De Pijp – A favorite funky hood

I am now at the seven month’s mark of expatting in the Dam. Hard to believe, but in that short time period, I have found favorites. Favorite restaurants, bakeries, boutiques and hoods I find myself heading to over and over. One of these hoods is just a few streets and a canal bridge away from my place in the Museum Quarter of Old South called De Pijp (The Pipe). The more I explore this cool lively area, the more I like it. Aside from the horrendous construction that’s taken over half of the Ferdinand Bolstraat on the old side, where this area begins coming from Centraal Station off the Stadhouderskade, there is a vibe here reminding me of Greenwich Village and Soho in NY or the Latin Quarter in Paris. It’s urban Bohemia meets cool casual chic filled with young and old hipsters – plus tourists.

Living in the Dam, newbie expat or old timer, it’s easy to conjure up the typical Dutch architecture – gabled leaning houses of differing heights and widths looking over glistening canals.  In De Pijp, houses lining these long canal-less streets are of the same height and width and not as tall. Built in the 1860s for working class families (much later than the Jordaan), this area has grown and boomed into a sought after hood for yuppies and expats alike. Which also means rents are climbing.

 

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One’s first introduction to De Pijp is usually playing tourist – with a visit to the Heineken Experience or the famous century-old Albert Cuyp Market which takes over most of the Albert Cuypstraat  – with over 100 stalls lined on both sides selling everything from flowers, fresh seafood, cheese, bags, clothes, gadgets, bread, smoothies, chicken, Mediterranean delights – the list goes on and on and on. But when you’ve settled in and are no longer playing that game, you will soon learn that De Pijp is for weekdays, not weekends, when it’s overrun with tourists. Stroll through the pipe-like side streets and you are sure to find some pretty cool potential favorites too.

The first thing you’ll notice in this hood is youth. There are hoards of young people merging in and out of streets, shops, trams and bike paths. When you see this much youth, you know you are in a relatively affordable location. It also means stores carry items young people want to buy, like the newest coolest sneakers, hats, jackets, jeans, dresses, bags and more. Shops here lure you in as you casually wander the Gerard Durstraat, Frans Halstraat or Van Woustraat. Here you will find small funky boutiques and second-hand stores, noteworthy restaurants, green grocers from Turkey or Morocco selling produce bigger and brighter than your local Marqt or Albert Heijn, cozy coffee shops (that sell coffee) and the other kind that sell – other things – and casual hip cafes where the fun is always spilling loudly onto the streets. You may also find your new favorite dry cleaner and hair salon too.

 

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Lekker food options is one of the indicators for me to how much I frequent an area. De Pijp has so many of these. Our favorite family restaurant is Van ‘t Spit serving roasted organic whole or half chickens plus yummy sides in a very casual and gezellig setting. I especially like the enamelware it’s served in – like you are sitting around a campfire. In warmer months, folks pile into the many picnic tables lining the sidewalks out in front. Zazas, a more upscale intimate restaurant, is where we head to with no kids in tow. This is the place to come for delicious food, drinks and outstanding friendly service plus a fantastic playlist crooning in the background. Bazar, housed in an enormous former church with colorful tables serves up tasty Middle Eastern and North African food and is always lively and quite reasonable. For one of the best brunches ever, we (and the rest of the Dam), go to Bakers and Roasters. One whiff of the bacon cooking inside this New Zealand/Brazilian inspired joint will afford you the perseverance needed to withstand the wait for a table. For a quick lunch, Venkels (not to be confused with the amazing award-winning upscale French restaurant Venkeles) has the most delicious salads with a quaint small sitting area in the back. Across the street you can grab dessert from Bakken met Passie which will literally take your breath away as you gaze longingly through the enormous windows filled with some of the prettiest little treats and eats you can imagine.

This hood also has some of the best Turkish, Surinamese, Syrian, Spanish and Moroccan delis and shops selling fresh produce and scrumptious eats, so it’s important to bring an extra bag or two to fill when you just cannot pass by that enormous deep orange carrot, extraordinary piece of fruit you’ve never seen before or take-away dishes and those Asian, Mexican and American items you are missing from Tijn’s Toko that you can’t find in a typical grocery store.

My first introduction to shopping in De Pijp was a trip to Duikelman. I was in need of a crock pot – an American staple appliance used for cooking everything from soups, chili, meatballs and sauce, stews, etc. I was enamored at first walk-in. This family run store of all things kitchen – from fancy European stove to small fancy frying pan to ordinary spatula is like Williams and Sonoma but BETTER. And the friendly staff offers amazing advice on where and how to find other things needed in the kitchen when cooking – like gravy boosters, baking soda, baking powder and cooking spray! They sell really great vanilla and a super tall can of cooking spray – and will advise you where to find the other things you need to cook that you haven’t been able to find – just ask.

There is a vibrancy here that is unmatched by any other area in Amsterdam. There is also a BIKE FREE park that has its own area for dogs – Sarphatipark is a quiet green oasis in the middle of this quirky urban space.

 

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If you need to recommend a hotel to friends coming into town, The Sir Albert, I’m told, has super comfy beds and fantastic friendly staff. For gamers looking for a fix, Arcade Hotel, Europe’s first dedicated hotel for gamers, plus a comic book library, just opened its doors in De Pijp.

When not diverted due to construction, Tram 16 runs through De Pijp from Centraal Station along the Ferdinand Bolstraat before turning onto the Albert Cuypstraat towards Musemplein. It is supposed to be back up and running in April – but until then, walk from the Wetteringcircuit tram stop towards the Heineken Experience. And don’t forget to bring an extra bag or two to fill as you discover your new favorite find.

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