A Day Guide to Houthavens: The history, things to do, and the best Houthavens restaurants15-11-2018
As one of the newest neighbourhoods of Amsterdam, Houthavens can be overlooked, visitors often opting for the more well-known areas in Amsterdam. However, Houthavens has a lot to offer! The Houthavens’ history dates back to 1876 as being one of the most important harbours globally, a hub for trade and transport. Its contemporary look (featuring a lot of new, modern architecture) seems to defy this history, though the area still maintains its harbour feeling. Houthavens is characterised by its jetties extending out into the river Ij and the Pontsteiger building, an impressive architectural feat. Will you be visiting or staying in Houthavens, Amsterdam? This Houthavens day guide provides tips for where to eat, where to go, and what to do in Houthavens!
Breakfast in Spaarndammerstraat
The nearby Spaarndammerstraat offers a wide variety of food options, such as the homely Bagels and Beans for a hearty breakfast. A popular food chain in the Netherlands, visitors will be delighted by its uniform, cozy decor, delectable bagel selection and fresh coffee brews served in oversized mugs. If bagels are not really your thing, then there are plenty of other places to eat in the Spaarndammerbuurt.
Take a trip to NDSM Werf
One of Amsterdam’s most interesting and dynamic sites, the NDSM, is only an 8-minute free-of-charge ferry trip from the Pontsteiger ferry terminal. The location is famous in Amsterdam for music festivals and a range of cultural events and markets, including one of Europe’s biggest flea markets, Ij Hallen. The Ij Hallen market is open for one weekend every month, so if you happen to be staying in Houthavens on that weekend, we highly recommend you pay a visit. You need to pay an entrance fee of €5, which is perhaps rare for markets, but the cost is well worth the bargains you will find inside, as well as the sheer spectacle of Ij Hallen. Stop for a quick refreshment at Pllek afterwards, an urban beach restaurant-cafe which offers live music and a laid back atmosphere.
Source: Ij Hallen
In the Spring and Summer, it is highly recommended to take a walk through the Zonnehoek Gardens. Consisting of 70 individual plots, this garden park attempts to balance the “harmony between the human, plant and animal world” as evenly as possible, featuring ‘insect hotels’ and beehives. As the staff of the Zonnehoek gardens try to maintain the plots in such a manner that human influence is limited, this is resultingly one of the top things to do in Houthavens for flora and fauna enthusiasts!
Lunch with a view
Arguably one of the most unique restaurants in Amsterdam, the REM Eiland is a must-visit Houthavens restaurant. Like the Houthavens itself, the REM Eiland has a fascinating history. The REM Eiland was once home to an illegal television station called TV Noordzee. In December 1964, the Dutch government raided the building, putting an end to its activities. Nowadays, it’s a chique restaurant serving contemporary dishes with a distinctly French influence in a truly remarkable space.
Source: REM Eiland
Other lunch options
If you would like to try traditional Dutch cuisine with a twist, visit Wilde Kroketten, a Houthavens restaurant which specialises in croquettes.
If you would prefer to get something fresh and on the go, head for Dockr on the Haparandaweg, specialising in a range of delicious sandwiches and freshly made juices.
Visit Dok Amsterdam for a Summertime vibe
In the Spring and Summer, it is highly recommended to attend a Dock Amsterdam event or simply enjoy the beachy atmosphere of the venue. Dok takes Summer very seriously, offering a Dok barbeque menu and a range of equipment for hire (including a vinyl DJ-set).
Take a sunset walk along the Houthavens piers
The Pontsteiger as seen from the Haparandadam pier
What makes Houthavens so very different from the rest of Amsterdam is its peaceful harbour feeling when walking along the water. Apart from a few anglers, and locals walking with their dogs, there are very few people around. This is a far cry from the chaotic crowds in Amsterdam’s centre. Taking a sunset walk along the piers past the moored boats, local birdlife, and waterside shrubbery is a uniquely ‘Houthavens’ thing to do, and a great way to wind down before dinner.
Dinner at Pont 13
Moored to a pier on the Haparandadam street, the restaurant Pont 13 provides the perfect nautical dining experience. Originally a steam ferry built in 1927, Pont 13 offers an unconventional and cozy atmosphere. The menu consists of hearty dishes of seafood, meats and vegetables (such as the ‘Fish of the market’ or the ‘Stew of forgotten vegetables’) and a delightful selection of sides and starters (ranging from ‘Autumn salad’ to ‘Eggplant with pomegranate’).
Houthavens restaurant Pont 13 is situated in an old steam ferry
If you are with a bigger group of people, it is also possible to rent a fully catered boat from Pont 13, the ultimate way to see Amsterdam from the river Ij. If the weather doesn’t play fair, then the staff will organise a closed boat for you.
Other dinner options
Restaurant Leuk is a good Houthavens restaurant for the whole family. This bright, bold restaurant features a play area for kids, a family-orientated attitude and live music.
For a sophisticated dinner of international cuisine in a hip, modern setting, check out Restaurant Za.
If you would prefer to head into the city centre for dinner, check out this list of 8 Unique Amsterdam restaurants.
Visit an event at Theater Amsterdam
Just 450m away from Pont 13 is Theater Amsterdam. Unlike the more historic and typical theatres in Amsterdam, Theater Amsterdam is the picture of modernity, its grand glass facade reflecting its surroundings beautifully. Like the exterior, the interior of the building has a contemporary design; the stage has an impressive concave-screen backdrop which compliments and accentuates the performances and events in a dazzling display of light and colour. Furthermore, this Houthavens theatre features a great bar and social area.
Have a beer at De Prael
De Prael, located at Nieuwe Hemweg 2, is an excellent place to go for a drink to finish off your day in Houthavens. Locally brewed, the beer is of top quality, the atmosphere is laid back, and the staff are friendly. Furthermore, De Prael is a brewery which is deeply invested in programs of 'arbeidsmogelijkheden' (programs of employing people who have a disadvantage in the job market). So not only will you be having a delicious, refreshing beer, you will also be making a positive contribution to the local community.
Where to stay in Houthavens
How to get to Houthavens (Public transport options to Houthavens)
Houthavens Buses: You can get to Houthavens by public transport in less than 15 minutes from Amsterdam Central station with buses 48, 22, and 248.
Houthavens Ferries: Ferries 906 and 903 between NDSM/Amsterdam Noord (Amsterdam North) and Houthavens leave every few minutes. There are also frequent ferries from NDSM to Amsterdam Central Station and back.
Visit 9292.nl for public transportation schedules and for more information about getting to Houthavens.
Parking in Houthavens
Coming to Houthavens by car? Houthavens parking is possible for €15/day with Mobypark, an unheard-of price for a private, enclosed parking space in Amsterdam. This is compared to €6/hour on the street!
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