Elandsgracht, Amsterdam


Connecting the Prinsen­gracht and Singel­gracht in the Jordaan neigh­bor­hood is the Elands­gracht (Elk Canal), a former canal filled-in in 1891. It is a part of the western canal belt. The first eight canals in the Jordaan were all named after flowers, plants and trees — but this one was named after the many tanneries which were situated here at one time and which also worked on elk hides.

Elandsgracht corner Lijnbaansgracht, Amsterdam, seen from the Marnixstraat

Elands­gracht corner Lijnbaans­gracht, seen from the Marnix­straat (January 2022).

Jordaan Canals

The Jordaan neigh­bor­hood — created in around 50 years from 1613 on, during the so-called Third Extension — origi­nally had eleven canals: Palm­gracht (Palm Canal), Gouds­bloem­gracht (Marigold Canal), Linden­gracht (Lime Tree Canal), Anjeliers­gracht (Carnation Canal), Egelantiers­gracht (Sweetbriar Canal), Bloem­gracht (Flower Canal), Rozen­gracht (Rose Canal), Laurier­gracht (Laurel Canal), Elands­gracht (Elk Canal), Looiers­gracht (Tanner Canal) and Passeerders­gracht (Spanish Leather Tanner Canal).

Elandsgracht, Amsterdam, corner Hazenstraat in 1900

Elands­gracht corner Hazen­straat in 1900 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

Elandsgracht, Amsterdam, corner Hazenstraat

Elands­gracht corner Hazen­straat (September 2021).

The Jordaan canals were once infamous for their stench and excep­tio­nally bad water quality, due to the waste and sewage in this over­populated area combined with the insuf­ficient water flow, as the Jordaan district had been kept at the old polder water level. The Goudsbloem­gracht was filled in after 1857, the Anjeliers­gracht in 1861, the Rozen­gracht in 1889, Elands­­gracht in 1891, Linden­gracht and Palm­gracht in 1895. The filled in canals became roads, mostly to deal with the increased traffic.

Elandsgracht, Amsterdam, still a canal, on a map from 1882

Under the lens the Elands­gracht, still not filled in, on a map from 1882.

History of the Elandsgracht

In 1891 the former canal was filled in to create a road which served to supply the nearby vegetable market. The new street was 331 m (0.2 mi) long, 28 m (92 ft) wide, and had 3 m (10 ft) wide curbs. The middle part was raised and planted with a double row of trees. It was overhauled and modernized again in 2016.

The current former canal now holds apartments, shops, bars and restaurants. It has a center area with plants, flowers, benches and a small play­ground for children (where before it only held parked cars). Across from the wide bridge which connects the Marnix­straat to the Elands­gracht you find the Amsterdam Police Head Office. At the start of the Elands­gracht near the corner with the Lijn­baans­gracht is antique center De Looier (The Tanner).

Elandsgracht, Amsterdam, seen in southwestern direction towards Marnixstraat

Elandsgracht, looking in southwestern direction towards Marnixstraat. Left the police head office (January 2022).

Around 1915 there were more than 13 folk theaters in the Jordaan neighborhood. The Edison Theater (from 1912) was located at Elands­gracht 92-94. Renovated in 1939, this was a popular theater where movies were shown and many famous local talents from the Jordaan performed. After the theater closed in 1961 it became a car repair shop, followed by a carpet shop in 1980. In 2013 the building was demolished, replaced by a hotel.

Johnny Jordaan square

At the other end — near the Prinsen­gracht (Princes’ Canal) — is a small square called Johnny Jordaan­plein. It’s named after Johnny Jordaan (1924-1989) and features statues of four well-known Jordaan popular musicians: singers Johnny Jordaan and Tante Leen, double bass player and singer Manke Nelis, the gifted accordion player Johnny Meyer and the singing couple Jan & Mien Froger. Another famous Jordaan singer, Willy Alberti, does not have a statue here, because he already has a plaque remembering him attached to the façade of the Wester­toren (Western Church Tower).

Statues of famous Amsterdam popular singers at the Johnny Jordaanplein, Amsterdam

Johnny Jordaan­plein at Elands­gracht corner Prinsen­gracht, with statues of famous Amsterdam popular singers (June 2020).

Jordaan Festival

The first Jordaan Festival was held in 1950 and from 1975 on the three-day September festival has been celebrated yearly (except for the COVID years), with authentic folk music performances by typical Jordaan singers and mass sing-alongs. It takes place near the Elands­gracht on the former Appeltjes­markt (Apple Market), where the bus station is now.

Metal strips with song lyrics in the pavement of the Elandsgracht, Amsterdam

In the center area metal strips have been added to the pavement, with lines from popular songs (November 2020).

Sjaco’s Fortress

At Elands­gracht 71-77 there used to be a block of 4 houses, named “Sjaco’s Fortress” after thief Jacob Frederik Muller (1690-1718), who supposedly lived there. He was nicknamed “the Robin Hood of the Elands­gracht”. According to the myth (created mostly by late 19th century writer Justus van Maurik Jr.) he was Amsterdam’s most notorious criminal ever, very hard to catch because of all the secret passage­ways he had created inside those four houses. The block of houses was demolished in 1886, but a plaque shows where this so-called fortress once stood.

Elandsgracht 65-101, Amsterdam, in 1880, still a canal

Elandsgracht 65-101 in 1880, still a canal then. Numbers 71-77 were where, according to the myth, Sjaco’s Fortress stood.

The myth was an invented story. Jordaan inhabitants used the nickname “fortress” for any group of semi-derelict houses with illegal constructions in the back, where poor people lived crammed together in very small apartments. And the four houses were owned by the Protestant Diaconate (Gereformeerde Diaconie) before being demolished — they would never have allowed a tenant like that. Although burglar and criminal Sjaco really existed and was decapitated in 1718 on Dam square, he never actually lived on the Elands­gracht. Legal documents from the time show that he was betrayed by his woman, fellow criminal and prostitute Griet Lommers. It would also seem he never got an honest trial. Some of his burglar tools are preserved in the Amsterdam Museum.

Elandsgracht 73, Amsterdam, plaques indicating were Sjaco's Fortress once stood

Elandsgracht 73, plaques indicating were Sjaco’s Fortress once stood, the alleged hideout of a notorious Amsterdam criminal (September 2021).


In a former school building from 1892 is the Claverhuis (named after Spanish Jesuit Pedro Clavèr). A former Catholic foundation for youthwork in the Jordaan was located here from 1959. Led by priest father Reuser, they organised lots of activities for the poorer Jordaan children, including holiday camps. The building is a municipal monument. It has been a lively district center since 2011, providing information, entertainment, activities, courses and assistance for residents.

Claverhuis, Elandsgracht 70, Amsterdam

At number 70 the Claverhuis, former school, now district center (September 2021).

Kapsalon In De Jordaan

This hairdresser, Kapsalon In De Jordaan, at Elandsgracht 51, corner Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat, has a typical Jordaan atmosphere with lots of lace, porcelain, flowers in the window and marble, the shop window decorated like a Jordaan home (but with Versace wallpaper inside for a modern touch). From 1987 until 2018 this was frame-maker shop Bel Ami. This shop building dates from 1672.

Elandsgracht 51, Amsterdam, corner Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat

Kapsalon In De Jordaan, at Elandsgracht 51, corner Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat (September 2021).

Don’t Bump Your Head

A small Dutch fast food joint (snackbar) in the basement at Elands­gracht 63 is called “Stoot Je Hoofd Niet” (Don’t Bump Your Head). To enter you have to go down a small set of stairs. Those who enter too hastily without paying attention soon find out why that name was chosen.

Elandsgracht 61-67, with Snackbar Stoot Je Hoofd Niet at number 63, Amsterdam

Snackbar Stoot Je Hoofd Niet, at Elandsgracht 63 (September 2021).

Mural at Elandsgracht corner Derde Looiersdwarsstraat, Amsterdam

Mural at Elandsgracht corner Derde Looiersdwarsstraat (September 2021).

Elandsgracht, Amsterdam, seen from Prinsengracht towards Marnixstraat

Elandsgracht seen from the Prinsengracht towards the Marnixstraat (January 2022).

Houseboat Museum

Where the Elands­gracht meets the Prinsen­gracht there’s a unique museum on a former river freight barge from 1914, called “Hendrika Maria”. It was later converted to be a house boat and is now a museum. Here you can see what living is like in this historically preserved houseboat, looking like the tenants have just gone out for an errand. Official address is Prinsen­gracht 296K.

Website of the Houseboat Museum: https://houseboatmuseum.nl/

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