How to spend a day in Amsterdam-Oost, the Dutch capital's cultural east end

Twenty years ago, the east side of the Amstel was considered the wrong side of the river, but today the multicultural Oost neighbourhood is one of Amsterdam’s most happening. From stirring monuments to Surinamese restaurants, here’s what to do in a day.

Boats moored on the Amstel River.

Photograph by Wesley Verhoeve
By Ellen Himelfarb
Published 7 Jan 2023, 08:00 GMT

9am: Have breakfast at De Ysbreeker
This East Amsterdam landmark opens its opulent double doors early, just as the sun hits the tall poplars outside. Come here for coffee and a speculoos biscuit at the bar, or take eggs Benedict on the terrace, where you can watch houseboats bob about on the Amstel River. Built in the style of a grand European cafe, with soaring ceilings and distressed wood furniture, it echoes with the roar of the bean-grinder and the clinking of satisfied spoons.

10am: Stroll through Oosterpark 
Follow the river out to the forested paths of Oosterpark. Start your walk at the National Slavery Monument, which was created 20 years ago by Surinamese sculptor Erwin de Vries. It commemorates the New World’s emancipation from Dutch slavery after 250 years. A little further on is The Scream, a steely silhouette of Theo van Gogh, the filmmaker and free speech activist (and grand nephew of Vincent) who was murdered nearby. Herons — and even a parrot or two — nest around the pond.

The Caribbean-themed Bar Botanique.

The Caribbean-themed Bar Botanique.

Photograph by Wesley Verhoeve

11am: Visit the Tropenmuseum
What began as a repository of ‘exotica’ from the colonies is now a thoughtful and critical examination of treasures seized overseas and the human impact of colonial rule. The reworked exhibitions, curated by immigrants, are confessional and heartbreaking. And the building is a dazzler: officially opened in 1926, it has a vaulted, Renaissance-style atrium for displaying the collection of towering tribal totems. A chic cafe serving curries and lassis faces the park.

1pm Lunch at a Caribbean-themed restaurant
The entrepreneurial collective known as the Three Wise Men opened Bar Botanique in 2016 at the entrance to Javastraat. Lush and green, with an indoor terrace and pots of cheese plants, it specialises in toasties and focaccia sandwiches with flavour-punching ingredients such as tropical jackfruit and kimchi. Try the panzanella salad, sprinkled with fried okra. Sun streams in through tall, south-facing windows in the morning, but the crowds really pick up from mid-afternoon.

2pm: Go shopping
The dual personalities of East Amsterdam are conspicuous in its two shopping streets. Dappermarkt is a daily street bazaar where locals load up on produce and day-trippers nibble fresh grilled corn on the cob as well as poffertjes, the mini Dutch pancakes sprinkled with icing sugar. Czaar Peterstraat, meanwhile, once a classic working-class hub, is now replete with boutique jewellers and gourmet cheesemongers. A standout is the high-fashion emporium CP113.

The 87ft-high De Gooyer windmill with adjoining brewery.

The 87ft-high De Gooyer windmill with adjoining brewery.

Photograph by Wesley Verhoeve

5pm: Quench the thirst at De Gooyer
The last windmill standing on the city’s 17th-century bastions is De Gooyer, which milled corn when the city was without power during the Second World War. The adjoining bathhouse has been repurposed by Brouwerij ‘t IJ as a microbrewery, supplying popular blondes, whites and tripels. The taproom is a great spot for borrel, the national happy hour. Grab a beer on tap and enjoy a clear view down the canal to the sunset.

7pm: Enjoy art at Foundation Nowhere
The Foundation launched five years ago across a series of vibrantly painted studios near the Eastern Docklands as a cultural centre for budding performers who had nowhere to channel their creative energy. There’s a workshop nearly every night of the week dedicated to pop- and lock-dancing, voguing or spinning, plus a regular spoken word Poetry Circle, in Dutch and English.

9pm: Dinner at Lalla Rookh
After slavery was abolished in Suriname in 1863, Dutch landowners there sought labourers from the subcontinent; this is why most Surinamese menus in Amsterdam have an Indian influence. Lalla Rookh, named after the ship that took Indian indentured workers to South America, is a top roti restaurant, dishing out Surinamese curries with Indian flavours, alongside thick egg-stuffed flatbread and bowls of spicy pickle. Afterwards, head to Javastraat where Bar Basquiat, Badhuis Oedipus and others will be getting a second wind.

Published in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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