The Amsterdam Mamas’ Neighbourhood Guide is unique in that it is written by mothers living in Amsterdam – in particular, the neighbourhood they themselves live in – for families moving to Amsterdam.

If you consider Amsterdam Centraal Station as a starting point, then Centrum (or the city centre) radiates outwards from there in all directions. A bulk of the city expands southwards, east, west and includes a large area north of the Ij as well. The beautiful picture postcard canals, stately and romantic canals homes, narrow streets, red light district, Jordaan, Waterlooplein and the Plantage lie in what’s known as Centrum or the Canal Belt.

Surrounding Centraal Station are the iconic Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets). These are the nine u-shaped streets that follow the inner canals—Singel, Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Keizersgracht. Like most parts of the city offer ‘mixed’ housing – some social housing, some on free market rent, and some ownership.

Some homes in the Canal Belt are ‘fancier’ then others even though they might be on the same street. The Canal Belt has canal facing homes, but you’ll find beautiful homes in the streets and alley that are not on the water as well. This historic neighbourhood is flooded with tourists and dotted with amazing restaurants, cafes, bars and stores.


The city centre is the oldest part of the city and has buildings dating back to around 1600. With that in mind, homes in Centrum are often:

  • Old canal 4-5 floored houses, divided into apartments on each floor.
  • In buildings that are up to 500 years old, and with that, come uneven, sloping floors, old floorboards and creaky stairwells.
  • With heritage and age, many windows are single-paned (not great for energy conservation).
  • Very steep, narrow, dark stairwells.
  • Vermin is often an issue.
  • Cobbled streets.

Search for houses for rent or sale: Pararius, Funda.


There are some good schools, though not many international schools as yet.

Points of interest

Play areas: Herenmarkt
Park: Vondelpark, Begijnhof, Oosterpark
Zoo: Artis
Markets: Waterlooplein, Albert Cuyp, etc. etc.


Being a more crowded part of town, parking of cars and bikes will be challenging, and you might not want to let your kids run around on their own when younger. The city is criss-crossed by trams, buses and metro.

From the Mamas:

We asked members of Amsterdam Mamas to share their experience of living in Centrum and here are some snippets of what they said:

  • The best part of living in centrum is experiencing Liberation Day, overlooking over the Amstel.
  • We love it because of the older canal houses with loads of history. Homes have lots of stairs but it teaches kids really early on how to use them safely.
  • We can walk to the zoo from our home and frequently go there even just for an hour. We love shopping at Tinkerbelle for classic toys right up the street.
  • Waterlooplein is a 5 min walk with metros and trams connecting in all directions.
  • It is peaceful with lively shops, bars and parks.
  • It is international and still has a lot of Dutchies.
  • You should worry about secure bicycle parking (that it won’t get stolen).
  • It is surprisingly family oriented and many neighbours have been living in the same canal house for 50+ years!
  • Everything is within walking distance, parks, the Jordaan and Elandsstraat; it’s good for walking and for running and is about a 15 min walk to get to Vondelpark or Westerpark.
  • Super convenient!
  • Centrum has older historical apartments with narrow stairs. Most buildings are historical with facades that cannot be changed.
  • It was difficult to get a feel of the atmosphere
  • When looking for a house, avoid anything close to a bar/restaurant.

For a first-hand account, from fellow Mamas, about living in and around Amsterdam, check our Neighbourhood Guides Series

Image Credits: Gaurav Jain
Audrey Coggins

Audrey Coggins is *that* Crazy Asian Lady. That one that is working to develop a strawberry and olive chiffon cake recipe that wins. That one that doesn't take herself seriously - by choice. She has been Amsterdam Mama's Chief Copy Editor, sometime-Content Manager, and currently is working on being a illustrator.