Begijnhof / Beguinage

an old courtyard surrounded by historic houses tucked away from the busy city centre

Begijnhof

Begijnhof near Spui square is situated in the heart of the city

Enclosed courtyard

The Begijnhof is an enclosed courtyard, cut off from Amsterdam's traffic noise. It is one of the oldest 'hofjes' dating from the early 14th century with charming houses, 2 churches, the Wooden House and 2 historic entrance gates.

It was established in the 14th century as a residence for pious women who lived like nuns, although they took no monastic vows. They taught children and cared for the sick and enjoyed relative freedom.

The tranquil Begijnhof in the heart of Amsterdam is like a village square in a metropolis, but it has still retained its sanctified atmosphere. Houses in Begijnhof are still occupied by single women, so please respect their privacy and be quiet.

Houten Huys

The beautiful houses overlook its well-kept green garden, include the Amsterdam's oldest surviving house Het Houten Huys dating from around 1420.

This ancient, restored wooden house is one of the 2 wooden houses still existing in the old city centre of Amsterdam. The other one is Café In 't Aepjen on Zeedijk 1.

On the adjoining walls, there is a fascinating collection of wall plaques with biblical theme.

The Pilgrim Fathers

After the Alteration (Protestant takeover) of 1578, when Amsterdam came under Calvinist rule, the Begijnhof was the only Roman Catholic institution to be allowed to remain in existence. This was because the houses were the beguines' private property. The church was ceded to the English Presbyterians, and since that time has been alluded to as the "English Church".

Churches

The southern fringe of the square is dominated by the English Reformed Church  (Engelse Kerk) which dates from the 15th century and possesses its original medieval tower.

The Begijnhof Chapel  (No. 29 and 30), a clandestine church, was completed in 1680. It contains many reminders of the Catholic past.

Forbidden for men

It was forbidden for the beguines to keep dogs or roosters in their courtyard. It would be far too noisy.

Girlfriends were not allowed to stay overnight without express permission. It was strictly forbidden for boys over the age of 3, let alone adult males, to stay in the almhouses.

In the corridor of the gate building you can still see illustrations of these 'forbidden fruits' on the corbels. You see a boy running away, a rooster being chased away and a dog slinking off with its tail between its legs.

Entrance

A narrow, vaulted passageway leads to this charming garden surrounded by old houses. Entrance on Spui is indicated by a carved sign, entry is free.

It could be difficult to find the gate but the moment you walk through it, you'll experience another world. Begijnhof is located right in the city center, close to Spui and and 5 minutes from Dam Square.

Nowadays Begijnhof is one of Amsterdam's top attractions.

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the unobtrusive entrance gate from Spui square

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