Jordaan . . Famous Quarter
Nederlandse versie updated  14-01-2008
Keitje's Home
 » famous quarter
    urban renewal
    north to south
    green & on-green
the complainer
beginning       nowadays       popularity       filming



Early 17th century Amsterdam was overpopulated, caused by the stream political refugees like protestant Fleming, Spanish and Portugese Jews and (mainly settling in the Jordaan) French Huguenots. To house the boosting rich merchands there will be a new expansion build outsides the city ramparts of the Singel in the shape of 3 concentric canals, now better known as the Grachtengordel (canal girdle). An expansion on such a scale also needs a large amount of ground- and construction workers and (mostly Jewish) craftsmen. For them begins in 1640 behind the western part of the Prinsengracht the development of a vertical piece of swampy peat and some farmland with monasteries. The latter come later in the hands of charitable institutions. The expansion is named the Nieuwe Werck (new project) , after 1710 (some say 1691) known as the Jordaan. The existing ditches and walks for the layout are used, contrary to the fancy adjacent western canal girdle which layout is designed on the drawing board

The environmentally unfriendly and hazardous businesses and workshops are not allowed into the Grachtengordel and end up in the Jordaan. Small businessman and skilled craftsmen from Antwerp and France come here, among them many Safardic Jews seeking refuge from the Spanish conqueror. Followed some twenty years later by Ashkanazy Jews coming from eastern Europe.

        the Jordaan is born

Small, ramshackle houses, every little room stuffed with families with lots of children. Also artists come living here because of the low rents: Rembrandt's atelier was on the Bloemgracht and he lived on the Rozengracht. The famous 17th century Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel and photographer Breitner lived in the Jordaan.

The origin of Jordaan has several possible explanations:
From the French Jardin for the street and plant names.
From the French Jardin for the previous market gardens. #1
From Jordanne, a small river in France where a group immigrants came from. #2
To Jourdain, one of the settlers.
To a house in the Lindengracht called De Jordaan. #3
To the Prinsengracht, possible previously called Jordane. #3
A corruption of jurisdictie, which is the name of the strategical strip of land outside the ramparts. #4

  #1 "Walks through the Jordaan, past and present"; 1997 Island Publishers Amsterdam
  #2 "De Jordaan gaat nooit verloren"; 1997 Island Publishers Amsterdam
  #3 according to M. de Ruiter
  #4 "Het Nieuwe Werck: de Jordaan, aan de voet van de oude Wester"; 1997 BMZ

In the 19th century become living conditions in the overpopulated and poor slums even worse and around 1900 virtually the entire area was one ghetto with open sewers and no running water. In the early seventies the city government wanted to flatten the whole Jordaan and build up a brand new district. With the help of protesting citizens the plan to destroy this so very typical working-class area has been stopped.

        ! de Jordaan is saved !



to the north
to the west
to the east
(part of canal girdle,
grachten gordel)
to the south
(no photo)





The for generations born and bred Jordanese are, besides their unmistakable dialect and raw humour, recognizable by the somewhat higher male voice and the too blond, too brown, too gold looks of their partners. Now yuppies and rich students are taken this working-class area over and make the house prices explode and not available anymore for the average household. A not unimportant but seldom mentioned appeal for the Jordaan is a working-class area without allochtonen (foreigners). Social rental appartments who are not gonna be sold will be rented to socalled stadsvernieuwingsurgenten or elderly Jordanezen. There are also (mostly illegal and with heavy profits) subrentals in the scarce social housing market. Controlling this however has very little priority. The sublessor doesn't have to be worried losing the appartment. A strong tackling of this type of abuse is at odds with the lax Amsterdam attitude about her social housing policy. Here comes our Dutch invention, the lat-relatie really handy.
(LAT, living apart together. According to the Dutch Van Dale: relation whereby the partners do not live together.  In Holland: living together but maintain both (rental) apartments, wich each their official and financial beneficial independence).

from social-renting



with on the back side the


socalled 'Jordaan oever'


Social rental apartments are disappearing also in an other way. When buildings are not maintained for a long time, than total renovation will be necessary. And if the existing façades remain intact, the city service departments are satisfied. The tenants will then be marked as socalled urban renewal urgents by the Amsterdam housing department. This put them on top of the list of rental apartments and let them choose from the crème de la crème of the Amsterdam rental houses. The tenant also receives some thousands of euro's as compensation in moving costs. After that the properties are renovated and sold for a large sum to non-Amsterdammers and older ex-Amsterdammers who want to come back to the city. Ex-owners, tenants, project developers, builders, new owners and the city council are satisfied. The ordinary Amsterdammer however is twice victimised: a large group of socalled urgents who go ahead on the waitinglist, plus a large block of social rental apartments which disappears. A good example is the Marnixstraat odd numbers from 121 and lower. Besides, this block of houses lies in the neighbourhood council of Amsterdam-Centrum, but outside the Jordaan; namely on the other side of the Lijnbaansgracht, the historical boundary of the Jordaan. So, a project developer introduced the term Jordaan-oever (Jordaan-bank); as an excuse for the Jordaan-priced apartments. Even plans were made to break through the block of houses with a bicycle tunnel and a bridge, as a continuation of the Palmgracht. And that only to create a type of connection with the Jordaan so the project developers could ask higher prices for their estate. This plan didn't go further.

By day there is the academic, gallery and atelier culture, with a choice in restaurants and terrasses. Finished off by an outgoing student-like nightlife. In the streets you see now his porsche or 4x4 for the impact and her 3BigWheeler for the baby. Furthermore, the dog is getting popular in the Jordaan Yuppie life. There is little integration with the small number of original Jordanezen who stay behind and whos families all have moved to the nearby town of Purmerend and Almere.


to free-sector-housing




bijna te water

on the edge of the Jordaan





most photographed spot The last years the Jordaan is getting very popular among tourists. And this is the most photographed spot, called 'Papeneiland'.

Groups of motorcyclists
hold here their yearly
blinding shiny show-offs.




Many national and international filmmakers choose for Amsterdam as a place for filming, in particular the Jordaan.


orgelman German documentary makers
filming this not-everyday organ scene

A few windows are with some red fluorescent
tubes temporary turned into a peeskamertje.
Used as decor of the opening scenes of the popular Dutch detective tv-serie Baantjer.
tv serie Baantjer

jumps off boat a movie-stuntman
makes a risky jump
from a siteseeing boat

the film Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,
shot among other things at the corner
Brouwersgracht and Willemsstraat.
See a photo-reportage.
filmen Deuce Bigalow

filmen Kees de jongen Kees de jongen is the leading character in the novel of the same name written by Theo Thijssen and is set in Amsterdam about 1890. In the summer of 2003 the book has been made into a film. The outdoor shots have been taken as much as possible in Amsterdam because of authenticity.
See a photo-reportage.

to the top to the next page
©keitje I'm not complaining , just explaining