Discovering Amsterdam - The Jordaan
The hidden gardens and courtyards of the Jordaan are a delightful secret
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping and entertainment streets of Amsterdam, a maze of canals and beautiful old houses greets tourists who venture into the Jordaan (pronounced Yore-Daan). The neighborhood has seen many transformations over the years, and today it houses some of Amsterdam’s rich and famous side by side with the young and arty. It offers visitors the sigh of curious houseboats, specialty shops and cafes, art studios, street markets and historical landmarks. The Jordaan is part of the canal district that has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2009.
Bloemgracht (flower Canal) In The Jordaan, Scenic VT Editing - West Canal Belt, Amsterdam
A Brief History of the Jordaan
Built in 1612 as an extension of the main city, Jordaan began as a housing district for emigrants and members of the working class. After World War 2, modernization attempts began and the old inhabitants gave way to a new class of affluent entrepreneurs, artists and students. These residents transformed the neighborhood into the vibrant, artistic and affluent place it is today. A beautiful and curious relic that survives from the olden days is the plaques on houses symbolizing the profession of the owners. In an era before street and house numbers, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker and just about everyone else had a distinctive plaque marking their houses, and these ornate designs have lived on in modern times. Don’t forget your camera when you go out hunting for them.
The Jordaan is bounded by four major canals: the Lijnbaansgracht, Brouwersgracht, Prinsengracht and the Passeerdersgracht. The area is easily accessible on foot from both Dam Square and the Central Station . The streets are cycle-friendly and walking is the best way to explore the neighborhood. Trams and buses link the Jordaan to the rest of Amsterdam, and should be preferred over cars, which could be a challenge to park in the area.
The hidden secrets of Jordan
The name Jordaan probably came from the French for garden: Jardin. And the hidden gardens and courtyards of the Jordaan are a delightful secret that the place reveals only to the most dedicated seekers. Some of the courtyards are open to visitors, and a map or a walking tour can help you locate them. On summer Sundays, some of them hosts musical concerts known as hofjesconcerten. And if you’re into music, don’t forget to drop by Johnny Jordaan Plein and stop by at the statues of the famous musicians.
Often compared to the canals of Venice, Jordaan’s beautiful water bodies are lined with elm trees that create perfect photo-ops at every step. Boat rental and boat tours are available to explore the neighborhood from the water, or to have a Dutch-style moving picnic on a sunny day. If you’re walking with kids or have a tendency to get completely engrossed in photography, do remember to stay away from the edges of the road, as most canals do not have a barricade, and beneath the muddy waters lies a world you would rather not explore first-hand.
The Anne Frank House is situated on the edge of the Jordaan, and attracts thousands of visitors a day. Come rain or snow, you’ll find yourself in a serpentine queue to go see the attic where Otto Frank hid his family, including his young daughter Anne who wrote a diary that has become the highest selling book of all time. Join the queue and you will be glad you did. Other notable museums in the area include the houseboat museum , which gives you the chance to visualize life in a boat home. Another treat, this one for music lovers, is the Pianola Museum housed in the Jordan. The Tulip Museum , and a museum dedicated to the famous Dutch writer and educator Theo Thijssen complete your cultural agenda. And don’t forget, the Jordaan is where the great painter Rembrandt spent his last few years.
Sights and landmarks
Bestdam Segway Tours Located In The Jordaan, Scenic VT Editing - West Canal Belt, Amsterdam
It can be said that almost every window in the streets of the Jordaan is a beautiful sight, and you won’t be the first tourist to catch yourself gaping in wonder at the interiors of a residence through a street window. Looking around, you will see the tall tower and spires of the Westerkerk (West Church) at the western edge of the neighborhood, and the Noordekerk in the north. Rembrandt was buried in the Westerkerk, and the bells of the church gave solace to Anne Frank during her years in hiding, and today the church hosts vocal and orchestral concerts.
Eating and shopping
Take a welcome break from high street brands and chain outlets while you’re in the Jordaan. Handcrafted goods, one-of-a-kind clothes, jewelry, antiques and an impressive array of art to suit all tastes awaits you here. From second-hand clothing to specialty boutiques, chocolate art to vegetarian shoes (yes!), you’ll find it all in the Jordaan. On Mondays and Saturdays, the northern part of Jordaan comes alive with vibrant street markets: the Westerstraat Market and the Noordermarkt , where you can sample traditional Dutch food, buy armfuls of flowers (yes, tulips too!) and browse for antiques, books, clothes and more.
When you’re done shopping, sit back, relax and sip some coffee or beer at one of the cafes and restaurants dotting the neighborhood. You can be assured of warm hospitality from the owner, bonhomie from the other patrons, and great views of leafy streets and canals. And yes, there are coffeeshops as well.
So if you’re looking for an Amsterdam experience that is out of the ordinary, spend a few hours in this unique neighborhood, and you’re sure to go back with dreams of living in a houseboat or a quaint canal-side house here someday.