Flag of Amsterdam. The three Xs represent the three dangers to the city: water, fire, and plague.
Alternate meanings: See Amsterdam (disambiguation)

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It had 731,289 inhabitants in 2000.

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 History
3 Cultural life
4 Sports
5 Education
6 Public transport
7 Roads
8 Crime and deviance
9 Food
10 External links


Because the government is situated there, it is commonly assumed that The Hague (Den Haag) is the capital, but the formal capital is Amsterdam, see also Capitals of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is one of the few countries where the seat of government is not also the capital.

Apart from the center, the municipality comprises the following parts: Amsterdam Noord, Amsterdam Oud Zuid, Bos en Lommer, De Baarsjes, Driemond, Durgerdam, Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, Holysloot, IJburg (under development), Jordaan, Oost/Watergraafsmeer, Osdorp, Oud-West, Ransdorp, Ruigoord, Sloten, Slotervaart/Overtoomse Veld, Westerpark, Zeeburg, Zuider Amstel, Zuidoost (including Bijlmer; see also Bijlmerramp), Zunderdorp. See also one of the external links.

Amsterdam Noord is separated from the rest of Amsterdam by the IJ waterway, for connections see there.

Amsterdam has one of the largest medieval city centers in Europe. Countless buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, now considered historical monuments, are to be found around a series of semicircular canals. These face the old harbor which once opened onto the Zuyderzee (now cut off from the sea and known as the IJsselmeer).

The city is well known for the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, the Concertgebouw, Rembrandt House Museum, the Anne Frank house, and huge numbers of bicycles.

Amsterdam is also famous for its lively red-light district, de Wallen and its numerous coffee shops selling cannabis. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Prostitutes are considered bona fide entrepreneurs; they pay taxes and are otherwise treated like any other self-employed tradesperson. Cannabis, on the other hand, is not, strictly speaking, legal; rather it is tolerated, meaning the sale (6 grams maximum per client) and possession of small quantities (30 grams) is not prosecuted.

Amsterdam has a temporary beach at the north side of Haveneiland, IJburg. Alternatively people go to Zandvoort and other towns on the coast of the North Sea.


1888 German map of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century. A dam was built on the river Amstel, hence its original name Amstelredam, dam on the river Amstel. The early "Amsterdammers" acquired a talent for trade and from the fourteenth century onwards trade with the Hanseatic cities flourished.

Then in the 16th century, the Dutch war of independence began against the Spanish. Although originally on the Spanish side, Amsterdam switched sides in 1578. As a result, freedom of religion was reinstated, a very positive move at the time. Religious wars were raging throughout Europe and many people were looking for a place of refuge where they would not be condemned for their religion. Wealthy Jewish families from Spain and Portugal, prosperous merchants from Antwerp, fleeing the destruction and ransacking of their city by the Spanish, and the Huguenots from France all sought refuge in Amsterdam.

The Seventeenth century was Amsterdam's Golden Age. Amsterdam's ships sailed to North America, Indonesia, Brazil and Africa, building an impressive empire in the process. Rembrandt also worked in this century, and the city expanded around its canals during this time. Amsterdam became the most important port of the world and an international center for banking.

The 18th and 19th century saw a decline in the prosperity of Amsterdam. Wars against England and France took their toll on the city and trade was lost to London. At the end of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution reached Amsterdam. Waterways to the sea and to the river Rhine improved communication with the rest of Europe and the world. Amsterdam got a new lease on life, but never reached the same supremacy as before.

World War I did not affect Amsterdam as the Netherlands remained neutral, although trade and industry suffered. During World War II German troops occupied the city starting on May 15, 1940 and about 100,000 Jewish people were deported from Amsterdam, almost completely wiping out the Jewish community in Amsterdam. Before the war, Amsterdam was the world's center for the diamondtrade. Since this trade was mostly in the hands of Jewish businessmen and craftsmen, the diamondtrade almost disappeared. Amsterdam is still important, but the city of Antwerp in Belgium is the main center for diamonds today.

The sixties and seventies put Amsterdam back on the map, for reasons other than trade. The tolerance of soft drugs made the city a popular destination for hippies, and the squatting of unoccupied buildings became widespread. Riots and clashes with the police were frequent. In 1980, while Queen Beatrix was crowned the new Queen of The Netherlands in the New Church on Dam square, a group of protesters outside fought against a police force.

Historical population

Cultural life

Amsterdam is the cultural center of the Netherlands, with much activity in the arts, dance, theater, and music.

The world-famous concert hall, the Concertgebouw, is the home of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The Muziektheater, a new (1986) opera house, in one building called Stopera with the city hall, facing the Amstel river, is the home of De Nederlandse Opera and the Dutch National Ballet. Another famous theatre is the Carré, also on the Amstel.

In addition to the early-mentioned museums, Amsterdam is also the home of the Stedelijk Museum (20th century art), the Amsterdam Historical Musum, the Jewish Museum, the Nautical Museum, Madame Tussaud's, and others. Also located here is the Sweelinck Conservatory of Music, the Theatre Group Amsterdam, and the National Dance Theatre.

Founded in the early 1600s, Amsterdam's Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, with many old and rare specimens.

Amsterdam's International Institute of Social History is one of the world's largest documentary and research institutions concerning social history, and especially the history of the labor movement.

There are numerous private art galleries in the center of the city.

Amsterdam's zoo is called Artis, a contraction of the Latin motto of the Zoo, "Natura Artis Magistra", meaning "Nature is the mother (or teacher) of art".

The RAI conference center center hosts many large commercial exhibitions and congresses each year.

Located near the Leidseplein is the nightclub Paradiso (previously a church) and the Melkweg, which both offer pop music and dancing almost every night of the week.


Amsterdam is the home town of Ajax, a team in the Dutch Football League. It has won the European Cup several times, and the World Club Cup twice. In the mid 1990s they abandoned their old Ajax Stadium De Meer for the new Arena stadium, located in the south-east of the city.

In 1928, Amsterdam played host to the Games of the IX Olympiad. The Olympic stadium still stands to this day, and is now used for cultural and sports events.

The Amsterdam Admirals is the American Football team of the capital. It also has a top field hockey team, Hockey Club Amsterdam.


Amsterdam has two major universities, the University of Amsterdam (Universiteit van Amsterdam, the UvA), and the Vrije Universiteit (the originally Protestant Free University or VU). Its academy for modern art, De Rietveldacademie, named after the famous Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, has a good international reputation.

Public transport

  • good national and international train connections, including a frequent service to Schiphol Airport; at night, once an hour there is a train to Schiphol Airport, Leiden, The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam and Utrecht.
  • 3 metro lines, partly elevated, no level crossings.
  • a light rail line (sneltram = fast tram) to the neighboring town Amstelveen, partly using metro tracks, partly on the street with its own lanes, but with level crossings.
  • 16 tram lines, on the street, partly mixed with all other traffic, partly on lanes shared with buses and taxiss, and partly on separate lanes.
  • many bus lines (urban and regional); bus traffic is often mixed with other traffic, but sometimes on lanes shared with trams and taxis or lanes for buses only.
  • many taxiss operate in Amsterdam.
  • Several ferries across the IJ; at least one is frequent, operating 24 hours a day, free of charge.

Using public transport or using a (rented) bicycle is higly advisable over driving a car. As with most big cities, traffic jams are very common and parkingspace extremely rare and expensive. If you only stay in the center, walking is a good option too, since everything is very close together.

A new metro line, North/South Line , and a new tramline [1] are under construction.

See also Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf.


  • Many streets have bike paths, and bike racks are ubiquitous throughout the city.

Crime and deviance

Amsterdam is a large city which attracts pickpockets and other petty thieves. A favorite of pickpockets in Amsterdam is the train from
Schipol International Airport to the city, full of tired tourists with lots of bags. ATMss are also a preferred location to spot victims since they are sure to have cash on them. The city also attracts its share of junkies and homeless people, many of which are psychiatric cases. There are a few hotspots where they are found, mostly in the red-light district De Wallen.

Illegal fireweapon possesions has not been researched in detail so far, but in 1995 it was estimated that there were about 24.000 illegal fireweapons in the Amsterdam-Amstelland region. A recent development are East-European gangs posing as police officers, asking for cash payment of a certain fine, or claming they must inspect one's wallet to see if he or she has fake banknotes in them. They target mostly East Asian tourists since experience has shown they are more likely to respect the authority of a 'police officer'.


Any kitchen of the world can be found in Amsterdam. Close to Central Station for instance is the Zeedijk, full of Oriental restaurants from every part of the Orient. Turkish kebab of shwarma restaurants are everywhere. Typical Dutch food would be raw herring, which you can buy in stalls along the road. Please note that the fish is cleaned! (comparable with sushi) It is eaten with some onions by holding by the tail and letting it slide into your mouth.

See also Holland, Dutch

External links