are so many quiet areas to appreciate, and so many cafes to explore, it feels like you could get lost in the canals forever! The Jordaan is also close to the Anne Frank House & Museum, which is one of the most attended museums in the city—so you’re likely to end up here one way or another!

Among the nearly endless cafes and restaurants in the Jordaan is Cafe Winkel 43, a great little cafe/bar where you can sample the famous Dutch Apple Pie, along with other nice treats and snacks. Drupa Coffee Roasters is another one of my favorites for coffee and brunch. The flat white and banana bread were amazing, as was the general atmosphere. I didn’t get to try them, but the barista recommended the cold brew and empanadas as well. 

I really wanted to try Madre, a Mexican restaurant, while we were here, but alas it wasn’t in the cards for us. It looks absolutely amazing though, so if you do check it out please let me know how it is!

3. Westerpark: Where to stay in Amsterdam for peace & quiet

Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam's leafy green Westerpark

The Westerpark neighborhood is named after the largest park in the area, which also makes it one of the greenest areas of the city. The neighborhood is a bit out of the center, just west of the Jordaan, and north of Oud-West.

Starting with the park that the neighborhood gets its name from, Westerpark is not only a lovely green space, but also home to Westergasfabriek, a massive cultural center with restaurants, a cinema, food trucks and more. We especially love the Troost brewery, which has a totally vegetarian menu, but was satisfying and delicious even to us meat eaters. If you want a treat afterward, Ijscuypje Westergasfabriek is a great ice cream spot too.

Not technically in the neighborhood, but also not really in any other neighborhood, is Haarlemmerdijk Street, which was one of my faves for vintage shopping/generally just one of the cuter streets we strolled down. Also slightly out of the neighborhood to the west is Friedhats Coffee, which had some of the best coffee I had in the Netherlands, and hands down one of the best chocolate croissants I’ve ever had in my life (trust me, I’ve sampled a lot). We also enjoyed the Cafe Checkpoint Charlie pub—they didn’t have any gigs on while we were there, but they often do so be sure to check!

Also in Westerpark you can see an original Keith Haring mural if you’re a fan of his work, though it’s definitely a bit out of the way.

4. Oud-West: Where to stay in Amsterdam for a local experience

amsterdam oud-west

Oud-West is one of the magical neighborhoods that manages to strike the balance between being totally fun, endlessly explorable and exciting, with being still super authentic, local and pretty central!

You can find Oud-West just north of Vondelpark, the most visited park in Amsterdam. The neighborhood is also bordered to the west by the Jordaan and to the north by the Westerpark area. The appeal of this neighborhood is clear: it’s near so many green spaces, is super close to the canal belt, and has several streets and canals that are lined with endless trendy and interesting bars, restaurants, cafes and shops. The main streets you’ll want to pay attention to are Overtoom, Kinkerstraat, and De Clercqstraat.

Oud-West is home to the Foodhallen, which is a great option for dinner while you’re in town. It’s also near the Film Hall, which has stunning art deco paneling and screens all types of movies—perfect for a rainy day. We were also super impressed by The Maker Store, which stocks all local designers and makers.

While you’re exploring Oud-West, be sure to check out LOT61 Coffee, one of the best cafes and coffee roasters in the city, as well as Kartika, which serves some seriously good Indonesian food (we got takeaway and brought it to Vondelpark, which I highly recommend). We also really enjoyed having a beer and some fries at De Kade Cafe. They had a dinner menu as well, but I can’t speak to it. 

You’ll also find a ton of vintage shops in this area, which you can read more about in my vintage guide to Amsterdam.

5. Oud-Zuid: Where to stay in Amsterdam for art-lovers

Amsterdam Rijksmuseum from Museumplein

Oud-Zuid makes up the space between Vondelpark and De Pijp, and is most famous for being home to the museum quarter.

Here is where you’ll find the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum—two of the most famous museums in Amsterdam—the Moco Museum for contemporary art and the Stedelijk Museum for modern art. 

Can’t choose which one to visit?! Check out my guide to the best Amsterdam museums to find out more about each one.

Even if you aren’t planning a visit to these museums, Oud-Zuid is also home to the famous iamsterdam letters, and Museumplein itself is a great green space to relax on in the midst of a busy day of sightseeing. Also, on the third Sunday of every month there’s a design market here—I got some super cute earrings when I visited!

As for restaurants, I enjoyed Lillie Wine Rebel, and we really wanted to try Batoni Khinkali, a delicious-looking Georgian restaurant that’s top of my list for my next visit.

6. De Pijp: Where to stay in Amsterdam for trendy vibes

albert cuyp market in de pijp

De Pijp, like so many working class neighborhoods, has over recent years undergone a bit of an overhaul (gentrification), and has become one of the “coolest” and most desirable Amsterdam neighborhoods. It’s incredibly well-located just south of the center, and just east of Museumplein, but it still retains a neighborhood-y and local feel when you’re there. We’ve stayed in De Pijp before and really enjoyed it!

Though it’s not technically the center, one of the most popular things to do in Amsterdam is in De Pijp: The Heineken Experience. Also, my favorite pancake restaurant, De Carrousel, is just a stone’s throw from here. Other notable restaurants we love in the area are Caffe Pico, Sari Citra, and Sea Salt and Chocolate.

Be sure to visit Albert Cuyp Market, which is one of the most famous markets in Amsterdam, and check out the plethora of vintage and thrift in De Pijp (details in my thrift guide to Amsterdam). I also love spending some time in Sarphatipark, which feels so secluded and like a total escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

7. Oost: Where to stay in Amsterdam off the beaten path 

Amstel river busy with boat traffic with Amsterdam Oost in background

Amsterdam Oost is a bit off the beaten path, and perfect for anyone looking for local and hipster vibes. This is definitely one of the neighborhoods where I felt like I encountered the least amount of tourists.

This area, just east of De Pijp, is currently undergoing a lot of gentrification but it’s still one of the most diverse parts of Amsterdam, and that’s reflected in the museums and businesses you’ll find here. Most notable of these is the Tropenmuseum, dedicated to world cultures and the legacy of colonialism, as well as Oosterpark, the first public park in Amsterdam which features very cool sculptures by Surinamese artists.

YUSU cafe is one of my favorite spots for pastries in Oost, while Coffee Bru is my pick for coffee and casual cafe vibes. There are also a ton of vegan restaurants in Oost, so this might be a good place to stay if you’re vegan. We particularly liked Restaurant Alba (not vegan), which has a stunning garden to eat in, and the food was amazing.

8. Noord: Where to stay in Amsterdam for a balance of culture & budget

Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam Noord across the IJ

Those looking to explore a more unique side to Amsterdam should take the ferry from right behind Centraal station up to Amsterdam Noord. The area has seen a ton of development over the past few years, and it’s gone from an industrial district to a modern, hipster cultural center.

The area around the NDSM-werf is where I’ve spent the most time. It’s well known for great nightlife, street art and frequent events and markets. I really enjoyed Pllek, a bar/restaurant in a warehouse setting on the water. There’s often live music too! My other food recommendation would be Kebec Corner, which has some amazing focaccia.

Also at the NDSM-werf is the IJ-Hallen second-hand market, which is absolutely huge, and sells pretty much everything. It happens once a month, and is definitely worth visiting if you happen to catch it. 

Finally, check out the STRAAT Museum, dedicated to street art, and if you’re into movies then the Eye Filmmuseum is another must-visit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Amsterdam’s Best Neighborhoods

What is the coolest area in Amsterdam?

Now, this is obviously going to vary depending on who you ask and what you’re into, but for the most part it’s safe to say that the answer is safely split between Noord and De Pijp. 

De Pijp has held the title of coolest Amsterdam neighborhood for quite some time, and with good reason! There are tons of vintage shops, good restaurants and cool bars all over the place in De Pijp. It’s also just slightly out of the center, which makes it less likely to be overrun with tourists, while still being super accessible to all the best things to do in Amsterdam. That being said, while a few years ago De Pijp was still more “hipster” and local, as Amsterdam gets more trafficked and tourism continues to grow and become more accessible, De Pijp feels more and more like it’s on the beaten path, if you will. That’s where Noord comes in.

Amsterdam Noord is just north of the city center across the IJ river. You can get there via a free ferry that takes about 15 minutes or so. The area is pretty industrial, and very cool in a way that’s giving Williamsburg in Brooklyn (before it was basic), or Hackney in London. Artists, artisans, and students flock to this area to make it a cool and inviting place to be. Though its proximity to the center does mean it may also be crowded sometimes, the ferry ride, coupled with the industrial vibes does a lot to ensure that it isn’t quite as overrun as De Pijp can get.

Basically, TLDR, if you’re wondering where in Amsterdam is the coolest neighborhood, either Noord or De Pijp will fit the bill. But honestly, one of the best things about Amsterdam is that there isn’t really an uncool part to it, so keep reading to discover other cool areas in Amsterdam.

albert cuyp market in de pijp

What is the most walkable neighborhood in Amsterdam?

There are two main ways to consider walkability: how easy it is to walk to major sights and/or areas of interest to you, and then the literal ease of walking around, ie, sidewalk size and how many bikes, cars and trams are around. The nice thing about most Amsterdam neighborhoods is that, honestly, they’re usually super walkable. It’s not that large of a city, so you can easily get around on foot most of the time.

To address the first issue, proximity to sights and areas of interest, Oud-West will be your best bet. Though not technically in the center canal belt, it puts you smack in the center between the Jordaan/9 Streets area and Vondelpark/Museumplein areas. If you’re not averse to a bit of a trek, it also actually puts you perfectly between De Pijp and the center of the city.

Regarding walkability in terms of accessibility, I would say that De Pijp is ideal. I’ve found that De Pijp is the area I’m least likely to find myself almost running into a bike (I’m very accident prone!), has less wobbly cobblestones than some of the other popular areas, doesn’t have quite as many cars coming down most streets, aside from the main thoroughfares. 

What part of Amsterdam is best to stay in?

This is going to depend heavily on what exactly you want to do in Amsterdam, but ultimately, I think you can’t go wrong between De Pijp and Oud-West. Both options are a bit quieter than it would be to stay in the canal belt, but remain relatively central and easy to get to and from.

I think both Amsterdam neighborhoods are perfect to get a slice of local life in Amsterdam, without sacrificing convenience. Jump to Oud-West here, or jump to De Pijp here.

gorgeous buildings in the Jordaan district, amsterdam

P.S. When you book using my links, you help support Rachel IRL at no extra cost to you. It’s a win-win!

Are you ready to explore Amsterdam’s neighborhoods?

Honestly, no matter where you stay in Amsterdam, it’ll probably be amazing. This city truly never gets old, and every corner of it has something special to offer, so I know you’ll have a great time.

If you’re still planning, be sure to check out all my other posts about the Netherlands so you can have the best trip ever.

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