© Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodors Travel
About a dozen blocks to the west of Centraal Station, there are three off-the-beaten-track islands built on landfill back in the 17th century. These Western Islands—known in Dutch as De Westelijke Eilanden—were constructed as a safe warehouse zone. The nautical ambience is particularly beloved by Amsterdammers, who all seem to have recreational boats, and other seafaring folk. From the smallest island, Prinseneiland, follow the Galgenstraat (Gallows Street), which once offered a vista of bodies (or bits of bodies—sometimes the heads were placed elsewhere) on the town's gallows across the water. Bickerseiland is a jumble of modern housing, boats, and in the little farm, bunnies. Across the white wooden drawbridge, is Realeneiland, renowned for the little row of 17th-century merchant's houses with biblical gables on Zandhoek. "De Gouden Reael" is the name the governor general of the Dutch East Indies, Laurens Reael, gave to his house, now a waterside bar and restaurant serving regional French cuisine. It wittily refers to his namesake; a golden real was a Spanish coin from the 16th century. It's a perfect spot to raise a toast to the old days and watch boats sail along the Westerdok.
Zandhoek 14, Amsterdam, North Holland, 1013 KT, Netherlands