The Begijnhof is an inner courtyard of almshouses in Amsterdam and is a secluded spot away from the city hustle and bustle. Originally a sanctuary for the “Beguines” sisterhood, today its houses are occupied by older single women.
The place can have a hidden feel about it as it’s not obviously accessible – although it is widely mentioned in guidebooks and there is always a flow of tourists coming through.
There are two main grass courtyards – the larger Grote Hof has a statue of Jesus Christ whilst the smaller Kleine Hof has a statue of a Beguine.
The main feature is the English Reformed Church (Engelse kerk) located at the south side which is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Made of brick and stone, it was built at the end of the 15th century after the original Begijnhof wooden church (consecrated in 1419) subsequently burnt down in 1421.
It was eventually given over to English-speaking worshippers in Amsterdam in 1607. Since then the multi-national congregation has continued to this day, except for a short period during German occupation in the Second World War. The church is Presbyterian and has strong links to the Church of Scotland.
It contains stained glass depictions of the Pilgrim fathers who probably worshiped at the church before leaving for the New World. The church also has 2 fine organs and a beautiful wooden pulpit designed by Piet Mondriaan and carved by Edema van der Tuuk.
In February 2007 a special 400th anniversary church service was held attended by Queen Elizabeth and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Note, the church is currently closed to visitors though Sunday services continue.
On the opposite side there is the smaller Begijnhof chapel (Begijnhofkapel, built in 1671) where Catholics and Beguines attended in secret up until 1795. Inside there are panels which tell the story of the Miracle of Amsterdam.
The picturesque courtyard contains a garden area surrounded by traditional houses built from the 16th century onwards. The Wooden House (het Houten Huis) at number 34 is the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam dating from 1528. It was restored in 1956-57.
There are also a number of religious themed gable stones (gevelstenen) and plaques around the court.
The Begijnhof is located near Spui square in the centre of Amsterdam. The entrance is on the Gedempte Beginensloot side street (on the eastern side reached either walking up from from Spui or coming from Kalverstraat onto Begijnensteeg). The southern entrance door on Spui is currently inaccessible to visitors.
There is a diagram plan of the Begijnhof found on the wall near the entrance with some information. It notes that the last Beguine passed away in 1971.
As of 2021 visitor numbers are being managed by a green-coated marshall on the door.
The official Begijnhof shop on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal sells various religious artefacts, postcards and books about the Begijnhof and is located behind the chapel at the presbytery. Open Tue-Fri only, 1300-1600.
Please bear in mind that silence is requested. The Begijnhof is private property and large tour groups are not officially permitted. Some of the walkways are gated off and are for residents only.
Begijnhof Essential Info
|Opening Times||1100-1600 Mon-Fri. The Begijnhof chapel opens at 1130 on Mondays.|
|Admission Prices (2021)||Free entrance.|
|Getting There||Begijnhof is located near Spui in central Amsterdam. It is 10-15 minutes walk from Amsterdam Central station. Take either metro line 52 to Rokin or trams 2, 12 to the Koningsplein stop.|
Begijnhof, Begijnhof 30, 1012 WT Amsterdam
Begijnhof Shop & Presbytery, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 373, 1012 RM Amsterdam
T: +31(0)20 622 1918
Last updated 1 September 2021. This article was first published in 2010 and has been regularly updated.