One of my favorite quiet spots in Amsterdam Centre to sit and think is the Begijnhof. This beautiful hidden courtyard has recently become a tourist sensation, but it’s a great free place to enjoy while in Amsterdam. I include information about the history of the Begijnhof, where to find the entrance, some great things nearby (e.g. a delicious cookie to enjoy in the hofje!), and some etiquette for visiting the Begijnhof.
About the Begijnhof
The Begijnhof is a historic courtyard hidden within Amsterdam dating back to the 14th century. In Amsterdam, you’ll find numerous historic courtyard originally intended for the less fortunate, single women, elderly people, and others in need. The Begijnhof is a bit different than these other courtyards as it was intended as something closer to a nunnery. Men were not allowed within the courtyard and the women would work together to create a semi self-sufficient community as a group.
These women were Catholic and although the Catholic faith was banned within the Golden Age. (You can find out more about this at the fascinating Our Lord in the Attic museum, a hidden church in Amsterdam.) However, the women who lived here were allowed to continue their services in private within the secret church, which is still open to the public today. (You can find it at number 29.) The church is generally open in the afternoons although it’s open all day on the weekends. Bring a few euros to donate for maintenance!
As soon as you enter, you’ll find the Houten Huys (the Wooden house in old Dutch), which is a timer house dating back to 1528. Although Amsterdam historically had more timber houses, there were a few fires in the medieval ages that meant that the beautiful medieval buildings made from wood that once graced the city center are mostly gone now. This is one of two houses in Amsterdam that still stands!
Etiquette of visiting the Begijnhof
Today the Begijnhof is filled with private residences, mostly dating back to the Dutch golden age. The residents allow tourists within the Begijnhof and its courtyard during business hours,
The entrance of the Begijnhof
You can find one of the entrances close to the American Book Center (Spui 12) via the gorgeous ornate archway with a wooden door. (I highly recommend the American Book Center for books and souvenirs!) The door is generally locked in the evenings, so plan accordingly. I often come here after visiting Van Stapele Bakery for a delicious warm chocolate cookie that I bring with me to the Begijnhof. There are a few trash bins.
Have you been to the Begijnhof?
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