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Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands (although the actual seat of government is in The Hague) and has about 800,000 inhabitants. The older part of the city is built around a pattern of semicircular canals.

The city is well known for its red light district, de Wallen, its numerous coffee shops with legalized cannabis, the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, Anne Frank's house, and the semi-circular canals flanked by rows of age-old houses.


Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century. A dam was built on the river Amstel, hence the name Amstelerdam, dam on the river Amstel. Before long the "Amsterdammers" discovered they had 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 smart move at the time. Religious wars raged throughout Europe and a lot of people were looking for a place of refuge where they would not be condemned for their religion. Wealthy Jewish families from Spain and Portugal came to settle in the Netherlands. Merchants of Antwerp fled the destruction and ransacking of their city by the Spanish. The Huguenots from France sought refuge in Amsterdam so they could practice their religion. But in Amsterdam nobody really had a belief, as long as you were willing to pay your taxes and do your bit for the economy.

The Seventeenth century was Amsterdam's Golden Age. Amsterdam's ships sailed to Indonesia, Brazil and Africa, gathering an impressive empire in the process. Rembrandt also worked in this century, and the canals were constructed around 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 toile on the city and trade was lost in 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 about 100.000 Jewish people were deported from Amsterdam, almost completely wiping out the Jewish community in Amsterdam.

The sixties and seventies put Amsterdam back on the map, for reasons other than trade. The tolerance of soft drugs made the city an ideal place for the hippie generation. Riots and clashes against the police became common, and many illegal squatters were forcefully expelled from their shelter. In 1980, while Queen Beatrix pledged her oaths to become the new Queen of The Netherlands in the New Church on Dam square, a group of protesters outside fought against a police force.

Nowadays Amsterdam has become more peaceful and has retained its tolerance of soft drugs and social problems.

Cultural life

Apart form the mentioned museums Amsterdam also has the Stedelijk Museum, for modern and classical art, and numerous smaller art galleries. The RAI center hosts many large commercial exhibitions and congresses each year. Amsterdam has a Music Conservatory and is the home of well-known theatre- and music groups, like Theatre Group Amsterdam, (Theatergroep Amsterdam), the National Dance Theatre and the famous Concertgebouworkest. The latter is named after the historic concert hall the Concertgebouw, famous for its accoustic qualities. A newer theatre, the Muziektheater, is better known with its popular name the Stopera, a contraction of the Dutch words for City Hall and Opera. Both the music theatre and the new City Hall are an architecural unity. Another older, but famous theatre is Carré along the river Amstel.

Amsterdam's zoo is called Artis.

Amsterdam is the home town of Ajax, an honorary division soccer club that won the European cup several times, and the Worldcup once. Halfway the nineties, they abandoned their old Ajax Stadium for the new Arena, located in the south-east of the city.

The Amsterdam Admirals is the baseball 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. It also has a Music Conservatory and a Social Academy.

To be done: Bijlmerbajes - Bijlmerramp - Amsterdam Sail - architecture - monuments - annual events - more on population - famous Amsterdammers -