The other side of Amsterdam: The Jordaan and the Negen Straatjes

Amsterdam. It’s an exceptionately beautiful place, particularly on a warm sunny day when its alfresco cafes are full and the canal waters are sparkling. Today was one of those such days.

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The shady, picturesque canals of the Jordaan, Amsterdam.

I headed up to Amsterdam  solely to check out one of its neighbourhoods; the quirky little section called the Jordaan and specifically the Negen Straatjes. I’d heard it was Amsterdam’s version of Fitzroy, an old working-class area transformed by sidewalk cafes and boutique shops.

So, when I headed out of Amsterdam Centraal Station, I turned right instead of heading down the tourist mecca of Damrak. I followed Haarlemmerstraat, Damrak’s total opposite. Instead of souvenir stores and coffeeshops, I found bakeries and bars. Bars that charged significantly less than Amsterdam prices.

I followed Prinsengracht around for about fifteen minutes, easily my favourite of Amsterdam’s canals. I watched people renovating their houses, moving materials through their top windowns via the famous hoisting beams.

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Moving house, Amsterdam-style.

People walked their dogs, pushed their prams. The trees looked greener, the water bluer and the houseboats looked like they’d been lacquered up that morning. The Jordaan is where Amsterdam just gets ridiculously good-looking.

Thinking this place looks good? Well, go on, find flights to Amsterdam!

I found a little cafe called De Vergulde Gaper and enjoyed a cappuccino, feeling the sun on my face and acting like all the Dutchies do when the sun is out; closing my eyes and lifting my chin up in the sun’s direction.The people around looked so healthy, so rich and so carefree. Sure there were some tourists around, but they were the bearable ones, rather than the type that believe that Coffeeshops + Anne Frank Huis = Amsterdam done.

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Great little lanes full of cafes between the Tuinstraat and the Egelantiersgracht.

I pushed on, heading for the Negen Straatjes; ‘The Nine Little Streets’. These little lanes are famous for their boutique shops and tiny cafes, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Dutch was the main language of the Negen Straatjes, perhaps the only section of the central canal area where English doesn’t rule. It was – literally, when compared to the dodgy Damrak – a breath of fresh air.

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All colours on show on the canals of the Jordaan.

The shops were mainly out of my student/backpacker budget, but they were fun to poke around nevertheless. Highlights included a shop completely dedicated to toothbrushes, a museum/shop for eyeglasses and a store selling vintage-looking cameras that took old rolls of film. The shopkeepers were friendly; some even humoured me and willingly took part in my weird Dutch/English hybrid form of communication.

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Vintage cameras at a great little shop called Lomography.

 

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Inside the glasses museum.

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De Witte Tandenwinkel; a shop that only sold toothbrushes.

Realising I’d been walking nonstop for a good couple of hours, I chose one of the countless cafes, a place called Goodies, and hoed down a massive open sandwich for less than five euro. Amsterdam prices do exist in parts of the Jordaan, but you can find some bargains. And best of all, the area is mainly popular with Amsterdammers themselves, so the quality is much, much better. I spied cafes specialising in okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes), Vietnamese pho and cute little cupcakes.

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‘Cos they all go together.

I did not see a single Argentinian BBQ joint, something the rest of Amsterdam seems obsessed with. There were no chains; no H&Ms, no McDonald’s and no Starbucks. The only chain I recognised was Scotch & Soda, which is from Amsterdam anyway.

The Jordaan. Go there. It is gentrified, yes, but I like a lot of things about gentrification. Decent pho is one.

6 Responses to The other side of Amsterdam: The Jordaan and the Negen Straatjes

  1. Bianca Mancuso via Facebook May 24, 2012 at 11:53 PM #

    A lomography shop! Wow. They’re not vintage by the way. I’d kill to see a lomo shop

  2. Olympic Wanderings via Facebook May 25, 2012 at 7:03 AM #

    Haha I have looked up lomography and it seems to be a ‘thing’! It seems I am quite behind the times…

  3. Bianca Mancuso via Facebook May 25, 2012 at 3:41 PM #

    it’s like a cult… unless you are into that type of specific type of photography, you’d never hear a thing about it. ps – yuba rocks

  4. Jenni Phung May 31, 2012 at 9:32 AM #

    It looks sooo beautiful!!! can’t wait to come visit!!

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