Zuidoost then and now
Zuidoost, the Bijlmer, or Bims. Whatever you want to call it, this part of Amsterdam is one of the city’s most varied, culturally diverse and forward-facing areas. Developed in the post-war years, it’s one of the newer districts to explore, but with no fewer than 130 different nationalities living together, you’ll undoubtedly find many stories to uncover and a real sense of community pride.
Zuidoost has not been part of Amsterdam for very long. In the 1950s and 1960s, the city needed to expand, and the annexation of surrounding municipalities such as Diemen and Bijlmer was the logical next step in this direction. Developers saw potential in the vast open farmland to combat the housing shortage in the Netherlands, hence why you’ll see so many high-rise buildings in the area. Following the independence of Suriname in 1974, a large influx of Surinamese immigrants made their way to the Bijlmer. Today, you’ll find the neighbourhood home to such an exciting range of food and cultural initiatives celebrating this diversity.
Zuidoost is about as far away as you can get from your typical canals-and-clogs image of Amsterdam, but as one of the most culturally diverse and forward-facing districts, it is a side of the city that shouldn't be overlooked. Everything in Zuidoost seems a bit bigger than in the rest of the city. You won’t find any quaint bridges or cobbled alleys, but mega cinemas, high towers and flats, megastores, concert halls and a stadium with space for almost 55,000 people. But it's not just the buildings that seem bigger. There just seems to be a little more space in Zuidoost as the area is surrounded by sprawling countryside, parks and picturesque waterways, which are perfect for boating, swimming and watersports.
Around Amsterdamse Poort, which is Amsterdam’s largest shopping area, along with the usual chain stores, you’ll find lots of smaller shops and stalls offering products from around the world. Likewise, the area’s street markets reflect the diversity of the local residents, selling everything from spicy curry powder and exotic vegetables to hair extensions. This mix of backgrounds has also led to the establishment of some fantastic cultural initiatives from annual food, music and sports festivals like Kwaku in Nelson Mandela Park or community-orientated theatres and art spaces such as the Bijlmer Parktheater and OSCAM.