Amsterdam Sights

Hofjes   courtyard with almshouses

Almshouses - a hidden oasis of peace and quiet

Almshouses (or inner courtyards) are collections of small apartments (usually 12 or 13 in number) around a central courtyard featuring a well-tended garden, often with a single gateway to the outside world, tucked away behind the street facades and canals of Amsterdam's inner city.

The first 'hofjes' were founded in the 13th century and are a typical Dutch phenomenon. Most of them were built in the 17th century as a kind of charity and protection. Wealthy Amsterdammers built them to shelterKarthuizerhof elderly widows, for free, in the last years of their life. Nowadays they are inhabited mostly by students and artists but still remain a serene oasis frozen in time. Still, you are free to enter and look at the gardens and entryways, as long as you don't break the peace.

Especially the Jordaan has a high concentration of hofjes. A fine example of one of these courtyards, and one of the largest of Amsterdam, is the Karthuizerhof in the Jordaan. It was built in 1650, and listed on the inside of the gate are the names of charitable donors who made it possible for the city to build the house.

The most famous of all courtyards in Amsterdam is the Begijnhof and dates back to the 15th century. This courtyard was originally inhabited by Begijntjes (Beguines), religious women who didn't want to enter a convent.

You'll find more almshouses in the low countries of Belgium and the Netherlands, starting in the tumultuous mid-1600s, a time of religious upheaval, the Spanish Inquisition, and plague.

City Walk

Take a walking tour along the inner courtyards of the Jordaan.

Van Brienenhofje
Van Brienenhofje courtyard from 1797 was only opened to Catholics who were living at the limit of poverty. Prinsengracht 85-133

Discover Amsterdam's Almshouses

City walk

courtyards of the Jordaan


Enclosed courtyard dating back to the early 14th century, peaceful place, cut off from Amsterdam's traffic noice.


A short history of Amsterdam

Jordaan Quarter

famous for its narrow streets, nice boutiques, cafes and markets