Amsterdam Zuid is next in our Amsterdam Neighbourhood Guide Series. When one says ‘Zuid’, they can cover a large area in Amsterdam – depending upon what map you’re viewing. In its broadest reading, Zuid could mean all the neighbourhoods south of the canal belt between Vondelpark and the Amstel – Oud Zuid, De Pijp, Rivierenbuurt, ZuidAs and Buitenveldert! But what is generally understood when people refer to Zuid is Oud Zuid, which is a beautiful, rather ‘stately’ and a highly coveted neighbourhood of Amsterdam to live in.
Oud Zuid is not as old as the canal belt and some areas of Oud Zuid can be downright new, but generally Oud Zuid is a large neighbourhood located between Museumplein on the north, Vondelpark on the west, the Zuider Amstelkanaal on the south and the Boerenweteringkanaal on the east. This location gives residents easy access to some of Amsterdam’s greatest resources: the vibrant beauty of the historic Canal Belt, the peace and quiet of the vast Amsterdamse Bos, and of course, Schiphol Airport!
Oud Zuid itself has lots of green space, open spaces, and quiet residential streets. There are plenty of playgrounds and athletic fields, excellent schools – both international and Dutch – and attractive shopping areas. It has tram service and subway service to downtown and Centraal Station and from Station Zuid one can get to virtually anywhere in the Netherlands.
Is it the proximity to Schiphol, downtown, or Zuidas that has made Oud Zuid popular with the international community? Or is it the international schools in the area? It is not clear what came first but for whatever reason, there is a large international community in Oud Zuid and it is not uncommon to hear English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, etc. mixed in with Dutch at the local playgrounds.
While they all have Oud Zuid on the street signs, there are basically three distinct neighbourhoods in Oud Zuid, each with its own feel – MuseumKwartier and Willemspark, Apollobuurt and Stadionbuurt. The most noticeable difference among the neighbourhoods comprising Oud Zuid is their architecture. There have been three major building waves in Oud Zuid, all with different styles but with the same intention: providing attractive and comfortable places for people to live.
MuseumKwartier and Willemspark
The first of the Old Zuid building waves began in the last quarter of the 19th century. Agricultural land was developed into the area now containing Museumplein and Vondelpark and its residential neighbourhoods. Muddy pastures transformed into tree lined streets full of elegant row houses loaded with decorative brickwork, charming balconies and idiosyncratic detailing, and with easy access to the newly built Rijksmuseum, Concertgebouw, and the city’s new park.
While the horse-drawn carriages of yesteryear have been replaced by bakfiets (and Brios (!)), this neighbourhood still retains its air of elegance and exclusivity. Alongside the tourists and museums and stately consulates in Museumkwartier, there are plenty of families who call this area home and avail themselves of the family friendly resources in the neighbourhood.
The next large-scale development of Oud Zuid happened in the early decades of the 20th century. Amsterdam desperately needed housing for families and much care was given to designing neighbourhoods that would incorporate schools, shops, playgrounds, places of worship, and open spaces. A hundred years later, these neighbourhood designs still hold up. Housing is a mix of large, well-appointed apartments and attached houses; buildings usually max out at five stories. The architectural style of these neighbourhoods is pure Amsterdamse School – think brick, rounded organic shapes, decorative glass, and wrought ironwork. Sidewalks are generally wide and easily accommodate little ones on scooters or balance bikes.
Amsterdam hosted the 1928 Olympic Games and many of the streets in the neighbourhood are named after figures in Greek mythology and culture: Apollolaan, Minervalaan, Agamemmnonstraat, etc. Others are named after classical painters and musicians: Beethovenstraat, Bachstraat, Michelangelostraat, etc. Apollolaan, which forms the northern border of the neighbourhood, is a beautiful parkway lined with gorgeous homes and even more gorgeous trees.
The neighbourhood around the Olympic Stadium is called Stadionbuurt. Much of it, like Apollobuurt, was built in the 1920s but there has been a lot of new development lately. Luxury modern apartment buildings with underground parking and bordering the Schinkel waterway and its modern parks have gone up next to the Stadium and more are planned for a former industrial area across the Stadiongracht. Stadionplein – a large open area with bars and restaurants that also hosts farmers markets on the weekends is located across the street from Olympic Stadium and is bustling with shoppers and young people.One of the most attractive aspects of life in this newly developing neighbourhood is the truly special bike path that runs behind Olympic Stadium to the Amsterdam Bos, which is shared between Zuid and Amstelveen.
Living in Oud zuid is wonderful as you are surrounded by both history and culture and yet you also have a feeling that you live in a village! I often bump into people I know, which is a wonderful feeling when you’re away from home. Oud Zuid also has amazing coffee and food places around every corner!
– From the Mamas.
Family Fun – Places of Interest / Parks / Sports
Zuiderbad, an elegant indoor swimming pool next to the Rijksmuseum, has plenty of family swim times and swim lessons for the kids, not to mention floats and toys for making pool time loads of fun.
The basketball courts and playground on Museumplein are frequented by local kids, as are the gardens and fountains of the Rijksmuseum. During the winter there is an outdoor seasonal ice skating rink on Museumplein that offers lessons to children.
South of Museumplein, the buzz and busyness disappears. The entire neighbourhood is closely connected toVondelpark and there are entrances to the park on virtually every block. It is hard to overstate the importance of Vondelpark’s resources to the people (and dogs) of the area. There are playgrounds, a splashing pool, grassy areas for picnics and games, cafes, waterways, rose gardens, running and cycling paths. There is even a place for little ones to learn to bake their treats!
Another one of the main thoroughfares in Oud Zuid is Stadionweg which passes through Minervaplein and its organic Friday market, Olympiaplein and its football fields, and finally to the 1928 Olympic Stadium itself, which still hosts athletic events, including the Amsterdam Marathon.
In 10 minutes or less it is possible to cycle from the relative density of the city to a huge forest, Amsterdamse Bos, where one can kayak, ride horses, walk for hours, visit two farms, swim, and navigate a tree top obstacle course.
We love living in Oud Zuid for it’s proximity to everything, a relaxed atmosphere and great neighbours!
Zuid has several good local, bilingual and international schools. The most popular ones are:
- International School of Amsterdam
- The British School of Amsterdam
- Amsterdam International Community School
For more information on local education and schools join the Amsterdam Mamas Dutch Education Group.
The quiet residential streets of Oud Zuid empty into squares topped by chestnut trees where organic food markets set up on the weekends. The commercial streets – Koninginneweg, Cornelis Schuytstraat, Emmastraat – are lined with small cafes, chic boutiques, and gourmet grocery stores as well as the discreet Albert Heijn or Jumbo. The main commercial street of Apollobuurt is Beethovenstraat which is a mix of typical stores (Albert Heijn, Etos) and upscale boutiques and cafes. Two standouts for children are Boekhandel Van Rossum and MiniMarkt; Van Rossum’s has an extensive assortment of children’s books in both Dutch and English, and MiniMarkt has an eclectic and tasteful selection of children’s toys, clothes and home decor.
Calm and green streets very close to the city centre with lots of families and playgrounds. This is why I really enjoy living in Oud Zuid.
– From the Mamas.
For a first-hand account, from fellow Mamas, about living in and around Amsterdam, check our Neighbourhood Guides Series.
Anastasia Drost is a freelance editor and writer and former Editor in Chief of Amsterdam Mamas. She fell in love with this city thirty years ago and is now thrilled to call it home.