Amsterdam Noord is indeed north of the city, separated from it by the IJ harbour. Behind the waterside neighbourhoods, Noord goes beyond the ring of the A10 to include the picturesque villages Holysloot, Ransdorp and Durgerdam. From central Amsterdam, pedestrians, bikers and scooters commute for five to 15 minutes via three free ferries that leave from behind Amsterdam Central Station, while traffic runs through three (soon to be four) tunnels.
Villages such as Holysloot and Ransdorp have been around since the 12th century, and the harbour at Nieuwendam enjoyed a 16th century Golden Age before Amsterdam did by transporting goods to France. Eventually it was annexed by Amsterdam and started getting more solid land from the diggings of the North Sea Canal in the 19th century.
Along with neighbourhoods for workers, Noord developed as an industrial terrain, which made it a bombing target during WWII. In the 1990s, the long abandoned NDSM ship yards were squatted by artists, and the NDSM Wharf is now one of the biggest ‘cultural breeding grounds’ in the country. It attracts major arts and media companies, such as MTV Europe. Ambitious residential projects are also underway.
With the completion of the NZ-lijn metro, Noord should become a more integrated part of Amsterdam. But meanwhile one can enjoy the free ferry ride across the IJ.
The once squatted former shipping yard NDSM-wharf is home to studios, galleries, festivals and an indoor skate park. The Tolhuistuin is a gig venue and cultural centre on the grounds of the former Shell building directly across from Central Station. During the summer, it hosts magical evenings of food, film and music in its extensive garden. The venue is now neighbours with the spectacular-looking Eye Filmmuseum; and the newest high-profile addition to the area is the refurbished A'DAM Tower, which includes an observation deck with great views of Amsterdam.
Not only does Noord have many parks, forests and sport complexes, it’s heaven for cyclists. In a short bike ride, visit the historic dykes of Nieuwendammerdijk, Schellingwouderdijk, Durgerdammerdijk and Buiksloterdijk.
The shopping is great, too, with local butchers and bakers, outdoor markets, flea markets, a good-sized shopping centre (Boven ’t Y on Buikslotermeerplein) with popular labels and local wares, and a huge vintage and industrial design furniture store.
You won’t find a more diverse neighbourhood: old fishing villages, glamorous new projects, trendy cafés, high-rises, 1920s Amsterdam School-style tuindorpen (‘garden villages’), medium-rise apartments, students living in former sea containers near NDSM and brand new IJ-side condos.
A cosmopolitan attitude is arriving as artists and major businesses (such as MTV Europe, Red Bull and the iconic Dutch HEMA department store) alike have set up their headquarters.
Eating, drinking etc
Unlike other outlying neighbourhoods, Noord has become a mecca for culture vultures and culinary pilgrims from the centre. There is a variety of highly-rated restaurants and bars appealing to the many working in the cultural sector, such as Noorderlicht Café, IJkantine, Pllek, Hannekes Boom, De Ceuvel and Hotel de Goudfazant. The last decade has seen ambitious redevelopment and residential construction to Amsterdam Noord, attracting young families and an emerging cultural scene.