Just West of Central Station Amsterdam lay three peaceful islands. These ‘Western Islands’ are wonderful for a beautiful 1,5-hour walk.
Starting at the Westerdok, a completely reconstructed docklands area where you find the latest in architectural fashion we walk west via the remarkable ‘Silodam’, an old industrial complex, transformed into apartment buildings, to the islands Realen, Prinsen and Bickers.
These are the Western Islands (Westelijke Eilanden), an historic and monumental area with its typical narrow houses for storage and charming white wooden bridges.
View Western Islands of Amsterdam in a larger map
We start our Walk West from just west of Central Station, which means you cross the main street from the train station, turning right along the main street (Prins Hendrikkade). Go straight into a small street next to a large building, named Droogbak.
The Droogbak was built in 1884 as the headquarters of the Holland Iron Railway Company. It has been declared a National Monument.
Turn right at the water, under passing a road and the railway, then cross the bridge on your left. You are now on Westerdok.
The Westerdok is former dockland area. To pay respect to its historic function the streets are all named after famous ships that transported goods from the West-Indies. Some even brought slaves from Africa to America.
On both sides there is water: to the right you have a fantastic view on the IJ-water, on the left there still is a small harbour with houseboats and yachts.
The newly constructed buildings served a variety of functions: dwellings, offices, art studios, a small hotel, public spaces and recreational facilities, like a Coffee Company.
Continuing, we leave Westerdok, meeting the IJ-water to our right. If you are thirsty already, step into the Westerdok Café, serving beer since 1899. The cafe is not attached to a large brewer and can therefore serve 10 different beers from the tap and over 70 special bottled beers.
On the other side is the remarkable Graansilo. Actually there are two buildings, which served the same function: cleaning, storing and pumping grain to and from ships and wagons. The site was abandoned by the company in 1986.
Artist squats Silo
In 1989 the Silo buildings were squatted. Its new inhabitants used and sold the large amount of metals and materials and used the reclaimed spaces as a venue of art-installations and performances, living spaces and, of course, parties (‘raves’).
Turn back again (left and left) to the harbour. We are now on the other side of the water. Cross the bridge to go to Realen Island.
Enjoy the view across, looking at the new buildings.
Classic canal houses
On this side of the water you can find the classic Amsterdam storage houses from the 17th century: narrow, slightly leaning forward, two front doors and a beam in the top to hoist up the goods (spices, cotton, cocoa)
The Western Island were located most closely to the harbour of the IJ, where the ships docked. In this area you will find many 17th century canal houses.
Dutch hanging bridge
Don’t cross the bridge here, instead turn right on Realengracht.
Feel the quiet charm of this area and it’s long history in the small details that remind us of the busy place it used to be: salt making (Zoutkeet), kipper (red herring) smoking (bokking rokerij), flour industry (meelfabriek).
At the end cross the amazing narrow Dutch hanging bridge.
Red shutter storage houses
After the bridge, turn right and left. On your left you will the typical storage houses, with its characteristic shutters. These are all expensive lofts and apartments.
Turn right to cross another hanging bridge: the ‘Three herring bridge (Drieharingbrug).
After the bridge turn left along the water, go straight to underpass the road and railway again, cross the main street to reach the Haarlemmerplein.
At Haarlemmerplein you can turn left and walk back to Central Station in Haarlemmerstraat, particularly if you love shopping.
Or you go straight until you hit the water and walk along the Brouwersgracht, one of the most beautiful canals, with its typical warehouses. Just follow the water back into the city.
If you’re thirsty, cross the bridge to the Jordaan. Along this side of the Brouwersgracht many café have quiet terraces and you can even pop into the Jordaan for a nice stroll.
You can book this Amsterdam walking tour at What’s up Tours.