Amsterdam (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

is the capital of the Netherlands. The city is known for its historic port, the Rijksmuseum, the red-light district (de Wallen), the liberal coffeeshops, and the canals which have led to Amsterdam being termed the "Venice of the North". During the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam was one of the most important ports in the world, with innovative developments in trade, and became the leading centre for finance and diamonds.
The city was founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village, and has grown to become the largest city in the Netherlands with a population of 743,027 inhabitants, which includes 177 different nationalities, making Amsterdam the most multicultural city in the world.

The metropolitan region has a population of 1,021,870 inhabitants and is part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a population of 6,659,300 inhabitants. The name Amsterdam is a derivative from Amstel dam, that is, a dam in the river Amstel.


Main article: History of Amsterdam
The first known record of Amsterdam is 27 October 1275, when the inhabitants of a late 12th century fishing village who had built a bridge with a dam across the Amstel were granted freedom by count Floris V from paying a bridge toll . The certificate's wording (homines manentes apud Amestelledamme - people living near Amestelledamme) gives the first known use of the name Amsterdam, which by 1327 had developed into Aemsterdam. A local tradition has the city being founded by two Frisian fishermen, who landed on the shores of the Amstel in a small boat with their dog. In any case, Amsterdam's origin is relatively recent in comparison with other Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and Utrecht. Amsterdam was given city rights in 1300 or 1301. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely on the basis of trade with the cities of the Hanseatic League. In 1345 a Eucharistic miracle occurred near the Kalverstraat and Amsterdam would remain an important pilgrimage city until the Alteration to the protestant faith; today the Stille Omgang - a silent procession in civil dress - remains of the rich pilgrimage history.

In the 16th century, the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years' War which ultimately led to Dutch independence and the imposition of Protestant Calvinism as de facto state religion. In 1578 the previously Catholic city of Amsterdam joined the revolt and all churches were confiscated for the reformed Protestant worship. After the break with Spain, the Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance, except towards Catholics who had to worship secretly. Jews from Spain and Portugal, prosperous merchants from Antwerp (economic and religious refugees from the part of the Low Countries still controlled by Spain), and Huguenots from France (persecuted for their religion) sought safety in Amsterdam. The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's "Golden Age". In the early 17th century, Amsterdam became one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, Africa and present-day Indonesia and Brazil, and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants had the biggest share in the VOC and WIC. These companies acquired the overseas possessions which formed the seeds of the later Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was the most important point for the trans-shipment of goods in Europe, and it was the leading financial centre of the world. Amsterdam's stock exchange was the first to trade continuously.

The 18th and early 19th centuries saw a decline in Amsterdam's prosperity. The wars of the Dutch Republic with England (see Anglo-Dutch Wars) and France took their toll on Amsterdam. During the Napoleonic Wars, Amsterdam's fortunes reached their lowest point. However, with the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815, things slowly began to improve. In Amsterdam new developments were started by people like city planner Samuel Sarphati, who found their inspiration in Paris.

The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam's second Golden Age. New museums, a train station, and the Concertgebouw were built. At this time the Industrial Revolution reached Amsterdam. The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea. Both projects improved communication with the rest of Europe and the world dramatically. Joseph Conrad gives a brief description of Amsterdam, seen from the sea at this period, in The Mirror of the Sea (1906). In 1924 the Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands hosted the International Eucharistic Congress in Amsterdam, and numerous Catholic prelates visited the city, where numerous festivities were held in churches and stadiums; Catholic processions on the public streets however were still forbidden under law at the time. Shortly before the World War I the city began expanding and new suburbs were built. During the war, the Netherlands remained neutral. Amsterdam suffered a food shortage, and heating fuel became scarce. The shortages sparked riots in which several people were killed.

Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, taking control of the country after five days of fighting. The Germans installed a Nazi civilian government in Amsterdam that cooperated in the persecution of Jews. However, a minority of people in Amsterdam helped the Jews in hiding and suffered persecution themselves in doing so. More than 103,000 to 105,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands to concentration camps, of whom perhaps the most famous was a young German girl, Anne Frank. Only 5,000 Dutch Jews survived the war. In the last months of the war, communication with the rest of the country broke down, and food and fuel became scarce. Many inhabitants of the city had to travel to the countryside to collect food. Dogs, cats and raw sugar beets were consumed to stay alive. Tulip bulbs - cooked to a pulp - were a common food as well. Most of the trees in Amsterdam were cut down for fuel, and all the wood was taken from the apartments of deported Jews.


Amsterdam fans out south from Amsterdam Centraal railway station. The main street is Damrak which leads into Rokin. The area to the east of Damrak is the oldest area and is known as de Wallen ("the walls") after the medieval walls of the city - this area contains the city's red light area. To the south of de Wallen is the old Jewish quarter of Waterlooplein. The 17th century girdle of concentric canals, known as the "grachtengordel", embraces the heart of the city. Beyond the grachtengordel are the working class areas of Jordaan and de Pijp, Museumplein, containing the city's major museums, and Vondelpark, the 19th century park named after the Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel.

Several parts of the city and of the urban area are polders, recognisable by their postfix -meer meaning 'lake', such as Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer, and Watergraafsmeer.

The canals

Main article: Canals of Amsterdam
Much of the Amsterdam canal system is the successful outcome of city planning. In the early part of the 17th century, with immigration at a height, a comprehensive plan was put together, calling for four main, concentric half-circles of canals with their ends resting on de IJ bay. Known as the "grachtengordel", three of the canals are mostly for residential development (Herengracht or ?'Gentleman's Canal''; Keizersgracht or ?'Emperor's Canal''; and Prinsengracht or ?'Prince's Canal''), and a fourth, outer canal, the present Nassau/Stadhouderskade, for purposes of defense and water management. The plan also envisaged interconnecting canals along radii; a set of parallel canals in the Jordaan quarter (primarily for the transportation of goods, for example, beer); the conversion of an existing, inner perimeter canal (Singel) from a defensive purpose to residential and commercial development; and more than one hundred bridges. The defensive purpose of the Nassau/Stadhouderskade was served by moat and earthen dikes, with gates at transit points but otherwise no masonry superstructures.

Construction proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the lay-out, like a gigantic windshield wiper as the historian Geert Mak calls it " not from the center outwards as a popular myth has it. Construction of the north-western sector was started in 1613. After 1656, with the canals in the southern sector also already finished for some time, building in that sector too was started, although slowly. The eastern part of the concentric canal plan, covering the area between the Amstel river and the IJ bay, was never implemented. In the following centuries, the land went mostly for parks, old age homes, theaters and other public facilities " and for waterways without much plan.


Amsterdam enjoys a moderate temperate climate, with the weather patterns being strongly influenced by Amsterdam's proximity to the North Sea to the west and its prevailing north-western winds and gales. Winter temperatures are mild: on average above freezing, although frosts are not uncommon during spells of easternly or northeasternly winds blowing in from the inner European continent, i. e. from Scandinavia, Russia and even Siberia. Summers are warm but rarely hot. Days with measurable precipitation are common, but still Amsterdam averages less than 760 mm of precipitation annually. Most of it falls as protracted drizzle or light rain. But the occasional Western storm may bring a lot of water at once, and all of it has to be pumped out to higher ground and to the seas around the city. These bodies of water make cloudy and damp days common, particularly in cooler months, October through March.

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Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands and one of the most important cities in Europe in which to do business. Many large Dutch corporations and banks have their headquarters in Amsterdam, including ABN Amro, Akzo Nobel, Heineken International, ING Group, Ahold, Delta Lloyd Group and Philips. KPMG International's global headquarters is located in nearby Amstelveen, as is the European headquarters of Cisco Systems.

Though many subsidiaries are located along the old canals, companies are increasingly relocating outside the city centre. The South Axis (Dutch: Zuidas) is increasingly a banking area, and is intended to become the new business-face of the Netherlands. There the recently expanded World trade centre also has its location.

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX) is part of Euronext, and is the world's oldest stock exchange. It still is one of the most important in Europe.


Amsterdam shops range from large department stores such as Metz & Co, founded in 1740 on Leidsestraat, Maison de Bonneterie a Parisian style store founded in 1889, with entances on the Kalverstraat and Rokin, and De Bijenkorf founded in 1870 as a small store along the Nieuwendijk today being a prominent department store on Damrak/Dam Square, to small specialty shops such as Lambiek, a comic shop, and De Bierkoning, a beer shop stocking nearly 1,000 different brands.


In the 16th and 17th century non-Dutch immigrants to Amsterdam were mostly Huguenots, Flemings, Sephardi Jews and Westphalians. Hugenots came after 1685's Edict of Fontainebleau, while the Flemish Protestants came during the Eighty Years' War. The Westphalians came to Amsterdam mostly for economic reasons " their influx continued through the 18th and 19th centuries.

The first mass immigrants in the 20th century were people from Indonesia, who came to Amsterdam after the independence of the Dutch East Indies in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s guest workers from Turkey, Morocco, Italy and Spain migrated to Amsterdam. After the independence of Suriname in 1975 a large wave of Surinamese settled in Amsterdam, mostly in the Bijlmer area. Other immigrants come from Europe and North America. In the seventies and eighties many 'old' Amsterdammers moved to 'new' cities like Almere and Purmerend, prompted by the third planological bill of the Dutch government. This bill promoted suburbanization and arranged for new developments in so called "groeikernen", lit. "cores of growth". Young professionals and artists moved into neighbourhoods the Pijp and the Jordaan abandoned by these Amsterdammers. The non-Western immigrants settled mostly in the social housing projects in Amsterdam-West and the Bijlmer.

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During the later part of the 16th century Amsterdams Rederijkerskamer (Chamber of Rhetoric) organized contests between different Chambers in the reading of poetry and drama. In 1638 Amsterdam got its first theatre. Ballet performances were given in this theatre as early as 1642. In the 18th century French theatre became popular. Opera could be seen in Amsterdam from 1677, first only Italian and French operas, but in the 18th century German operas. In the 19th century popular culture was centered around the Nes area in Amsterdam (mainly vaudeville and musichall). The metronome, one of the most important advances in European classical music was invented here in 1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel. At the end of this century the Rijksmuseum and Gemeentelijk Museum were built. In 1888 the Concertgebouworkest was established. With the 20th century came cinema, radio and television. Though the studios are in Hilversum and Aalsmeer, Amsterdam's influence on programming is very strong.


The artist most associated with Amsterdam is Rembrandt, whose work, and the work of his pupils, is displayed in the Rijksmuseum. Van Gogh lived in Amsterdam for a short while, so there is a museum dedicated to his early work.

Amsterdam has a world-class symphony orchestra, the Concertgebouworkest, the home base of which is the Concertgebouw.

Tourist attractions

Main article: List of tourist attractions in Amsterdam
Visitors are attracted to Amsterdam for its reputation as a liberal city; its relaxed charm emphasised by elegant, narrow fronted merchant's houses and enchanting canals; and the reputation of its museums.

The major museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world. The Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to the story of Anne Frank, is also a popular tourist attraction.

The liberal nature of Amsterdam is not only physically embodied in the layout of the city such as, the de Wallen area which contains the red-light district, and many coffeeshops which sell cannabis but it is also embodied in the well-rounded, prevailing attitudes of its residents, government and businesses. Amsterdam is internationally known for its extreme GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered)friendliness. In fact the Netherlands, in 2001, became the first country in the world to fully recognize as well as legalize same-sex marriage. Currently Belgium and Canada are the only other countries that fully recognize same-sex marriage. (

Amsterdam's red-light district is located in the centre of the city and is clearly marked on maps. Window prostitution in the Netherlands is legal at specific places. Cannabis selling, however, is not - but it is tolerated when small quantities of cannabis (up to 5 grams) are involved. Also in Amsterdam are a handful of smart shops selling psilocybin mushrooms and drug paraphernalia.

Red light district

See De Wallen for more information

De Wallen, also known as Walletjes or Rosse Buurt, is the largest and best-known red-light district in Amsterdam, a major tourist attraction. It is a network of alleys containing several hundred tiny one-room apartments rented by female prostitutes (and some ladyboys) who offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights. The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops offering various cannabis products.


Amsterdam is the hometown of Eredivisie football club Ajax. Its home base is the modern stadium Amsterdam ArenA, located in the south-east of the city.

In 1928, Amsterdam hosted the Games of the IXth Olympiad. The Olympic Stadium built for the occasion has been completely restored and is now used for cultural and sporting events, such as the Amsterdam Marathon.

Amsterdam also is home to a famous ice rink, the Jaap Eden baan. The Amstel Tijgers play in this arena in the Dutch ice hockey premier league. In speed skating many international championships have been fought in the lane of this ice rink.

The city also has a baseball team, the Amsterdam Pirates, who play in the Dutch Major League. There are three field hockey teams, Amsterdam, Pinoké and Hurley, who play their matches around the Wagener Stadium. These teams are often referred to as playing in Amsterdam; however, all of them (even Amsterdam) play their matches in the neighbouring city of Amstelveen. There is also a basketball team, the Amsterdam Astronauts, who compete in the Dutch premier division and play their games in the Sporthallen Zuid, near the Olympic Stadium.

Since 1999 the city of Amsterdam has honoured its best sportsmen and -women at the Amsterdam Sports Awards. Boxer Raymond Joval and field hockey midfielder Carole Thate were the first to receive the awards in 1999.


See Transportation in Amsterdam for more information

Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and is a centre of bicycle culture with good provision for cyclists such as bike paths and bike racks, which are ubiquitous throughout the city. There are an estimated one million bicycles in the city. However, bike theft is common, so cyclists use large secure locks.

In the city centre, driving a car is discouraged. Parking fees are steep and a great number of streets are closed to cars or are one-way. The local government sponsors carsharing and carpooling initiatives such as Autodelen and

Public transport in Amsterdam mainly consists of bus and tram lines, operated by Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf, Connexxion and Arriva; however, there are four metro lines; with a fifth line, the North/South line, under construction. Two free ferries carry pedestrians and cyclists across the IJ to Amsterdam-Noord, and two fare charging ferries go east and west along the harbour. There are also water taxis and a water bus, in addition to the canal cruises, that transport people along Amsterdam's waterways.

The A10 Ringroad surrounding the city connects Amsterdam with the Dutch national network of freeways. Interchanges on the A10 allow cars to enter the city by transferring to one of the eighteen city roads, numbered s101 through s118. These city roads are regional roads without grade separation, and sometimes without a central reservation. Most are accessible by cyclists. The s100 is called the centrumring, a smaller ringroad circumnavigating the city centre.

Amsterdam was intended in 1932 to be a major hub of the highway system of the Netherlands, with freeways numbered one through eight planned to originate from the city. However, the outbreak of the Second World War and shifting priorities led to the current situation, where only roads A1, A2, and A4 originate from Amsterdam according to the original plan. The A3 road to Rotterdam was cancelled in 1970 in order to conserve the Groene Hart. Road A8, leading north to Zaandam and the A10 Ringroad were opened between 1968 and 1974. Besides the A1, A2, A4 and A8, several freeways, such as the A7 and A6, carry traffic mainly bound for Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is served by eight stations of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways).. Five are intercity stops: Sloterdijk, Zuid, Amstel, Bijlmer ArenA and Amsterdam Centraal. Many other stations exist in the Amsterdam urban area.

Eurolines has coaches from Amsterdam to destinations all over Europe.

Amsterdam Centraal is an international train station. From the station there are regular sevices with destinations in Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Among these trains are international trains of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen and the Thalys, CityNightLine, and InterCityExpress.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is less than 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station. It is the biggest airport in the Netherlands, the fourth largest in Europe and the tenth largest in the world. It handles about 44 million passengers a year and is home base to KLM. Schiphol is the third busiest airport in the world measured by international passengers.


Amsterdam has two universities: the University of Amsterdam (Universiteit van Amsterdam), and the VU University (Vrije Universiteit). Other institutions for higher education include an art school, De Rietveldacademie, the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and the Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten. Amsterdam's International Institute of Social History is one of the world's largest documentary and research institutions concerning social history, and especially the history of the labour movement. Amsterdam's Hortus Botanicus, founded in the early 1600s, is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, with many old and rare specimens, amongst them the coffee plant that served as the parent for the entire coffee culture in Central and South America.

Amsterdam is thought to have excellent primary schools. Some of these schools base their teachings on particular pedagogic theories like the various Montessori schools. Many however are based on religion. This used to be primarily Roman Catholicism and various Protestant denominations, but with the influx of Muslim immigrants there is a rise in the number of Muslim schools. In addition to these schools based on distinct beliefs there are public schools.

The same goes for secondary education. Amsterdam is noted for having 3 independent grammar schools (Dutch: gymnasia), the Vossius Gymnasium, Barlaeus Gymnasium and St. Ignatius Gymnasium, where a classical curriculum including Latin and classical Greek is taught. Though believed until recently by many to be an anachronistic and elitist concept that would soon die out, the gymnasia have recently experienced a revival leading to the formation of a fourth grammar school in which the three aforementioned schools participate.


The administration of the municipality of Amsterdam is divided into 15 boroughs or stadsdelen; the central one, Centrum, being circled by Westerpark, Bos en Lommer, De Baarsjes, Oud-West, Oud-Zuid, Oost/Watergraafsmeer, Zeeburg and Amsterdam-Noord, with the six outer boroughs creating a further encirclement.


Amsterdam is usually understood to be the municipality of Amsterdam. Colloquially, some areas within the municipality, such as the village of Durgerdam, may not be considered part of Amsterdam. Statistics Netherlands uses three other definitions of Amsterdam: metropolitan agglomeration Amsterdam (Grootstedelijke Agglomeratie Amsterdam, not to be confused with Grootstedelijk Gebied Amsterdam, a synonym of Groot Amsterdam), Greater Amsterdam (Groot Amsterdam, a COROP region) and the urban region Amsterdam (Stadsgewest Amsterdam). These definitions are not synonymous with the terms urban area and metropolitan area, which are commonly used in English speaking countries for the purpose of defining large conurbations. The Amsterdam Department for Research and Statistics uses a fourth conurbation, namely the City region Amsterdam. This region is similar to Greater Amsterdam, but includes the municipalities Zaanstad and Wormerland. It excludes Graft-De Rijp.

The smallest of these areas is the municipality, with a population of 742,981 in 2006. The metropolitan agglomeration had a population of 1,021,870 in 2006. It includes the municipalities of Zaanstad, Wormerland, Oostzaan, Diemen and Amstelveen only, as well as the municipality of Amsterdam. Greater Amsterdam includes 15 municipalities, and had a population of 1,211,503 in 2006. Though much larger in area, the population of this area is only slightly larger, because the definition excludes the relatively populous municipality of Zaanstad. The largest area by population, the urban region Amsterdam, has a population of 1,468,122. It includes Zaanstad, Wormerveer, Muiden and Abcoude, but excludes Graft De Rijp, Uithoorn and Aalsmeer. Amsterdam is also part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a total population of 6,659,300 inhabitants.

City government

See Government of Amsterdam for more information As all Dutch municipalities, Amsterdam is governed by a mayor, aldermen, and the municipal council. However, unlike most other Dutch municipalities, Amsterdam is subdivided into fifteen stadsdelen (boroughs), a system that was implemented in the 1980s to improve local governance. The stadsdelen are responsible for many activities that previously had been run by the central city. Fourteen of these have their own council, chosen by a popular election. The fifteenth, Westpoort, covers the harbour of Amsterdam, has very few inhabitants, and is governed by the central municipal council. Local decisions are made at borough level, and only affairs pertaining to the whole city, such as major infrastructure projects, are handled by the central city council.

National government

The present version of the Dutch constitution mentions "Amsterdam" and "capital" only in one place, chapter 2, article 32: The king's confirmation by oath and his coronation take place in "the capital Amsterdam" ("de hoofdstad Amsterdam"). Previous versions of the constitution spoke of "the city of Amsterdam" ("de stad Amsterdam"), without mention of capital. In any case, the seat of the government, parliament and supreme court of the Netherlands is (and always has been, with the exception of a brief period between 1808 and 1810) located at The Hague. Foreign embassies too are in The Hague. Although capital of the country, Amsterdam is not the capital of the province in which it is located, North Holland, whose capital is located at Haarlem.


See Coat of arms of Amsterdam for more information See Flag of Amsterdam for more information The coat of arms of Amsterdam is composed of several historical elements. First and centre are three St Andrew's crosses, aligned in a vertical band on the city's shield. Historians believe they represent the three dangers which have traditionally plagued the city: flood, fire, and pestilence. This part of the coat or arms is the basis of the flag of Amsterdam, flown by the city government, but also as civil ensign for ships registered in Amsterdam. Second is the Imperial Crown of Austria "? in 1489, out of gratitude for services and loans, Maximilian I awarded Amsterdam the right to adorn its coat of arms with the king's crown, in 1508 replaced with Maximilian's imperial crown when he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In the early years of the 17th century, Maximilian's crown in Amsterdam's coat of arms was replaced with the crown of Emperor Rudolph II, a crown that also would become the Imperial Crown of Austria. The lions date from the late 16th century, when city and province became part of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Last came the city's official motto: Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig ("Valiant, Determined, Compassionate"), bestowed on the city in 1947 by Queen Wilhelmina, in recognition of the city's bravery during World War II.

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