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Begijnhof

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

Begijnhof, 1012 RM Amsterdam, Netherlands

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Kitty
Local tour guide
"Visit the Begijnhof during weekdays in the early morning to experience the tranquil atmosphere of this historic courtyard without the crowds; it's when you can truly appreciate the serene beauty and architectural detail. Also, look out for the hidden Catholic chapel—tucked away behind a nondescript door, it's a secret gem that many tourists overlook."

What is Begijnhof?

Imagine stepping through a nondescript archway, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam's city center, and finding yourself in a serene courtyard surrounded by historic houses—it's almost like time travel. This is the Begijnhof, one of Amsterdam's oldest inner courts, and arguably one of the city's best-kept secrets. This enclosed courtyard is not just a picturesque space; it's a historical monument that once served as a beguinage, a community of Beguines, who were lay religious women living in semi-monastic communities. These communities thrived in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. The Begijnhof is a special place where the architecture and the atmosphere speak volumes of the quiet, devotional lives once led here.

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History of Begijnhof

The history of the Begijnhof is as rich as it is fascinating, dating back to the 14th century when the beguinage was founded. Originally the Beguines lived along the canals but were granted their own space in 1346. The court is surrounded by medieval houses, with the majority dating to the 17th and 18th centuries after a fire devastated the area in 1421. Interestingly, while the city of Amsterdam turned Protestant during the Reformation, the Begijnhof remained a Catholic sanctuary—a testament to the city's complex religious history. A hidden church 'Begijnhofkapel', dedicated to Saint John and Saint Ursula, was established here during a time when Catholics had to worship in clandestine churches known as 'schuilkerk'.

Another remarkable feature of Begijnhof is the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam, Houten Huys at number 34, dating back to around 1528. Despite its simple appearance, it's a rare example of medieval timber construction, which was largely banned in the city after devastating fires. The last Beguine died in 1971, turning a page on the location's centuries-old purpose, but the essence of their lifestyle endures in the tranquility that prevails here.

Why is Begijnhof Important?

Begijnhof is more than just a scenic spot; it stands as an essential piece of Amsterdam's cultural fabric, representing a unique, almost utopian chapter in its social history. It's a place where the dynamics of religious life, women's history, and Dutch architectural evolution converge. For centuries, it provided a sanctuary for women who sought a pious life outside of a convent yet did not take monastic vows. This allowed them to retain their property and income, as opposed to the full relinquishment required by nuns, marking the Beguines as progressive and somewhat radical for their time.

Their legacy continues to resonate with Amsterdam's spirit of tolerance and independence, reflecting a historical narrative that diverges from conventional paths. Moreover, the preservation of these buildings and spaces offers us a tangible connection to the city's past. It affords a sense of continuity and narrative that many other places have lost. Visiting Begijnhof is not just about appreciating its beauty; it’s about honoring a story woven deeply into the capital's cultural and religious tapestry.

Things to Do & See at Begijnhof

While Begijnhof is a haven of calm in the city center, there's a surprising amount of things to explore within its confines. One must-see is the Begijnhof Chapel, which, with its clandestine origin, now stands open to the public with beautifully decorated interiors and an impressive altarpiece. Amble along the paths and admire the well-preserved historic houses, including the Houten Huys, and immerse yourself in an architectural narrative that spans centuries.

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Don't miss the tranquil central garden, which encapsulates the reflective spirit of the Beguines. It's a splendid spot for quiet contemplation or simply enjoying a peaceful break from the buzz of the city. For those interested in historical narratives, plaques scattered throughout the Begijnhof offer stories and insights into its unique past. Additionally, art enthusiasts will appreciate the court's wonderful examples of Dutch Golden Age painting displayed in the Begijnhof's Huiske, a small museum situated in one of the homes.

Lastly, see if you can find the commemorative plaque marking the spot where the last Beguine lived. It's a humbling reminder of the enduring influence of these remarkable women. And, if you're inclined towards quiet contemplation or prayer, you're welcome to join the peace and serenity of the English Reformed Church, also nestled within Begijnhof's tranquil embrace. Always remember, while Begijnhof is open to the public, it remains a residential area, so do respect the peace that defines this special place as you wander and reflect on its deep historical roots.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Begijnhof in Amsterdam?

The Begijnhof in Amsterdam is a historic enclosed courtyard dating back to the early 14th century. It was originally built as a residence for a lay sisterhood known as the Beguines. Today, it stands as a serene and picturesque group of houses surrounding a beautiful garden, offering a tranquil retreat from the city's bustle.

How can I visit the Begijnhof in Amsterdam?

The Begijnhof is located in the heart of Amsterdam and can be easily accessed on foot or by public transportation. The entrance is free, and it is typically open to visitors during daylight hours, though the exact times can vary.

Are there guided tours available for the Begijnhof?

Guided tours may not be regularly scheduled for the Begijnhof, but visitors can usually explore the courtyard and its surroundings on their own. Information is often available on-site to help understand the significance and history of the place.

What are some of the highlights to see at Begijnhof in Amsterdam?

Some of the highlights of Begijnhof include the charming historic houses, the central garden, the Begijnhof Chapel, and the English Reformed Church. Additionally, visitors should look out for the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam, which is situated here.

Are there any special rules or etiquette I should be aware of when visiting the Begijnhof?

As the Begijnhof is a quiet residential area, visitors are asked to respect the privacy and tranquility of its inhabitants. It is important to keep noise levels low and not to trespass on private property within the courtyard.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

Begijnhof, 1012 RM Amsterdam, Netherlands

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps