The Jordaan Quarter lies just outside the three canal rings of Amsterdam, along the Prinsengracht canal. The Jordaan Quarter is considered a typical Amsterdam neighbourhood. The rich Jordaan history involves immigrants, poverty, social unrest, reflected in the Jordaan folk music and culture.
The Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter is a 17th century neighbourhood that has great restaurants, terraces, lovely sights and with its many small boutiques it’s a good area to do some original shopping.
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Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter
The Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter lies in a long stretch west of Prinsengracht canal, bordered by the Lijnbaansgracht canal to the West. The Jordaan area is split in two by the Rozengracht street. The Northern Jordaan starts at Brouwersgracht, one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful canals. Brouwersgracht is lined with 17th century warehouses, now converted into apartments, recognizable by the typical shutters and a long line of Amsterdam houseboats.
Noordermarket and Lindengracht market
The North part of Jordaan Quarter revolves around two main streets: the quiet Lindengracht with its large market on Saturday and the Noorderkerk church/ Westerstraat, where there is a market on Monday morning.
Small boutiques and brown cafés
The narrow side streets are filled with small boutiques, lovely neighbourhood bakeries, butcher shops and old style brown cafés. Bars in Amsterdam Jordaan bustle with action at weekends when the neighbourhood pops in for a beer.
The Amsterdam Jordaan is an excellent area to find a restaurant. You’ll find typical cafeteria food with a simple ‘pub meal’ style food as well as Indian, pizza and more up scale restaurants.
Amsterdam Jordaan South Side
The Southern area of the Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter revolves around the former canal of Elandsgracht. Here, statues have been placed commemorating the representatives of the Amsterdam folk music that originated in this Amsterdam quarter. Strolling around the cheerful side streets, you’ll find lovely small eateries, deli shops, an English bookshop and other bars and restaurants until you hit Leidseplein. The Jordaan neighbourhood in Amsterdam had a lively music scene in the 20th century. Several of the most popular musicians now have a statue in their memory at Elandsgracht. The Amsterdam Folk Festival, the Jordaanfestival, celebrating the neighbourhood’s music tradition, is held annually.
History of Amsterdam Jordaan
The Jordaan district was created as a area designated to the workers of Amsterdam. During the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), the city economy flourished and thousands of immigrants arrived to the aspiring capital city of the ambitious Republic of the Seven Provinces, looking for work and a better life.
Jordaan quarter during the Golden Age
Amsterdam needed to expand to house the newcomers. For that reason Amsterdam created three new canal rings (Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht), known as the canal belt.
A neighbourhood for the working classes
Along the canals, rich merchants built their impressive canal houses. Along the last canal, the Prinsengracht, a neighbourhood was created especially for the working class, the Jordaan (1612). The working class enjoyed the economic boom. Craftsmen, carpenters, sailors, tailors and all kinds of suppliers worked in the small workplaces, bakeries and factories in the Amsterdam Jordaan quarter.
Jordaan quarter: churches
The population of Amsterdam was very religious. Between 1620 and 1631 two protestant churches were built, both by the same architect: Hendrick de Keyzer. The Westerkerk on the Rozengracht was meant for the rich merchants, the Noorderkerk for the working class. The Westerkerk is the proud owner of the highest tower of Amsterdam. The Noorderkerk however, doesn’t have a tower at all.
Rich merchants also found it very important to care for the elderly and poor. Especially women and non-protestant people set up charity funds to build closed courtyards with small houses for widows and single women as well as orphanages, hospitals for the poor and homes for the elderly.
In the Jordaan quarter there are 21 of these courtyards, many of which are open to the public. Nowadays they still have a social function, housing single women.In summer these courtyards are the location of small concerts, to be visited free of charge.
Poverty in the Jordaan
During the 18th century, the winters became extremely cold (known as the small ice age). All the water, even in the canals froze and the drinking water, transported by boats, could not reach the people.
During the 19th century, the poverty of the Jordaan neighbourhood reaches its peak. The number of people living in the Jordaan kept growing. To house these large families, people start separate the already small houses so a complete family can live in an attic or basement.
In the back of the houses, people built simple shacks to house even more people. These shacks could be reached by narrow corridors between houses and under staircases, creating a labyrinth of slums.
A lack of clean water and sanitation makes the people use the canals for these purposes, making the canals a disease infested area, with very bad smells .
In the 19th century, the Jordaan was the most dens and most impoverished neighbourhood of Amsterdam. Rich Amsterdam inhabitants were worried about these unhygienic situation and started to make big changes. In the second half of the 19th century, the Amsterdam slums were destroyed. What was to become the first private housing corporations of The Netherlands, started large social housing projects to build houses just for the working class.
Filling in of the Amsterdam canals
To further end the spreading of disease by rats living of the waste in the canals and the terrible smell, the Amsterdam council decided to fill in many of the Amsterdam canals in the Jordaan. In Jordaan, the Goudsbloemgracht (gracht means canal in Dutch) became Willemstraat, the Anjeliersstraat became the Westerstraat.
The former canals in the Jordaan area are not difficult to spot. They are much broader than other streets.
Also, many of the names still recall the former canals by having the word ‘gracht’ in them. In whole of Amsterdam, more than 70 canals have been filled in.
Riots in the Jordaan
Though the Jordaan was lifted out of its biggest misery, unemployment and poverty was still going strong among its inhabitants. Explosions of anger and frustrations were frequent. Famous riots are the the Eel riot and the Potato riot, where the people fought large fights with the police force and many lives were lost.
Another big riot was the Jordaan insurrection of 1934, when the Amsterdam communist party started protesting against the lowering of the unemployment benefit. The riots were in the whole city and lasted for days. The riots are remembered every year at July 4, by placing flowers at the monument, a statue of three women by the Dutch artist Sophie Hupkens.
Jordaan culture and music
Though the Jordaan suffered for centuries, the people who were born and lived there had grown attached to their neighbourhood.
The Jordaan gave them not only poverty, but also a feeling of belonging, community and solidartiy.
People from the Jordaan are called Jordanezen. They like kitsch, they have a specific sense of humour (Jordaneze humour), they speak with a strong local accent, they are loud and direct. The love for the Jordaan has been sung in many Jordaan folk music. The Dutch ‘blues’, the hardship but also the friendship of its inhabitants was often the subject of the lyrics.
The most famous singers of this music were made lasting by placing statues of the singer at the so called Johnny Jordaan Square (Johnny Jordaanplein).
Arrival of the yuppies in the Jordaan
In the 20th century though, the Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter went through many changes. Many of the old buildings that could not be restored made way for new constructions, others were renovated and changed into more spacious apartments.
The specific atmosphere, small houses and cheap housing of the Jordaan Quarter attracted students and artists. At the same time, many Jordanezen choose to move to larger and affordable living spaces, moving to new suburbs in Amsterdam and outside Amsterdam.
At the end of the 20th century, the Jordaan became a well known and popular place to live. House prices soared. Still the area has kept its folkish feeling, with a mix of highly educated yuppies, families of higher classes and the old Jordanezen who are left behind. Remarkable is though, that the Jordaan tends to stay a very white neighbourhood. But the old school Jordaan inhabitants complain, that the area has changed for good.
The old Jordanezen only come back to their beloved Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter for a visit of the markets and meetup with their old neighbourhood and friends.