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7 things to do in The Jordaan

If, like us, you’re fantasising about moving to Amsterdam, you’ll probably also be lusting after the city’s most sought-after residential neighbourhood, a one time working class district that has been thoroughly gentrified, but retains a charming atmosphere all of its own. The Jordaan is a very popular district for visitors, and a good place to be based. It has some lovely hotels in canalside buildings, a range of great eating places, charming views, historic buildings, quirky shops and an atmosphere all of its own.

According to dyed-in-the-wool locals, the true Jordaaner is born within earshot of the Westerkerk bells, which means that there are endless arguments as to quite where the district’s southern boundary lies, though at least the other borders are clear – Prinsengracht, Brouwersgracht and Lijnbaansgracht.

The streets just north of Leidsegracht – often deemed to be the southern border – are more modern. On the western side of the centre, the Jordaan is an area of slender canals and narrow streets and despite the small size of many of the houses in this area, they are among the most expensive in the whole country.

The Jordaan is the place to live in Amsterdam, and definitely a must-see for visitors. In the 1970s, parts of the Jordaan were earmarked for demolition, but thanks to widespread protests, the narrow streets were preserved, complete with period features such as ornate hanging street lamps.

Elandsgracht

The narrow streets and canals just to the north of the Looiersgracht are pleasant, but Elandsgracht holds a couple of places of particular interest. At no 109, vintage fans should pop into the enjoyable indoor antiques centre Antiekcentrum Amsterdam, while football enthusiasts may want to take a peek at the Smit-Cruyff sports shop at Elandsgracht 98, where Johan Cruyff – star of Ajax in the 1970s and one of the greatest players of all time – bought his first pair of football boots.

Bloemgracht

If you’re short on time, this is one area to make sure you get to. The streets and canals between Rozengracht and Westerstraat form the heart of the Jordaan and hold the district’s prettiest sights. In need of a quintessential Amsterdam picture for the ‘gram? You could do worse than take it here.

North of Rozengracht, the first canal is the Bloemgracht (Flower Canal), a leafy waterway dotted with houseboats and arched by sweet little bridges, its network of cross-streets sprinkled with enticing cafés, cool bars and idiosyncratic shops. There’s a warm, relaxed community atmosphere here which is really rather beguiling, not to mention a clutch of fine old canal houses.

Tulip Museum

With a slightly misleading name – as it’s more of a shop than a museum – the Tulip Museum sells all sorts of flower-related items upstairs, while down below is an exhibition on the history of the tulip.

Westerstraat

If you’re seeking a weekend brunch spot, there are some cracking options on and around busy Westerstraat. But the cafés and patio tables are a delightful place to pull up a chair at any time. Watch the cyclists and foot traffic glide by with a coffee in hand.

Pianola Museum

Still on Westerstraat, you’ll find the small but charming Pianola Museum, which has a collection of pianolas and automatic music machines dating from the beginning of the twentieth century, fifteen of which have been restored to working order. These machines were the jukeboxes of their day, and the museum has a vast collection of over fifteen thousand rolls of music, some of which were “recorded” by famous pianists and composers – Gershwin, Debussy, Scott Joplin and others.

Karthuizerhofje

Tucked away behind a white doorway, the seventeenth-century Karthuizerhofje is the largest of Jordaan’s hofjes (almshouses). The substantial courtyard complex has picket-fenced gardens and old ornate water-pumps, and makes a peaceful port of call if you’re dazed from canal traversing.

Scheepvaartbuurt and Westerdok

Brouwersgracht marks both the northern edge of the Jordaan and the southern boundary of the Scheepvaartbuurt – the Shipping Quarter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this district boomed from its location between the Brouwersgracht and the Westerdok, a parcel of land dredged out of the River IJ immediately to the north and equipped with docks, warehouses and shipyards. The Westerdok hung on to some of the marine trade until the 1960s, but today the area is busy reinventing itself, as the old warehouses are turned into apartments.

The Westerpark provides a spot of green for the locals, and the Westergas-fabriek, a former gasworks, has been turned into a cultural zone full of design companies and restaurants; it hosts a fashion market on the first Sunday of each month. This is a fabulous place to seek out top-notch food in stylish, post-industrial surrounds, mingle with the city’s cool folk or even hit the dance floor.

Hit up the pink-toned Conscious Café for a self-styled “sexy grab and go” – ideal for coffee and lunch or snacks to eat al fresco; sample craft beers (and line your stomach with a burger) at Brouwerij Troost; or break with traditional food and drink combinations and sample mussels and gin together at, you guessed it, Mossel & Gin.

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