"I love North" is the simple but sincere URL of the Amsterdam North community site, and a sentiment that many of its residents and its visitors have in common. Unique architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, and a tranquil feel make Amsterdam North (Dutch: Amsterdam Noord) a distinctive place to visit.
Despite its status as "off the tourist track", Amsterdam North is actually quite central and accessible - free ferries depart from behind Central Station one to four times per hour and stop at several points north of the IJ; the approximate travel time takes around five minutes. Once up north, visitors should note that the streets are more spread out and the public transit more sparse than in the Center, but there's also considerably less traffic - all of which makes it the ideal terrain to explore by bike. Bikes can be rented near Central Station and taken on the ferry or, once in North, from Jaantje's Fietsverhuur* (Meerpad 2, 06 1399 8675).
* Businesses marked with an asterisk also serve as local Tourist Information Point (TIP) locations.
What to Do & See in Amsterdam Noord:
- Visit Museum Amsterdam Noord (Zamenhofstraat 28 A) - Get a crash course in the history and culture of Amsterdam North at its dedicated museum, which showcases local artists, architecture, industry and more. Museum docents can lead visitors on field trips of the district, or pick up one of the museum brochures that outline self-paced tours of the vicinity. Don't miss the duivekater at the museum café, Café du Nord, the sweet white bread that's a local specialty. (Note that nearby Zaanse Schans also shares this speciality!)
- Explore the local art scene - Exhibition spaces such as the Nieuw Dakota (Ms. van Riemsdijkweg 41b) and Motive Gallery (Ms. van Riemsdijkweg 41a) feature a mix of talented domestic and international artists. Scores of artists who live and work in Amsterdam North even open their doors for the annual Open Ateliers Noord (Open Studios North); see the Open Ateliers Noord web site for the most recent list of participants.
- Take in the architecture by bike - Tour the monumental architecture of Amsterdam Noord on one of several expertly plotted bicycle routes in the Touristische Fietskaarten, or "touristic bicycle maps", available at local Tourist Information Points or at the Stadsdeel Noord web site. Discover the diversity of Noord's architecture, from a historic chalk mill to a former industrial wharf; don't miss the rare wooden architecture - houses, barns and even churches - that has been preserved north of the IJ River.
- Relax at the renovated Tolhuistuin - Once the premises of Shell Oil's company restaurant, the Tolhuistuin (Toll Booth Garden) has rebranded itself as a "cultural playfield for music, (performance) art, cuisine, academia, film, dance, debate and people", all of which can be sampled on summer weekends at the Zomer in de Tolhuistuin ("Summer in the Tolhuistuin") festival.
- Get a taste of houseboat life at the Amstel Botel* - Been to the Houseboat Museum in the Jordaan, but still haven't exhausted your curiosity about life on a houseboat? Book a room at the Amstel Botel* - one of the most widely popular of Amsterdam's several houseboat-based accommodations - and live the life of a houseboat-dweller at the former NDSM Wharf, a ship wharf-turned-cultural hub.
Restaurants in Amsterdam Noord:
- De Pannekoekenboot (Ms. van Riemsdijkweg 39) - The owners of this water-borne restaurant have taken two local hallmarks - Amsterdam's history as a port city and traditional Dutch pancakes - and combined them into a dinner cruise where families can chow down on all-you-can-eat pancakes amid unparalleled views of the IJ River. Various culinary tours are available - even for pancake-abstainers.
- Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10h) - The "Gold Pheasant Hotel" isn't a hotel, but a fashionable French restaurant with fantastic waterside views. The seasonal, three-course prix fixe menu is a value (by French restaurant standards, at least) at € 30.50.
- IJ-Kantine* (Mt. Ondinaweg 15) - The much-hyped "IJ Canteen" is definitely more brasserie than cantine, one whose location on the NDSM Wharf affords diners front-row views onto the IJ River.