Amsterdam is a beautiful city built on the River Amstel. It is situated in the province of North Holland, which means that Amsterdam is one of the twelve official capitals of the Netherlands.
The origins go back to 1275 when Count Floris IV built a dam across the Amstel river. This dam became known as Oude Dam or Old Dam and gave its name to the settlement, gradually growing around it. People began building their houses on artificial mounds called dykes—which were high enough to stay dry during floods—and therefore remained safe from floods.
The actual name “Amsterdam” was first mentioned in ducal charters dating from 1275. It refers to the dam on the Amstel River, a small river that runs through the city. The name was given during constructing a new fortification near the Dam square; originally, “Aemstelredamme.”
The town was probably built around this fortification. The original village (in Dutch: gracht) was surrounded by earthen walls and protected by a moat and drawbridge (the remains of which can be found in the Amstelkring shopping center). The village had its church, several farms, and houses, but perhaps most importantly, its dairy (right next to today’s Vondelpark). A small wooden bridge across the moat led to what is now called Leidseplein; then, it was a village square.
In the 13th century, the city began to grow quickly. The population increased from 3,000 in 1300 to 10,000 in 1400. The town’s economy also improved: several markets were established, and trade flourished. In 1428, it became an official city. It was granted the right to have its port and shipyard and other important privileges for trade.
In 1499, the construction of a new dam across the Amstel River began. This dam closed off the river from the sea and created a large body of water known as the Amstelhoek. It also turned Amsterdam into a seaport and led to further growth of the city. Because of its strategic location on the Rhine-Amstel canal, Amsterdam became an important trade hub.
In 1618, a great fire destroyed most of the city center. Hendrick de Keyser quickly designed a new town plan, and soon after, construction began again. In just ten years, new churches, canals, and streets were built – giving it its famous 17th-century architecture – including the famous canals that you see today.
In 1879, a major railway station was opened at Central Station (the current Central Station), which connected Amsterdam to other European cities and made it easier for tourists to visit Amsterdam. In 1880, more than 3 million tourists visited, and the city earned its reputation as the “city of canals.”
It remained a small town until the 20th century, when it grew rapidly and became one of the largest cities in Europe. This growth was large because Amsterdam was spared during WWII. The city served as a refuge for many people who were fleeing Nazi occupation. While most of Western Europe lay in ruins after the war, Amsterdam quickly restored some of its former glory thanks to the post-war economic boom that took place throughout Europe.
The airport Schiphol opened in 1916 but only really began growing after WWII had ended. In 1947, Queen Juliana officially opened Schiphol Airport for passenger flights; this boosted tourism massively and led to the rapid growth that Amsterdam is now enjoying.
Amsterdam is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The city has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites (including the canal belt, De Wallen, and the old town center). Millions of tourists come each year and spend a lot of money on hotels, restaurants, and other tourist attractions. This is why the city’s government is constantly trying to balance Amsterdam’s reputation as a city for tourists with its reputation as one of the most livable cities in Europe.
Amsterdam’s Top 3 Attractions
Amsterdam is famous for its canals, which are lined with beautiful 17th-century houses and monuments. These canals were dug in the 17th century to make Amsterdam a major seaport. They’re now used mostly for tourism, as well as water management. These “canals” aren’t canals at all – they’re large lakes that have been turned into a canal system. The canal belt is larger than Venice! It has more than 100 kilometers of canals, and it’s connected to the North Sea by three rivers: the IJ, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht (which also contains the famous Jordaan district).
The Red Light District (De Wallen)
The red light district is located in the Oude Zijde (Old Side) district known as De Wallen. The official name for this neighborhood is De Walletjes, but everyone knows it as De Wallen. This area is a major attraction for tourists, especially those outside of Europe.
Dam Square / Nieuwmarkt / Waterlooplein
This square is probably the most famous in Amsterdam. Many people call it the “crown jewel” of the town. It’s situated at the end of Damrak (a famous canal that leads into the heart of Amsterdam). On this square, you can find the Royal Palace (now home to Queen Máxima and King Willem-Alexander) and several other monumental buildings.
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