This is your friendly Amsterdam neighborhood guide! As a resident of this incredible city, I want you to fall in love with it as I have…and that means getting off the tourist path a bit. The Eastern Docklands (Eastern Islands) or Oostelijke Eilanden in Dutch, are great because it has a long and important history for the city, but it combines newer elements as well. You’ll really be getting away from the crowds and enjoying a whole new side to Amsterdam (AKA the best city EVER!).
If you are looking for other spots to escape to and feel more like a local in Amsterdam, check out our neighborhood guides for Amsterdam Oost and for Amsterdam Noord. Both have a lot to offer and have very unique personalities.
Full disclosure here, the lovely people at amsterdam&partners invited me on a press trip to explore this area. Some spots are places they took us to that I hadn’t yet discovered (yay for press trips!), some are places I’ve already been to, and some are a mix of both!
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For me, it’s all about authenticity. So many people come to Amsterdam for 3 days and only do super touristy things. That is a perfectly fine thing to do. The thing is, if you are looking to see what Amsterdam is really like, you have to get beyond those top 10 lists and find locals (like me!) to help you discover new and interesting spots. The Eastern Docklands is one of those neighborhoods.
This Amsterdam neighborhood is a perfect fit for those who want a more local experience, or who have visited Amsterdam before. There’s so much to do and see, that a second (…and third, and fourth) visit is highly recommended.
It’s a lot easier to ride a bike in this area, to get photos without a ton of people, shop at the cutest boutique stores owned by locals (instead of the touristy chains you tend to find in the center). This neighborhood has so much personality and history to explore. If you love architecture, then you will be swooning over here. There’s gem after gem after gem.
Find out which are the best apps for Amsterdam
Things to do in the Eastern Docklands neighborhood
These might not be your stereotypical things to do in Amsterdam section, but that’s very much on purpose. As a local, I know there is more to offer visitors than the stereotype. I’m not saying you have to exclusively stay in this area for your whole visit, just don’t miss out on what it has to offer.
Dive right into the maritime history of this city at Het Scheepvaartmuseum. This striking and imposing building used to be a storehouse for all things ship related. From weapons to masts, it was a very important building and I’m stoked that they have restored it and now have a wonderful collection of history for us to wander through. My favorite spots are the map room and the replica ship to explore.
Take a tour with Amsterdam Odyssey
Join the born-and-raised locals from Amsterdam Odyssey on a journey around the neighborhood. Explore the Eastern Docklands and beyond on a custom tour. The creators of Amsterdam Odyssey are filled with knowledge, but not just because they are from the city. One is an art historian and one is an anthropologist. That’s a lot of information at your disposal when you take a tour!
The Cocaomuseum place is a mini-museum, shop, and workshop all in one. Check their Facebook page or any upcoming events, or pop by to learn everything you can about chocolate and discover your new favorite chocolate bar! Really, though. Is there anything better than a chocolate shop?
This show-off of a bridge is super interesting and incredibly different than the bridges you already know and love in Amsterdam. It won an international award in 2002 and is striking against the neighborhood. It’s a must-see beauty on this side of town.
Bridge hunting and photo-ops
The Pythonbrug is the most famous bridge in the neighborhood, but there are plenty of more interesting ones to be found. Take some time to wander around the islands to see more but also to find more bridges…they aren’t all the same!
Brouwerij ‘t IJ (brewery)
In an old bathhouse inside an old windmill, you’ll find the famous Brouwerij ‘t IJ. It’s a popular spot for local beer-lovers and visitors, so you’ll always be in good company. If you like beer, this is definitely a must-visit spot to round off your day of sightseeing in the Eastern Docklands. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you’ll know I’m not a beer fan, but I can tell you that Sean loves to take guests here, so if he loves it, I’m happy to recommend it!
How to get there
From Amsterdam Centraal Station, tram 26 will take you directly to the Eastern Docklands. If you are in another part of the city, tram 7 is another easy way to get dropped off right in the heart of the neighborhood. Other modes of transit are buses are 22, 65, and 48. Citymapper, Google Maps, and 9292.nl can all help you find your way to this off-the-beaten-path neighborhood.
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Where to eat in the Eastern Docklands
I am in love with the philosophy of Instock. I’ve been a fan since their pop-up in the west of Amsterdam near our old apartment. They are combating food waste by taking surplus food (including veggies that didn’t grow big enough for market and foods that weren’t pretty enough for market) and making incredible meals out of it. Since that pop-up years ago in Amsterdam, they have restaurants in three cities. I highly encourage you to visit!
Dine in a piece of history! De Kompaszaal used to be the waiting room/departure hall for the Royal Dutch Steamboat company. Have a meal in this massive dining room with views over the water. You’ll find delicious Dutch dishes and the best apple-cinnamon cheesecake I’ve ever had. (Seriously, it’s actually worth visiting JUST for this cheesecake, alone) They even offer a high tea, which I just love the idea of!
This was an early love for Sean and he’s always itching to go back! Franks Smokehouse a deli and restaurant. You can’t go wrong no matter what you do here. Grab some food for a picnic or stop in for a sit-down meal. Oh, and it tends to smell AMAZING!
Perfect for breakfast or lunch treat any day of the week is a waffle! The waffles at Wicked Waffles are delish and you can give it the royal treatment of toppings…add anything and everything on the menu! One waffle will probably fill you up and the price reflects that. Be sure to make a reservation and that you have plenty of time. It’s a small staff serving everyone the most beautiful waffles, so be patient. They have regular waffles and vegan ones. The menu even lists all the vegan options of toppings, so it’s a good spot for everyone!
In a monumental building over 100 years old with lots of different past lives, you can enjoy traditional Dutch food. Boulevard Cafe is a very cozy spot for dinner inside, or on a warm day, head outside on one of its two terraces for a drink and some bites. Definitely get the sticky toffee cake and you’ll be forever grateful 😉
Where to stay
This is the only 1-5 star hotel, so there’s something for every budget and there are some really interesting rooms available. My room had a fancy pull-out bathroom situation. You can see that at the beginning of my Eastern Docklands video. I like a bit of quirky, but there are also plenty of completely “normal” rooms as well. You’ll get a lot more space in this part of the city than in the center, that’s for sure!
This place is more my speed if I’m staying in a city for a while or just want more space with a kitchen and a place to work and spread out. They are all apartments…from a studio to two-bedroom apartments. I really liked how they are exactly like a modern apartment you would find in Amsterdam. More homey than fancy, and super comfy. They even have a smart TV so you can easily watch YouTube and such. The best part might be the staff. It’s really like you have a friend downstairs to answer any questions and help you discover the neighborhood gems! They have bikes that you can borrow — a MUST in this city!
The YAYS Crane Apartment
Want super quirky with the best views? This might just be what you are looking for! You’ll find this is super cozy with a style that is totally on point and you’ll still have exactly what you need. The crane is an actual old crane from the 1950’s and still easily accessible by public transportation. A bus from central drops you off right by it and de Kompaszaal is right next door.
Gah!! I seriously love sharing this stuff with you. Please come to Amsterdam at least once, and take the time to really see my city. That means expanding your horizons when you visit. Do your thing during the day to see all the sites, but please leave time to see what our normal, everyday life looks like, too. And I highly encourage you to stay outside the center. You’ll get bigger rooms, it’s much quieter, and it’s still easy to get because our public transportation goes everywhere!
Enjoy. Enjoy this wonderful, fantastic, welcoming city. And please let me know, in the comments, what you get up to and if you take any of our suggestions.
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Wishing you joy and travels!