Just West of Central Station Amsterdam lay three peaceful islands. These ‘Western Islands’ are wonderful for a beautiful 1,5-hour walk. This self-guided tour starts at Westerdok, a completely reconstructed docklands area. Walking west, you will encounter the remarkable ‘Silodam’, an old industrial complex, transformed into apartment buildings. From there we visit the beautiful islands Realen, Prinsen and Bickers.
This tour starts at Westerdok. This area is easy to find using the map above. It’s 10 minutes walk from Central Station.
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. We meet the IJ-water on our right. If you are thirsty already, step into the Westerdok Café, serving beer since 1899.
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 number 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 left and left again. Cross the bridge to go to Realen Island. Enjoy the view across, looking at Westerdok from the other side.
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 draw bridge
Don’t cross the bridge here, instead, turn right on Realengracht. Feel the quiet charm of this area. Its long history lies 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 draw footbridge.
Red shutter warehouses
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.