The Begijnhof

 

By Andy Baker

 

Many people want to visit the Begijnhof every year, but lots of them do it at the wrong time and lots of them don’t understand how to get in. The Begijnhof is in most guidebooks on their “must see” list.  It’s a picturesque little step back in time to a tiny corner of Amsterdam that’s been kept very pristine, largely by a very exclusive group of women.

The hof, or court, was built in the late 1300’s and was originally inhabited by the Beguines, a group of semi-religious women who lived pretty religious lives, but didn’t take formal vows like nuns do.  The current residents are all women, but they have no particular religious affiliation.

The front door of the Begijnhof is on Het Spui, a couple of meters to the right of the American Book Center.  The door is large and is a light colored wood and the building the door is on is red brick.  Lots of people stand outside the door looking at the foreboding plaque, not understanding Dutch, wanting to get in, and they leave without seeing this remarkable landmark.  After a years-long lawsuit, it was decided that the door would stay unlocked so that people can have access to the churches inside. Consequently, the door is open for tourists.  The women who live in the Begijnhof were trying to get permission from the city to lock the door because of the many, many tourists who visit every year.  So don’t be a pain if you happen to visit.

The English Reformed Church is in the middle of the court.  It’s 400 years old and is worth a quick look in as it was just renovated last year.  However, services are held every Sunday at 10:30.  They get out at around noon.  So Sunday morning is not the best time to see the church.  Anyone is certainly welcome to attend the services, but that could cut way down on your touring time if you’re only in Amsterdam for a visit.

The best time to see the Begijnhof and the church is during the week.  There are paths around the court that are clearly marked that you should not walk down.  If you visit, remember that people live there and part of the appeal is the quiet, so keep noise to a minimum.  That said, you should definitely go by and see it.  It’s one of the best hofs in the Netherlands.

 

Andy Baker grew up in Texas and moved to Amsterdam after living in New York City for fourteen years.  Having relocating here four years 

ago, he teaches English, writes and enjoys the beauty of the city.  

He also keeps a blog at www.andyinamsterdam.com