Amsterdam: Places to Explore

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The Pijp

Named for its dirty, narrow streets and even narrower houses, De Pijp ("The Pipe") began at the end of the 19th century as a low-income neighborhood for workers, with cheaply built housing to match. Today it is the up-and-coming bohemian part of town, Amsterdam's truly global village.

Many streets in this neighborhood are named after painters, including main thoroughfare Ferdinand Bolstraat, Rembrandt's former pupil who escaped to the grand canals (and what is now the Museum van Loon) when he married money. From the 1890s through the early 1990s, cheap rents attracted poor families, market hawkers, students, artists, and wacky radicals, causing a common comparison with Paris's Latin Quarter. From his De Pijp grotto, the writer Ferdinand Bordewijk depicted Amsterdam during World War I as a "ramshackle bordello, a wooden shoe made of rock"; Piet Mondriaan began formulating the revolutionary art of De Stijl in an attic studio on Ruysdaelkade (No. 75); Eduard Jacobs sang absurd, sharply polemical sketches of the neighborhood's pimps, prostitutes, and disenfranchised heroes that figure in the Dutch musical cabaret called kleinkunst (literally ‘small art'). The Amsterdam School Diamantbuurt (Diamond Quarter) is an interesting slice of history and the multi-windowed former Royal Asscher Diamond Company on Tolstraat 127 (note the names of surrounding streets: Saffiersstraat for sapphires, Smaragdstraat for emeralds, etc.) that housed factory workers.

The Heineken Brewery attracted the first Spanish guest workers to the neighborhood during the early 1960s. Though they no longer brew here, you can still indulge in the Heineken Experience. Later, waves of guest workers from Turkey and Morocco and citizens from the former colonies of Surinam and Indonesia revitalized the area around Albert Cuypstraat with (much-needed) culinary diversity. By the 1980s, De Pijp was a truly global village, with more than 126 nationalities in situ. Due to be completed by 2015, construction for a new underground Metro line has literally ripped through this area. That said, De Pijp remains a prime spot for cheap international eats and pub-crawling at local bars and cafés.

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