As an independent traveler you probably don’t like to stay in the tourist zones. Amsterdam is a rather small city (for a capital), and it is quite easy to find accommodation in a nice neighborhood outside of the city center, while being at walking distance from the famous sights. Let me share my suggestions for the nicest neighborhoods to stay in Amsterdam.
Be aware that over the past decades Amsterdam has become a very touristic city. A recent report funded by AirBNB shows that on a yearly basis 19 million people visited Amsterdam. 9 million of those were day trippers, the other 10 million spent at least one night in town. On a population of 838.000 that is a lot and locals experience this as such. That goes especially for the about 90.000 inhabitants of the city center.
The present city council is trying to put a stop to the growth of tourism, for example by limiting the number of nights that locals can let their apartments to tourists and limiting the amount of new hotels.
How do the locals feel about tourism?
Having lived in Amsterdam myself for a considerable amount of time, I can say a few things about this topic.
- Amsterdam is an awesome city, with amazing architecture and canals and some not to be missed museums. Locals completely understand why you would like to visit and see it for yourself.
- The complaints of the locals are mostly about groups: 50 or more people getting off a tourist bus and not paying any attention to local traffic is kind of annoying. Stag- and hen parties are specifically infamous, simply because of the obnoxious behavior.
- Next to that there are serious worries about the loss of social cohesion. Especially in the city center local shops disappear and are taken over by establishments catering mainly to tourists (the so-called Nutella shops; easy to spot thanks to big pots of the famous chocolate paste in their shop windows…). And if too many apartments in one block are being let to ever changing tourists, the residents remaining feel lost. Understandable.
Book your accommodation outside of the city center of Amsterdam!
As an independent traveler you probably don’t like obnoxious groups, tourist restaurants or Nutella shops either. You would like to avoid those areas too. And the good news is that this is very well possible. Read my suggestions about nice neighborhoods in Amsterdam below to find out how you can do just that!
Staying in the city center of Amsterdam?
Most tourists stay in a very small part of town: the city center. I admit, this is where the canals, the 17th century houses and most of the museums are too. But Amsterdam is a small city and easy to get around, even on foot. So why not stay in one of the more residential neighborhoods surrounding the center?
You will be part of local life, eat in nice and good restaurants, have a drink in the local bars, visit local markets and get a feeling of what it is like to live in Amsterdam. During the day you can easily walk into the city center to see the famous attractions, or catch a tram if you’re not into walking. But you might just feel so happy in your residential neighborhood that you end up spending all day there!
Staying in Amsterdam West
As the name implies, this is the area directly west of the city center. On booking sites this area could be called by one of its parts:
- De Baarsjes,
These neighborhoods were built roughly between 1890 and 1940, for the then fast growing population of Amsterdam. During the past decades the area has gentrified and has become specifically popular with young couples and singles. In all these neighborhoods you can find a wide variety of good restaurants, pubs and small shops. Westerpark is called after the huge and awesome urban park with the same name.
As this area is very close to Amsterdam Center it is an excellent area to stay in if you want to enjoy urban life, yet stay in a more residential area.
Staying in Amsterdam Zuid
This is the neighborhood directly south of Amsterdam city center. Names that may signify parts of this neighborhood:
- De Pijp,
- Oud Zuid,
- Museumkwartier/Museum quarter.
When I was a student, De Pijp used to be our favorite area in town thanks to the great amount of bars, the huge market at Albert Cuypstraat and the tiny and cheap apartments. It is a lot more diversified now, but the bars remained.
The southern part of Zuid is a bit more posh. Generally, the closer to railway station Amsterdam Zuid, the more expensive the houses & restaurants and the more boring the area. But closer to Vondelpark and Museum Square the streets are beautiful and there is a lot more to do. I must admit that this is where it gets more touristy too.
Staying in Amsterdam Oost
Amsterdam Oost is a huge area east of the city center, split up in neighborhood with different characters:
- Indische buurt,
Indische buurt and Transvaalbuurt are traditionally working class neighborhoods. Even though some gentrification is taking place they still have a rough edge to them. They are ethnically diverse neighborhoods, which is reflected in the products for sale at the local Dappermarkt (daily market), in the local shops and in the restaurants. It is a vibrant area with lots going on, so don’t be put off by my description!
The more upmarket Watergraafsmeer is an area with beautiful houses, populated by families with children (and some money!) From the 17th century onward rich people built their summerhouses here, which you can still see in for example Park Frankendael. You will see more kids in this area, and family style restaurants.
The same goes for the modern neighborhoods of Zeeburg and IJburg. Very interesting areas to stay, with modern architecture and situated close to the river IJ. Or in the river actually, on artificial islands! IJburg is a bit further out of the city center, but it does have a tram connecting it to the city.
Staying in Amsterdam Noord
Amsterdam Noord, north of the river IJ (north of Central station) is a huge residential area. To be honest, large parts of it are bit boring and grey. However, it does contain some unexpected lovely old streets (such as Nieuwendammerdijk) and there’s loads of creativity popping up around NDSM-werf, near the old shipyards. You can reach town with a (free) ferry or take the subway. Noord is not always very charming, but is definitely off the beaten track!
Staying in Amsterdam Westpoort, Nieuw West and Zuidoost
These neighborhoods are located at the outer rim of town. Westpoort is mainly an industrial area. This is where you will find the Amsterdam harbor. Nieuw West and Zuidoost are residential areas that don’t have much to offer to a tourist. Possibly some of the cheaper hotels are situated in those areas, so that might be a reason to stay there. As said, Amsterdam is not big and public transport is good, so getting to the more interesting parts of town will never be an issue. However, I would not specifically recommend staying in those neighborhoods.
Staying outside of Amsterdam
Of course you could also consider staying in another town outside of Amsterdam. For example in Haarlem, just 15 to 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam. Other options are the historical & centrally located town of Utrecht or the old town of Alkmaar in Noord Holland province.