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in Medieval Centre & Red Light District

Netherlands, Noord Holland, Amsterdam, the Begijnhof Courtyard. (Photo by: Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images)

UIG via Getty Images

Dating from the early 14th century, this enclosed former convent is a peaceful haven, with tiny houses and postage-stamp gardens around a well-kept courtyard off Gedempte Begijnensloot. Within the hof (courtyard) is the charming 1671 Begijnhof Kapel, and the Engelse Kerk, built around 1392.

Also here is the Houten Huis, the Netherlands' oldest preserved wooden house, dating from around 1465. There’s another entrance to the Begijnhof near this structure: look for a wooden door on the Spui’s north side, east of the American Book Center.

The Beguines, a Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women who cared for the elderly, lived a religious life without taking monastic vows. The last Beguine died in 1971.