AMSTERDAM — Jordaan

Jordaan is bordered by Lijnbaansgracht canal to the west, the Prinsengracht to the east, the Brouwersgracht to the north and the Leidsegracht to the south. It was originally a working class area but has now become one of the most expensive areas in Amsterdam to live in. In the early 1900s around 80,000 people lived in this area and a lot of these were immigrants but there are now only around 20,000 people living here. The artist, Rembrandt spent the last years of his life in this area. The name Jordaan is thought to have derived from the french word jardin which means garden as most of the streets and canals in the Jordaan area are named after trees or flowers. There are a lot of inner courtyards or hofjes in this area which were built by rich people for elderly women and many of these have been restored and are now occupied by artists. Many of the houses in Jordaan are of particular note and it is interesting to wander around this area and find those that have a stone sign on their facade describing the profession or family sign of the inhabitants. Today the area is home to many art galleries with an emphasis on modern art as well as specialty shops, restaurants and some popular markets.

The sights found here are:
West Indische Huis
Lindengracht
Noordermarkt
Noorderkerk
Pianola Museum
Egelantiersgracht
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Anne Frank House
Westerkerk
Bloemgracht
Theo Thijssen Museum
Electric Lady Land
Woonboatmuseum
Johnny Jordaanplein

West Indische Huis

West Indische Huis
Between 1623 and 1647 this building was used as the headquarters of the West India Trading Company (WIC) which was set up as a way to colonise America and fight the Spaniards overseas. It was given lots of freedom to trade on Africa’s west coast, the Americas, and all the islands of the West Pacific and New Guinea. One of its most infamous trades was the export of 70,000 slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean between 1626 and 1680. In this building the decision was made to buy Manhattan for 60 guilders. The building itself was built in 1617 to be used as a meat market on the ground floor and as a waiting room for the local militia on the upper floor. From 1660 it was used as a hotel for gentlemen and in 1825 it became a home for orphans and the elderly. After renovations in the 1970s and early 1980s it was used as an old people’s home and as a wedding venue. The building is now used by local television production companies and a catering firm. You are allowed to visit the courtyard which you enter at the side of the building on Herenmarkt. There you will see the statue of Peter Stuyvesant who was the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland from 1647 until it was ceded provisionally to the English in 1664 and renamed New York. He was a major figure in the early history of New York City.

Lindengracht

Lindengracht
Lindengracht is a former canal that was filled in at the end of the 19th century and turned into a wide street with two rows of huge lime trees, which the canal is named after, running down the middle. A market has been held here since 1895 and today you can visit the market on Saturdays from 9am until 4pm. It is considered to be one of the best food markets in Amsterdam and is a great place to buy fish, fruit and flowers.

Noordermarkt

Noordermarkt
This area which is found around the Noorderkerk (Northern Church) was the site of a former graveyard but when this was moved a market was held here on Saturdays. Today this market has turned into a popular Farmer’s Market which is held on Saturdays from 9am until 5pm. Local and regional growers sell fresh fruit in season as well as vegetables, meat, cheese and bread all of which is organic. Next to this market is the The Maandag Morgen Noordermarkt known as the Monday Morning Flea Market which is open Mondays from 9am until 1pm and Saturdays from 9am until 5pm. This is a fun market to visit to just watch the locals and their bargaining skills.

Noorderkerk

Noorderkerk
The Northern Church dates from 1620 and was built for the poor Calvinists living in the Jordaan area at the time. The design of the church takes the shape of a Greek cross and there are triangular spaces at each of the four corners which create an octagonal shape at ground level. This design allows all of the congregation to see the pulpit from wherever they sit in the circular pews. Today the church is still a working church and concerts are held here between May and September on Saturdays at 2pm.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.noorderkerk.org/english

Pianola Museum
This a small museum which is devoted to pianolas which were the automatic pianos invented in the USA in 1894. They played music using carbon rolls with punched holes for each musical note and were very popular in their day. Many famous musicians such as Stravinsky wrote music especially for the pianola. In this museum you will find some beautiful and original pianolas including a converted Steinway grand piano/pianola. Concerts are held here regularly and information about these can be found on the website.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.pianola.nl/Pianola_Museum/Welcome.html

Egelantiersgracht

Egelantiersgracht
This very pretty canal is named after the flowering plant called the eglantine which is a type of honeysuckle. The canal has tree-lined streets as well as many brightly coloured flower boxes on its bridges making it a pleasant place to walk on a fine summer’s day. The canal houses around here were built for artisans and are now some of the more desirable residences in this area. On the corner of Egelantiersgracht and Prisengracht at number 110 Prisengracht is the Rock Archive which is a gallery of music photography that you might like to visit if you like rock music. It is open from Wednesday to Friday from 2pm until 6pm and Saturday from 12pm until 6pm. Also along this canal is St Andrieshofje at number 107 - 141 which is one of the many inner courtyards found in the Jordaan area and worth a visit. It was built in 1616 and is one of the oldest and best preserved almshouses. Note the lovely blue-and-white tiled passage leading from the street into the courtyard. This is the famous delftware.

Amsterdam Tulip Museum
The tulip was introduced into the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire, most probably from what is now called Istanbul, in the middle of the 16th century and since then it has been a favourite symbol of the Dutch people. This small private museum shows the history of the tulip and its popularity in the Netherlands. It was established by a Dutch Trading Company trading in flower bulbs. At the museum you will find multimedia displays of the different varieties of tulips and its history. There is also a shop where you can buy bulbs to take home or to have shipped as well as Dutch souvenirs.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.amsterdamtulipmuseum.com

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank House
This building which has been turned into a museum is where Anne Frank and her family as well as another family — the Van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer lived for more than two years. They hid in the annex of the building which was concealed behind a moveable bookcase that had been purpose-built. The building was also Otto Frank’s (Anne’s father) place of business and several of his staff knew of the ‘secret hiding place’ and helped the captives by supplying food and news of the outside world. On August 4, 1944 the hiding place was found by the Nazis and all of the inhabitants were deported to concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived. During her time in the annexe Anne kept a diary about her life there which was turned into a book that has become famous all over the world called The Diary of Anne Frank. Quotations from the diary as well as the original diary itself can be found in the museum. Today you can visit the Secret Annexe which has been left much as it would have been during the time Anne Frank and her family and the others hid here as well as additional exhibits. Your visit around this very moving museum will take around an hour or so depending on the numbers and you may have to wait in parts of the building where it can be quite narrow if there are a lots of people but it is very worthwhile.
For information about the Anne Frank House visit the website at: http://www.annefrank.org

Traveller's Tip

During the summer months this museum can become very busy with long queues. Be aware that during this time the museum is open from 9am until 9pm and the museum tends to be quieter in the evening so this may be the best time to visit if this is possible for you. You can also pre-book tickets online which allows you to go straight to the special entrance left of the main entrance, saving you a lot of queuing time.
  • Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside the Anne Frank House.
  • The Anne Frank House is not accessible for the physically disabled as some of the stairs that can be very steep.
    Westerkerk

    Westerkerk
    This Renaissance church has the tallest tower in Amsterdam and on top of it is the blue, red and gold imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire which was a gift of the Austrian Emperor, Maximilian. Construction began on the church in 1620 and it opened its doors in 1631. It has a striking facade of dark brick and cream marble and the wonderfully light interior has a huge wooden canopy over the pulpit and a magnificent organ. The church is known for containing the tomb of the artist Rembrandt and it was the place of the marriage of Queen Beatrice of the Netherlands.
    For information about this church visit the website at: http://www.westerkerk.nl/index.php?page=welkom-en



    Traveller's Tip

    Take the guided tour of the tower for a wonderful view over the city. Be aware that you will have to climb 186 steps to reach the viewing platform which is halfway up the tower. These steps are very steep in parts and are not suitable for the unfit or physically disabled. If it is windy the tower can sway.
  • The carillon which is a set of 50 bells found on the tower of the church plays every Tuesday from 12pm until 1pm.
    Bloemgracht

    Bloemgracht
    Bloemgracht means Flower Canal and is named after the glorious flower filled windows of the houses that you will see along its banks. As you walk down this very pretty canal you can admire the step-gabled houses especially numbers 87 - 91 which are three beautiful houses with red shutters which date back to 1642. Take note of the plaques above some of the houses along this canal as they will contain information about the buildings such as when they were built and what they were built for.

    Theo Thijssen Museum
    This museum is a reconstruction of the house in which Theo Thijssen, a popular Dutch writer and educator was born. On the ground level of this museum are photos, drawings, manuscripts and an array of personal possessions to show what Thijssen’s life was like. There is a permanent display as well as changing exhibitions about topics that are associated with Thijssen such as his favourite children’s books or the daily life in the Jordaan at the beginning of this century. The museum is found at Eerste Leliedwarsstraat 16 and is open from Thursday to Sunday from 12pm until 5pm. Tickets cost €2.
    For information about this museum visit the website at: http://www.theothijssenmuseum.nl (in Dutch only)

    Electric Lady Land
    This very small museum of fluorescent art is the only one of its kind in the world. The museum is found in the basement of the home of its creator — American artist, Nick Padalino who takes you on a tour of it. The museum is a small cellar-like room with psychedelic sculpture on one side and cases of naturally luminescent rocks and man-made glowing objects on the other side. It is quite fascinating and unusual to say the least.
    For information about this museum visit the website at: http://www.electric-lady-land.com

    Woonboatmuseum

    Woonboatmuseum
    This museum is found in a converted boat built in 1914 called the Hendricka Maria. The Woonboatmuseum provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of the almost 8,000 people who live on houseboats in Amsterdam.
    For information about this museum visit the website at: http://www.houseboatmuseum.nl/engels/index.html

    Johnny Jordaanplein

    Johnny Jordaanplein
    Johnny Jordaanplein (John West Square) is the name given to the front section of the Elandsgracht which is a canal between Prisengracht and the Singel canal. It is named for a popular musician from the 1900s — Johnny Jordaan. On the square is a colourful hut which is a municipal transformer station with lyrics from one of the musician’s songs painted on it. Behind the hut are some bronze statues of Johnny Jordaan; Tante Leen, Manke Nelis and Johnny Mercer who were musical icons from this area.