Name: Maartje van den Noort
Neighborhood: East Amsterdam, Netherlands
Occupation: Maartje grew up as a country girl in Zeeland in the westernmost province of the Netherlands, then went on to study graphic design and fine art in Rotterdam. Today she lives and works as an artist in East Amsterdam.
When I travel I don’t like to go to areas where thousands of tourists are taking photos. I like to find a spot that’s slower paced and where you feel like you can connect to locals. East Amsterdam is that kind of place. It’s a large area that includes the bustling neighborhood of Dapperbuurt, IJburg on the harbor, and Indische Buurt, where I live. Compared with central Amsterdam, this area is quiet and much less hyped. It’s for the traveler looking for the real, authentic Amsterdam.
Indische Buurt was created in the early 1900s, and many of the streets are named after former Dutch colonies. It has always been an area full of immigrants. Today, many people who live here are originally from Turkey and Morocco.
I really like the architecture in the neighborhood. If you look carefully, you can find art nouveau buildings, including the apartment house across from where I live with my husband. A nice secret a few minutes away is the Tropenmuseum, a grand, early 20th-century building that is home to a museum and library. They run permanent and special exhibitions about cultural development and ethnic identity in both wealthy and developing countries. I pass by here and imagine residents from 150 years ago walking by the same building.
Some spaces in the neighborhood were taken over by squatters and creative people in the 1970s and ’80s, but since I moved here a year ago, I’ve noticed more young couples, families, and nice cafés moving in. Everything is being upgraded. A big library is under construction, and Javastraat [one of the main thoroughfares in the neighborhood] was renovated with clean yellow tiles, which makes it look like a street in Istanbul.
For the time being, my husband and I live in an apartment not far from the Tropenmuseum, but soon we will move back into the building where we used to live on Javastraat. The complex is owned by a Protestant church that is very active in the neighborhood. The church decided to renovate the apartments and is planning to create a mixed community of tenants from various walks of life. My husband and I appreciate what the church is doing in the area.
Every few months there is something new in Indische Buurt. I’m happy with the changes. I am always discovering different places here, but at the same time I want it to stay the way it is, with people from everywhere. It shouldn’t just be upper-class people or just students or just immigrants. A bit of everything is what makes me feel at home.
I studied in Rotterdam and still like it—a lot of young designers live there. People in Rotterdam think of Amsterdam as being a bit superficial and all about its beautiful appearance. But Indische Buurt is smaller, more like a village. Living here, I’ve discovered that Amsterdam doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I feel like I am part of a community and I enjoy connecting with people from all over the world.
Read more about Maartje van den Noort’s favorite places in East Amsterdam:
“I buy some of the fabrics I use in my lanterns at our neighborhood outdoor market. There’s a real Amsterdam atmosphere here, and you can buy anything from $1 underwear and shampoo to fruits and flowers. dappermarkt.nl
“The Flevopark is not a typical city park, because it’s on the outskirts of Amsterdam and feels a bit wilder. I love to walk and picnic and jog here.” flevopark.nl
“I buy my books for my book club here. You can sit and order a coffee and page through books. They also have a good children’s section and a little corner for children to play.” javabookshop.nl
“This DIY atelier and shop is new and the kind of place that I am happy is popping up in the neighborhood. It sells a mix of handmade furniture and knitted hats and sweaters. They offer crafting workshops here, too. hiphiphip.nl
“The interiors of this museum and its library are really beautiful—a mosaic of polished wood and marble surfaces. And its contents are very timely, about the history of immigration and former Dutch colonies and slavery. The library is a bit of an insider secret—a quiet hideaway.” tropenmuseum.nl
“If I want to know what’s going on, I go to Studio/K, a cool cinema and café. It’s run by students from universities around the city who are really on top of what’s happening in terms of concerts and events. In the summer there is always sun on the terrace.” studio-k.nu
Wilde Zwijnen Restaurant
“The fact that there is a special-occasion restaurant like the Wilde Zwijnen (which means Wild Boar) is a sign of wealth in the neighborhood. I like the interiors: stylish but natural. The boar dishes are good, but they also do nice ravioli filled with kale and sausage.” wildezwijnen.com