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Municipality of Amsterdam [1].

Alternate meanings: See Amsterdam (disambiguation)

Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city of the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. The city itself has 735,526 residents (2002), while the population of the greater Amsterdam area is ca. 1,450,000.

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 Nightlife
11 See also
12 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. The Netherlands is one of the few countries where the seat of government is not also the capital.

The city is administrated not only by the mayor and central city council (Centraal [Stads]Bestuur) but also is divided in several city parts/neighbourhoods (Stadsdelen), which have their own councils (Stadsdeelraad). Any local decisions are made there and only major infastructural decisions are delegated to the main city. Apart from the city 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 renaissance city centers in Europe. Countless buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, also known as the Golden Age, 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, the Homomonument 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.


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. Amsterdam gained city rights in 1300 or 1301, granted by Guy van Henegouwen, the Bishop of Utrecht, but this was only a confirmation of the earlier rights given to the city by one of the Lords of Aemstel. Already on 27 october 1275 Amestelledamme [sic]] had been given freedom of tolls.

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. Amsterdam had remained a Roman Catholic city, and Roman Catholicism remains the major religion in the city to this day. Amsterdam is still home to several old Catholic churches (which have in some cases been converted in Protestant churches), and each year the Stille Omgang is still walked in march, a procession commemorating the "Miracle of the Host" of 1345. 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 the United Kingdom 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.

Between the wars, the Dutch built a dike separating the Zuider Zee from the North Sea, thus creating the IJsselmeer. Thus, the great waters to the east of Amsterdam were no longer salt water, but fresh water, and thus could be used for drinking, as rivers flow into the IJsselmeer.

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. Anne Frank was one of those people. Before the war, Amsterdam was the world's center for the diamond trade. Since this trade was mostly in the hands of Jewish businessmen and craftsmen, the diamond trade 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.

The eighties, nineties, and subsequent years saw administrative changes, as the city was divided in several semi-autonomous city parts. In 1995 the national government proposed creating a city province consisting of Amsterdam and neighbouring towns, but this was rejected by the city population in a referendum with a percentage of over 90% against. The primary opposition was not against creating the city province, but the splitting up of the city: the city parts would have become towns in their own right with their own mayors. Opposers feared that this would destroy the city's cohesion. The city province proposal was shelved and forgotten. Nevertheless, since 1995 the city parts have gradually become more autonomous, and neighbouring towns have been drawn into the city more politically and economically, so in a sense the city province has arrived in the form of 'Greater Amsterdam'.

The eighties and onward also saw a small exodus of people leaving Amsterdam for the 'growth cities' of Purmerend, Almere and other cities near Amsterdam, while economic immigrants from Muslim countries and foreigners who came with their companies replaced them. This has led to the fact that as of 2004 the population of Amsterdam is only ~45% ethnic Dutch, and this percentage is dropping.

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 previously 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 (soccer). It has won the European Cup several times, and the World Club Championship 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 city has an NFL Europe team, the Amsterdam Admirals, who are notable for being the only team in the league not to have won a World Bowl championship. 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 of modern art, De Rietveldacademie, named after the famous Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, has a good international reputation.

Public transport

A simulated-color satellite image of the Amsterdam taken on NASA's Landsat 7.

Apart from using public transport, riding a bicycle is popular. In the center, driving a car gives the common city center problems of traffic jams and limited or expensive parking space.

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

See also Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf.


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
Schiphol International Airport to the city, full of tired tourists with lots of bags. ATMss are also a preferred location to spot victims because they are likely to have cash. The city also attracts its share of junkies and homeless people, many of whom are psychiatric cases. There are a few hotspots where they are found, mostly in the red-light district De Wallen.

Studies of illegal firearm possession have been relatively few and far between. In 1995 it was estimated that there were about 24,000 illegal firearms 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 because experience has shown those victims are more likely to respect the authority of a 'police officer'.


Any cuisine of the world can be found in Amsterdam. Close to the Centraal Station is the Zeedijk, populated by restaurants from every part of the Orient. Turkish kebabs and Arabic 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 (compared with sushi). The way this fish is eaten differs from the rest of the country. It is cut into pieces and served with onions and pickles. Everywhere else it is eaten with some onions by holding the tail and letting it slide into your mouth.


Amsterdam has a very active nightlife with a lot of official clubs, but there are a lot of squat parties always going on as well. Some say it has been surpassed as the 'hippest' city by Rotterdam but it still has its own unique charm. There is a party about every day of the week. There are also a lot of bars and coffeeshops which all have their own unique charm.

See also

Holland, Dutch, Piet Hein Tunnel

External links