The neighborhood to the north of zoological gardens Artis is called the Kadijken after the two main streets in that area: Hoogte and Laagte Kadijk. The area that emerged from the so-called fourth expansion of the city in 1663 was used originally for shipbuilding and storage. Reminders of this are the two shipyards: yard King William and yard ‘t Kromhout’ (now a museum). This used to be an area where many dockworkers lived but nowadays the Kadijken are rather more a white collar and quiet neighborhood.
The Customs Dock is located on Laagte Kadijk and on the canal that is also called customs dock (‘Entrepotdok’). Opposite, on the other side of the water, is Artis. The customs dock is a huge complex of warehouses that was completed in 1829. The warehouses held goods from overseas on a temporary basis before levying excise duties. When the goods were to be transshipped rather than imported no excise duties had to be paid; the area was walled off to discourage smuggling. The total complex comprises 84 + 12 warehouses and is a national historic building. During the period 1984 to 1989 the buildings were restored and converted into private sector and council accommodation.
Artis, the Amsterdam zoological gardens that came into existence in 1838, has since then expanded gradually and steadily. The gardens are home to some 900 different species on a total surface area of 14 hectare. They host also a planetarium, a geological museum and an aquarium house. Many buildings in the zoological gardens date from the 19th century and have in the meantime become national historic buildings.
Another beautiful historic building in this neighborhood is what is now the Trade Union Museum in Henri Polakstraat, designed by architect Berlage. The building is regarded as one of the most important examples of ‘community art’ from the beginning of the 20th century on which a number of interior designers collaborated.
Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, diagonally across from Wertheimpark in the west of the neighborhood, is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. In the garden and greenhouses there are no fewer than 6,000 plants of over 4,000 types. Hortus is located on the fringe of the hectic center of Amsterdam. But behind the 300-year-old entrance gate it is as if the city is holding its breath. Hortus was originally a medicinal herb garden, set up by the Amsterdam city administration in 1638. The city had just experienced a plague epidemic. Herbs were in those days of vital importance as basis for medicines. In Hortus doctors and apothecaries perfected their recipes. The ships of the East Indies Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) enabled Hortus to expand rapidly during the 17th and 18th centuries. The VOC ships brought not only herbs and spices with them, but also exotic decorative plants. Some of the ‘crown jewels’ of Hortus date from this period, such as the 300-year-old East Cape bread tree. In the center of this living museum is the Oranjerie with one of the most attractive outdoor cafes of Amsterdam.
After 1870 Amsterdam experienced due to a series of coinciding reasons, including the expanding diamond industry, a substantial economic revival. In this neighborhood that revival was very obvious. Plantage contains interesting examples of late 19th century architecture, such as the house with the vases (Plantage Middenlaan-corner Plantage Lepellaan) and the Aquarium Building mentioned above. Plantage was also in those days an entertainment center with many theatres. The Artis area, also called Plantagebuurt, has a number of nice restaurants, from lunchrooms to Japanese cuisine. Artis too has a restaurant.
The neighborhood and Artis are easy to reach with tram 9 from Central Station and with tram 14 from the Dam.