Planning a trip to Amsterdam? The coolest place to go in Amsterdam at the moment is De Hallen Amsterdam, a cultural complex converted from a former tram depot.
Since moving to Amsterdam three months ago, we have been doing lots of exploring to get ourselves acquainted with the city. We’ve seen the tourist sights, ticked off the must-see things, and done a canal cruise or two. Of all the places to go in Amsterdam, we’ve found De Hallen Amsterdam to be our favourite hangout in the city.
Since its opening in 2015, this multi-functional cultural complex has become an extremely popular and trendy spot for locals to hang out. These days, even tourists are making their way to Oud West Amsterdam just to experience De Hallen.
Table of Contents
- So What is De Hallen Amsterdam?
- What to Do At De Hallen Amsterdam?
- What Else to Do At De Hallen?
So What is De Hallen Amsterdam?
De Hallen stands in the heart of Oud West Amsterdam, a lively and multi-cultural neighborhood that borders the city centre. It is housed within a former tram depot, a national monument built between 1902-1928. This is the place where the first electric trams in Amsterdam were maintained, and it has since been given a new lease of life.
In 2015, this former tram depot completed its transformation into a hip cultural complex that is now one of the most popular places to go to in Amsterdam. Its network of cavernous, glass-roofed workshops house a multicultural food hall, three restaurants, a library, a bike workshop, a cinema and a boutique hotel.
De Hallen also plays host to many events and expos each month, including the Makers’ Market and weekly kids program. We love spending our weekends at De Hallen as a family, trying out new food and browsing through locally-made handicraft or books. In winter especially, this is one of the few indoor places in Amsterdam with so many things to do under one roof.
READ MORE: A Guide to Oud West Amsterdam
What to Do At De Hallen Amsterdam?
Foodhallen: Amsterdam’s Biggest Food Market
The jewel in the crown is FoodHallen, a covered food market that rivals Covent Garden in London and La Boqueria in Barcelona. There are over 20 food stalls here, serving everything from dim sum to jamon iberico. It’s got a very international vibe with each stall selling street food dishes from around the world. But don’t fret if you’re looking for Dutch food — there are several choices here for those interested in tasting home-grown dishes.
Prices here are cheaper than in most restaurants, but still expect to spend around 10 euros per dish. Most food stalls only take debit cards so make sure you have one with you. We found the whole setup of the food hall to be organised and systematic. Even though it gets crowded on weekends and you might have to wait in line for your food, it usually doesn’t take too long.
The food hall is however smaller than I imagined. Markthal (market hall) in central Rotterdam is a lot bigger and has more variety of fresh produce and international foods. I’ve just heard news that a second location for FoodHallen will be opening up in Rotterdam in summer 2018!
Among all the stalls at Foodhallen, here are some of my favorite:
Viet View — Vietnamese street food
This popular stall serves Vietnamese street food with a modern spin, specialising in rice paper rolls (Goi cuon) & Vietnamese filled baguettes (Banh mi). Flavours here are truly authentic and only fresh ingredients are used. Each banh mi and goi cuon is made on the spot in front of you. Every time I eat here, I’m transported back to the bustling streets of Hanoi.
They also periodically offer a special dish on the menu. I’ve had their salad bowls ‘bun’ and absolutely love them! The bun is a big bowl of salad and generous portions of chicken, rice noodles, fried springrolls, lots of herbs and onions, and drenched with a delicious sauce. From their main menu, I recommend trying the caramelised pork belly banh mi and the Viet view rib eye goi cuon.
Taqueria Lima — Mexican tacos
I’m a huge fan of Taqueria Lima: they serve the best tacos I’ve had outside of Mexico. I’ll admit I’m not a taco expert but I really love how flavourful and spicy the tacos here are. The (gluten-free) tacos are also made of corn flour, and they taste very authentic. I definitely recommend trying the tacos platter (25.95 euros), which is made up of six tacos, each with a different flavour: from Chipotle braised beef to marinated pork ‘El Pastor’.
The presentation of the stall is fantastic: with a huge colourful sugar skull painted in the background, which is a real eyecatcher. The main showpiece of Taqueria Lima is the big meat spit, which is a common sight in every taco stand in Mexico.
De Ballenbar — Dutch traditional cuisine
When Michelin star chef Peter Gast and his former sous-chef Jeroen Elijzen heard of the Foodhallen plan, they felt that this was the place for them to set up shop. They chose to make the bitterballen (deep fried stuffed balls) the main star of the show. If the Netherlands had a national dish, I would say it’s bitterballen. So if you’re looking to try Dutch food, then this is the place to go.
You’ll find them with different fillings here: from truffle bitterballen to goat cheese and shrimp bitterballen. I would go so far to say this is the best place in Amsterdam to try bitterballen.
Shirkhan – Indian street flavours
This modern Indian food stall brings the buzz of Mumbai streets and the smells of Mumbai markets to Amsterdam. Creative entrepreneur Yossi Eliyahoo combined forces with top chef Hariprasad Shetty to create the first real Mumbai street food concept in the Netherlands.
According to Indian tradition, most of Shirkhan’s dishes are created in a ‘tandoor’, a cylinder-shaped, handmade clay oven and an authentic Indian grill. I recommend trying their Lamb Seekh and Chicken Tikka. Kebabs with Indian-style chicken and lamb, chutney and salads are prepared on the spot and are wrapped in fresh Naan Bread.
What Else to Do At De Hallen?
Within the De Hallen complex, you’ll also find FilmHallen, the biggest independent cinema complex in the Netherlands. It screens all types of movies from Hollywood blockbusters to indie films, documentaries and the best travel movies. In addition, film festivals and special events take place here regularly.
With nine attractive cinema rooms, FilmHallen is one of the larger cinemas in the city. Different from the traditional black box principle, the rooms are decorated with tapestries and patterns that reflect the multicultural character of the neighborhood.
Room 7 in particular is worth checking out. Also known as the Parisienzaal (Parisien Room), it is decked out in salvaged Art Deco panels from the original Cinema Parisian that opened in 1910. The beautiful art-deco interior of the Parisienzaal was in use for years at the Filmmuseum, but was donated to FilmHallen when it opened.
FilmHallen is also the only one of this format that also accepts the Cineville pass. With the Cineville pass (19.95 euros/month), you can unlimitedly go to more than forty connected film theaters throughout the Netherlands. Tickets purchased via the website are € 1.00 cheaper than tickets reserved by telephone or purchased directly from the cash desk.
The Maker Store
This concept store carries the best of Amsterdam innovation under one roof. It’s the best place in Amsterdam to find locally-made products, from Amsterdam makers and original brands. There are currently more than 90 unique brands in their store and they all have a story. In the store, things are even made while you are there.
I was really surprised by the huge range of products available here: from El Jefe hot sauces to kids’ clothing, carved wooden postcards and alpaca quilts. Prices aren’t cheap though, so while we can easily spend an hour or two browsing through the products, we don’t usually end up buying anything.
Inside The Maker Store, you’ll also find Uncover Lab, which brings customisation to a whole new level by editing items using our laser cutters. As with a tattoo shop, you are free to bring your own design, or design something together with their Creative Operators. The same applies to the object: bring it with you or choose something beautiful in the store. It’s really cool watching the laser cutters in action and bringing an artwork to life so quickly.
The Maker Market
Once a month, the glass-ceilinged hall of Hannie Dankbaar Passage, plays host to the monthly Maker Market. The weekend market is organised by The Maker Store and it brings even more makers into De Hallen for them to showcase their products. The products on offer range from home-made jewellery to custom handbags, ethnic wear and movie posters.
Denim City was founded by the House of Denim foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to transforming the denim industry for the future. It’s a development centre for more sustainable, innovative and collaborative ways of making jeans. You’ll find a huge array of jeans on sale, including jeans made of wood and plastic bottles. The director is also more than happy to give tours of the place to those curious of their work.
Amsterdam’s public library, OBA, has a branch here in De Hallen and it’s extremely spacious and great for kids. There is a BookStart corner for the little ones and there are often book readings for kids here. OBA members can use internet in the library for free for one hour per day, non-members pay € 1.00 per 30 minutes.
Belcampo is the reading café of the OBA De Hallen, and is spacious, bright and open to both library visitors and other visitors. The café is named after the famous Dutch writer who lived for a period in Amsterdam Oud West.
Belcampo is, just like the library, accessible and affordable for a very wide audience. A play corner is available for children. So enjoy your breakfast or lunch, while the little ones go into the library, or the even smaller games in the play corner. The menu offers basic and luxurious sandwiches, plus salads, soups, sweets and quality coffee from Lot Sixty-one Coffee Roasters.
In collaboration with the library, Cafe Belcampo organises literary and cultural activities, among others lectures and book presentations. There are Sunday jazz performances, language exchange parties on Wednesdays and occasional orchestra performances at Belcampo. Check out their agenda for details. These take place in the beautiful mezzanine floor and sometimes in the Belcampo Loft.
Expos & Events
De Hallen organizes a whole line-up of events and expos on a regular basis, such as live music at FoodHallen, and photography exhibitions and dance days at the Passage. The Winter Book Fair looks interesting, so does the dance days where you can watch ballet, hip hop or salsa and take part in free trial lessons.
De Hallen Amsterdam also does kids’ events on Wednesday afternoons for children between the ages of 4 and 12. They are usually workshops or activities that are fun for both kids and adults who are participating. The entrance fee is usually free, but for some activities a small contribution is required. The program starts at 14:00. The children can report at the cheerfully decorated tables at the entrance of the passage.
Hotel De Hallen
As part of the De Hallen complex, this trendy design hotel is also a heritage hotel because of the history behind the architecture. The stunning classic building is given an urban vintage design, with an industrial touch. Think trendy Scandinavian vintage interior design in a blue steel, rusty red setting with plenty of green and an abundance of plants and modern art.
All of the 57 rooms at Hotel De Hallen feature neutral colors with industrial-style furnishing and ultra comfortable COCO-MAT beds. Rooms are comfortable and stylish, though many don’t get a lot of natural light as windows overlook interior corridors.
The hotel is also home to a French/International restaurant, Remise47. The urban bistro serves breakfast to hotel guests in its large, sunny terrace, as well as an extensive list of French/international dishes like steak tartare and sirloin steak.
Located next to FoodHallen, the Kanarie Club is an awesome space for creativity and inspiration during the day, and cocktails and fun by night. It’s a bar, restaurant and workplace, designed for people to spend all day in one spot. With a wide range of flexible workspaces, sufficient electrical outlets, meeting facilities and good coffee, this is the ideal place to flex a day.
It’s also surprisingly kids-friendly, with lots of room for active toddlers to run around. There is also a Poolbar on the second level, that’s perfect for both kids birthday parties and cocktail parties in groups.
We like their bar bites menu, which consists of quirky dishes like oysters ceviche style, kimchi ribs, goat cheese bitterballen and seaweed spring rolls. They’re not overly expensive (6 to 12 euros/dish) and are really fun and tasty. Besides breakfast, they have an extensive lunch and dinner menu. A three-course menu costs 32 euros, four courses 39 and five courses 45 euros.
Once the clock hits 5pm, Kanarie Club is the place where night owls and ball bananas come together for a good drink with friends or family.