The Jordaan was built at the large expansion of the city in 1612, as a district for the working class and emigrants, like protestant Fleming, Spanish and Portuguese Jews and French Huguenots who mainly settled in the Jordaan.
It was planned west from the 'grachtengordel' (the main canals: Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht), that were built for rich merchants. Because the street pattern was based on old ditches and paths, it differs entirely from the rest of the old city centre.
It was a poor district with small houses and slums, every little room stuffed with families and lots of children. The entire area was one ghetto with open sewers, canals served for both transport and sewer, and no running water. Around 1900 there lived about 80 thousand people, nowadays about 20 thousand.
Famous inhabitants of the Jordaan
The famous 17th century German-Dutch writer and playwright Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) lived in the Jordaan. As a legacy, Amsterdam's biggest park, the Vondelpark, bears his name, as well as his statue in the northern part of the park. But without a doubt painter Rembrandt van Rijn has been the most famous inhabitant of the Jordaan district. For financial reasons he had to sell his stately residence building at the Jodenbreestraat, to move to a more modest accommodation on the Rozengracht (still a canal at that time). His studio was at the Bloemgracht. Rembrandt died in 1669 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Westerkerk (Western Church).
Painter and photographer George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) used to live on the Lauriersgracht 8.
In the seventies a large modernisation was started. By then the district was discovered by a new generation occupants: artists, students, young entrepreneurs. The old inhabitants moved to other neighborhoods and cities like Almere, Lelystad, Zaandam and Purmerend. Partly by these new inhabitants the Jordaan has changed from a slum area to a district for artist, still living on low rent, and the rich who bought the very expensive renovated houses. Nowadays the Jordaan is compared to the rest of the town an oasis of peace with a labyrinth of narrow streets and little canals, nice for strolling around courtyards, art studios, and monumental buildings with stone tablets, old-fashioned "brown" pubs, boutiques or galleries.
On Saturdays you will find the Lindenmarkt, a general market, on the Lindengracht and a biological food market at the Noordermarkt. On Mondays a flea market is organised at the Noordermarkt and a nice fabric market on the Westerstraat. At the Noordermarkt you can visit the Noorderkerk (Northern Church), designed by Hendrick de Keyser in 1620-23.
The Jordaan has a high concentration of hofjes (inner courtyards), beautiful yards with little houses and peaceful gardens. These courtyards were built by rich people for older women: a kind of charity and protection. At the beginning of the seventies most of these courtyards were in very bad shape, like the rest of the neighborhood. After there restoration they were discovered by artist, students and still some older people. Some of the courtyards are closed to the public, and only opened on special days ('open monuments days').
The Jordaan is a very attractive place to stay overnight. It's a quiet and centrally located area with a rich history. Most hotels are situated in former canal houses that still breathe the historical atmosphere of the old Jordaan.
Recommended hotels in the immediate area:
Pulitzer Hotel ***** Prinsengracht 315-331
Hotel van Onna *** Bloemgracht 102-104-108
The Shelter Jordan Bloemstraat 179
The most common theory on the origin of the name is as a derivation of the French word jardin, meaning garden. Most streets in the Jordaan are named after flowers.
Go Fun Shopping in the Jordaan (shopping route)
View Breitner's photographes of the Jordaan at the end of the 19th century.
Songs about the Jordaan