Things to do in Nieuwmarkt
One of the city’s oldest districts, Nieuwmarkt, is also known as Amsterdam’s Chinatown. Many lively cafés, bars, restaurants and quirky shops surround the market square - making it the perfect place to spend a few hours browsing and people-watching. You'll find the city's best Asian restaurants here, and it’s the most exciting place to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Dine in a building with an eclectic history
Built in 1488, De Waag is a remarkable monument. It was originally one of Amsterdam’s three city gates, used for weighing goods as ships entered through the city walls. Various guilds were based within the building, and perhaps most famously, it housed the Theatrum Anatomicum, where the Surgeons’ Guild would perform public dissections. Later, the building served as a municipal fencing hall, fire station and archive. After a significant restoration in 1996, the upper levels became home to the Waag Society (an institute for art, science and technology). Meanwhile, Café-Restaurant In de Waag offers a unique dining experience in an atmospheric space lit by 300 candles.
Haggle for vintage bargains and veggies
From Monday through Friday, the main square at Nieuwmarkt is home to a small market with cosy stalls selling vegetables, flowers and cheese. Then, on Saturdays, the entire square is taken over by the weekly organic farmers’ market. Here you’ll find everything from locally-grown fruits and vegetables to candles and cosmetics. During the summer, you’ll also find a weekly flea market on Sundays - so be sure to pack your haggling hat as you rummage for vintage bargains.
Eat your way along the Zeedijk
The historic narrow street known as the Zeedijk is the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinatown. The first Chinese people settled in the city around 1911. You’ll find street signs proudly displaying Chinese translations underneath as a token of appreciation for the residents who developed the neighbourhood. Of course, there are many delicious restaurants to explore here; New King for dim sum or sizzling wok dishes and Nam Kee for Peking duck both come highly recommended.
Tour a real Buddhist temple
This colourful building on the Zeedijk offers a beautiful contrast to the typical Dutch architecture surrounding it. He Hua (Fo Guang Shan) is a fully operating Buddhist temple and meditation centre which offers organised services, courses and guided tours. The roof is adorned with animals that represent the Chinese Zodiac, with the dragon thought to protect the entire temple grounds.
Watch the lions dance during Chinese New Year
If you’re visiting in Winter, don’t miss the chance to experience the Chinese New Year celebrations in this part of town when the streets go wild with the loud bangs of firecrackers. New Year’s Eve is always celebrated twice in the neighbourhood: on December 31 and during Chinese New Year. The biggest celebration is on January 2, when the new year is ushered in with a lion dance.
Soak up the views from a historic bell tower
Completed in 1614, the Zuiderkerktoren (Zuiderkerk tower) is 68 metres high and holds the oldest bell in Amsterdam. It originally hung in the Oude Kerk, and it still rings to this day. For exceptional city views, it’s possible to climb the tower as part of a guided tour. Tours can accommodate groups of up to 10 people, and they take about 30 minutes. The church itself is open to the public, and you can explore the interior and exhibits without a tour guide.
Explore Rembrandt’s former home and studio
Rembrandt House Museum is a beautifully restored townhouse capturing the far-reaching legacy of the legendary painter. Rembrandt lived here for several decades when he was at the height of his career, and the museum provides a multifaceted insight into his life and work. See where he created many of his most famous works in the studio, admire a large display of original etchings and explore the living quarters for a glimpse into his everyday life.
Dig for vinyl
Crate-diggers, take note. Nieuwmarkt has a high concentration of excellent record stores. When you need a break from rummaging for Italo disco at Bordello a Paragi’s cosy shop, head to their kitsch bar Bordello Aperitivo for a sparkling cocktail. Close by, you’ll also find Zwart Goud for funk, soul and 90s hip-hop, Platypus for second-hand bargains and City Records and RecordFriend Elpees for all other genres under the sun.
Belt your heart out
From karaoke bars and burlesque nights to hidden jazz venues, this part of town is buzzing with evening entertainment options. Paleis van de Weemoed is one of the best-known cabaret and variety bars in the city, whilst De Engelbewaarder is an excellent pub for Sunday afternoon jazz sessions. Or suppose you’re somebody looking for any opportunity to belt out bangers in front of strangers. In that case, some of the city’s most notorious karaoke bars are located here, including Casablanca and the best (and worst) place to finish your night: The End.