The heart of Amsterdam is ‘the Dam’. In the 13th century, the dam was built here in the river Amstel. The name of the city was born. The first ‘Amsterdammers’ were fishermen and merchants who got freedom of toll from Count Floris the 5th. It flourished as a trading center. Amsterdam’s coat of arms dates from this era as well. A figure bears the 3 ‘St. Andrew’s crosses’. Some say these 3 crosses represent the 3 enemies of the city: water, fire and the plaque.
The city developed quite rapidly and around 1613 the digging of the three main canals started. After the conquest of Antwerp by the Spanish in 1685, Amsterdam became the biggest and one of the richest cities of the world. During that time, it also became leading center for finance and diamonds. A position that would be held until around 1700. After the 80-year war with Spain, many people were drawn to Amsterdam and it became known for its relative religious tolerance. Jews from Spain and Portugal, Huguenots from France and economic and religious refugees found their safety in Amsterdam. Also the number of artists grew enormously.
The 17th century is considered to be the Golden Age of Amsterdam. The merchants of Amsterdam had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company. Therefore Amsterdam got wealthy for nearly 200 years, by establishing trading links all over the world. The reflection of this prosperity can be seen in the construction of monumental, architectural masterpieces.
After the French invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte founded the Kingdom of Holland in 1806 and his brother became King of Holland in 1810. The nation’s population rebelled. During the congress in Vienna, in 1813, it was decided that the Netherlands were to become a monarchy. After the recession, Amsterdam recovered during the Industrial Revolution and expanded. The North sea canal was dug and connects the port of Amsterdam with the Northsea. This canal was a positive development for the Dutch economy.
During the 19th century new public buildings were erected. The Rijksmuseum opened in 1885 and Centraal Station was built in 1889. The Stedelijk Museum opened in 1895. Rembrandt House Museum opened in 1911.
The Netherlands stayed neutral during the First World War but there were food shortages. As a result, there were riots in Amsterdam in 1917. After the war, new housing developments were built in Amsterdam to replace slums. In 1928 the Olympics were held in Amsterdam. Then in the 1930s work began on creating a park called the Amsterdamse Bos.
10th of May,1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands during Second World War. Many lives were taken due to starvation and as a result of the deportation of the Jews to Nazi concentration camps. The house of Anne Frank where she and her family were hiding, is one the most popular attractions nowadays. Amsterdam lost 10 percent of its inhabitants. After the war, Amsterdam flourished again. Then in the 1960s Amsterdam was a haven for hippies. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, new museums opened in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum opened in 1973. The Joods Historisch Museum opened in 1987. Foam Photography Museum opened in 2001 and Diamond Museum opened in 2007. Hermitage Amsterdam opened in 2009. Today Amsterdam has a population of 820,000.
1. Van Gogh Museum
This modern museum houses some 200 paintings and 550 sketches showing Van Gogh in all his moods. This is the biggest collection in the world, of his paintings combined with hundreds of letters by Van Gogh, and selected works by his friends and contemporaries.
2. The Rijksmuseum
This is the largest and the most attractive museum in the Netherlands, with more than one million visitors each year. The museum has a wonderful collection of the 17th Century Dutch Golden Age masterpieces. Famous “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt as well as other celebrated paintings like Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” and “Woman reading a letter”, “The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede" by van Ruisdael, “The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter” by Jan Steen and many more. These marvellous paintings reflect history and character of the Dutch. Unique sculptures and various antiquities as traditional furniture, Delftware, silver, ship models and doll houses complete the show.
3. Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House in the center of Amsterdam is the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during the World War II. Just a few empty rooms in the hidden annex to the house will make an unforgettable impression if you realize, that two families lived in these small quarters for more than 2 years hiding from the Nazis. The original of the diary is on display, as a part of the Anne Frank House's permanent exhibition.
4. Canal Cruise
The famous canals were built during the 17th century to control the flow of the Amstel River and to add acres of dry land to the city. Amsterdam’s wealthy merchants soon discovered that the canals were ideal for showcasing their mansions as well. A boat ride along one of the city’s 100 canals offers visitors a relaxing way to view traditional Dutch architecture. Lined with elm and lime trees and crossed over by more than a thousand bridges, the canals are home to some 2,000 houseboats, including houseboat hotels. Tour operators offer a variety of cruises, ranging from hour-long excursions to candlelight cruises.
5. Heineken Experience
The Heineken Experience is not just your regular museum. It has grown to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. You will find yourself in the former brewery and learn how Heineken became the world famous brand it is today. It’s full of interactive experiences including some beer tasting of course!
6. The Jordaan District
This is the city center of Amsterdam, known for its beautiful houses, nice restaurants and original shops. When in Amsterdam, it is a must to stroll through the little streets and canals. On the many bridges over the canals, you can take beautiful pictures and see why Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North. Popular streets in the Jordaan are the Prinsengracht, the Westerstraat, Haarlemmerstraat and the '9 straatjes' (nine little streets).
7. Central Station Amsterdam
Centrally l is the Dutch capital's main station, located right in the heart of Amsterdam, easy walking distance from most of the city's sights and hotels. The impressive station building was designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and completed in 1884. Cuypers also designed the Rijksmuseum, the similarity is not coincidence.
8. The National Maritime Museum
Artifacts from Amsterdam’s rich nautical history are housed within the Scheepvaartmuseum, or National Maritime Museum. Formerly a naval storehouse constructed in 1656, the museum features 18 rooms of exhibits and artifacts. Sea trade made Amsterdam the world’s wealthiest city during the 1600s, and this multi-story museum demonstrates how the Dutch dominated the seas with exhibits that range from depictions of historical sea battles to artfully drawn maps and 17th-century weapons. The museum’s collection of carvings also gives visitors an up-close look at how sailors passed their time while at sea. Moored outside the museum is a replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century ship which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies.
10. Red Light District
De Wallen is Amsterdam’s infamous red-light district, the city’s designated area for legalized prostitution. The neighborhood covers several canals and side streets to the south of Central Station. More than one hundred one-room apartments are rented by sex workers who entice onlookers from behind windows illuminated with red lights. A strong police presence keeps the neighborhood safe. Although taking pictures is not allowed, visitors are welcome. As the oldest section in Amsterdam, the district is also home to several historic buildings, including the city’s oldest church, the Gothic-style Oude Kerk. In the Red Light Secrets museum, you’ll learn how the area came to its existence. Furthermore, you’ll get a glimpse from inside a former brothel to get an idea of what it’s like inside. This place might just still your curiosity!
Located between Muntplein and Koningsplein on the south bank of the Singel canal, the Bloemenmarkt is the world’s only floating flower market. Seven days a weeks, flower sellers load stands and floating barges with all of the flowers and bulbs for which the Netherlands is famous. Founded in 1862, the Bloemenmarkt includes more than a dozen different florists and garden shops as well as souvenir stalls. The bulbs offered for sale have been designated as ready for export, so visitors can purchase tulip, daffodil, narcissus and other bulbs as a lasting memento of their trip to Amsterdam.
12. Koninklijk Paleis
One of three royal palaces in the Netherlands, it is located on the western side of Dam Square in the center of the city. The 17th century structure began life as the city’s town hall, but was converted into a palace during the Napoleonic Wars when Napoleon’s brother Louis was crowned King Louis I of Holland. Although the exterior was constructed by Jacob van Campen with sandstone to mimic the public buildings of Rome, the interior is a premier example of the elaborate Empire style of the early 1800s. The palace is still used by the Dutch Royal House for Royal events but is open to the public for most of the year.
Red Light District
De Wallen is Amsterdam’s infamous red-light district. Explore the various shops, bars, clubs, theaters and Coffee Houses.