Jordaan is our favorite neighborhood in all of Amsterdam, let’s start off there. This former working-class area is today one of the most expensive and upscale neighborhoods in the city. It kind of reminds me of the Marais district in Paris, not esthetically but in terms of atmosphere. It’s got beautiful houses, charming canals and bridges, art galleries, museums, markets, cute little shops, plenty of cafés and restaurants, and lovely people.
Here is our pick of things to do in Jordaan.
De Kaaskamer: Cheese Heaven
Antiekcentrum: an Antique Mini Mall
Antiekcentrum doesn’t look like much from the outside, but boy can appearances be deceiving! It is an antique market spread over 1750 sqm, and with more than 70 stands. It sells pretty much anything and everything. If you’re a collector, you will love this place. You’ll find furniture, old paintings, clothes, memorabilia, antique jewellery, silverware, posters, kids toys, and also very weird and creepy things like glass eyes.
If you’ve got a good eye, you’ll find lots of amazing deals here; it’s a real treasure-trove. And if you don’t want to buy anything, that’s okay, this place is just as interesting as a museum. You can get lost in this maze of showcases, and that’s part of the fun.
Pluk is a fairly new spot in Jordaan, perfect for breakfast, a light lunch, or a coffee. The interior is lovely, with fresh flowers, wooden counters, pastel colours, and a small garden in the back. They have an amazing display of freshly baked cakes, and a mini fruit and vegetable market in the entrance. Smoothies, salads, sandwiches, pastries and coffee, the menu is simple, healthy and delicious. Plus the café is also a shop that sells very nice kitchenware, cookbooks, candles, etc.
Tulip Museum: the Story Behind the Iconic Flower
The tulip was introduced in the Netherlands in the 16th century, from the Ottoman Empire. It quickly became very popular and competition arose among growers of the flower. Who was going to have the most beautiful tulip? At one point, stock exchanges were established to start trading in tulip bulbs. People paid a lot of money for a bulb, and the prices kept rising and rising, until a single rare bulb cost more than a house! But the market crashed a few years later, leaving some people without a house but with some lovely flowers.
This period of time is called Tulip Mania. The tulip is today a national symbol and the Dutch still love this flower.
The Tulip Museum is a small private museum in Jordaan, right across from the Anne Frank House, that explains the fascinating history of the tulip. They have a beautiful collection of tulip paintings and the shop is also very nice. If you’re looking for a souvenir or a tulip bulb, it is a great place to go.
Anne Frank Huis: Warning, You Will Probably Cry
If you don’t know the story of Anne Frank, here is a recap. During World War II, Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution in the back of a canal house in the Jordaan district. She stayed hidden with her family and four other people for two years, but was then arrested and deported to a concentration camp. During her time in the “Secret Annex”, she wrote in her journal about her experience. Like many others, she perished before the war ended. Of the eight hidden, only her father Otto Frank survived. He recovered her diary and published it in 1947.
The Anne Frank Foundation was later established to protect the property from being demolished by developers. The museum opened in 1960 and is today the 3rd most visited museum in the Netherlands. I recommend getting tickets before your trip if you don’t want to wait a long time in line.
The hiding places have been preserved, and a permanent exhibition has been added to talk about the life of Anne Frank, but also all forms of persecution and discrimination.
It felt very strange walking through the bookcase that hid the entrance of the annex. You find yourself having to crawl on your knees and hands up a very steep staircase and then entering a small apartment. Apparently the total surface of the place was 46 sqm, and they were two families living there that didn’t even know each other. You walk through the empty rooms, and you can still feel the atmosphere of that time. They’ve installed quotations from the diary, historical documents, photographs and original objects that belonged to the people in hiding. Anne’s original diary is part of the exhibition, and you can imagine her writing in it, stuck in her tiny room and frustrated to not be able to live a normal life.
Then you step out of the annex, and they show you videos and interviews of survivors, of her father talking about her. And that was when a few tears fell from my face. It’s one thing to learn about a terrible period in time in school, but a whole other thing to be confronted to the place where it really happened.
Winkel 43: the Best Apple Pie in the World (Sorry Grandma)
We had discovered this place on our first trip to Amsterdam a few years ago. And the taste of this apple pie had stayed with us ever since. So when we visited Jordaan again this year, we of course had to stop for a piece of that deliciousness! But this time, there were people queuing outside the café! That’s just how good it is.
Winkel 43 is no longer a secret, people come for the pie. The apple pies are everywhere. There’s pie on the outdoor terrace, pie on the small wooden tables inside, pie waiting to be served on the counter, and pie filling the mouths of everyone. I’ve heard that they serve more than 1000 pieces of pie a day!
The best part of this apple pie isn’t actually the apples, which seems kind of silly because we are talking about apple pie here. Don’t get me wrong the cinnamon-coated apples are delicious, but it’s the crust that’s the real winner. It is so amazing, I’ve never tasted anything like it! It’s thick and crumbly, sweet and buttery, it’s made of dreams. The apple pie is served with whipped cream, which makes it even more intense and yummy. So like everyone else, we waited our turn for this delight, and left happy. Please be patient, don’t leave because of the queue, it is so worth the wait.
I have now made it my mission to recreate it at home!
Haarlemmerstraat: the Best Shopping Street in Amsterdam
Most shopping streets have the same shops and the same stuff on offer. If you’re tired of that, then Haarlemmerstraat is a nice change. It’s a great spot for browsing through quirky shops, dining and having a drink. Located north of the Jordaan district, Haarlemmerstraat has more than 200 stores selling clothes, accessories, toys, books, electronics, specialty delicatessen, etc. I bought two packs of Hagelslag (Dutch chocolate sprinkles) in a grocery store there, I was so happy as I hadn’t had Hagelslag since my childhood.
I really like Restored. It’s a lovely shop with handmade items and unique jewellery, clothing and home decor by local designers.
The &klevering shop is also very cool, selling beautiful tableware, books, cute objects, and fun things like this rooster jug.
After walking down this long street, we went to see a movie at The Movies. Yes that is the actual name of the cinema, and it is the oldest one in Amsterdam. They show blockbusters as well as more independent art films. It was opened in 1912, and it still has the art deco charm of the old cinemas. The door to the theatre looked like a wardrobe, I thought I was going to Narnia.
Going out of the cinema, we were starving so we went to the restaurant right across the street. It was an Italian restaurant named Toscana. We had a lovely dinner, the food was very good.
Walking through Jordaan to go back to our Airbnb, we stumbled upon this gorgeous mosque. The water on the canal in front of the mosque was so still it was beautiful. The building was designed by French architects Marc and Nada Breitman, and built in 2015. It is a replica of the Aya Sofia Mosque in Istanbul. Made with red bricks and white lines, it is really one of a kind. It is also the largest mosque in the Netherlands and can hold up to 1700 people.
De Hallen: the Hotspot of Hotspots
De Hallen is probably the place we visited the most during our trips to Amsterdam. Created in the old tram depot, of Jordaan, it is home to a large public library, a cinema, a hotel, a bicycle store, and other great shops.
We really enjoyed the Maker Store, where we probably would have bought everything if we were rich. They sell lots of original things, gifts, photography books, clothes, food, and also some weird stuff, like these cans of “real shit”. You’ll certainly find some fun things to bring back to your friends!
De Hallen is also home to De Foodhallen. It is an indoor food market with restaurant stalls serving Dutch classics, Vietnamese, Mexican, burgers and hot dogs, fish, cheese, Japanese, beers and other drinks, cakes. The choice is very large which makes it the perfect place to hang out with friends as everyone can get what they like. Be warned though, Foodhallen is a very busy place, so if you manage to find a table, don’t let it go!
We went there four times in total I think. Although there are lots of restaurants in Jordaan, we couldn’t get enough of this place. We tried the burgers at The Butcher (good but not excellent or worth the wait). The hot dogs at Bulls & Dogs (the best hot dog I’ve had in my life, the bread is insanely good and the different recipes of hot dogs they offer are delicious). The tacos at Taqueria Lima (very good, take a platter to share). And the bitterballen at De Ballenbar (you can get 5 bitterballen with different tastes like bouillabaisse, truffle, or thom khi kai, very original and yummy). We also had a small caramel and chocolate tart from Petit Gateau, which was very good as well.
Honestly we could’ve eaten there every night as there are so many stalls to taste from.
The Breakfast Club: Not the Movie
If you don’t know the movie, please go watch it now, it is iconic. This place in Jordaan has nothing to do with the movie though, except maybe the decor like the school chairs and tables. But never mind that, this café serves breakfast all day long, and their breakfast is delicious!
Lucas had some excellent huevos rancheros with fried eggs, black beans, avocado, jalapenos, cheddar and tortillas. And I had eggs benedict with an avocado hollandaise sauce, and a hazelnut iced coffee. Then we went back another day and shared a big plate of blueberry pancakes with lemon mascarpone and bacon bits, they were so good I wanted to order some more.
Jutka & Riska: Vintage Fashion at its Best
Jutka & Riska is a Dutch fashion label created by two sisters. They sell some of their own designs, as well as hand-picked vintage and designer pieces. You can get dresses, suits, bags, belts, other accessories, from unknown vintage to brands like Gucci. What I loved was that the shop was organized by colour, which is very satisfying. They also have fun objects as decoration, like barbies, vinyls and retro things.
I saw a gorgeous midnight blue cashmere sweater that was so soft I would have never taken it off. Unfortunately it was a bit too pricey for me but it probably made some other girl very happy.
Although we’ve managed to come up with a list of our favorite spots in Jordaan, it is by no means a complete list of things to do in the neighborhood. The best way to discover the area is to walk, get lost in all the small streets, discover secret courtyards, enter small shops that don’t look particularly attractive from the outside, go people watching at a café, and just enjoy Amsterdam.