The Amsterdam 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, cozy brown cafés, and restaurants. Typical of the Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter are its many narrow streets, markets, courtyards, and beautiful houses.
7 Reasons to visit Jordaan
1. The markets of Jordaan
Every Saturday the Lindengracht and Noorderkerk square host a popular food market. Around Noorderkerk on Saturday you can buy and try the most delicious organic foods from local producers.
Around the Noorderkerk church and in the Westerstraat there is a popular market on Monday morning. The Noordermarkt market around Noorderkerk is a great market to stroll around, especially if you like vintage clothes and shoes and antiques. Be there early, as it can get crowded.
2. Shopping, brown bars and restaurants
The narrow streets of Jordaan are filled with small boutiques, lovely neighborhood 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 upscale restaurants.
3. The History of Jordaan
The Jordaan was created in the 17th century as an area for the workers of Amsterdam. During the Dutch Golden Age, thousands of immigrants flocked to the capital of the ambitious Republic of the Seven Provinces.
Many newcomers were refugees, Jewish and French (Huguenots). The Jordaan was created as a place to work, with small factories and workspaces.
Povery and illness in Jordaan
From the end of the 18th century, the Jordaan saw a terrible rise in poverty. Thousands of large families lived in small, dark and damp quarters. A system of slums with hundreds of narrow corridors lead into a maze of courtyards behind the houses.
Diseases like typhus, dysentery, and malaria hid in the canals of the Jordaan, spreading sickness and death. In the 19th century, the horrible unhygienic situation was so bad, that the council of Amsterdam decided to fill in many of the canals.
4. Famous in the Jordaan: The Courtyards
Very famous in Jordaan are the ‘Courtyards’, in Dutch: Hofjes. These are secluded courtyards with housing for poor women dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. In those days, rich merchants took it upon themselves to care for the elderly and poor. Especially women and non-protestant people set up charity funds, often leaving their inheritance to a new ‘Hofje’.
Widows 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. See map above to find the courtyards in Jordaan.
5. The Churches of the Jordaan
The population of Amsterdam used to be 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 built for the rich merchants. The Westerkerk, next to the Anne Frank House is the proud owner of the highest spiral of Amsterdam. You can climb the tower in the summer! At the Keizersgracht canal, there are 3 triangles, forming the Gay Monument.
The Noorderkerk doesn’t have a tower at all. It was built for the working class of Amsterdam.
6. 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 taste for kitsch and have a specific sense of humor (Jordaneze humor).
The people from the Amsterdam Jordaan also share a love for music. The typical Jordaan folk music tells of the ‘blues’, the hardships, but also the friendship of its inhabitants. 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).
There are some cafés left where you can still find this ‘typical Jordaan’ lifestyle, attitude and music. See map for those brown bars.
7. Hipster and expats culture in Jordaan
In the 20th century though, the Amsterdam Jordaan 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. Even though the Jordaan is now completely gentrified, the area has kept some of its folkish feelings. You can meet the old Jordanezen in the markets when they are loud and chat with the sellers and their old neighbors.