The Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam is one of the hippest and most multi-cultural in the city, and features a vast array of delicious international cuisines and influences. This buzzing atmosphere and melting pot of nationalities make it the perfect place to enjoy an evening out, including dinner and drinks on the Twilight de Pijp Food Tour. I recently took the tour myself, and here are 10 fun things I learned along the way about this fascinating neighborhood, its inhabitants and its cuisine.
1. What’s in a name: The origin behind the name “De Pijp” (which translates to “The Pipe”) is unclear, but rumor suggests that it could be down to 2 things: either because the streets are very long, narrow and pipe-like in shape; or because there was a gas company in the neighborhood called the “Pipe”, leading to the residents affectionately naming the whole neighborhood after it.
2. Multicultural Amsterdam: Of the 200 different nationalities recognized by the U.N., 145 of them live in de Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam – which just goes to show exactly how diverse this particular neighborhood is!
3. Celebrated Dutch artists: Many of the streets in de Pijp are named after famous Dutch painters, and one of many streets you will wander down is called Jan van der Heijdenstraat, named after Jan van der Heijde. As well as being a celebrated painter, he also helped to invent a major component of the fire hose. One of his works of art can today be seen displayed above the street sign.
4. How fast-food snack bar FEBO got its name: In fact, the Dutch are so proud of their painters that one of the country’s most famous fast-food chains is named after one of them. FEBO (which is not a stop on the tour – we suggest you should only reserve a visit to this establishment late at night after a few Dutch beers!) takes its name from the first two letters of the first and last names of Ferdinand Bol, a respected artist and draftsman. Fun fact: one of the stops on the tour, Sari Citra, is located on Ferdinand Bolstraat, another nod to the same man.
5. Canal-turned-market: The Albert Cuypstraat, where the city’s biggest and most famous street market is held, used to be a canal lined with sawmills.
6. Public bathing: The houses around Albert Cuypstraat were originally built without bathrooms, and residents had to bathe in a public bathhouse – which is still standing – called the Badcuyp. Despite the government recommendation of taking 50 baths a year, after a city census it turned out that people were only bathing on average 5 times a year. Amsterdammers used to be pretty stinky!
7. Jewish roots: There is an inconspicuous Jewish synagogue in de Pijp designed in the style of an Old Amsterdam house, which was kept a secret from the German occupiers during the Second World War. After the Netherlands was liberated in 1945, the first Sabbath service took place in this synagogue as a celebration.
8. The original plan for Sarphatipark: The Sarphatipark was created by draining boggy swamp ground to provide a relaxing and enjoyable green space for the residents of the crowded and bustling city. But it was originally meant to be the site of the city’s Centraal Station, until plans changed and the train station was located by the river docks instead.
9. The origins of bitterballen: The popular Dutch bar snack of bitterballen garnered its name from the bitter taste of the Netherlands’ national drink: jenever. As the little morsels were shaped like balls, and you were supposed to eat them to counteract the bitterness of the spirit, they earned the name bitterballen.
10. Walking vs. biking: Many people think that Amsterdam can only be enjoyed from the seat of a bike, but in fact a walking tour is the perfect way to really soak in the atmosphere of your surroundings, allowing you so much more time to stop and take stock of the sights, sounds and – of course – flavors. I definitely need to ditch my bike more and just walk!