Amsterdam is divided into eight districts, and those are split into smaller Amsterdam neighborhoods. The districts enjoy a fairly generous level of autonomy, and each neighborhood has its own personality. You’re bound to spend most of your time in the Centrum, where the best Amsterdam neighborhoods are located, and that's where you'll be able to do things like cruise the canals, visit the museums and, yes, indulge in a little debauchery if that’s your thing.
The Centrum district is in the heart of Amsterdam and you’ll spend a lot of time here. It consists of several different Amsterdam neighborhoods, including the “Grachtengordel”—the canal belt, the Jordaan and the Wallen. The heart of the city starts at the Central Station and forms arches, with the Damrak crossing down the middle. This city design makes it relatively simple to walk around, because getting lost is almost impossible. The Dam Square is 750 meters in front of the station building; it is surrounded by the Dutch Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), the Dutch National Monument (commemorating the victims of the Second World War) and Madame Tussauds. With its historic buildings and tourist buzz, the Dam Square is also a great opportunity for taking photos.
Stadsdeel Noord (North)
The North of Amsterdam is a development that dates back to the 1920s. Three of the neighborhoods in North are designed as a Tuindorp, which roughly translates to garden village. These garden homes were developed for blue-collar workers, and each house came with its own front and back yard, a rarity back in the 1920s. Homes were built by socialist housing developers who were trying to create a kind of utopia for workers.
Westpoort (Western port)
Westpoort is the largest industrial zone of the city. It is home to the west harbor docks and container terminals. As far as tourism goes, you won’t find anything of interest here, unless you enjoy watching large ships and container cranes. Even though the district is 35 square kilometers, only 400 people live here.
Stadsdeel Zuidoost (Southeast)
The southeast part of Amsterdam is one of the most recent additions to the city. It’s home to the ArenA stadium, used by the Amsterdam Ajax Football Club, as well as concerts. As the city council tries to gentrify the area, tall housing complexes are being replaced by smaller, cozier developments, along with shopping malls. Be aware that parts of this district are classified as a “problem area” by the Dutch government, and the Bijlmermeer subdivision is one you’ll want to avoid. In the 1960s, the government built massive housing projects, and like many large-scale projects, this one backfired.