Is Amsterdam Safe? Exploring the Notorious Bijlmer Neighborhood

In this episode, I’m heading out on an immersive tour of an often-overlooked part of Amsterdam with a tarnished reputation. I’m setting out to find the truth about one of the city’s so-called “most dangerous” neighborhoods, and learning about its culture, food, and community. Along the way, we’ll answer the question, is Amsterdam safe?

I’m heading out with my friends Melissa and Mike to find out. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to bust damaging, long-held myths about people and places. Let’s explore the Bijlmer neighborhood in southeast Amsterdam!

Is Amsterdam Safe? Arriving in Bijlmer

Exporing Bijlmer with a local to find out once and for all the answer to the question, is Amsterdam safe? | Davidsbeenhere

This neighborhood, called “Bims” or “Bijlmer,” was once considered a dangerous area, especially 30 years ago. However, it has since evolved into a more welcoming and friendly place, albeit one still riddled with misconceptions. I aim to uncover the truth about this part of Amsterdam, away from the touristy areas like the Red Light District and the picturesque canals.

Bijlmer is known for its incredible diversity, with over 170 nationalities coexisting in this vibrant community. This sets the stage for our exploration of the local food and culture, starting with a visit to a family-run eatery called Yvette’s Kitchen that’s famous for its Johnny Cakes.

Cooking at Yvette’s Kitchen

Johnny cakes frying in a pan in Yvette's Kitchen in southeast Amsterdam | Davidsbeenhere

I met up with Germain, a local who was born and raised in Amsterdam’s west. Germain and other locals warmly welcomed me and shared insights into the neighborhood’s culinary traditions.

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We then jumped into a cooking session! The cook, Doui, passionately explains the process of making Johnny Cakes. She makes both traditional and vegan versions, which reflects the changing dietary preferences of many people today. Doui carefully explained each step, from preparing the dough to frying the cakes. She and I had a lively conversation, switching seamlessly between English and Spanish. The diversity of the languages reflects the neighborhood’s multicultural makeup.

Then, Doui told me about the history of Johnny Cakes. They were originally known as “journey cakes” because they were made for long journeys. In my mind, the question of is Amsterdam safe lingered, but it seems this area is much safer and friendlier than many say it is.

Eating Rice and Goat Meat

Rice and goat meat with fried plantains at Yvette's Kitchen | Davidsbeenhere

We continued by preparing rice and goat meat, a dish Doui says has influences from both Santo Domingo and Curaçao. I helped stir the rice, and Doui explained the importance of seasoning the dish properly. She then reduced the broth to infuse the rice with flavor, a method common in Caribbean and African cuisines.

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Germain and I eagerly tried the freshly prepared Johnny Cakes and rice with goat meat. The Johnny Cakes, both vegan and traditional, were light, fluffy, and perfectly seasoned. The rice was moist and flavorful, and absorbed the rich broth and spices. The goat meat was tender and melted in my mouth, and left me in awe of its deliciousness.

Food brings a sense of community and connection. The small, bustling kitchen is almost a microcosm of the neighborhood’s diversity and warmth. So is Amsterdam safe? It seems so, from what I’ve seen. The food here served as a bridge between different cultures and people. It helps foster understanding and appreciation. Everyone here was so friendly and kind, which goes against much of the narrative about Bijlmer.

Erno’s Lunchroom

David Hoffmann and his local guide finding out is Amsterdam safe while eating at local restaurants | Davidsbeenhere

After leaving Yvette’s Kitchen, we drove through the neighborhood, and I got to see remnants of its more unsafe past. We arrived at Erno’s Lunchroom, which Melissa says sells the best fries and chicken wings. The fries there were incredible, and came with Dutch mayo, creamy peanut sauce, and diced onions. I added some of my David’s Been Here Hot Sauce for good measure to add a fruity and spicy kick!

We also enjoyed a delicious platter of fried foods that were tasty and crispy, but not too much so. The fried sausage had a consistency similar to black pudding, as it was soft on the outside. But it had a nice, crisp exterior. We ended with some juicy fried chicken that was flavorful but not greasy. I couldn’t get enough of them!

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Afterward, we stopped at a site that memorializes the people who died in a tragic accident in the area. On October 4, 1992, an Israeli cargo flight crashed into a building in the area. One hundred and thirty-five apartments caught fire and hundreds of people died. Everyone knew someone who died, and it was a sad time in the neighborhood and city’s history.

Visiting Shopperhal

David Hoffmann smells a delicious sambal-like sauce as he prepares for his seafood meal with his friend Melissa | Davidsbeenhere

We then headed to an indoor market called The Shopperhal. It’s located near a large outdoor shopping area that’s only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The outdoor market was closed on the day I visited, but the indoor market was open. It sells everything from produce to clothing and is a lifeline for people in Bijlmer!

In the main square, I could see African and Surinamese restaurants and various stores. Inside, I saw the produce and clothing vendors, and we found a spot called Queen D’s. Queen D’s sells seafood. We got a platter containing shrimp, crab legs, and corn on the cob, all covered in various sauces.

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We also got some fries topped with barbecue chicken and sauces. The sambal-like sauce that came with the seafood platter was outstanding, and the fries with barbecue chicken were so good, I couldn’t stop eating it!

Is Amsterdam Safe? The Final Verdict

Is Amsterdam safe? The smile on David Hoffmann's face as he explores the Bijlmer neighborhood says yes | Davidsbeenhere

I loved this experience and the people I met along the way. Doui mentions she has plans to move her business to a new location, which I hope people support. She’s wonderful, and she deserves it. What a way to dispel myths and highlight southeast Amsterdam’s rich cultural tapestry.

I hope you enjoyed our heartfelt journey into the soul of Southeast Amsterdam. My friends and I did our best to showcase its rich cultural diversity through the lens of food. It’s a story of transformation, community, and the power of culinary traditions to bring people together. I hope it inspires you to ignore the noise and make a trip out to Bijlmer the next time you’re in Amsterdam.

Bijlmer is not only the most diverse neighborhood in The Netherlands, but it’s also the friendliest. I experienced it with my own eyes, and it changed my life.

Is Amsterdam safe? Yes, very much so. Go see for yourself.

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