Travel

The Most Beautiful Hofjes in Amsterdam (Secret Courtyards)

When you are looking at exploring the Dutch capital, it may often feel like nothing has been left unturned. From the dancing houses to the grand museums, the town has lots of must-see attractions and should not miss destinations. However, if you are seeking an oasis of calm in the middle from the city, you may still conceal in some of the very most beautiful Hofjes in Amsterdam, which are largely found in the Jordaan district of the city.

What are the Amsterdam Hofjes?

For those who wish to escape the crowds of the Rijksmuseum and get from the mass of people who flock to the gingerbread houses of Damrak every day, the hofjes of Amsterdam are secret, obscure, and hidden courtyards that are full of greenery and dotted throughout the city.

In existence because the dark ages, the Dutch word ‘hofje’ is used to indicate courtyards encompassed by almshouses. Privately funded, much of the time these residences were once built to serve those most in need, but for the greater degree, older women. In Amsterdam, these oases of calm are often hidden behind grand canalside houses and lots of are still lived in today.

The largest concentration of hofjes is to be found in the Jordaan district, which boasts just below twenty of these pretty courtyards, even though there remain thirty remaining inside the UNESCO canal belt. There are several which are liberated to visit and open to the general public during select times. However, when visiting, just be sure you be respectful and quiet. After all, they are still people’s homes!

Claes Claesz Hofje

Address | Eerste Egelantiersdwarsstraat 1, 5 Amsterdam

Of all of the secret little courtyards you must know about, Just a little taken care of and shut to the hidden gem that is the Mouse Mansion, a toy shop that sells mouse-themed children’s books based on a mini mouse doll series, the Claes Claez hofje is one of the oldest hidden courtyards in the city.

Today, this hofje differs from most of the others in Amsterdam for the reason that the area is actually made up of two hofjes which have since been interconnected using a narrow passageway. Zwaardvegershofje and the Claes Claesz (also known as Anslo’s hofje) can visit.

Though many of the houses appear ancient, the hofje actually underwent extensive renovations within the 1960s, resulting in many of the houses being practically rebuilt. Now, the hofje actually has three entrances, though the prettiest from the courtyards

Karthuizerhofje

Address | Karthuizersstraat 89 – 171, 1015 LN Amsterdam

Tucked away down a little side street, the Karthuizerhofje is among the larger Amsterdam hofjes that’s actually available to the general public. Liberated to visit, head here and you may anticipate finding an abundance of beautiful plants, a trickling fountain, and plenty of benches which to sit down and relax.

Many of the buildings here were designed by Dani”el Stalpaert, a renowned 17th-century architect who's best-known for his work designing the Royal Palace and also the Oosterkerk. Like a lot of Amsterdam’s hofjes, once upon a time, this courtyard was the website of a Carthusian Monastery.

Zon’s Hofje

Address | Prinsengracht 159-171, 1015 DR Amsterdam

Filled with cherry blossom and merely streets away from the ever-so-famous Westerkerk (i.e. the final resting place of world-famous Dutch painter Rembrandt), Zon’s Hofje was once where a Mennonite Church was found.

At that time, Mennonite churches were not allowed to have public frontage along the main road, and they also were hidden away behind the canal houses. As a result, a long and narrow passage leads into the courtyard. Once called Sonnegang, it was later referred to as Noachsgang, and even a Noah’s Ark Gable Stone can still be spied within the courtyard today.

By the late 18th-century, the area have been transformed into housing for Mennonite ladies who were aged fifty or higher. Wander into this secret spot now and you can expect to enjoy several picnic benches, tulips during the spring, along with a slow paced life all year ’round.

Hofje van Brienen

Address | Prinsengracht 89-133, 1015 DA Amsterdam

Opening hours | Monday- Saturday 06:00- 18:00, Sunday closed

Just down the road from the ever-popular Zonshofje, the Hofje van Brienen is easily probably the most breathtaking courtyards within the Jordaan district from the city. Liberated to enter, we had this hidden gem all to ourselves whenever we wandered around mid-week throughout the late afternoon.

The good reputation for this hofje traces its roots back to 1797 when a local merchant, Arnaut van Brienen, bought a house, storehouse, and brewery named the star so as to demolish the complex and convert it into a hofje. During the 19th-century the area was utilized to house up to twenty couples and six men.

While the downstairs floors were being used as living accommodation, top of the floors were rented out as grain lofts. Now, Van Brienen can be visited throughout the week and features several well-manicured box tree displays. Nearby, the protestant Noorderkerk dates back towards the 17th-century.

Begijnhof

Address | 1012 AB Amsterdam

Opening hours | Monday – Sunday 09:00 – 17:00

The most well-known of all of the Amsterdam hofjes is easily those of the Begijnhof, a beguinage dating back the 14th-century. Though not as much of a hidden gem of Amsterdam as just a few years ago, this courtyard is populated by plenty of historic almshouses as well as an English Reformed Church and the Catholic Houten Huys.

Wander inside the English Reformed church today and you may anticipate finding several pulpit panels created by Piet Mondrian, among other treasures. Elsewhere within the expansive courtyard, the wooden home is one of only two remaining wooden houses in the middle of Amsterdam. Dating completely back to the 16th-century, nearby you’ll find several gable stones mounted on an otherwise nondescript wall.

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