Amsterdam’s charming canal belt, historical monuments and prestigious museums are world-renowned. Amsterdam is one of the most important cultural centres in Europe.
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands with impressive architecture, lovely canals that criss cross the city, great shopping, and friendly people who nearly all speak English well. There is something for every traveller's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city. With around 75 festivals held in the city each year, Amsterdam’s reputation as a City of Festivals is justly deserved. Amsterdam has over a million inhabitants in the urban area, and is in the Province of North-Holland. Amsterdam is not the seat of government, but it is the biggest city and the cultural and creative centre of the Netherlands.
The Dutch capital has come a long way since the River Amstel was dammed in the 13th century, spawning the settlement of Aemstelledamme. Early on the town became a trading centre, with ships delivering grain and timber from the Baltic region, then picking up cloth manufactured in Leiden. As the sea trade grew, more ships were built and in the mid-16th century the harbour was expanded. Calvinism, a strict variant of Protestantism, took root. After the kingdom of Spain acquired Holland in 1519, King Philip II's attempts to restore the Catholic religion were fiercely opposed. In 1579 seven northern provinces formed an alliance against Spain, marking the inception of the Netherlands as a country. The agreement set the stage for Holland's ascent in the 17th century, as Dutch ships plied the seas seeking foreign sources of goods and Amsterdam became the centre of a thriving shipbuilding industry. It was during this period that the belt of canals was completed (recently added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites) and many of the stately homes alongside them went up for a prospering merchant class. It was also a golden age for the arts, when The Night Watch and other masterpieces that now hang in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum were painted. The boom times came to an end when England challenged Holland for hegemony of its trade routes. A series of Anglo-Dutch wars followed. Not long after, the French invaded and Napoleon installed his brother Louis in Amsterdam's Royal Palace. After Napoleon's defeat in 1813, the Dutch regained control of their destiny. The construction of the grand Centraal Station secured Amsterdam's position as a rail transport hub. Industry boomed until the Great Depression, then Germany invaded soon after the start of World War II. Unlike Rotterdam and Arnhem, Amsterdam emerged physically unscathed though it suffered the mass deportation of its substantial Jewish population, and many Amsterdammers perished toward the end of the war. With reconstruction, Amsterdam expanded, building new residential zones to its west and southeast. In the 1960s the city became a countercultural mecca, and escalating rents in the following decade provoked a squatters' movement.
The oldest and most visited area of Amsterdam, known for its traditional architecture, canal tours, shopping and many coffeeshops. Most evolves around Dam Square, but the area around Nieuwmarkt is also interesting, as it is the home of Chinatown and the Red Light District.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historical district is among the wealthiest of the country with plenty of Dutch celebrities owning property here. Rembrandt Square and Leidse Square are the city's prime nightlife spots.
A traditional working class area gone upmarket with plenty of art galleries, hip boutiques and happening restaurants. Also includes the Haarlemmerbuurt and the Western Islands.
Intended to be an extension of the Canal Ring, lack of demand made this into a leafy area with lots of greenery, botanical gardens and Artis Zoo.
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