Although the seat of Netherlands government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the nominal capital. It is also the countrys largest city, with a population of almost 750,000, and the most visited, with over 3,5 million foreign visitors a year.
The colourful and lively city of Amsterdam has a lot to offer. It has all the advantages of a major metropolitan centre but with a small village atmosphere. Amsterdam is an exciting urban environment; it is a popular cultural and media centre and an international junction of commercial firms.
Amsterdam is one of the worlds best hangouts, a canny blend of old and new: radical squatter art installations hang off 17th-century eaves; BMWs give way to bicycles; and triple-strength monk-made beer is drunk in gleaming, minimalist cafes.
The city seems to thrive on its mix and, despite hordes of tourists, still manages to feel quintessentially Dutch. The old crooked houses, the cobbled streets, the tree-lined canals and the generous parks all contribute to the atmosphere.
Amsterdam is by population size the largest city in the Netherlands, containing 743,027 inhabitants in 2006. The urban area has a population of 1,209,419 inhabitants and is part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a population of 6,659,300 inhabitants.
Hailed as the Venice of the North, Amsterdam is a half wheel of canals, arced bridges and cross streets. The innermost Singel canal is echoed by the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht, and the Prinsengracht canals. Each canal proffers a beautiful stroll peppered with Amsterdam’s finest architecture.
The Dutch are known for their hospitality, informality and welcoming nature as well as their appreciation for all chummily things. Almost every resident speaks English, so very few linguistic barriers prevent even the most casual tourist from conversation and conviviality in one of Amsterdam’s many cosy restaurants and cafes.
The history of Amsterdam
Amsterdam was founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village at the mouth of the river Amstel. According to legend the founders were two Frisian fishermen, who landed with their small boat on the shores of the Amstel. The first occurrence of Amsterdam in writing was in a Latin certificate of count Floris V in 1275: homines manentes apud Amestelledamme (people living near Amestelledamme).
The meaning of Amestelledamme is dam or dyke of the Amstel, where the name of the river Amstel can be dissected into ame meaning water and stelle meaning dry ground. In 1327 count William III used the form Aemsterdam, which best resembles the modern form Amsterdam. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely on the basis of trade with the cities of the Hanseatic League.
Tourist attractions in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is known for many outstanding museums, including the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum and the Rembrandt House Museum. The Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of Van Goghs paintings and drawings in the world. On Kalverstraat is the Amsterdam Historical Museum, an engaging and well-curated exposition covering Amsterdams erection and development.
In fine or poor weather, a canal boat tour can conduct you through Amsterdams waterways and the museum boat takes you to all 6 museums, offering the possibility to hop on and off whenever you please!
Amsterdam also features a world-class symphony orchestra, the Concertgebouworkest.
South of the Central station is the Dam Square, where the Royal Palace, the National Monument and frequent markets are situated. The Royal Palace, built between 1648 and 1655, was originally the town hall. Napoleons brother Lodewijk adopted it as his palace when he ascended the throne in 1808.
South of Dam Square is the Oude Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam, located in the infamous red light district.
The Munt Tower is upright west of Dam Square. The Munt Tower was built in 1490 and is all that remains of the Regulierspoort gate in the since demolished city walls. For a short time in 1672 money was minted in the adjoining building, hence the tower’s name. In 1620, Hendrick de Keyser added the ornate, leadcovered steeple. The tower’s carillon bells ring out in concert on Friday fromm noon – 1pm.
The Munt is a prodigiously polyvalent construction. It once was a glass blowing shop, a police checkpoint and even an inn before serving as a warehouse for metals awaiting transport to the mint.