Amsterdam

World Facts Index > Netherlands > Amsterdam

The real core of the city is Dam square with its beautiful Royal Palace. Most visitors arrive by train and the route they follow from Centraal Station takes them along the Damrak and Dam square. This area is really focused on tourists. All kinds of souvenir shops, street performers and restaurants can be found here. The square is used for events and concerts and is famous because of the many pigeons. The two main shopping streets in Amsterdam, Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk, come both out on Dam square.

Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein

The Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are both by day as well as by night very crowded. When the sun is shining the terraces are quickly filled. Street performers enjoy the public, that merely consists of tourists, with acrobatic acts or music. At night the public changes: the Amsterdammers go out here to celebrate their weekend, to visit the theaters, cinemas and clubs. The bars and clubs, like Paradiso and Escape, close here after 5 am. And next morning, only a few hours later, it starts all over again: the first tourists settle down on the terraces.

Jordaan

Built in 1612 by a city expansion, the Jordaan neighbourhood is well known in the rest of the country for its specific street life, corny songs, sarcastic humor and working class mentality. But this is mere nostalgia. Most of the Jordanezen (the native inhabitants) left some years ago for improved houses in neighbouring cities like Almere and Purmerend. Nowadays, it is a district with a lot of students, young urban professionals. The Jordaan accomodates many bars and cosy restaurants and is like a village in the big city. The Jordaan is located in between the Brouwersgracht, Prinsengracht, Raamstraat and Marnixstraat.

The Red Light District (De Wallen)

The red light district is the area left of the Damrak, the streets and canals in between the Warmoesstraat and a square called the Nieuwmarkt. The end of the two canals, the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, marks the borderline of the area. Medieval Amsterdam was built here. De Wallen is best known for its window prostitution, sex shops and live shows, concentrated around the Oude Kerk, in alleys and round the canals. The atmosphere is most of the time somewhat chaotic but cozy at the same time; consider the fact that loads of tourists, pimps, drug dealer, drug addicts and locals come together in this district to do his or her own thing. Here you'll find numerous places to eat and drink and have a good time, day and night.

Canals

On February 1st 1999 the Dutch government decided to qualify the inner city of Amsterdam as a monument, a protected inner city view. The girdle of canals (ranging from the Singel canal up to the Prinsengracht canal) is an historically important part of this region, and it is one the most attractive sights of the city. The girdle of canals starts at River Amstel and ends at the Brouwersgracht. One third of the houses along the canals (grachtenhuizen) were built before 1850. In the seventeenth century the city extended its boundaries and the canals were formed in a girdle around the oldest part of Amsterdam to accomodate the wealthy tradesmen and burghers. Firstly, the Singel canal was dug out, then Herengracht, Keizersgracht and latest, the Prinsengracht. The architecture is mostly in the form of classicism.

Pijp

The Pijp was by the end of the 19th century the first modern city development in Amsterdam. Many houses were built here at a very quick rate for the growing group of labourers. Nowadays the Pijp is known as the perfect example of multicultural society. People from all over the world live here, together with younger and older people, students and artists. That is the reason why this area is very multi-coloured, many things happen here. The main streets in the Pijp are Albert Cuypstraat, famous for its market, and Ferdinand Bolstraat. Around these roads you'll find many exotic restaurants and almost on every corner is established a typical Amsterdam pub.

Museum Quarter

The Museum Quarter is the area around Museumplein, just a ten minutes walk from Leidseplein. The main museums are situated here: Rijksmuseum, Van Goghmuseum and Stedelijk Museum. The Concertbuilding can be found in this neighbourhood too. The Museum Quarter is also known for its exclusive shops. In P.C. Hooftstraat and Van Baerlestraat have many international clothing brands their shops. And of course the Museumplein is a great place to sit in the sun, enjoying lunch or just relax. This cultural area is always very crowded, but not at night.

Banks of River IJ
The newest city developments take place on the southern banks of River IJ, on both west and east sides of Central Station. This used to be a desolate area, with decayed warehouses. Now this part of town, with a great view on the river, is being totally developed. The Oostelijke Handelskade is the place where new theaters arise, a new district for Amsterdam night-life. Also a new cruise terminal is built here: the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam. The new library will move here as well. The buildings are interesting because of the innovating architecture. The next 5 years the silhouette of this area will change constantly.

History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam has always been a well-known name in world history. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the centre of world economy, but nowadays the city is known for its tolerant character.

Early Amsterdam

Holland in the 12th century was barely habitable. The land was very humid and consisted mainly of peat. Various rivers intersected the landscape. One of those was River Amstel, which flowed into River IJ. By the end of the twelfth century a small settlement arose near a dam in this river. Thanks to this dam the city is called Amsterdam. Apart from that, this dam is still the most important place in the city, but it is now used as a square. Amsterdam became a town at the beginning of the 13th century, after the then sovereign lord declared it juridical as a town.

Meanwhile the town extended slowly from the centre around the Dam. Various ramparts were thrown up and canals were dug. Around 1420 the town was too small again. On the eastern part a new wall was built along the present Geldersekade and Kloveniersburgwal. On the Westside a moat canal was dug. The economy at that time was not really developed: the Amsterdam economy was based on beer and herrings. It was only after Amsterdam became a part of the Burgundian Empire during the 15th century that things began to go faster. Amsterdam's harbour had a stable function: fish from the south and grain from the Baltic countries were traded in Amsterdam's markets. Because of the economic prosperity Amsterdam developed into Holland's largest city, with a population of about 30,000.

During the second half of the 16th century, Europe had to deal with reformation. The Low Countries seceded from Spain after the Eighty Years' War, putting aside Catholicism. For a long period Amsterdam was allied with the Spaniards, but in 1578 Amsterdam was finally united with the rest of the Netherlands as one of the newest cities. Holland was one of the most tolerant regions in Europe during this period. For that reason, many Protestants and Portugues Jews who were persecuted elsewhere in Europe moved to cities in Holland. A large number of merchants from Antwerp resumed their business in Amsterdam, which meant a big boost for the local economy.

Golden Age

The Dutch were forced to find their own route to the Indies because of the annexation of Portugal by Spain in 1580. The first voyages to the Indies started in Amsterdam and were a major success. Stimulated by these results plans were made everywhere in the country to send more ships to the Indies. Out of all these initiatives the United East Indian Company came into existence, the VOC. Over fifty percent of the capital from the new company was in the hands of Amsterdam. When the VOC was founded not only merchants were involved, but the citizens invested in the project as well.

The 17th century was a period of glory for Amsterdam. Wealth, power, culture and forbearance flourished in the city. The population increased rapidly during this period and because of that factor, the city extended greatly. Amsterdam built its famous ring of canals. Tall houses were built on the canals, higher than in other old city centres in Holland. The Government strongly encouraged this development, because it added to Amsterdam's prestige. During the first half of this century two churches were built: the Zuiderkerk and the Westerkerk. The old gothic town hall was burnt down in 1652 and a new town hall, the present-day Palace on Damsquare was built. The The Plaetse or the Damsquare was enlarged by a huge amount, just like the rest of the city. After the Jordaan was completed, around 1700, approximately 200,000 people were living in Amsterdam.

Culturally these days were roaring as well. Due to the economic prosperity Amsterdam, its citizens could afford to surround themselves with objets d'art. Bredero, Vondel and P.C. Hooft wrote their famous poetry, while painter Rembrandt and his students had their atelier in Amsterdam. Philosophers like Spinoza and Descartes formulated their ideas on paper.

But in locations where things are going well, mischief lies in wait. In 1672 the powerful Netherlands got involved in a war with France as well as with England. Amsterdam's harbour was inaccessible to the fleets sailing in from the Dutch Indies, and because of that the boisterous prosperity came to an end by the end of the 17th century. The structure of Amsterdam's economy changed: the city lost its position as stable market for world trade. However, money transfers became more and more important and Amsterdam became the financial heart of the world, the banker for European Monarchs who financed their expensive wars with borrowed money.

After 1850

Amsterdam moved on quietly until industrialisation also took its hold on the Netherlands. After 1850 the population in Amsterdam suddenly increased greatly: from all over the Netherlands people moved to the city in quest of employment. New residential quarters were needed, resulting in town developments like the Pijp and the Vondelpark. After 1920 the large developments with new districts in West, South and East followed. Plan Zuid by architect Berlage is still very popular. North of the River IJ new quarters also rose up.

But in 1940 one of the darkest pages in world history became a terrible reality: World War II. The population of Amsterdam was hit very hard. Amsterdam had always had a lot of Jewish inhabitants and a lot of them were deported, and did not survive. Many places, like the Anne Frankhuis and the National Monument on Damsquare, are a reminder of this horrible period. After the war Amsterdam continued growing. In the sixties the Bijlmer was built, with its high blocks of flats, and a new island in the River IJ, IJ-burg, is currently being developed. 20,000 new houses will be built here.

Amsterdam is still the undisputed cultural centre in the Netherlands with orchestras, ballet and stages, museums and galleries and two universities. Soccer plays an important role in the life of many Amsterdammers. In the seventies Amsterdam was famous once again because of Johan Cruyff and Ajax. Ajax and the Dutch national squad's victories are celebrated like real national feasts in Amsterdam.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 50 51 60 68 77 82 85 84 76 68 58 54
Avg. Low 16 18 24 28 34 40 44 42 38 32 25 18
Mean 36 37 41 46 54 58 62 62 57 51 44 38
Avg. Precip. 2.7 in 1.9 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 2.4 in 2.8 in 3.0 in 2.8 in 2.6 in 3.0 in 3.3 in 3.3 in

 

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