Adam Groffman is a globetrotter and self-styled hipster. He writes about expat life, festivals, nightlife and LGBT tourism across the globe on his personal travel blog, Travels of Adam. When he’s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he’s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene of a new city. Here he reveals why Jordaan, in Amsterdam, won him over and stole his heart.
Despite being in Amsterdam three days already, I was yet to make it to what is arguably the most famous (and touristy) area of the city. It was a bright Sunday morning when I did finally make it to the Jordaan neighbourhood. The reason? I was on a mission to avoid the overwhelming crowds in favour of something a little less obvious.
But crossing the Prinsengracht canal into the Jordaan neighbourhood, I soon realised I had made a mistake. This part of the city wasn’t the overrated Disneyland-like area I had imagined after all. In fact, it was quite the contrast. The vibrant streets were energetic and the atmosphere was effervescent, making it easy to see why this area has enticed some of the most interesting students, artists and young creatives to its quarters. There’s a reason some places are so popular, and after spending my Sunday strolling through the Jordaan (as the locals say), I could see why.
The Jordaan isn’t just beautiful streets and canals, though. It’s also home to some of Amsterdam’s more interesting history. The Dutch style “brown cafes” are dotted throughout the area; skinny homes and buildings named for their dark brown interiors, and usually a bar or café on the ground floor. What was originally made for the Dutch working classes in the 17th century, when the Jordaan sat on the outskirts of Amsterdam, is nowadays a choice hangout for arty locals and curious visitors.
After a long and leisurely amble, I settled into the world-famous Café Papeneiland. I’d previously read rave reviews of their apple pie and decided to sample a slice for myself –it didn’t disappoint. As the newspaper clippings over the bar proclaim, famous faces from around the world (including former American President Bill Clinton), have come here in search of Amsterdam’s finest pastry. With their friendly staff for company, and a prime spot on the outdoor patio, I spent a good hour taking in the refreshing local atmosphere. Bikes whizzed past; people stopped at the nearby bridge to take photos; a mural was being painted off in the distance.
Over the course of its history the Jordaan neighbourhood has been home to many famous Dutch citizens, including famous portrait painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Sitting in one of Amsterdam’s remaining brown cafes, you can almost imagine where Rembrandt found his dark and dramatic inspiration. But these days, there’s nothing dark about the Jordaan, except maybe the coffee.
Words by Adam Groffman
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