The Begijnhof is the only inner court in Amsterdam which was founded during the Middle Ages, and therefore lies within the Singel — the innermost canal of Amsterdam's circular canal system. The Begijnhof is at medieval street level, which means a meter below the rest of the old city center.
It is unclear when exactly the Begijnhof (Beguines' court) was founded. In 1346, the beguines still lived in a house (a document of that time mentioned one beghynhuys). A courtyard was only first mentioned in 1389, probably after the religious status of the city rose due to the Amsterdam Eucharistic Miracle of 1345.
Originally the Begijnhof was entirely encircled by water (the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, the Spui and the Begijnensloot or "Beguines' Ditch"), with the sole entrance located at the Begijnensteeg ("Beguines' Alley"), which had a bridge across the Begijnensloot. The back facades were therefore water-locked. The Spui entrance only dates back to the 19th century.