When we decided to stay in Zaandam, one of the first places we wanted to visit was NSDM. We’d been to NDSM once before, back in 2009 when it looked very different to now.
For those that don’t know, NDSM is a neighbourhood of Amsterdam-Noord, located across the other side of the IJ from Amsterdam. Originally, the area was the location of the Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij shipbuilding company, hence the name NDSM.
The shipyards became derelict in 1984, after which the area became derelict. In the 1990s, much of the area was taken over as squats. Plans were drawn up in the 1990s by Amsterdam-Noord to regenerate the area, at which point the squatters formed a foundation Kinetisch Noord (Kinetic North), to represent their interests.
In the 2000s, NDSM became popular as a cultural hub, with many arts communities and venues. In recent years, it’s become home to many large organisations, such as Red Bull, MTV and Greenpeace and now features many residential blocks and hotels.
Right now, NDSM still maintains its edgy industrial feel, but with plans for significantly more development, there’s a question for how long.
Riding to NSDM
From our holiday home in Zaandam, NDSM was just a 8km cycle ride away, and with this being The Netherlands, there was plenty of safe protected cycling infrastructure along the route, to make it a pleasant journey.
The scorching hot weather had continued, so we set off from our holiday home under gorgeous blue skies and hot temperatures. We set off on the local residential streets, but we soon left these and got onto some of the bigger roads.
We started off on the S155, with its paved two-way cycle path, running parallel to the road. This is fairly wide road, but it doesn’t actually have too many motor traffic lanes.
Riding along, the cycle path switches to being an access road, for the properties along there. This is something you see often and generally works well. The junctions are well designed, with safe provision for cycles, so are pleasant to use.
Crossing the S150, we carried on onto Wibautstraat, which had a more modern, smooth asphalt cycle path. Turning the corner, the road changed to Noorder IJ- en Zeedijk, but the same smooth path continued. Riding along the cycle path, there were plenty of examples of cycles getting priority over other traffic at junctions and business entrances.
Soon, we reached the A8 motorway, where the cycle path runs alongside for a little while. At the point where the A8 joins the A10, the cycle path heads under the motorway. This could have been a dark and dangerous underpass, but this is The Netherlands, so it’s light and open, with clear lines of sight through to the other side.
Once on the other side of the A10 motorway, we soon got on the cycle path running parallel to the S118. Again, this was a nice wide and smooth two-way cycle path. As we carried on, we passed many commercial units, while taking advantage of the shade the tree cover gave us.
The commercial units on the S118 soon gave way to apartment blocks, as we approached NDSM. We soon left the S118 and headed into the neighbourhood to explore.
After arriving in NDSM, we had a ride around NDSM-Plein to check things out. While the streets are wide, due to the area’s previous use, there’s we saw very few cars, and lots of people wandering about, on foot or bike.
Most of the public realm remains unchanged, giving it an industrial feel. Large concrete slabs make up much of the area, interspersed with herringbone patterned brick paving. There’s also large concrete blocks scattered around, many of which have been decorated.
In amongst the buildings, there some large pieces of public art. The most striking is Monument by Syrian-German artist Manaf Halbouni, which consists of three upended buses. Nearby, there’s a very striking black and white self portrait by South African artist Zanele Muholi.
While riding round, we checked out the main attractions, including the STRAAT Museum, NDSM Loods, Faralda Crane Hotel, the ferry terminal and area around Kraanspoor, some of those we explored further and are covered below.
Located near the water, on the edge of NDSM Werf is the rather unique Faralda Crane Hotel. This crane was saved from destruction and restored into a luxury hotel with just three suites, a hot tub at the top and amazing views over Amsterdam. As you’d imagine, with such a unique hotel and just three suits, it’s not exactly cheap to stay there.
Not far from the crane is the ferry port. From here you can get ferries over to Amsterdam on the other side of the IJ, to either Centraal Station or Pontsteiger. These ferries are for people walking or cycling and are free to use. They run regularly throughout the day, until close to midnight. We’d end up making use of the ferry during our stay.
Opposite the ferry port is the IJ-kantine restaurant. We ate at IJ-kantine with our friends back in 2009, after getting the ferry over from Amsterdam. At that time, the ferry port was in a different location and NDSM was a lot less developed.
Carrying on from the ferry port, we arrived at the marina area and the interesting looking Kraanspoor office building. Kraanspoor translates as crane way, with the concrete lower half of the building being a relic of the old shipyard. A modern glass office block floats above the concrete base.
The long, narrow form floating above the harbour, combined with the contrast of the brutalist concrete base and sleek glass box above makes for a striking structure.
After arriving in NDSM, we decided to get something to eat. While it was tempting to return to IJ-Kantine, after last going there 12 years previously, we decided to try something new and headed to Pllek.
Pllek bills itself as the biggest, greenest restaurant in Amsterdam, with a mission focused on sustainability. This inclus using many locally sourced and organic products and a menu consisting of 75% vegetarian and 25% vegan dishes.
From the outside as you approach, if doesn’t look like much. But once inside, it’s really quite attractive, with its homely, but industrial look. Somewhat surprisingly, out the front of the restaurant is a beach, with lots of shaded tables and views across the IJ to Amsterdam.
This makes for quite an attractive spot to stop, especially on a sunny day like today. We had a very enjoyable lunch at Pllek, the food and surroundings were both really very pleasant.
The NDSM Loods (warehouse) building has been at the IJ waterfront for almost a hundred years. Originally part of the shipyard, it’s now home to about 250 artists as well as many events.
The Kinetisch Noord (Kinetic North) found owns and manages the building, which is split into a number of different areas and functions. This includes Art City with 70 studios, NDSM-Fuse, an art space in a floating former skate park, North Strip event space, East Wing, Restaurant IJver and NDSM Theatre.
Wandering round NDSM Loods, you’re struck by just how unique this vast, airy and light art space is. The industrial structure makes for a fantastic backdrop to the individually styled studio spaces.
Behind Pllek is Treehouse NDSM, a village of artist studios, with a central square. The studios are either shipping containers or cabins, and are relatively small at 13-14 square metres.
There wasn’t many people around when we were there, maybe as it was a Sunday. But it was nice to have a wander round the space and there were one of two things to see.
Looking at the list of residents, a significant number are musicians. I don’t know if that means they’re used as practice spaces or maybe mini studios. It’s a good location for either, as you’re not going to be disturbing many people.
Looks like there’s a real mix of residents, including visual artists, painters, fashion designers, theatre performers and cultural entrepreneurs. I’d imagine there’s a lot going on.
One of the main reasons for going to NDSM was to visit STRAAT Museum. We all admire street art, and our youngest is particularly fond of the work of Keith Haring, so it definitely looked like good way to fill the afternoon.
If you haven’t guessed by the pictures, STRAAT is a museum for street art and graffiti, with an aim to showcase some of the biggest names and upcoming talent from all over the world. There’s more than 160 artworks by over 150 artists, which have been created on site.
STRAAT is located in an 8000 m2 former warehouse at NSDM, which provides a fantastic backdrop for the artwork, particularly with the industrial fittings, such as the huge ceiling mounted cranes as well as a Luton van. The artwork is bathed in natural light, particularly on a sunny day, like today.
The scale and variety of the artwork is just stunning. There’s so much to see here, you could easily spend the best part of a day there, if you don’t succumb to museum feet. We all really enjoyed our trip to STRAAT and our youngest keeps saying he’d like to go back there.
The street art isn’t just limited to the inside. The outside of the building is also being used as a canvas for artists to express themselves, including one who was working away while we were there. These look great and act as a fantastic backdrop to NSDM.
In addition to the artwork, there were some interactive exhibitions as well as a café and shop. We made use of all of those, stopping off to rest our and feet and getting a cooling drink and picking up some artwork from the shop.
We pretty much followed our steps on the way back, taking the same route back as we came. This was really lovely in the late afternoon sun. Our youngest did manage to fall off his bike on the way, taking a corner badly. We had a few people stop and offer to help, which was nice of them. Fortunately, he was mostly fine and able to carry on.
Towards the end of the ride, we took a slight detour, turning left onto the S150, rather than continuing onto the S155. What was notable about the cycle path here was the size of the sound barriers, covered with greenery. These did a fine job of reducing the noise from the four lanes of fast moving traffic.
We were soon back at our holiday home after a really fun day at NDSM. This was made all the more enjoyable by the fantastic ride there and back, due to some really high quality cycling infrastructure, minimising the interactions with motor vehicles and making the journey safe, pleasant and stress free.
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