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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ceaser

A Brief History of NDSM Werf in Amsterdam

What is NDSM Werf?

NDSM Werf is a decaying former shipyard in Amsterdam Noord that’s now a vibrant cultural centre plus drinking and dining hotspot.


NDSM Werf History

It’s a free 15-minute ferry ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station to the northern banks of the River IJ and NDSM Wharf, a once-derelict shipyard that’s now one of Amsterdam’s coolest cultural and creative hubs. Old warehouses have been converted into art studios, galleries, offices for start-ups, and a flea market, while hip cafés and bars dot the waterfront of this edgy, post-industrial landscape.

In the mid-20th century, the Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company (known as NDSM from its acronym in Dutch) operated one of Europe’s largest and most modern shipyards here, employing thousands of welders, crane operators and other workmen who constructed, assembled and repaired giant freighters and passenger vessels. But the oil crisis and foreign competition resulted in the company declaring bankruptcy in 1984, and the site lay abandoned for almost two decades, with its buildings falling into disrepair.

In 2000, a group of artists and creatives formed the Kinetisch Noord (or Kinetic North) foundation, which looked at ways to repurpose the site and turn it into a hub for artistic and cultural innovation. By 2008, the urban renewal project was born, and industrial buildings began being renovated into creative spaces. These include STRAAT, billed as the world’s largest street art museum, with 8,000 square metres of exhibition space inside a former ship-welding facility; Restaurant Brooklyn, located in a marine carpentry workshop dating from 1909; and IJ-Hallen, said to be the biggest flea market in Europe, with over 500 vendors selling goods inside a monumental ship hangar.

Moored at the wharf’s piers are several vessels that have been given new life, including the triple-masted schooner Pollux, now the restaurant Pollux Pacific, and Botel, a former riverboat cruise ship that was transformed into a floating hotel. Speaking of unique hotels, there’s one in the giant crane that looms over the wharf; the five-star Crane Hotel Faralda has just three suites, plus an outdoor Jacuzzi on the top.

Other trendy restaurants and bars scattered along the waterfront include Pllek, an urban beach bar constructed from old shipping containers that features its own sandy beach, and Noorderlicht Café, with funky greenhouse-style architecture and a riverfront terrace with live music.

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