Amsterdam's name derives from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city's origin as a dam of the river Amstel. Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), a result of its innovative developments in trade. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As the commercial capital of the Netherlands and one of the top financial centers in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city. The city is also the cultural capital of the Netherlands.
Amsterdam's founding is relatively recent compared with much older Dutch cities such as Nijmegen, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. Amsterdam was granted city rights in either 1300 or 1306. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely because of trade with the Hanseatic League.
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. The Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance.
The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the world. Amsterdam's merchants had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company. These companies acquired overseas possessions that later became Dutch colonies. In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the international trading Dutch East India Company became the world's first stock exchange by trading in its own shares. The Bank of Amsterdam started operations in 1609, acting as a full-service bank for Dutch merchant bankers and as a reserve bank.
The Amsterdam canal system was built in the early 17th century when immigration was at a peak, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals with their ends emerging at the IJ bay. The canals served for defence, water management, and transportation.
Amsterdam's prosperity declined during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam's second Golden Age. New museums, a railway station, and the Concertgebouw were built; in this same time, the Industrial Revolution reached the city. The Amsterdam–Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal was dug to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea. Both projects dramatically improved commerce with the rest of Europe and the world.
Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and took control of the country. Some Amsterdam citizens sheltered Jews, thereby exposing themselves and their families to the high risk of being imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. One of the most famous deportee was the young Jewish girl Anne Frank, who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Post Second World War, many new suburbs, such as Osdorp, Slotervaart, Slotermeer, and Geuzenveld, were built. These suburbs contained many public parks and wide, open spaces, and the new buildings provided improved housing conditions with larger and brighter rooms, gardens, and balconies.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, there has been renewed focus on urban regeneration and renewal, especially to areas directly bordering the city center.
Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Amsterdam's main attractions include its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops which draw more than 5 million international visitors annually.
Amsterdam has a rich architectural history. Over the years, the architecture is heavily influenced by the principles of the architect Hendrick de Keyser, baroque architecture, French culture, modern era - Art Deco, and finally it’s very own Amsterdamse School.
The city has many open squares ( plein in Dutch). The namesake of the city as the site of the original dam, Dam Square, is the main town square and has the Royal Palace and National Monument. Museumplein hosts various museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum.
Oude Kerk is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church, founded ca. 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam's main red-light district. In mid-March each year, Catholics arrive at the Oude Kerk to celebrate the "Miracle of Amsterdam" that occurred in 1345. Today, the Oude Kerk is a center for both religious and cultural activities and can be rented for presentations, receptions and dinner parties.
Westerkerk is a Reformed church within Dutch Protestant church in central Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Today the Westerkerk remains the largest church in the Netherlands that was built for Protestants, and is still in use by the PKN (Protestantse Kerk in Nederland). It is suggested Jacob van Campen was the designer and the crown topping the spire is the Imperial Crown of Austria of Maximilian I.
Also Rembrandt van Rijn was buried somewhere under a tombstone in the Westerkerk. The exact location of the grave is unknown. There is a memorial marker on the north wall, made in 1909 after a model on the 'Nachtwacht'. Every year on his birthday anniversary the 15th of July he is remembered in the Westerkerk with a lunchtime concert with music from the time of Rembrandt's life and flowers are hung on his memorial marker.
St. Nicholas’s Basilica is located in the Old Centre district of Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is the city's major Catholic church. The architect, Adrianus Bleijs (1842-1912) designed the church basing himself on a combination of several revival styles of which Neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance are the most prominent models. The facade is crowned by two towers with a rose window in between. The center of this window is formed by a bas relief depicting Christ and the four Evangelists. A sculpture of the patron saint of both the church and the city of Amsterdam was placed in a niche in the upper section of the gable top. The basilica has a collection of religious murals. Above the high altar is the crown of Maximilian I, which is a symbol seen throughout Amsterdam
Royal Palace in Amsterdam is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which are at the disposal of the monarch by Act of Parliament. The palace was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The building became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal House. It is situated on the west side of Dam Square in the center of Amsterdam, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk.
Centraal Station is the largest railway station of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and a major national railway hub. Used by 260,000 passengers a day, it is the second-busiest railway station in the and the most visited national heritage site of the Netherlands. Amsterdam Centraal was designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and first opened in 1889. It features a Gothic/Renaissance Revival station building and a cast iron platform roof spanning approximately 40 metres.
The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan contributes to Amsterdam's famed as the "Venice of the North".
Amsterdam has many parks, open spaces, and squares throughout the city. Vondelpark, the largest park in the city, is located in the Oud-Zuid. Yearly, the park has around 10 million visitors. In the park, there is an open-air theater, a playground, and several horeca facilities. Between Amsterdam and Amstelveen is the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), the largest recreational area in Amsterdam. Annually, almost 4.5 million people visit the park, which has a size of 1.000 hectares and is approximately three times the size of Central Park. The city has four beaches, the Nemo Beach, City beach "Het stenen hoofd" (Silodam), Blijburg, and one in Amsterdam-Noord.
The Rijksmuseum possesses the largest and most important collection of classical Dutch art. It opened in 1885. Its collection consists of nearly one million objects. The artist most associated with Amsterdam's Rembrandt, whose work, and the work of his pupils, is displayed in the Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch is one of top pieces of art of the museum. It also houses paintings from artists like Van der Helst, Vermeer, Frans Hals, Ferdinand Bol, Albert Cuyp, Jacob van Ruisdael and Paulus Potter. The Rijksmuseum has established itself as the most visited museum in Amsterdam with 2.2 million visitors in 2013.
Van Gogh museum is housed in one of the few modern buildings in this area of Amsterdam. The building was designed by Gerrit Rietveld. This building is where the permanent collection is displayed. Some of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, like the ‘The Potato Eaters’ and ‘Sunflowers’, are in the collection. The Van Gogh museum is the second most visited museum in Amsterdam, with 1.4 million annual visitors.
Next to the Van Gogh museum stands the Stedelijk Museum. This is Amsterdam's most important museum of modern art.
Amsterdam is famous for its vibrant and diverse nightlife. Amsterdam has many cafés (bars). They range from large and modern to small and cozy. The typical Bruine Kroeg (brown café) breathe an old fashioned atmosphere with dimmed lights, candles, and somewhat older clientele. The two main nightlife areas for tourists are the Leidseplein and the Rembrandtplein.
Famous festivals and events in Amsterdam include: Koningsdag (which was named Koninginnedag until the crowning of king Willem-Alexander in 2013) (King's Day – Queen's Day); the Holland Festival for the performing arts; the yearly Prinsengrachtconcert (classical concerto on the Prinsen canal) in August; the 'Stille Omgang' (a silent Roman Catholic evening procession held every March); Amsterdam Gay Pride; The Cannabis Cup; and the Uitmarkt.