Amsterdam

Short history

Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, has a history that dates back to the 12th century. Originally a fishing village, Amsterdam grew as a trade hub due to its strategic location at the mouth of the Amstel River. By the 17th century, Amsterdam had become one of the wealthiest cities in the world, thanks to its dominance in international trade. The Dutch East India Company, based in Amsterdam, was a major player in global commerce during this time.

The city played an important role in the Dutch Golden Age, with renowned artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer calling Amsterdam home.

Today, Amsterdam is known for its canals, historic architecture, culture, and progressive attitudes. It continues to be a popular destination for travelers from around the world.

Geography and climate

Amsterdam is located in the western part of the country. It is situated along the Amstel River, which flows into the IJ Bay. The city is known for its extensive network of canals, which have earned it the nickname “Venice of the North.”

Amsterdam has a temperate maritime climate, with mild summers and cool winters. The city experiences a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year, with the highest precipitation falling during the autumn months.

Due to its proximity to the North Sea, Amsterdam is known for its breezy weather and relatively high humidity levels. The average temperature in the summer months hovers around 20-25°C (68-77°F), while in the winter, temperatures can drop to 0-5°C (32-41°F).

Overall, Amsterdam’s climate is characterized by its changeable weather patterns, with frequent cloud cover and a fair amount of wind throughout the year.

Population

With a population size of around 1.2 million people in urban area, Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands. The inhabitants of Amsterdam come from various ethnic backgrounds, with a majority being of Dutch descent. However, due to its history as a major port city, Amsterdam is also home to a large immigrant population, with people from Suriname, Morocco, Turkey, and other countries contributing to its cultural richness.

In terms of religion, Amsterdam was historically a predominantly Catholic city. Today it is home to people of various faiths, including Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism.

The official language of Amsterdam is Dutch, but due to its cosmopolitan nature, English is widely spoken and understood throughout the city. In addition, many residents speak other languages such as Spanish, French, and German, reflecting Amsterdam’s status as a global city.

Main sights

  • The Anne Frank House is the place where the Jewish diarist hid during World War II. Visitors can tour the secret annex where Anne wrote her diary and learn about the history of the Holocaust.
  • The Rijksmuseum is home to a vast collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.
  • The Van Gogh Museum is also a city’s attraction which presents the life and work of the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
  • In the Jordaan neighborhood you can see the traditional Dutch canal houses and browse the charming boutiques and art galleries.
  • The Royal Palace on Dam Square was originally built as the city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.
  • The Westerkerk church, located near the Jordaan district, has distinctive Renaissance architecture and tall spire make it a standout feature in the city’s skyline.

Food

  • Stroopwafels are thin waffles filled with a rich caramel syrup that provides a perfect balance of sweetness and crunch. These delicious treats are often enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea at cafes around Amsterdam.
  • Poffertjes are mini pancakes that are fluffy and light. Bite-sized delights are traditionally topped with powdered sugar and butter.
  • Bitterballen, a popular deep-fried meat-based snack, are a crispy, bite-sized balls typically filled with a mixture of beef or veal ragout and served with mustard for dipping, making them a classic Dutch comfort food.
  • Indonesian rijsttafel features an assortment of flavorful dishes served with rice. This unique dining experience originated during the colonial period when the Dutch brought Indonesian cuisine to the Netherlands.
  • The spicy Surinamese roti is a delicious dish of Indian-inspired flatbread. This flavorful meal combines tender pieces of chicken or beef with fragrant spices and vegetables, all wrapped in a warm roti bread.

Fun facts

  1. Amsterdam has more bikes than people, with an estimated 880,000 bicycles in the city proper, compared to around 800,000 residents. Cycling is a popular mode of transportation due to the flat terrain and extensive network of bike lanes.
  2. The city is home to the world’s only floating flower market, known as the Bloemenmarkt. Here, visitors can purchase a variety of flowers, bulbs, and souvenirs, all while overlooking the scenic canal.
  3. Amsterdam is renowned for its liberal attitude towards certain vices. The city’s famous coffee shops don’t just serve coffee – they also offer a selection of cannabis products for those interested.
  4. The Dutch capital has over 1,500 bridges, more than Venice. The bridges not only serve as functional pathways but also contribute to the city’s charm and beauty.
  5. Amsterdam’s concentric canal ring, which dates back to the 17th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.