A guide to exploring Amsterdam's artsy neighbourhoods by foot
There’s something about wandering through the streets of a city that transforms an ordinary day into an intrepid adventure. From the captivating aromas of local cuisine freshly prepared in street food stalls to the experience of walking alongside people simply going about their daily routines, there’s no better way to experience the quirks and eccentricities of a place than by taking the time to walk its streets.
Touring a city by foot is especially gratifying for those who appreciate art and its many forms. In Amsterdam, you can stop and admire a beautifully ornate mural created by talented street artists on your way to one of the many established contemporary commercial art galleries that house the work of some of the world’s most celebrated artists, before making your way to a museum for a glimpse of centuries-old artwork.
Here are some of the neighbourhoods to check out:
Located in central Amsterdam, Jordaan is the ultimate destination for those who prefer to adventure by foot. This relatively upscale district, which was once the home of Amsterdam’s working-class residents, is also the site of Anne Frank’s home, now a museum offering a glimpse into the famous young diarist’s refuge during the WWII. The vibrant, colourful and quirky houses that line its streets and populate its suburbs offer the avid Instagrammer a wealth of artistic opportunity and have become an unlikely attraction for art lovers in the district. Go to Bloemstraat and Eerste Bloemdwarsstraat to visit the district’s art galleries. Galerie Bart is a great pick for anyone in search of work by emerging artists, while Galerie Fons Welters pays homage to more established artists’ work and happens to be where many famous Dutch artists started their careers.
De Wallen district
Also known as the infamous ‘Red Light District’, De Wallen has grown up and moved on from its unsavoury ways. Being one of the oldest districts in the city, De Wallen is better known as an urban hub for contemporary art and a patriotic celebration of Amsterdam culture. Here, graffiti and street art forms aren’t seen as a pesky offence to be covered up. There are graffiti exhibits where artists have the freedom to express themselves openly. As a result of the city’s mandate to transform the district’s negative reputation, De Wallen has seen an increase in the number of unique locally run shops and curio stores. Art galleries are also popping up more frequently around the area. Visit Foam, a photography museum in an 18th century house and the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution, a quirky exhibition space on the history of Amsterdam's sex-work industry.
Once a derelict, abandoned shipyard inhabited by squatters, NDSM has been converted into a breeding ground for creative talent, and a space where the city’s contemporary art and culture lovers flock to witness art in the making, or simply hang out with friends. Along with an extensive mix of bars and restaurants housed in what were once canteens and hangout spots for shipyard workers, you will also find a collection of shipping containers that have been converted into art exhibition spaces. The launch of the world’s largest street art museum is also underway, which will be housed in an old welding hangar 7,000-square-metres in size.
Located in the south of Amsterdam, Spiegelkwartier (which translates to ‘mirror quarter’) is known as ‘Amsterdam’s art district’ and a trendy neighbourhood famous for its incredible variety of eateries and mix of cultures. More than 70 artists and art dealers have set up shop in the area.This historical area, formerly occupied by artisans and tradesmen, developed a reputation as being the go-to destination for art collectors looking to lay their hands on the latest finds, as well as enthusiasts looking to spend a day discovering intriguing modern art.