Walking Tour 3: The Jordaan

Start: Brouwersgracht.

Finish: Noordermarkt.

Time: Allow between 2 and 2 1/2 hours.

Best Times: Anytime, but if you want to visit one of the Jordaan's lively markets, go on Monday morning or on Saturday. On Monday there's a flea market on Noordermarkt, and a textiles market on Westerstraat where you'll find, among other items, fabrics and second-hand clothing. On Saturday, Noordermarkt hosts a bird market and a farmers' market with organic produce, and Lindengracht has a general street market.

Worst Times: If you hate street markets, you won't want to go plowing through them on the days mentioned above. Don't visit the hofjes (almshouses) on the route too early or too late -- people live in them and don't enjoy the disturbance.

It's easy to get lost in the character-rich maze of the Jordaan -- not that getting lost is a bad thing. It affords you an opportunity to make your own discoveries, which is the key to appreciating the Jordaan. Among the district's sights are several of the delightful, centuries-old almshouses known as hofjes. Students, seniors, and people requiring supervised accommodations live in these small houses. If you enter their courtyards, be sure to tread softly.

To avoid an overly long walk, I've restricted this tour to the northern -- and more interesting -- half of the Jordaan, from Brouwersgracht down to Rozengracht. That leaves the southern half, from Rozengracht down to Leidsegracht, for your own perusal.

Take tram 1, 2, 5, 13, or 17 to Martelaarsgracht, or the Stop/Go bus direct to the starting point, on:

1. Brouwersgracht

A walk northwest along this venerable houseboat-lined canal, takes you across Lindengracht, past a 1979 bronze sculpture of writer Theo Thijssen (1879-1943) with one of his popular fictional characters, the Jordaan schoolchild Kees de Jongen. Farther along, across Willemstraat, look across the water to the modern De Blauwe Burgt apartment block for an idea of how the new complements (or degrades) the old.

Go left on tree-shaded:

2. Palmgracht

This street was once a canal. The house at 28-38 hides a small cobblestone courtyard garden behind an orange door that's the entrance to the Raepenhofje, an almshouse dating from 1648. The turnip on the gable stone is a pun on the original owner's name, Pieter Adriaenszoon Raep (raep means "turnip" in Dutch). Across the courtyard, at nos. 20-26, is the Bosschehofje, which Arent Dirkszoon Bossch built in 1648.

Go left on Palmdwarsstraat and cross over Willemstraat (which used to be a canal called Goudsbloemgracht), onto Tweede Goudsbloemdwarsstraat. Cross over Goudsbloemdwarsstraat to:

3. Lindengracht

Like Palmgracht, Lindengracht was once a canal, and is now the scene of a lively Saturday street market. Continue along to the Suyckerhoff Hofje, at nos. 149-163. The 15 small houses (originally there were 19) of this pretty hofje were built in 1670 by order of Pieter Janszoon Suyckerhoff's 1667 testament, which aimed to provide refuge for Protestant widows and women of good moral standing and "tranquil character," who'd been abandoned by their husbands. The door may appear to be locked, but you can usually open it during daylight hours and walk along the narrow entrance corridor to a flower-filled courtyard garden.

Take the first street on the left, Tweede Lindendwarsstraat, to:

4. Karthuizersplantsoen

Nothing's left of the Carthusian monastery built in 1394. It stretched from here to Lijnbaansgracht before being demolished in the 1570s during Amsterdam's transition from Catholicism to Protestantism. A children's playground is now where the monastery's cemetery once was. There are still sights to see here, however: At Karthuizersstraat 11-19 is a row of neck-gabled houses from 1737, named after the four seasons (Lente, Zomer, Herfst, and Winter). Next-door (forgive the illogical numbering) at nos. 69-191, is the 1650 Huyszitten-Weduwenhof, a large interior courtyard surrounded by houses that were once poor widows' homes.

Go left on Tichelstraat, cross Westerstraat, once a broad canal, and continue along a string of dwarsstraten (side streets) -- Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat, Tweede Tuindwarsstraat, and Tweede Egelantiersdwarsstraat -- it may take you longer to pronounce the names of these lively little cafe-lined streets than to walk through them -- to:

5. Egelantiersgracht

On the way you'll notice the Westerkerk's tall spire, called the Westertoren, which has a carillon that breaks into song at every opportunity. Genuine Jordaaners, it is said, are born within earshot of the bells.

Named for the eglantine rose, or sweetbriar, Egelantiersgracht is one of the city's most elegant and tranquil small canals. Its many interesting 17th- and 18th-century houses afford a tantalizing insight into the kinds of modestly elegant living quarters successful Amsterdam artisans could aspire to.

On the gable stone of a trio of simple bell gables at nos. 61-65 is a carved falcon.

If the door's open, peek into the Andrieshofje at nos. 107-145. Cattle farmer Ivo Gerrittszoon provided funds in his will to build these 36 almshouses; they were completed in 1617 and remodeled in 1884. A corridor decorated with Delft blue tiles leads up to a small courtyard with a leafy garden. An old water pump stands here, as does a stone bearing the inscription: Vrede Sy Met U (Peace be with you).

Retrace your steps to turn right on Tweede Leliedwarsstraat (from 1637 to 1696, the famous Blaeu family of cartographers lived at no. 76) and continue to:

6. Bloemgracht

The grandest of the Jordaan canals was originally home to workers who produced dyes and paints. Architect Hendrick de Keyser built the three step-gabled houses at nos. 87-91 in 1642 -- they're gems, and now house a foundation established to preserve the architect's works. Their carved gable stones represent a townsman, a countryman, and a seaman.

Nos. 77 and 81 are former sugar refineries from 1752 and 1763, respectively. Their gable stones, De Saayer (the Sower) and De Jonge Saayer (the Young Sower), are of recent origin.

Walk east toward Prinsengracht, where you can see the Westertoren again. Go left on Prinsengracht to:

7. Egelantiersgracht

You visited this canal earlier at a point farther west. A hardware store at nos. 2-6, at the corner of Prinsengracht, is a fine example of Amsterdam School architecture from 1917, with its intricate brickwork and cast-iron, Art Nouveau-influenced ornaments. To the store's left, at no. 8, a 1649 step-gabled house is decorated with sandstone ornaments and gable stones that depict St. Willibrord and a brewer.

On Egelantiersgracht is a particularly good place to:

8. 't Smalle

Though there are plenty of cafes in the Jordaan at which you can rest your legs and quench your walker's thirst, the best terrace is along the waterside at 't Smalle, Egelantiersgracht 12. This cafe serves snacks like bitterballen and homemade soups.

When you've finished your break, turn right off Egelantiersgracht to another sequence of side streets -- Eerste Egelantiersdwarsstraat, Eerste Tuindwarsstraat, and Eerste Anjeliersdwarsstraat. On the way, at Eerste Egelantiersdwarsstraat 1-3, is a passage leading to the:

9. Claes Claeszhofje

Claes Claesz Anslo, a cloth merchant, founded this (now handsomely restored) almshouse in 1616. It's also known as the Anslohofje -- a plaque on the neighboring entrance bears Anslo's coat of arms. Also note the "writing hand" gable stone at no. 52. Tiny apartments surround two equally minuscule courtyards.

Continue through those three side streets to:

10. Westerstraat

This broad street, formerly a canal known as Anjeliersgracht, hosts a Monday street market.

11. Winkel

A cafe that's a contender for serving the best appelgebak met slagroom (apple pie with cream) in town, Winkel, Noordermarkt 43 (tel. 020/623-0223), also does a fair breakfast and snacks. It's a little gloomy (okay, atmospheric) inside, but has a great outdoor terrace on Westerstraat and a sliver of patio on Noordermarkt.

Continue east on Westerstraat to Noordermarkt.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.