Western Islands walk

by Tanja
Dutch hanging bridge

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. From there we visit the beautiful islands Realen, Prinsen and Bickers, a 17th century shipyard and warehouse area. Along the Brewery Canal we finish the tour in the Jordaan.

View Western Islands of Amsterdam in a larger map

Amsterdam Western Islands

The Western Islands consists of 3 islands in the centre of Amsterdam, just south-west of Central Station. They are: Bickers Islands, Prinsen Island and Realen Island. Often the set for film shoot, the area is full of history: charming white wooden draw footbridges  and restored 17th century canal houses.

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Amsterdam Droogbak

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.

Western islands Amsterdam

Western Islands, near Amsterdam Central Station is a sea of tranquillity.

Westerdok docklands

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.

Grain Silo

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.


Old grain silo, now apartments in Amsterdam.

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’).

Realen Island

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.

amsterdam canal houses

Amsterdam canal houses on Realen Island.

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 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 draw footbridge.

Red shutter ware 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.

Amsterdam storage houses

Old Amsterdam storage houses, now apartments.


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.

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Leave a Comment

1 comment

Jessica February 9, 2015 - 15:42

I actually live near this area but have never been! Thanks for the sneak peek. Now I will plan to go there and explore next weekend!

For the expats in the city, I am sharing this post on the @Bucket_Buddies twitter on Tuesday! I think expats really appreciate new things to discover (I know I do!!)