Daily Telegraph/Herald Sun/Adelaide Now/Perth Now - De Pijp is Amsterdam's coolest neighbourhood for art, cafes and markets
July 4, 2015 12:00am
The Butcher is a cross between a takeaway shop and diner specialising in gourmet burgers. Picture: Jennifer Ennion
FORGET the red light district, the shops of The Nine Streets and the flower markets, and head off the tourist trail to one of Amsterdam’s hippest suburbs – De Pijp. Formerly the domain of the working class, De Pijp (The Pipe) is home to a community of artists, restaurateurs and small business owners, largely thanks to its multicultural roots.
The best time to explore the neighbourhood is when the Albert Cuyp Market is held between Monday and Saturday. The century-old market brings one of De Pijp’s main streets alive, with about 300 stalls selling herbs, fresh juice, clothing, seafood, cheese and homewares.
Flower stall at Albert Cuypmarkt, multicultural basar and open air markets. Picture: Alamy
Cheese stall in the Albert Cuypmarkt market De Pijp district Amsterdam. Europe Picture: Alamy
Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam. Picture: Alamy
Rainbow rows of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice for sale in De Pijp. Picture: Jennifer Ennion
The Butcher's prime Aberdeen Angus beef burgers are hard to resist. Picture: Jennifer Ennion
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Having started in the early 1900s, the “Cuyp”, as locals call it, is touted as the Netherland’s largest and most popular street market. Located in Amsterdam’s 19th-century Latin Quarter, the market is just 15 minutes’ walk from the famous Van Gogh Museum.
Making your way down Albert Cuypstraat (street), you’ll quickly see why this place attracts so many people. There’s a buzz in the air and an altogether carefree attitude that appeals to travellers keen to sample some of Amsterdam’s more low-key, less tourist-driven culture – and hanging out where locals do is a great way to tap into that.
As you enter the throng of the market, the sight of plentiful goods piled high on tables is bound to pull you in different directions. Cups of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice are arranged in rows of rainbow colours beside punnets of vibrant blueberries, strawberries and blackberries.
On another table are stacks of sunflower yellow cheese wheels, tubs of pickled onions and dried salami. Then there are the seafood stalls, selling sablefish, mackerel and crab claws. And, when in Amsterdam, it’s difficult to walk past the buckets of tulips without stopping to contemplate which colour will brighten your hotel room. A bunch of 10 will set you back just €2 ($3).
You can still buy typical souvenirs here, too (think key rings and magnets in the shape of canal houses), along with watches, sunglasses, scarves, belts, leather wallets, wigs and cheap clothing. But it’s the atmosphere first, and the shopping second, that you should come here for.
TIMES ARE A CHANGIN’
On a busy market day, you’ll notice a trail of locals streaming into an imposing brick church behind the stalls. Inside, you’ll find a popular Middle Eastern restaurant with glaring orange- and gold-tiled walls and a lively vibe. The restaurant is just one example of how multicultural De Pijp is, and elsewhere in the neighbourhood you’ll find Indonesian, Thai and Korean eateries.
Back outside, I chat to stallholder Amrita over jars of dried rose buds, peppercorns, chilli and basil (about €4 each). De Pijp has changed drastically, Amrita says.
“A lot of young urbans have moved in but it used to be a bit of a scruffy neighbourhood.”
It’s now cleaner, she says, the shops are better and the quality of life has improved. The only downside, as she sees it, is cheap rental housing is disappearing so low-income families and students like her are being pushed out, replaced by young professionals drawn to the next up-and-coming address.
Albert Cuypstraat used to solely exist of residential housing but now shops spill onto the street and into the markets, and there are trendy restaurants.
As I stroll, I’m drawn to the cafe Venkel, which has a menu mostly consisting of organic salads featuring in-vogue ingredients, such as quinoa, chia seeds and almond milk. Admiring the rustic display of vegies on shelves, I chat to 21-year-old waitress Floor.
Over the past five years, she tells me, De Pijp has been undergoing a transformation, and although it’s still a melting pot of Turkish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, the urban landscape is changing.
“It’s still multicultural but the shops don’t represent that; they’re overpriced,” says Floor, who grew up here.
“I don’t understand what the fuss is about,” she says, before adding, “it’s still a nice area and I love to come here”.
To the untrained first-time visitor’s eye, a shift in the demographic goes unnoticed, and De Pijp’s ever-so-slight gentrification may, in fact, lure more travellers away from traditional tourist hubs as they search for somewhere “new” to explore. After all, the suburb is still largely home to immigrant families, despite the increase in property prices and decrease in social housing.
As with Venkel, De Pijp’s niche dining outlets are largely responsible for the suburb’s appeal. Another cafe, called Trust, quotes Ernest Hemingway on its glass door before announcing the owners trust diners to pay what they think the meal warrants.
The slogan “come as you are, pay as you feel” is painted almost whimsically across the front window, as well as overhead. A handful of old-school cruiser bikes are parked out front and I peer inside at a hipster crowd.
The Butcher, up the road, is more my scene, and I return to De Pijp one night after locals assure me I’ll enjoy a delicious but cheap meal there.
Again, I’m greeted by cruiser bikes at the doorway, signalling The Butcher’s uber cool status. Thankfully, the masses have yet to discover this place.
With limited seating, The Butcher is a cross between a takeaway and diner. I nab a seat in the corner before salivating over a menu with crafty burger names such as “silence of the lamb” and “the cow boy”.
There are so many good options, I come back the following night, but the menu isn’t the only reason.
There’s no denying The Butcher, and De Pijp as a whole, has a raw edginess that’s hard to resist. The graffiti on closed shop roller doors and the unkempt footpaths and gutters are a far cry from the flower-adorned canal bridges of the city’s more familiar tourist streets.
Here, you can blend in, act like a local and get a real taste of Amsterdam culture.
The writer travelled as a guest of booking.com
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and the city centre about 14km from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. A number of airlines, including Emirates, fly from major Australian cities to Amsterdam, via their hubs in Asia or the Middle East. Getting into the city is easy, with trains, shuttle buses, taxis and car hire available.
Sir Albert Hotel is luxury boutique accommodation within walking distance of the city centre and down the street from the Albert Cuyp Market. Rooms are very small but cleverly designed, and the hotel also has a stylish foyer lounge and restaurant/bar. 2-6 Albert Cuypstraat, De Pijp; siralberthotel.com.
For more accommodation choices in the area, visit booking.com.
The Albert Cuyp Market is on Albert Cuypstraat in De Pijp and is held from 9am-5pm Mon-Sat. It’s located on the southern side of the city, within walking distance to some of the main tourist attractions, such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark.
The Butcher is open Sun-Tues from midday-late, and Wed-Sat from 11am-late, 129 Albert Cuypstraat; the-butcher.com.
Venkel is open daily, 11am-9pm, 22 Albert Cuypstraat.