“With nowhere to go, I walked and walked. I wanted to run away from the spaces bustling of tourists, confused yet certain what they wanted to find. I did not want to shop, or go to a coffee shop or even to grab a beer. I wanted some fresh air and a happy vibe to surround me which spoke of belongingness. I wanted to relate to what I was doing instead of feeling lost and clueless in the many museums that offered stories beyond my historical knowledge and art beyond my artistic understanding. I didn’t want to stop everywhere to take a selfie. I wanted to stop without getting my phone out of my pockets, not wanting to use maps either, just to soak in the essence of the space.
And so, I walked south. Without a plan or a direction. I kept walking straight, passing a few canals and bridges, watching many, who rode their bike past me.
Soon, the air felt familiar and my speed had slowed down. I would stop every couple of steps to look around, watch the canals, the art, the stalls, and all that delicious-looking food.
It was almost as if I had been summoned to where I had wanted to be.
But, where was I?”
A signboard said De Pijp, Amsterdam.
It’s quite ironic how millions of tourists visit the city of Amsterdam each year, and yet so many forget to walk around and explore. Some spend their time in museums, some lose track of time in coffee shops. Many people often miss out on stepping out in the open to breathe in the Amsterdam air.
To be all honest, Amsterdam is a great city to explore on foot as long as you are cautious of the bikes and the bikers. And if you were to head out with an open mind, as you totally should in this city of freedom, Amsterdam has so much to explore on the go. It’s the little nuances of the city which add much character to it, without being prominently spoken or written about.
Most of Amsterdam’s popular spots occupy the prime location in the city, but Amsterdam is so much beyond what the guide books and the traditional routes promise. To explore the Amsterdam where locals live, where they chill and paint the town with the colors that truly represent the mighty ‘Amsterdam Spirit’, we chose to explore an exciting Amsterdam neighborhood called ‘De Pijp’.
De Pijp district in Amsterdam is situated to the south of centrum, bordered by the famed Amsterdam canals and goes further south along the Amstel River. Unlike the city center, De Pijp is not your usual place to find tourist crowds or attractions and museums. However, the two most significant baits of this district that draw tourists are the Heineken Experience and Amsterdam’s famous Albert Cuyp Market.
What will draw you to De Pijp is the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. You can sense the hustle, the locals making their way through the day trying to crack some sales, the aroma of fresh food- fresh fish, fried fish, orange juice, fresh cheese, sandwiches and more. The warmth of the vintage coats being sold for cheap prices, the colorful and fragrant flowers and large crowds of people.
From a distance, you can spot a desperate coffee house brewing some fresh coffee. And as you walk along the cramming parked streets, you won’t be able to resist noticing the rebellious pieces of street art in the city.
De Pijp neighborhood feels like a leveler. A meeting ground for tourists and locals, for the rich and the poor. For those looking to splurge and those looking for the best bargain price. For those in search of taste, colors, and quality. In De Pijp, you could have it all. You can stroll around, make your choice, pick what you like and even bargain if you please. De Pijp is not unnerving or intimidating with the big and pricey stores and fine dining eateries, instead, it feels warm and welcoming to all.
It wouldn’t be too hard to guess that De Pijp is a vibrant Amsterdam neighborhood, not too far away from the center and has plenty to offer- especially for in terms of food, cafes, shopping, art, and activities. The origins of this neighborhood date back to the 19th century when it was built to accommodate the growing need for housing in the city. It was extended from the center and became the housing area for the working class with its typically narrow townhouses that add to the character of the neighborhood even today.
Over the years of urban history, this district transformed into a bustling spot. Much of De Pijp’s popularity and attention lies in the Albert Cuyp Market which is the largest daily open market in Europe with over 260 stalls being set up on a daily basis. But apart from the exciting market fare that sets out from morning to evening every day, the neighborhood is filled with boutique restaurants and cafes, independent fashion stores and more making a unique statement of urban evolution.
When you set out to explore a city, there will always be some places that will feel like home, and De Pijp gives out similar vibes to most. There is much to explore in this neighborhood, some through recommendations and some by fearlessly venturing out to experience something different.
Albert Cuyp Market
While much of De Pijp functions around the Albert Cuyp Market, the market in itself is a charming fare to explore. With lanes full of stalls on both sides, rushing through can be quite a task. Especially with the hundreds of daily visitors, this area often comes across as the crowded space of the neighborhood. Saturdays being the busiest!
Either way, you are likely to be drawn to stalls to explore the range of delicious street food, some of which are prepared right in front of you. Particularly the smell of Kibbeling, fresh Stroopwafels, Gozleme, Croquettes, Roasted Nuts and sweets, Hummus, Cheese and more. The vintage coats, fast fashion at affordable prices, fresh flowers, bags, home supplies, furniture, souvenirs, and more deserve a dekko, to say the least! This is not just a special experience in Amsterdam, but a rare experience across Europe.
Albert Cuyp Market is also the best place in the Netherlands to enjoy a range of delicious street food. It’s definitely cheap and flavorful. But what is rather notable is the melting pot of culture that this place is. As you walk across this street market, you’re likely to find flavors and spices from kitchens of Turkey, Vietnam, Surinam, Middle East, Germany, and more. It’s as if the world comes together in these streets, uniting over the joy of food.
While there is enough variety of street food to explore in the Albert Cuyp Market, De Pijp is also the culinary melting point of the city with a range of restaurants with cuisines from around the world are making their mark and their way to the heart of the locals.
Saravana Bhavan offering South Indian food can be found at the very beginning of the neighborhood. Another exciting eatery in the area is MAOZ, which offers great vegetarian options like Falafel and Hummus sandwiches with a variety of sauces and fillings. A lot like subway, but more delicious and filling with unlimited refueling of sauces and veggies. Another popular Hummus spot in the neighborhood is Sir Hummus. Bulls & Dogs, Little Collins, Bazar, Pho 91 are some more local favorites in the neighborhood.
Another key attraction in the area is the Heineken Experience where you can sign up for a complete tour of the Heineken factory to understand the process of making beer through a guided tour and interactive games.
For those who prefer offbeat and local, De Pijp is where you need to be explored local breweries (which are lighter on the pocket) like Brouwerij Troost to meet locals and explore their meeting and drinking spots.
The local vibe of De Pijp best reflects through intriguing street art with an interesting commentary on the state of affairs painted across the various corners of the neighborhood. Some promise a good laugh and some come with a thought to ponder upon!
While Amsterdam is not as big on street art as the neighboring German and Belgian cities, this district has some fine art to make a mark.
Independent stores, boutiques, and local sellers are now making a mark with their creations through the various independent stores’ worth scouting in the De Pijp district. Stores like Anna & Nina, Nobody Has To Know, Hearth, Miuse, Eland en Vanderhelst make for stores worth a visit for fashion, accessories, and elegant home goods.
Finding open parks in Amsterdam is a staple across neighborhoods. While Vondelpark is a short walk from here, the neighborhood favorite is the Sarphati Park. The park is full of lush green spaces, a pond in between and a peaceful vibe for the visitors. It’s often the locals who make it to this park, especially with the park away from the tourist radar. But it’s indeed a great spot for a little picnic or to spend some downtime in the city.
In Amsterdam, canals are an obvious spotting. And De Pijp district is no exception. You can stop by for a picture or simple to watch the flowing water and cruises sailing by.
Where to stay?
At 2 minutes, walking distance from De Pijp is the Coco Mama hostel situated in a traditional Dutch building. The hostel promises a cozy space and the wonderful ambiance of De Pijp.
There many other stay options in the nearby area, including Hotel Notting Hill, ibis Styles, Hotel Atlantis, Hotel Max.
De Pijp has emerged to be a favorite alternative neighborhood in Amsterdam, drawing more attention than ever. And yet, even today it feels nothing like a tourist trap but a space of belongingness even in a new city.
Amsterdam truly is a bag full of surprises. While De Pijp continues to be our favorite, there are many other lesser explored neighborhoods in the city to watch out for. The Jordaan neighborhood closer to the center is home to the gorgeous canals, traditional eateries and museums like the Anne Frank House and The Amsterdam Tulips museum. Amsterdam Noord, on the other hand, is an old industrial area that is now transforming the cultural scene of the city with its cinema exhibitions, museums, underground music clubs and more.
The more you explore, the more you will discover in Amsterdam. So, keep exploring and share with us your stories of the off beaten path in this vivacious city!
Disclaimer: This article is in collaboration with IAmsterdam. A big thanks to IAmsterdam for their support and assistance on this trip. As always, all opinions and experiences are genuine and personal.