I love wandering around Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, formerly a working class area but now, like many such, the home of trendy cafés, boutique bakeries and craft shops.
The Jordaan was traditionally defined as the area in which you could hear the bells of Westerkerk, described so movingly by Anne Frank in her diaries. The cobbled streets and pretty houses make a picturesque backdrop to a day getting lost along the narrow streets to the west of Prinsengracht, never knowing what I might stumble upon.
The district was built for Amsterdam's working class to live, just outside the ring of grand canals – and grand canal houses – the wealthy merchants built for themselves in the 17th century. It was formerly an area of drainage ditches and the roads still run diagonally down to the main canals following the old watercourses. It was also a place for people to grow kitchen gardens and its name is said to come from the word French immigrants used for it: jardin.
The working class roots remain strong in traditional bars such as Café Nol, where sing-a-longs are still a big draw. In September, the Jordaan Festival offers a full day of such Dutch folk music. Trendier bars have spread out along Rozengracht and Westerstraat, with Westerstraat also making a name for itself with new restaurant openings.
This new side of Jordaan can also be seen in its dozens of art galleries, around 40 at the last count. They specialize in everything from Rock images and contemporary photography to glassware and paintings of Amsterdam itself.
Don’t miss the flea market in front of the Noorderkerk on Monday mornings (9am–1pm), with an added organic farmers’ market all-day Saturday (10am–5pm).