The centrum is the oldest part of the city, which accounts for its historical charm and traditional European ambiance. Many of the apartments that line the semi-circular canals that make up the heart of the area actually date back to the origins of the city and have been well preserved. This makes these buildings particularly appealing and puts them in high demand. It is their central locations within the city centre, along with their prime positions on the splendid canals of the city that attribute to the astronomical prices of any apartment in the city centre, and especially for those located in the region known as the grachtengordel (which is the name given to the most prestigious canals that form the concentric rings around the centrum, specifically, the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht and the Prinsengracht, respectively). In the centrum, you will also have an easy and direct commute to the other areas of Amsterdam, by the overly accessible public transportation system that operates throughout the city, or via the bike lanes and bike-friendly roads that will take you anywhere you please in this city of bikers. There are many open air markets in the centrum, such as the Noordermaarkt, the Westermarkt and the boerenmarkt, which are all located in the area known as the Jordaan. This part of the centrum has recently become quite popular among the expat community, while it has remained a select choice among the more upscale, creative-minded and yet traditionally valued Dutch residents of the city. In the Jordaan, you will find unique shops that might feature the latest and up and coming trends and others that offer various arrays of the most interesting “blasts from numerous pasts.”
The city centre is very densely populated and space will cost you. Those moving with children in particular may want to consider other options. Central Amsterdam is mostly populated by young people with some disposable income or families that have lived there for a few generations.
International Schools: There are no international schools within the centrum, but all schools are easily accessible, and many provide transportation for their students. Amsterdam University College (AUC) offers an English-taught Bachelor programme that crosses the boundaries of languages, cultures and academic disciplines.
Supermarkets: Albert Heijn is the most prominent chain in the Centrum, but one can locate Kruidvat, Spar and other supermarkets around, depending on your specific location. People living in the centre also choose local grocery stores which are usually more convenient but expensive. Open air markets are visited weekly for fresh vegetables and diary products.
Restaurants: There is a wide variety of restaurants that offer a range of international foods in a variety of price ranges. It is worth noting that businesses in the Centrum cater to tourists, and therefore prices are often elevated.
Cinemas: There are three options; (1) a multiplex (Pathe de Munt) offering variety of choices, (2) Pathe Tuchinski, which is special in terms of architecture and decoration. It’s main auditorium is usually the one in which movies premiere in the Netherlands. (3) Small neighborhood cinemas that usually offer old quality movies (The Movies, Kriterion).
Sports Facilities: Squash City, Club Sportive, SportCity and tennis courts are also available.
Noord (The North)
To the north of the city centre, you have the neighbourhoods known as Amsterdam North (Amsterdam Noord). Amsterdam Noord is located north of central station and can be accessed by a ferry that leaves regularly from the station. You can also access the North from Zeeburg, but it is not easily reached by public transport. Amsterdam Noord is quietly residential with some older factories around the outskirts. There are many different types of accommodation there, ranging from modern high-rise buildings to country cottages. The lack of hustle and bustle that is so normal in central Amsterdam is missed by some in this part of the city, and a great relief to many others. Not many expats end up in this part of the city due to its relative remoteness. On the northern banks of the IJ you can also find the NDSM Wharf. This former shipyard is now the center for underground culture in Amsterdam.
International Schools: There are no international schools in Amsterdam Noord.
Supermarkets: There is some variety in the north with several Albert Heijns, a Dirk van de Broek, several Pluses and C1000s and even one each of the bargain hunter’s dreams Lidl and Aldi.
Restaurants: This is not an area for top cuisine but there are still a few choices, mostly in hotels and bars. Take aways including pizza and shoarma are easily found.
Cinemas: There are no cinemas in Amsterdam Noord.
Sports Facilities: In Amsterdam Noord there are several gyms, most are quite close to the ferry ports. There is also the Florapark, a wide open space suitable for jogging and other outdoor recreation.
Oost (The East)
The Old East area is a relatively cheap neighbourhood with a relatively large immigrant population; urban renewal projects are underway to improve the living conditions in these neighborhoods. Usually families choose to live in big complex-building, that provide facilities such as gyms, parks and kindergartens close-by. It is 5-10 minutes by bike from the centre and consists of the following neighborhoods:
- Centre/east is the area near the Scheepvaartmuseum (naval museum). This is a small neighbourhood.
- The East Harbour was formerly used as the harbour. It is a relatively new neighbourhood.
- Just a minute away, one can find the mostly residential islands that form the district Zeeburg. Zeeburg has become a big draw for expats as it is still reasonably close to the centre and housing in this area tends to be bigger and less expensive. On the downside, due in no small part to its newness, the area could easily be accused of lacking real character. It is, however, spacious, modern and very green. Specifically, the Eastern Docklands is an upper class neighborhood with some of the highest population densities of the city.
- Watergraafsmeer is located south of the “Old East”. It is a quiet middle-class neighbourhood and is 20 minutes from the centre. It lies within the A10 ring road, while Amsterdam southeast (Zuidoost) lies beyond the main ring that surrounds the central part of the city. Oost Watergraafsmeer is extrtemely international and about thirty percent of residents are expats. There is a wide variety of accommodation styles located within this area, ranging from high rise contemporary apartment complexes to older canal houses, giving this the eclectic feel that makes it quintessentially Amsterdam and of course, unique. The general area is green, and there is an overall spacious feeling to the area, both public and private, that is not something that ought to be taken for granted in this city. This part of the city is evolving, and it has room to grow.
- Diemen is located south of the Watergraafsmeer. Although Diemen has its own city council and mayor, it is even closer to the city center than some other parts of Amsterdam. It is a quiet middle-class neighbourhood, 30 minutes from the centre by bike, or 10 minutes by train.
Zuid-oost is also known for its multicultural community, but it has less expats than Watergrafsmeer. The Zuidoost suffers a bit from the concrete jungle effect – a lot of the buildings are relatively new and not that pretty. That said, there is a lot of greenery and the area is probably more self contained with more facilities and shops than most areas of the city.
International Schools: There are no international schools in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost or Oost Watergraafsmeer.
Supermarkets: In these parts of the city Albert Heijn still reigns supreme. Roughly on a par for prices is Super de Boer of which there are a handful in Watergraafsmeer. The further you go from the city centre the more likely you are to find smaller local supermarkets and the C1000 stores.
Restaurants: Oost Watergraafsmeer may leave you feeling uninspired if you are a food fan but there is no shortage of cafes that do decent to good food. The Zuid-Oost’s ethnic mix means that there are some surprising options available here. If you want to sample new food you are in the right place!
Cinemas: There are no cinemas in Oost Watergraafsmeer. A multi-screen Pathe cinema opened up in the Zuid-Oost (Pathe ArenA so called for the Ajax stadium) at Arena Boulevard 600, 1101 DS. Close to Zeeburg is the funky art house cinema Studio K (http://www.studio-k.nu).
Sports Facilities: In the Zuid-Oost there is a cluster of gyms within walking distance of the metro stations Ganzenhof and Kraaiennest. In Zeeburg most of the facilities seem to be concentrated around Ijhaven, an inlet between two of the islands that make up Zeeburg. In Watergraafsmeer you can find several around Prins Bernhard Park. It’s also quite close to Oosterpark which is popular with outdoor sports enthusiasts. The University of Amsterdam built in 2010 the biggest sport-center in Amsterdam, located in Sciencepark, which is open non-students as well and provides facilities for any sport one can imagine.
Zuid (The South)
Located south of the city centre, you will find the neighbourhoods that include the Old South (Oud-Zuid) and Southern Amstel (Zuider-Amstel). These are two of the three most expensive neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, apart from the centrum. Approximately 1/5 of the residents living in Zuider-Amstel are expats, and overall, the population in the particular area is noticeably old compared to the rest of the city. Getting around within the southern part of Amsterdam is easy, whether you travel by bike or prefer public transportation, and it is also easy to get to these areas from other parts of the city and neighbouring suburbs. There are also many primary and secondary schools in the South. This part of the city is as close as you will get to sleepy, leafy, suburbia. The buildings are old and elegant and it’s quiet at night. Proximity to Vonderlpark is, of course, a real treat.
- Amsterdam International Community School
- Ecole Francaise d’Amsterdam
- The British School of Amsterdam
Supermarkets: With the exception of a Lidl or two and a spattering of Aldis, this supermarket dense part of town is owned by Albert Heijn stores. Budget shoppers can take some comfort in the fact that at least they won’t have to walk far to find a supermarket.
Restaurants: Particularly closer to the city centre you can find a wide variety of quality restaurants with food from all over. It’s worth checking reviews though as some eateries in this area spend more time on their appearance than their food. There’s also a lot of the older establishments that are worth visiting as much for their exceedingly Dutch ambiance as for culinary excellence.
Cinemas: Rialto Filmtheatre, Filmmuseum in Vondelpark (planned to be relocated around 1012 to a new state-of-the-art building called “The Wave”, located behind the central station).
Sports Facilities: Throw a rock in this area and you’ll hit a fitness centre. It almost feels like there’s a gym on every block. Beatrixpark is a lovely distraction but with Vondelpark on your doorstep it’s hard to imagine going anywhere else.
To the west of the City Centre, you will find the neighbourhoods including Westerpark, Old West (Oud-West is a mid-price neighbourhood with high percentage of students living in this area. It is the closest part of Amsterdam West to the centre), de Baarsjes, Bos en Lommer, Westerpoort, Geuzenveld-Slotermeer and Slotervaart (quiet neighborhood, relatively far from the centre) and Overtoomseveld (mixed area, with some parts are nicer than others).
These neighbourhoods are experiencing increasing interest from expats. Particularly de Baarsjes and Bos en Lommer are undergoing urban renewal to increase high-income inhabitants in the hope that there will then be a decrease in crime, noise and litter. The low rents and proximity to the city are really beginning to draw folks from all over. Apart from Rembrandtpark and Westerpark there is not a whole lot of greenery and there are rather a lot more busy roads than in many neighbourhoods in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, the area is more balanced in terms of age groups, lifestyles, and businesses and residences than most of Amsterdam. It is a nice blend of all the things that make Amsterdam special.
International Schools: The Japanese School of Amsterdam
Supermarkets: This area has a great mix of supermarkets, though inevitably it has a disproportionate number of Albert Heijns. There is no shortage of Lidls and Aldis also.
Restaurants: This area has scores of smaller, colourful restaurants. Mostly cozy and not as busy as the city centre. It’s hardly fine dining but there are many delicious options for the curious.
Cinemas: Filmcafe Ketelhuis 4, Nieuwe Anita (film discussions follow after screening).
Sports Facilities: The one draw back to living in this area is that there are perhaps fewer gyms than in most parts of the city. However, in the areas closer to Rembrandt Park there are a few, and on the bigger main streets they will not be difficult to find. Public swimming pools are also available in this area.
Although Diemen has its own city council and mayor, it is even nearer to the city center than some other parts of Amsterdam! From Diemen it is easy to access the city, or walk along the Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal to experience typical Dutch cultural landscapes. It is also only a short bike ride to the Amsterdam neighbourhoods East (Oost), Ijburg and South-East (Zuid-Oost).
In East there is a ice skating rink called the Jaap Eden baan. This outdoor skating rink is open during the winter months. During the summer months, you can grab your bike and go to Ijburg. This area is famous for its modern architecture and there is also a beach area called Blijburg. The Blijburg beach area was created in 2003 and was the first beach in Amsterdam. It is an excellent place for a swim in the Ijsselmeer, to sunbathe or to have a drink in one of the bars.
International Schools: There are no international schools in Diemen.
Supermarkets: In these parts of the city Albert Heijn still the most common supermarket.
Restaurants: There are plenty surprising options available here. If you want to sample new food you are in the right place!
Cinemas: Pathé Arena is a large cinema with 14 movie rooms close to the Amsterdam ArenA.
(Arena Boulevard 600, 1101 DS Amsterdam)
Sports Facilities: First Class Gym (Diemen, Verrijn Stuartweg 24/E/F, 1112 AX Diemen)