The first settlement on the site was established in the 13th Century around a dam on the river Amstel; the name of the contemporary Dutch capital literally means ‘Amstel Dam'. Within a century, Amsterdam quickly evolved into a busy trade centre and a major European port city. The 17th Century was the Golden Age of the city. Ships from the remotest corners of the world arrived in Amsterdam’s harbour, serving trade routes between the Baltic Sea, North America, Brazil, Africa, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. At that time, the Dutch capital became one of the richest cities in the world, Europe’s major transfer point for the shipment of goods and the base of the global trading network. The stock exchange of the Dutch capital was the first to start trading continuously, thus making the city a leading financial centre.
The dense network of canals in the historical city centre reminds one of the importance of the sea and river to the history of Amsterdam. Within this network sits all of the city’s major attractions. As you stroll along, you can admire the simple yet elegant facades of the narrow merchant houses. Every now and then, you’re likely to come across one of the city’s reputable museums. The Rijksmuseum holds one of the most impressive collections of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age in the world. The Stedelijk Museum is an important centre for Modern art. The Rembrandt House Museum and the Van Gogh Museum commemorate the lives and works of these two excellent artists, the latter being home to the largest collection of drawings and paintings by Van Gogh in the world. The Anne Frank House is dedicated to the story of the famous little diary-keeper from Amsterdam.
The relaxed and liberal spirit of Amsterdam is quite visible in the topography of the city. The Dutch capital is home to De Wallen, known also as Rosse Buurt, the largest and probably the most famous red light district on the continent. A labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys holds hundreds of small one-room apartments illuminated with red lamps. Female and male prostitutes offer their services poised behind glass doors and crystal windows. The area is also known for its large number of sex shops, peep shows and sex theatres.
Another topographical idiosyncrasy of Amsterdam involves its countless coffee shops, found at virtually every street corner. However, coffee shops in the Dutch capital are an altogether different thing than establishments of this name found anywhere else in Europe. A Dutch coffee shop sells soft drugs in small quantities (up to 5 grams), including a wide assortment of cannabis products as well as various drug paraphernalia. A museum dedicated to the history and cultural significance of cannabis is located in the De Wallen district.
The liberal spirit of the capital of the Netherlands allows its multicultural population to thrive. With a population of nearly 800,000 people, it’s home to representatives of more than 170 nations. They’re drawn by the wholly unique atmosphere of this vibrant former capital of an empire, which manages to retain the cosy charm of a small town. This impression is strengthened by the fact that Amsterdam is one of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities and a genuine centre of bicycle culture. It’s estimated that there are more than a million bicycles in the city. The impressive network of bike paths and ubiquitous bike racks make the Dutch capital a paradise for professional and amateur bikers alike.
The eclectic ethnic background and versatile spirit encourage artistic creation. Contemporary Amsterdam has bloomed into a European capital of fashion and design. Amsterdam holds the studios of such prominent names as Marlies Dekkers, Mart Visser Viktor & Rolf and Frans Molenaar. It’s also the proud hometown of many famous models, including Yfke Sturm, Kim Noorda and Doutzen Kroes, who all began their careers in the heart of the Netherlands. World-famous fashion labels such as G-star, Warmenhoven & Venderbos and 10 feet all have their headquarters in the city.
Amsterdam’s extensive shopping area includes traditional department stores such as the respectable Metz & Co established in 1740, and the Parisian-style Maison de Bonneterie from the end of the 19th Century. The impressive De Bijenkorf opened in 1870 as a tiny shop, only to evolve into one of the city’s most prominent shopping landmarks. Amsterdam also astonishes with a large number of unique specialty shops, including Lambiek, a comics shop that has inspired a cult following, and De Bierkoning, a beer shop that’s known to stock nearly a thousand various beer brands.
Sports fans will be glad to find themselves in the city during the football season. The Dutch capital is home to the famous club Ajax Amsterdam, based in the modern Amsterdam Arena. Another impressive sports venue is the Olympic Stadium built for the 1928 Olympic Games; since then, it has been thoroughly restored and today serves as the annual host of the Amsterdam Marathon.
Amsterdam gathers to every taste, offering everything's that's best about the Netherlands - book a hotel and visit this wonderful city, it'll surely take your breath away!