The Jordaan is one of those places everyone has heard of… but nobody knows what it is…
The Jordaan, to answer one of the most popular questions about it, is a district in the centre of Amsterdam. any pilgrim to this fair city will likely pass through it, some without knowing and some with huge celebration. This trendy area of town is known for tiny streets, hidden alleyways, and some really gorgeous bridges. When you stroll through the Jordaan, it is said that you are strolling through the Venice of the North.
We wanted to take a few minutes to appreciate this find district and delight in all it has to offer. If you are planning a visit to Amsterdam for a holiday, short break, or even to move there, you ought to familiarise yourself with this stunning area. Having said that, the clients that come to us usually have a full week or two of events to plan for their visit. If this is you, then head to our home pages. There are loads of other locations in and around the city that are set to surprise you.
For now, let’s turn to the Jordaan and get you the Lilly Likes scoop on what you can see and do there…
Getting to Know the Jordaan – History in the Making
You will find the Jordaan in Centrum, situated between the Singelgracht, the Frederik Hendrikbuurt, the Prinsengracht and the Brouwergracht areas. It’s all a bit of a mouthful, we know. To complicate things more, it is home to three markets: the Noordemarkt, the Westerstraat, and the Lindengracht. On the edge of it, you will find Ann Frank’s house. The Jordaan is also home to the Westerkerk, famously painted by the masters. Of those masters, Rembrandt lived in this district of Amsterdam. He is buried in the Westerkerk’s graveyard.
The Jordaan has an unusual pattern of buildings in comparison to the city around it. This is due to its early construction back in 1612. It was dotted with canals, of which it is believed that the Prinsengracht Canal was nicknamed the Jordaan after the River Jordan, and the name stuck. Back when it was first built, however, it was called the New Work (Het nieuw wreck).
The Jordaan was constructed with all most its streets naming flowers and it has long been speculated that this ties in with the name, the French word for garden is a Jardin, and rumour has it this adds to the legend of the name.
When it was originally built it was to house the overwhelming number of refugees that flooded into the city due to the wars throughout Europe. Amsterdam was always renowned as a liberal city which wouldn’t prosecute on religious or moral grounds. Understandably, many fled here to avoid the wrath of one organisation or another. Although built in the 17th century, it is thought that some 80,000 people lived there… all of this before sewer systems were invented and hundreds of years before the rich merchants claimed the area as their own.
This massive overpopulation would lead to a plague in the 1660’s. The population of the city was well over 200,000 when the disease hit. It is thought to have come from Africa and been brought in on the trade ships. For three years the city was ravaged by the plague, which even killed Rembrandt’s partner at the time. It is thought that the plague wiped out around 10% of the city’s population before it died out. One week in 1664 saw more than a thousand burials. The people of the Jordaan suffered horrendously during this period.
Time would see this district of Amsterdam rise and fall. During the Napoleonic wars, for example, the fortunes of the people in the Jordaan reached their lowest ever point. Eventually, in the 19th century, the people were given working sewerage systems and health services. 6 of the canals in the area were filled in to make more room for people, and the tribulations presented by an overpopulated city shortly fell under the government’s control. as of 1815 onwards, life got better for those in the poorest part of the city.
The Industrial Revolution brought a double-edged sword to the people of Amsterdam. It brought work, money, and an influx of immigrants to the city – but they didn’t have anywhere to live. The building of the Stelling van Amsterdam in the end of the 19th century did a little to lessen the cramped feeling about town. Later, two World Wars would also see the Jordaan transformed. Around 20,000 people still live there… but the fortunes of the peopke have been drastically reversed.
The 19th century saw many courtyard gardens added to the area as acts of charity by the rich. This later marked the district as an attractive place to live, since it was quite beautiful. One-by-one, recent years have seen these restored, and the Jordaan has gone back to its roots of being the garden part of the city. What started as a haven for the poorer classes has become the best-off end of thecity. Nowadays, the Jordaan is where you go if you want to spend some cash!
Now that we know the history, let’s talk modern day. What exactly can you see or do on the Jordaan nowadays?
The Modern Day Jordaan District
A metro line connecting this part of the city with the rest became the start of something wonderful. Cultural life in this section of the city has arisen from the ashes, bringing a huge artistic vibe to the area. Nowasdays, you can’t go more than a few streets in the Jordaan without encountering an art gallery!
Bistros, boutiques, and some of the more expensive shops in the city can all be found here, as well as the markets we mentioned earlier. Sailing down the canal to see the same sight of the Westerkerk as the masters once did has become particularly popular. Every year, Jordaanfestival rolls thorough the area and the people celebrate their culture and customs. You can enjoy several museums here, too, with the Jordaanmuseum being one of the top contenders.
When to Visit the Jordaan
you should make a point of strolling through the Jordaan whenever you are in the city. If you want to shop designer, or buy some art, this is where you go to do it. Stop by to enjoy live music, browse the courtyards, or otherwise enjoy the garden in central Amsterdam. If you want somewhere to chill while you are there, the Coffeeshop Paradox is also in the area… You know what they say about being in Rome, right?