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Foodie walks, historical buildings and picturesque canal network: Discover Amsterdam | Short & City breaks | Travel

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Amsterdam is the ultimate city break destination

It’s a good thing that Amsterdam is so easy to explore on foot. I was only halfway through my foodie walking (or in my case, waddling) tour of the Jordaan neighbourhood, but I was already regretting that second helping of poffertjes (tiny pancakes drenched in advocaat, a Dutch licquer).

But the tour, thankfully, isn’t simply about food. It’s designed to provide an insight into Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s oldest neighbourhoods. Once thoroughly working class, it’s morphed into Amsterdam’s up-and-coming foodie district, although reminders of its past are everywhere.

Take the façade stones, found above doorways. In the 17th Century, many of Jordaan’s residents were illiterate. Locals indicated the nature of their business using these intricately carved stones, adorned with images representing their line of work. A leg of lamb might indicate a butcher, and a needle would suggest a seamstress.

Today, Jordaan’s business owners keep this tradition alive and façade stones can still be spotted throughout the neighbourhood. 

Another Jordaan trademark is its hofjes. They’re hard to find, and without the help of our guide I would never have known they existed. Tucked off side streets, hofjes, or “widows’ courtyards” are clusters of houses surrounding small greenery-filled courtyards.

This early form of social housing was built for widows in the 17th Century, funded by wealthy Amsterdammers as acts of charity. Visit the most famous example, Karthuizerhof, and you’ll see the plaque listing the donors responsible for its construction.

Jordaan is a great example of Amsterdam’s diversity, and another is Amsterdam-Noord. Exit the city’s Centraal Station, walk a few metres to the nearby harbour side, and there it is, springing up across the water. Once an industrial area, it is now the city’s hippest neighbourhood and full of things to see and do.

It takes five minutes…

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