מקור שמו של האיזור, ככל הנראה במילה "''jardin''" (ב[[צרפתית]]: [[גן]]). הסבר אחד לשם זה הוא שהתעלות הרבות שברובע קרויות על שמות של עצים ופרחים. הסבר אחר לשם, הוא שבעבר נקראה תעלת פרינסנגראכט בשם "ירדן" - על שם [[נהר הירדן]].
Built in the first half of the 17th century to house the working class, the Jordaan is now one of the most expensive, upscale locations in the Netherlands. The neighbourhood has become "yuppified" as many of the neighbourhood's original working-class residents have moved out of the city to more affordable locations in recent decades, mainly to [[Almere]] and [[Purmerend]].
Construction of the Jordaan began in []. The streets and canals where build according to the old ditches and paths. In the 19th century, six of the Jordaan's canals were filled in, including the [[Rozengracht]], which is now the main traffic artery through the neighbourhood. Tram lines 13, 14, and 17 run through this street.
The neighbourhood was traditionally a leftwing stronghold, with a stormy history. Heavy riots broke out in [], [], [] and []. The [[February strike]] of [] started with meetings on Noordermarkt square.
The Jordaan had a lively music scene in the 20th century. Several of the most popular musicians, including singer [[Johnny Jordaan]], now have a statue in their memory at the corner of Prinsengracht and [[Elandsgracht]]. The Jordaanfestival, celebrating the neighbourhood's music tradition, is held annually.
The Jordaan has a high concentration of ''hofjes'' (inner courtyards), many of them with restored houses and peaceful gardens. These courtyards were built by rich people for elderly women, as a kind of charity. By the 1970s most of these courtyards were in very bad shape, like the rest of the neighbourhood. Since then, many have been restored and are now inhabited mainly by artists, students and some elderly people. During the summer some of these yards are opened on Sundays during free concerts known as ''hofjesconcerten''.
Many houses in the Jordaan have a stone tablet on their facade, a stone sign displaying the profession or family sign of the inhabitants. For instance a butcher displayed a pig and a tailor a pair of scissors, carved in stone above the entry. The first such stone tablets were made in the 16th century, when citizens were ordered to use these tablets instead of big wooden gables that obstructed the traffic in the narrow streets.