Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Amsterdam central station you can find yourself at NSDM-werf: a setting like no other. Almost other-worldly, once Europe’s largest shipyard (the acronym translates to Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company) is now home to over 100 art workshops, theatre spaces and even a skateboard hall! Exploring the area feels like a treasure hunt as you stumble upon the studios of graphic designers, woodwork spaces, phenomenal works of graffiti and even a 24-hour flower shop. The area has become a hub for underground culture and events, most famously perhaps Over het IJ, an alternative festival which combines theatre, music and exotic cuisine. Whether you come for a particular event or just to soak up the impeccably cool atmosphere, it’s a great place to explore just minutes away from central Amsterdam.
Take to the waves to journey there
The journey to NSDM-werf itself is part of the experience. You board a ferry from behind Central Station which leaves at least every 30 minutes (every 15 minutes at peak times). You can go on as a foot passenger or, as with everywhere in Amsterdam, bikes are very much welcome. You’ll be amongst commuters and tourists alike as this ferry is the most popular connection between Amsterdam-Noord, an up and coming area of Amsterdam, and the rest of the city. Fantastically, this ferry is free! You can ride back and forth as you please as long as there’s space and, of course, if there’s not you haven’t long to wait for another.
Flowers at every hour!
As soon as you hop off the ferry you’re met with a typically Amsterdam-cool concept, a 24 hour flower shop. In normal opening hours it’s a beautiful little boutique, your flowers are packed in stylish brown wrap and tucked into a pack which can be conveniently slung onto your bike handles. After hours, the vending machine allows you to purchase the same gorgeous, seasonal bouquets at any time of the day, perfect for sprucing up a last minute dinner party, or fun just to use for the experience!
No bare wall in sight
Journey on into the shipyard and you’ll come across amazing works of graffiti, giving the slightly eerie, apocalyptic feel of the place an artistic edge. You’ll also come to the Lasloods, or the ‘Cathedral of NDSM’. This impressive building was once where the welding of ships hulls took place, it’s now a maze of studios, galleries and, remarkably, a skatepark! Unsurprisingly this dramatic structure has become a venue for everything from concerts to fashion shows to photo shoots and film sets.
A tranquil corner
After having a wander round the area you’ll be happy to follow the trail to Café Noorderlicht, a huge greenhouse decked out with mismatched furniture and draped in Tibetan prayer flags. Noorderlicht is open from 11:00 am daily and serves up delicious food and drinks in a truly unique setting. During the day you can order simple food with charm. A sandwich isn’t just a sandwich here! Fillings include things like smoked mackerel with capers and parsley or pork belly marinated in fennel seeds with pickled vegetables. The night time menu uses the same quality ingredients but steps it up a little, and includes deserts such as elderflower curd with seasonal fruit. You can have a set 3-course evening meal for 32 USD.
Take advantage of the gentle weather
If you arrive on a sunny day you can take a seat outside at Noorderlicht on one of the long wooden tables, soaking up the rays in the mystical, dream-like setting. Stay till late and warm your cockles by the bonfire which is lit in the garden during the summer months, the perfect location for watching a summer’s day go by.
A different day out in the Dam
So if Amsterdam’s busy streets get a bit much for you and an authentic hang out spot is what you’re pining for, jump on a bike, board the ferry, and sail to a secluded but vibrant area to get a slice of the real Amsterdam.
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