The Jordaan Quarter lies along the Prinsengracht canal. Traditionally, the Jordaan is a working class area, built for the workers and immigrants in the 17th century. Today Jordaan Quarter is home to many small boutiques, cosy brown cafés and restaurants. Typical of the Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter are its many narrow streets, beautiful houses and markets.
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Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter
Noordermarkt and Lindengracht market
The North part of Jordaan Quarter revolves around two main streets. The Lindengracht, a former canal hosts a market on Saturday. Around the Noorderkerk church and in the Westerstraat there is a popular vintage market on Monday morning.
RECOMMENDED READ: Markets in Amsterdam
Small boutiques and brown cafés
The narrow streets of in Jordaan 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.
Guided Tour in Jordaan
The best way to see the Jordaan is to take a guided tour. I would be happy to show around on a private guide tour! Please ask for prices and availability by email.
Amsterdam Jordaan Elandsgracht
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.
History of Amsterdam Jordaan
The Jordaan district was created for the workers of Amsterdam. During the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), the city economy flourished. Thousands of immigrants flocked to the aspiring capital city of the ambitious Republic of the Seven Provinces, to look for work and a better life.
Jordaan quarter during the Golden Age
To house all these newcomers, Amsterdam needed to expand. For that reason Amsterdam dug three new canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht), known as the canal belt.
RECOMMENDED READ: Amsterdam Canal Houses
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. This was 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.
The churches of the Jordaan
The population of Amsterdam was very religious. Between 1620 and 1631 two protestant churches were built. Both churches were built 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.
Courtyards for charity
Rich merchants considered it their duty to care for the elderly and poor people. Especially women and non-protestant people set up charity funds.
The funds were used to set up enclosed housing around a courtyard and hospitals for the poor. Widowers and single women could live in these ‘courtyards’. The funds were also used to build orphanages, hospitals for the poor and homes for the elderly.
In the Jordaan quarter there are 21 of these courtyards. Many of these can be visited. Some still have a social function, housing single women. Most are part of the social housing program.
Poverty in the Jordaan
In the 18th century, the economic boom of Amsterdam was finished. Many people could not find work. Winters became extremely cold. This period is known as a small ice age. The water in the canals froze. Clean drinking water, transported by boats, could not reach the people. These were hard times, especially for the working class people living in Jordaan.
In the 19th century, the Jordaan was the most dense and most impoverished neighbourhood of Amsterdam. The number of people living there kept growing. To house these large families, people divided up houses into more room, so a complete family could live there. Attics and basement, not suited for healthy living, were used to house the growing population.
In the back of the houses in the Jordaan, 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.
Riots in the Jordaan
Explosions of anger and frustrations were frequent. Famous riots are the Eel riot and the Potato riot, where the people fought with the police and many lives were lost.
Another big riot was the Jordaan insurrection of 1934. The Amsterdam communist party protested against the lowering of the unemployment benefit. The resulting riots spread across the entire city and lasted for days. These riots are remembered every year at July 4. Flowers are placed at a moment a the foot of the Noorderkerk, a statue of three women by the Dutch artist Sophie Hupkens.
Filling in of the Amsterdam canals
Sanitation became a problem when people emptied waste and their toilets in the canals. The canals in the Jordaan became infected and infectious diseases like cholera and dysentery spread quickly.
To end the spreading of disease by rats living from the waste in the canals and the terrible smell, the Amsterdam council decided to fill in canals in the Jordaan. Many of the names still recall the former canals by having the word ‘gracht’ (canal) in them (Rozengracht, Elandsgracht). In the whole of Amsterdam, more than seventy canals have been filled in.
Social housing in Jordaan
Rich Amsterdam inhabitants and employers were also worried about the bad living conditions in the Jordaan. In the second half of the 19th century they started to raise funds to build social housing for the working class. It wasn’t until the 1990s however, that the Jordaan had its real full scale renovation.
Jordaan culture and music
Though the Jordaan suffered for centuries, the people who were born and lived there grew very attached to their neighbourhood. The Jordaan gave them not only poverty, but also a feeling of belonging, community and solidarity.
People from the Jordaan are called Jordanezen. They are considered ‘typically Amsterdam. They speak with a strong local accent, use bad language, are loud and direct. They have a tast for the kitch and have a specific sense of humour (Jordaneze humour).
The old folks from JOrdaa also have a love for their folk music. The Jordaan ‘blues’, the hardships, but also the friendship of its inhabitants is often 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).
Gentrification of 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 atmosphere, small and cheap houses attracted students and artists to Jordaan. At the same time, many Jordanezen choose to move to larger and affordable living spaces, moving to new suburbs in Amsterdam and outside Amsterdam, especially Almere.
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.