The Jordaan is probably the most famous neighbourhood in the Netherlands. Akin to the reputation enjoyed by London’s Cockneys, this once working-class bastion was renowned for tight community bonds, radical politics and a love for drink and over-the-top sing-a-longs. Gentrification of decades past worked to attract more galleries, restaurants, specialty shops and upwardly-mobile residents to its higgledy-piggledy scenic streets.
De Jordaan begins at Brouwersgracht, just west of Centraal Station and arches around the Canal Ring between Prinsengracht and Lijnbaansgracht before ending at the Leidsegracht.
The area north of Rozengracht is the more touristy and commercial section though the quieter area south is no less scenic. Traditionally, de Jordaan was defined by the area in which you could hear the bells of Westerkerk - as Anne Frank described in her diaries.
The Jordaan was developed in the 17th century for the working classes and the industry needed to service those living more extravagantly on the Canal Ring. It soon became known for radical leftist politics and was home to the occasional riot (including the improbably named ‘Eel Riot’).
By the 1970s, many of the buildings were in disrepair. But thanks to community efforts new buildings were only built when older ones had completely collapsed. With rising rents, many original residents moved to such satellite cities as Purmerend and Almere, making room for young urban professionals.
The Jordaan is nothing but highlights. Maze-like streets offer hidden courtyards, cafés (both traditional and trendy), art galleries and pleasantly nosy neighbours. One also has access to some of the more scenic outdoor markets in the country. In particular, Noordermarkt has a flea market on Monday mornings and an organic farmers' market on Saturdays.
While still densely populated with around 20,000 residents, it’s nothing compared to the end of the 19th century when it housed five times that much. It’s a real mix here with old-fashioned community-oriented Jordaanese, a vibrant immigrant community and newer families who shuttle their kids to school in a trendy bakfiets (freight bicycle).
The Jordaan retains its strong tradition for education, as symbolised by local educator and writer Theo Thijssen. There are also plenty of playgrounds for kids and the Marnixbad swimming pool.
Eating, drinking, etc
One can join along with the sing-a-longs that still occur in such traditional bars as Café Nol. For those who really love it, enjoy September's Jordaan Festival - a full day of Dutch folk music and classics.
There are many more modern, trendy bars around Noordermarkt and along Westerstraat and Rozengracht. The side-streets that run south of Westerstraat have recently developed into a strong culinary district with some of the city’s more highly regarded restaurants.