Amersfoort (population 128,000) is the second largest city of the province of Utrecht in central Netherlands. The municipality of Amersfoort also comprises the villages of Hoogland, Hooglanderveen, and Stoutenburg-Noord.
Settlements in the Amersfoort area from around 1000 BC have been found, but the name Amersfoort (named after a ford on the Amer river, now the Eem) did not appear until the 11th century. It was granted city rights in 1259 by the bishop of Utrecht Hendrik van Vianden.
The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwentoren (Our Lady's tower) is one of the highest medieval church towers of the country. The construction of the tower and the church was started in 1444. The church was demolished by an explosion in 1787, but the tower survived. It is now the origin of the coordinate grid used by the Dutch topographical service.
The inner city of Amersfoort has been preserved very well since the Middle Ages. Apart from the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren, the main attractions are the Sint-Joris church, the Koppelpoort (a combined land and water gate in the city walls), and the Muurhuizen (Wall-houses), which were built against the oldest city wall.
In the Middle Ages, Amersfoort was an important centre of textile industries, and there were a large number of breweries in the city. In the 18th century the city flourished because of the cultivation of tobacco.
The nickname for Amersfoort, Keistad (boulder-city), originates in the Amersfoortse Kei, a boulder that was dragged into the city in 1661 by 400 people because of a bet. This story embarrassed the inhabitants, and they buried the boulder in the city, but after it was found again in 1903 it was placed on a prominent spot as a monument.
A new station Amersfoort Vathorst near Hooglanderveen, between the stations Amersfoort Schothorst and Ermelo, is expected to be ready by the end of 2005.