Getting to know Anne Frank

Exploring Anne Frank’s home and her neighbourhood of Jordaan in Amsterdam

The church that she stands beneath is Westerkerk, the bells of which she heard from her hiding place in “The Secret Annexe”, the attic of her father’s offices. Indeed, she would often write about their chimes in her diary, a journal that went on to be one of the most famous books in the world. It was certainly one of my favourite books as a child and so when I moved to Amsterdam, going to Anne Frank House Museum was something of a priority.

The secret annexe

Standing in the queue- there is nearly always a queue – I tried to remember the last time I’d read The Diary of Anne Frank. It had to have been more than ten years ago. I thought about how happy I was to revisit Anne’s story, but why did I have to queue for so long?

As we shuffled slowly forward, my toes slowly freezing and my cheap polyester gloves next to useless, I tutted at the prospect of a long wait. Ahead I saw a young staff member from the museum walk along the queue handing out pamphlets and when he approached me I asked for an English version. Inside was a short introduction to the museum and decorating the guide were a number of quotes from the book that I had so enjoyed reading many years ago.

I’m not going to spoil their uplifting power because these words are best relived or discovered for the first time with a visit to the museum yourself (and if you buy your tickets online you can avoid queuing), however, I left Anne Frank House seeing both life and Amsterdam with different eyes.

That first visit was two years ago I have since returned to Anne Frank House Museum on three occasions with friends and family. Each one has been equally as moving and I don’t regret my repeated visits. However, what I now find just as poignant are the bike rides and slow walks I make around the Jordaan area of Amsterdam, where Anne lived and where the Secret Annexe she hid away in is to be found.

Prinsengracht view of Westerkerk

View of Westerkerk from Prinsengracht

The Jordaan neighbourhood

Traditionally a working class area it is now considered one of the most upmarket and desirable places to not only live but stay in Amsterdam when visiting. Not only are you surrounded by some the most picturesque canalways, narrow cobbled streets and two striking churches (the aforementioned Westerkerk and the nearby Noorderkerk), but you are also in the midst of art galleries, independent boutiques, historic shops, as well as countless cafes, bars and restaurants that are offer traditional or contemporary atmospheres.

Hanging Shoes in Jordaan Amsterdam. The global practice is nicknamed ‘shoefiti’, yet there is not one reason as to its meaning.

Hanging Shoes in Jordaan Amsterdam. The global practice is nicknamed ‘shoefiti’, yet there is not one reason as to its meaning

Jordaan is also home to two of my favourite markets; the Noordermarkt flea market on Mondays and Lindengracht farmer’s market on Saturdays. That’s why a hotel like The Toren is so perfect, because you’re in the thick of it all while still being walking distance from several of Amsterdam’s other neighbourhoods.

Famous Butchers Sign in Jordaan

One of many traditional shops in Jordaan

What I love most about exploring this area now is that the shop fronts may have changed, the houses now may have much higher price tags, and the people who live there are very different, but nearly all of the houses with their peaked gables and sloping walls and the worn cobbles underfoot these are the very same streets that Anne used to dream and write about walking along or riding her bike down.

And they are the inspiration behind many of her wonderful quotes, the ones that make it completely okay to spend 40 minutes queuing in the cold to experience her story.

Your hotel

To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, The Toren, Amsterdam

Frankie Thompson

Frankie Thompson is a blogger, freelance writer and published author of contemporary fiction. Her blog As the Bird Flies documents her travels around the world in search of stories, style and a little luxury.

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  • 2 Comments

    1. Bondgirlphotos said:

      I must say that I read the book Diary of Anne Frank many, many years ago. In 2010, after a visit to the Anne Frank museum while on a 3 day visit to Amsterdam, I found myself moved and I dusted off the book and re-read it again with a new vision. Thanks for sharing and bringing my memories of the Anne Frank museum and book back to the forefront. Well done!

      • Nathalie SalasNathalie Salas said:

        Hi Lisa. It’s very rare to find a book that evolves with you throughout your life. I also read the book when I was in secondary school and was always inspired to visit Amsterdam to discover more about her. Now in my adult years, i’ve re-read the book and discovered new insights and meanings to her words. It’s also an ideal reference for writers looking to improve their storytelling techniques – a gift that Anne Frank was naturally gifted in.

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