Almost 22 million visitors—a staggering 27.5 times Amsterdam’s population—descended on the city’s cobblestone streets in 2019. After the onset of the pandemic, its local council took steps to limit these crowds, like voting to move its infamous red-light district to a new purpose-built neighborhood outside the city center (the location is still TBD); outlawing nonresidents from lighting up spliffs; and launching splashy campaigns to nudge visitors to other areas. One of these is Amsterdam-Noord, a curious corner locals have known about for years, just four miles north of downtown. It takes only a free five-minute ferry hop from Central Station, the city’s main transport hub, to access this district, which has built up its creative cred since the early 2010s. Its defunct factories, which once cranked out cargo ships and steel, have been overtaken by freethinking chefs, tech start-ups, and edgy artists who have turned Noord’s once-gritty industrial parks into the city’s most envelope-pushing creative spaces.
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Set out on a culture crawl
While it’s all about the Old Masters and Van Gogh in Amsterdam’s museum quarter, Noord’s art spaces zero in on a more recent era. At the angular Eye Filmmuseum, which heralded Noord’s cultural genesis when it opened in 2012, the permanent collection showcases Hollywood memorabilia and vintage cameras, while pop-up exhibitions explore everything from Dutch film directors to found-footage cinema. A 15-minute stroll north, the new Nxt Museum looks still further ahead, exploring a future of art that blurs the boundaries of technology and design through immersive audiovisual installations and room-spanning interactive video works. And on the Noordwall promenade, a multi-use space is home to the artist collective Sexyland World, which operates a conceptual nightclub and experimental art galleries. The programming changes daily; expect everything from political drag shows to book readings and performances by avant-garde international musicians.
Sample the buzzy restaurant scene
Hidden in unassuming shipyards and once-abandoned industrial estates, Noord’s best bars and dining establishments often make you look twice. Hotel de Goudfazant is a case in point: This perennially packed restaurant, which occupies a cavernous former garage in a concrete-and-steel complex on the eastern riverbank, has been a neighborhood mainstay since it opened in 2006, serving French-tinged fare to guests seated in plastic canteen chairs. The seasonal menu is big on seafood, but the crispy-skinned rotisserie chicken is a favorite among regulars. In a converted warehouse a few doors down, bistro-slash-indie cinema FC Hyena serves natural wines and dishes up unpretentious small bites such as roast cauliflower with tahini and grilled octopus with tomatillo salsa. There are tables set up in its colorful foyer, but you can take your order into its two screening rooms, which show art-house flicks and classic films on Tuesdays.
Head to Oedipus Brewing, on the edge of the former Stork steel factory grounds, for beers infused with galangal, orange peel, or Sichuan pepper, made mere yards away; Henri Rousseau’s art inspired the colorful walls, and the guys behind burger truck The Beef Chief take over the Oedipus kitchen from Thursday through Sunday, cooking up pork-belly patties and hand-cut fries drizzled with gochujang mayo. Equally hops-centric is IJver, an industrial hangout within the much larger shipbuilding hangar on the NDSM Wharf. The bar, which runs almost the full length of the restaurant, has a whopping 19 kinds of beer on tap (and several dozens bottled), while the open kitchen serves cross-border comfort food like rendang sandwiches and soba-noodle bowls.
The garage block bookending the industrial Papaverweg is also drawing foodie crowds with its cohort of businesses. In late 2019 pop-up pizzeria Klaproos turned a humdrum office space there into a sultry, candlelit dining room, where you’ll find well-priced antipasti and pizzas with spicy nduja, white truffle, or vegan mozzarella; on sunny days, snag a picnic table on the waterside terrace at the back of the building. Next door, Corner Store, housed in a low-slung former storage space, opened last June after the lockdown ended and quickly became one of the city’s most in-demand tables. The vegetable-forward, Asian-inspired menu—think yellow beets with pickled daikon and mushroom karaage—has diners from all over Amsterdam rushing for a table on first-come, first-served Fridays and Saturdays (they do take reservations from Tuesday to Thursday). Drinks include natural wines and sake, poured behind a wooden bar that doubles as a DJ booth—a nod to the stamp-size listening bars of Tokyo.