The Begijnhof is a courtyard tucked into the middle of Amsterdam that gives a glimpse of what life was like several hundred years ago. Withing the area are historical Dutch houses, including a restored antique wooden house, and a tranquil escape from the nearby hustle and bustle of the busy center.
Founded in the 14th century, the Begijnhof was the home of the beguines, an order of women in the Catholic church. This group of religious were like nuns, but they didn’t want to go so far as to enter a convent, and they retained the freedom to leave the order if they wanted to get married.
When the Protestants took over the city in 1578, the Begijnhof was the only Catholic establishment allowed to remain, because the houses were also the private property of the beguines. The chapel was closed, but the beguines maintained a secret church in one of the houses.
Today, the beguines no longer live in the square, and the houses are private residences, but they are still dwelt in exclusively by single women. The gardens are well maintained, and while the square is open to the public, it’s requested that it’s done peacefully and quietly out of respect for the square’s current residents. If you’re out shopping and need a break the bustle, it’s a perfect place to stop for a moment.
While you’re there, take note of how much lower the grounds are than the surrounding area. The ground of Begijnhof is still at the same level it was in medieval Amsterdam, and you can see that the surrounding city sits about a meter taller than several hundred years ago.
Using the chapel as a reference, the address is:
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 373
Although the houses within the square are private residences, the square is open daily from 9.00 – 17.00.
The chapel maintains separate hours (with two masses daily):
Monday: 13.00 – 18.30
Tuesday to Friday: 09.00 – 18.30
Saturday and Sunday: 09.00 – 18.00
After 17.00, you can reach the chapel by way of the gate at the Spui.
For more information, you can visit the official website here.
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