Tolerance and diversity, windmills and cheese, canals and bridges, museums and century-old buildings, history and culture, Anne Frank and Van Gogh: this is Amsterdam in a nutshell. By the number Amsterdam has 31 museums, 141 art galleries, 165 canals, 1,281 bridges, 881,000 bicycles, 177 nationalities, 2,367,809 metropolitan area residents, and 15,749,000 annual visitors,.
Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (frequently called Holland). However, The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government (a constitutional monarchy with his Majesty Willem Alexander as King since 2013) and not Amsterdam.
Founded as a fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam derives its name from “Amstelredamme” (literally, a dam of the river Amstel).
We have had the opportunity to visit twice this beautiful city during the months of August and October when the temperature is cooler and crowd is sparser.
After exiting the Amsterdam Central Railway Station the first sight to see is the “Damrak”, often called the “Red Carpet” of the train station, a bustling avenue full of cafes, terraces, department stores, and shops that takes us to the famous “Dam Square”, the historical centre and the beating heart of the city jostling with tourists and locals and hundreds of pigeons. If you miss Dam Square you haven’t seen Amsterdam!
There are plenty of sights to see both in and around the square.
The must-see in the square is the baroque-style Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis), once the town hall, then as official residence of the Dutch Royal family and now used occasionally for entertaining and official functions.
Next to the palace is the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) no longer used for church services but is now the site of Royal coronations and weddings and other royal investiture ceremonies and also final resting place of Dutch naval heroes.
Next to the New Church is the magnificent Magna Plaza, once the city’s main post office and later transformed in 1992 into a shopping centre. Its the place to shop for designer clothing and fashion accessories.
Opposite the palace you’ll see the 5-star Hotel Krasnapolsky
The dominant feature of the Dam Square is the 72-ft. tall limestone obelisk-shaped National Memorial Monument erected in memory of Dutch soldiers who perished in World War II.
Also in the square is the trendy renowned department store Bijenkorf, the multi-brand fashion store Bonneteire, “Beurs van Berlage” (an old stock exchange which now serves as a concert hall and exhibition space), and the Amsterdam Diamond Centre (Amsterdam has a worldwide reputation for its diamond cutting industry).
There’s so much to tell about we’ll continue our tour of Amsrterdam on the next issue.
TRIVIA: The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. The average Dutchman is just over 6 feet, while Dutch women average 5-foot-7!