Amsterdam Bijlmer Tour
An urban trip, away from the beaten track
Starting point: Hoekenrode Square on the east side of the Amsterdam Bijlmer train station.
End point: Arena Boulevard, at the west side of the Amsterdam Bijlmer train station.
Bijlmer is a neighborhood that formed in 1966 as an extension of Amsterdam. Before that time Bijlmer was agricultural land.
Following ideas that were fashionable at the time, high-rise residential buildings were built with open park space in between. The buildings, nicknamed honeycomb flats because of their shape, were large, with long corridors and galleries.
An important element of Bijlmer was the separation of fast and slow traffic. Cars used roads on an upper level; cyclists and pedestrians had their own paths on the level below that went through park areas. The bicycle and foot paths turned out to be unsafe, so they fell into disuse. Another quirk of the area is that it was built without churches (in the '60s religion was an archaic notion), so Biljmer's many religious groups created places of worship in old parking lots, abandoned buildings and other nontraditional spaces.
Bijlmer became a problem neighborhood in the 1970s. Crime and drug trafficking were rampant and people stayed away.
A massive urban renewal project started in Bijlmer in 1992. The honeycomb flats were either renovated or demolished. More conventional residences were built. The neighborhood renewal process is ongoing.
Bijlmer is a neighborhood of immigrants from many countries, particularly from Suriname (a former Dutch colony, independent since 1975) and Africa. The roots of the residents are reflected in the shops found here.
There is a strong contrast between old and new, and Bijlmer's ongoing development is still visible, as is the the cultural diversity unique to this part of Amsterdam.
Just next to Bijlmer proper, at the other side of the Bijlmer train station, is the Arena area. This area, with the ArenA Stadium (home of the Ajax soccer club), is developing into Amsterdam's second center, with several large theaters and many shops. The Amsterdamse Poort is the largest shopping mall in Amsterdam.