Netherlands facts and history in brief
Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free Encyclopaedia.
Amsterdam is the capital and the
largest city of the
Netherlands, in the province of North Holland.
It has approx. 810,000 inhabitants.
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.
Amsterdam has one of the largest
medieval city centres in Europe.
Countless buildings from the 16th
and 17th centuries, now considered
historical monuments, are to be
found around a series of semicircular canals.
These face the old harbour which
once opened onto the Zuyderzee (now
cut off from the sea and known as
The city is well known for the Rijksmuseum,
Van Gogh Museum, the Concertgebouw,
Rembrandt House Museum, the Anne Frank house,
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 was founded as a fishing village
around the thirteenth century.
A dam was built on the river Amstel, hence its original
name Amsterdam, 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.
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.
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
and 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
centre for banking.
The 18th and 19th century saw a
decline in the prosperity of Amsterdam.
Wars against England 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.
During World War II German troops
occupied the city starting on May 15, 1940.
Before the war, Amsterdam was the
world's centre for the diamond trade.
Amsterdam is still important, but
the city of Antwerp in Belgium is
the main centre 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.
Amsterdam is the cultural centre
of the Netherlands, with much activity
in the arts, dance, theatre, and
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.
Also on the Amstel is the famous theatre, the Carré.
Amsterdam's other attractions are
the home of the Stedelijk Museum (20th century art),
the Amsterdam Historical Musum,
the Jewish Museum, the Nautical Museum,
Madame Tussaud's, 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.
There are numerous private art galleries
in the centre 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 centre 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.
It has won the European Cup several times,
and the World Club Cup twice, their new home
is the new Arena stadium, located in
the south-east of the city.
The Amsterdam Admirals is the
American Football team of the capital.
It also has a top field hockey
team, Hockey Club Amsterdam.
For more information about the
Netherlands facts and history in
All text is available under the terms of the
GNU Free Documentation License.
This information is correct December
2003. E. & O.E.
I visited Amsterdam in 1978
and I thoroughly enjoyed the city's
You can click on these photos for an enlargement.
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