Watergraafsmeer’s borders are formed by the Amstel River, the Ringvaart canal, the A10 ring highway and the Amsterdam Science Park. It is bisected into four equal parts by arterial commercial roads Middenweg and Kruislaan.
Watergraafsmeer is the lowest-lying area in Amsterdam. As a polder (reclaimed land) it was first pumped dry in 1629. In the 17th and 18th centuries, wealthy Amsterdammers built estates to escape the city on weekends – only Frankendael, with its restaurant and garden, is left as a reminder of those times. In the 20th century, ‘worker villas’ like Jeruzelam and the oddly futuristic Betondorp were built without ‘church, bar or capital’. Later, Watergraafsmeer became a focus as home to the football stadium De Meer, where AFC Ajax played until 1996 (De Meer was subsequently demolished when Ajax moved to their current home, the Amsterdam ArenA). Not only did iconic footballer Johan Cruijff call Watergraafsmeer home, but also Dutch writers such as Gerard Reve and Karel van het Reve.
Watergraafsmeer offers a wide range of green. Many residents have allotments and the area is dotted with sports fields, Amsterdam’s largest cemetery, Nieuwe Oosterbegraafplaats (and its curious Netherlands Funeral Museum Tot Zover), and the city’s largest skating rink, Jaap Edenbaan. For commuters it has the major train station Amstel, as well as easy access to the A10 ring highway.
Watergraafsmeer is really a whole series of smaller neighbourhoods: some fiercely working-class areas with a strong sense of community, middle-rise apartment blocks and high-rises along the Amstel River. Besides lower- and middle-income families, there’s a significant ageing population. One can also speak of a ‘brain gain’ due to the Amsterdam Science Park with its academic research institutes and technology companies reaches completion.
Eating, drinking etc.
Although the emphasis here may not be on nightlife, there are a couple of the city’s most highly-regarded restaurants here, such as De Kas (who grow food in their own greenhouses) and Dauphine on Prins Bernardplein near Amstel Station. And happily, residents are relatively close to the vibrant Oost neighbourhoods and the Dappermarkt.