Bruine kroeg (brown cafes) – such as Café ’t Smalle on the Egelantiersgracht – are local bars named for their tobacco-stained walls, although smoking is now banned. This café and gin distillery in the historic Jordaan area was opened in 1786 by Pieter Hoppe, founder of the now-famous Dutch Hoppe brand of gin.
Amsterdam – Been There

Crossing to Amsterdam's Jordaan area

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Amsterdam – Been There Crossing to Amsterdam's Jordaan area

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.

Jochem Wijnands
Jochem Wijnands Founder / photographer

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).

067-10049439-11 Amsterdam

Lacking stone or granite, the Dutch used their abundant clay to make bricks and developed the distinctive housing style seen here in Café Papeneiland. The decorative trapgevel, or “step-gables”, also allowed chimney sweeps or roofers easier access to tall buildings in a time when long ladders were not readily available. Photo by Frans Lemmens / Getty Images

Frans Lemmens

Frans Lemmens

NIKON F100

Agency
Getty Images
Aperture
ƒ/5.6
Exposure
1/125
ISO
50
Focal
24 mm

Lacking stone or granite, the Dutch used their abundant clay to make bricks and developed the distinctive housing style seen here in Café Papeneiland. The decorative trapgevel, or “step-gables”, also allowed chimney sweeps or roofers easier access to tall buildings in a time when long ladders were not readily available.

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Wolvenstraat, part of the 9Streets with trendy shops and cafés in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam.

7 cliché activities in Amsterdam you will actually enjoy

Amsterdam is one of those cities that is drenched in clichés. I’ve overheard people saying that they thought Amsterdam was itself a country (Holland clearly isn’t interesting enough to benefit from word of mouth publicity), that the Dutch  all wear wooden shoes (imagine the pain!), that Amsterdam is  covered in tulips, and that literally everyone   smokes weed. All. Day. Long. I’m not here to smash your dreams into a thousand tiny pieces, but that’s plain bullcheese. On the other hand, some Amsterdam clichés are true and are definitely worth giving a try. They aren’t clichés for nothing, am I right?