Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. It is located in the Southeastern part of the province of North Holland, which is in the west of the country. The Netherlands — often also called Holland — is located in the Northwestern part of Western Europe. It is bordered in the east by Germany, in the south by Belgium, and in the west and north by the Northsea. […more…]
That depends on who ‘they’ are. The official, native language is Dutch, but most people in Amsterdam also speak quite a bit of English. The city is home to people from 187 nationalities, so you will hear a lot more than just Dutch and English. You will not need to know any Dutch in order to enjoy your visit to Amsterdam.
Last time we checked, nearly 850.000 in Amsterdam proper, and altogether about 2.5 million in the metropolitan area. At the current rate of growth, in 2034 some 1 million people will call the city home.
According to the most recent figures, the 850.000 residents (442.693 households) of Amsterdam together own 847.000 bicycles. That represents 1.91 bicyles per household. 78% of people 12 years and older owns at least one bike. Bonus fact: each year between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are fished up from city’s canals.
The name Amsterdam is derived from the city’s origins: it grew around a dam in the river Amstel. However, the city may actually have been named after a dike built years earlier.
Dam square — in Dutch simply, de Dam — is Amsterdam’s best-known square, and it is a handy central location from which to explore the medieval city centre. It’s the site of the dam mentioned in the previous answer, though nowadays the erstwhile dam is no longer visible. Featuring the Royal Palace, Dam square often is the focus of events of national importance — as in the annual Remembrance Day (May 4) ceremonies which take place at the National Monument, commemorating those who died during the Second World War. By the way: do not call Amsterdam ‘The Dam.’
Mokum is a popular nickname for Amsterdam. It is derived from the Hebrew ‘makom,’ which means ‘place.’
Before the Second World War Amsterdam had such a large Jewish population that the city was referred to as the ‘Jerusalem of the North.’
Amsterdam is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its many canals.
Some folks think it’s cool to refer to Amsterdam as ‘The Dam’or ‘De Dam.” It’s not. It just makes you sound dumb. The Dam is Dam square.
Lucky! Actually: Amsterdammer, but if you want to surprise your Dutch friends, use the colloquial ‘Mokummer’ instead. (Mind you, many would say that one has to have been born and/or raised in Amsterdam to be considered a ‘real’ Mokummer). See What is Mokum?
How do you abbreviate Amsterdam?
We’re not sure why you’d want to, but here goes: A’dam (which you can pronounce as ‘Adam’).
What is the airport code for Amsterdam?
The IATA Code for Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is AMS. The ICAO Code is EHAM.
Amsterdam has 165 canals — with a combined length of 100 KM (60 Miles)
Can you swim in the canals?
Yes and no. People do swim in the canals — illegally or at ‘official unofficial’ spots. And then there’s Amsterdam City Swim an annual fundraising event — prior to which extra sanitation of the water takes place. After all, canal swimmers have to take into account certain hazards. Underneath the water: lots and lots of discarded bikes in which you can easily get entangled. On the water: lots of boat traffic. In the water: well, let’s just say that not yet all of the houseboats are connected to the sewage system. Here’s some info on where to swim in Amsterdam.
How many people a year drown in the canals?
No one seems to know the exact number, but reports from the Public Health Service and the Police indicate that 7-15 people a year drown in Amsterdam’s canals. Reportedly most drowning victims are men who, while drunk, attempted to relieve themselves into a canal (which, by the way, is illegal).
1,753 — many of which can open to let ships pass. ‘The bridge was open’ is a popular excuse for arriving late at school or work (regardless of whether your route actually includes a bridge…). 80 of these bridges are within the famous ‘grachtengordel’ (‘belt of canals). There are an additional 2250+ so-called ‘non-numbered’ bridges — most of them far less significant than the numbered ones.
Amsterdam has 3.050+ houseboats — anything from small, simple structures to custom-built, multi-story floating homes, as well as converted commercial vessels. If you take into account Greater Amsterdam as well (which the Amsterdam Tourist Board would really like for you to do), there are some 3.600 houseboats.
That depends on what you are looking for. The summer season is very popular, of course, but Amsterdam is a fun and fascinating city any time of the year. The main tourist season is July and August, with the best chance of good, sunny weather. The cultural season runs from September to May. The bulb fields — with tulips and other flowers — near Amsterdam are in bloom from mid-April through mid-May. Winters are relatively mild but can be cold and wet nevertheless. [Amsterdam’s climate and current weather]
The IJ is the river behind Central Station. Along with the river Amstel, the IJ has played an important role in the founding and history of the city, and continues to do so. It connects the Port of Amsterdam, via the North Sea Canal, with the North Sea to the West — and the rest of the Netherlands, along with most of Europe, to the east. It is one of Europe’s busiest marine corridors.
But how do you pronounce “IJ”?
The name ‘IJ’ consists of a digraph — two letters that are pronounced like a single letter. In Dutch both letters are capitalized. Pronounce IJ like ‘ay’ or ‘eye’. You’ll hear locals refer to “Het IJ,” so use that when asking for directions: something like ‘hat eye’ will work fine.
The Netherlands is part of the European Union and uses the Euro. Until 2002 the Dutch Guilder was used.
What it the most convenient and best place to change my money?
The most convenient places — money change offices at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and at Central Station — are not the best places to change your cash. Many travelers prefer to use ATMs (cash dispensing machines), but there are many disadvantages and pitfalls to take into account.
Amsterdam has 6,800 16th, 17th and 18th century buildings. National Geographic says the old town as “one of Europe’s best preserved, photogenic, and intact historic city centers.”
Many of these homes are converted warehouses where good would be hoisted to different floors. Those warehouses were built with a slight tilt to prevent the goods from damaging the building’s facade on the way up or down. That approach was copied in other buildings as well. However, some building tilt — whichever way — because the foundation has been damaged.
The 36-story office tower Rembrandttoren, named after the painter, is 135 meters tall — 150 if you count the spire. Not tall by international standards, but tall enough when you take into account that the average building height in the city is just 30 meters — and only 15 meters in the medieval center. The Rembrandttoren is located in the south of Amsterdam.
The tallest building in town is not open to the public. However, the nearly 100-meter tall ADAM toren — at the north bank of the river IJ — includes both an indoor- and an outdoor observation deck. Named ADAM Lookout, the attraction opens May 14, 2016.
A brown café is a pub with a dark wood interior, nicotine-stained ceiling and low-wattage lighting. You can find brown cafés throughout Holland, but Amsterdam features more of them than any other city in the Netherlands.
Yes, founded in 1838, Artis is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands, the oldest zoo in Europe, and the third oldest zoo in the world.
302: some pretty, some ugly — and many that appear to be a terrible waste of space, money and other resources.
In the Safe Cities Index 2015 White Paper published by The Economist, Amsterdam ranks as the 5th safest city in the world. Stockholm (4) and Zurich (7) are the two other Europeans cities in the Top 10. Other popular European tourists destinations are ranked quite a bit lower: Barcelona (15), London (18), Brussels (22), Paris (23) and Rome (27). That said, since 2012 Amsterdam has seen a number of high-profile ‘incidents’ of what the police refers to as “liquidations in the criminal circuit.” Those who (claim to be) in the know say it involves criminals executing each other.
Amsterdam is a safe city for women of all ages traveling alone or together. Journeywoman.com, ‘The Premier Travel Resource For Women,’ calls Amsterdam ‘female-friendly’ and recommends it as a city where women travelling alone can feel comfortable and safe.
Like most countries in the world the Netherlands uses the GSM cellular phone system. The GSM system is compatible with mobile phones sold in Australia, the UK, and most of Asia. It is not compatible with phones sold in Japan, or with many of the phones sold in North America. Check your Amsterdam cell/mobile phone options.
Historical reason: Amsterdam is a city where trade has always been more important than ideology or religion – overly strong views would only hamper relations. Too, Amsterdam is traditionally a city of immigrants. Jews from Spain and French protestants found a safe haven, centuries ago. When it comes to prostitution or the use of drugs the Dutch feel that if it’s going to happen anyway it is better to legalize and control it than to let it fester underground. [More about Amsterdam’s tolerance]
In the Worldwide Cost of Living survey 2015, conducted by Mercer Consulting, Amsterdam ranks 69th (down from 39th in 2014). The number 1 ranking — Luanda, Angola — indicates the most expensive city. Number 207 is the cheapest place to live: Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan.
In the 2015 version of its annual listing of the World’s Best Cities to live in (Quality of Living Rankings), Mercer Consulting ranked Amsterdam at number 11. In the 2015 survey Steden en Streken (Cities and Regions) survey by Dutch brand consultancy firm Hendrik Beerda, the Dutch themselves also ranked Amsterdam at number 11. Smaller cities and towns did best in the survey. Amsterdammers love their architecture, but are concerned about the availability of (affordable) housing. Overcrowding (particularly the high number of tourists in the city center) is seen as a negative as well.
While tipping is common, by law all prices in the Netherlands include tax and tips. However, leaving a tip (fooi — sounds like ‘foy’ with a drawn-out ‘o’) is customary in restaurants, bars, and pubs. [Tipping guidelines]
With 10 million visitors a year, Vondelpark is the most popular park not just in Amsterdam, but in all of the Netherlands.
A coffeeshop is a place where you can legally buy soft drugs (marijuana or hashish), space cakes, coffee, tea, and sometimes freshly-squeezed juices and sandwiches.
A koffie huis (coffee house) is the same thing, minus the soft drugs and space cake.
A 2007 report by Amsterdam’s Department for Research and Statistics shows that of the 4.5 million tourists who spend the night in Amsterdam during a given year, 26% visit a coffeeshop. According to the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, 10% of tourists even mention this as a primary reason to visit the city.
The previous Dutch government planned to introduce a pass card/membership system for coffeeshops, available only to legal residents of the Netherlands — effectively barring tourists. Amsterdam’s leaders opposed those plans. The current government has — under its provisional governing pact adopted in October, 2012, nixed the Wietpas, but retains the stipulation that only legal residents may purchased at coffeeshops. The language is somewhat unclear (they’re government types after all), but it appears that the new government will leave it up to individual cities to enforce the resident rule. Amsterdam has always opposed the pass, claiming that it will hurt tourism, and increase illegal drugs trading on the streets. Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan on November 1, 2012 declared that all 220 coffeeshops in Amsterdam will remain open to tourists. A few hours later, a spokesman for the justice minister said ‘not so fast…’, but in the end Amsterdam won out.
In an effort to combat nuisance caused by drugs tourists the previous Dutch government wanted to turn coffeeshops into private clubs open only to legal residents of the Netherlands. Members would receive what the government called a ‘club pass.’ Normal people referred to it as the ‘wietpas,’ using the Dutch colloquial term for marijuana. Another suggested name was ‘grass pass,’ but the foreign media preferred the term ‘weed pass.’ The incoming Dutch government has nixed the pass idea, but retains some of its proposed rules. Cities may now determine whether or not to allow tourists into coffeeshops. In Amsterdam, tourists can continue to smoke.
Is it true that the coffeeshops are closing?
No. Amsterdam has closed some coffeeshops (or Cannabis Cafes, as some foreign media refer to them) in the Red Light District. There were too many of them in close proximity. In the Project 1012 zoning/clean-up plan for the area, most of these coffeeshops were superfluous. In addition, between now and January 1, 2016, 31 coffeeshops are being phased out because they are located too close to high schools. By that time the city expects there will be 160 coffeeshops left — more per resident than any other town in the Netherlands. And yes, tourists are still welcome in Amsterdam’s cannabis cafes.
Queen’s Day was the annual Dutch national holiday in honor of the late Queen Juliana’s birthday — and later of the birtday of Queen Beatrix. It was held annually on April 30. Queen Beatrix, who succeeded her mother Juliana in 1980, decided to keep the holiday on April 30 as the weather on her own birthday, January 31, tended to prohibit outdoor festivities.
On Queen’s Day there were celebrations throughout the Netherlands. However, the most popular destination is Amsterdam where up to one million visitors join the 850.000 locals in the world’s largest street party.
Queen’s Day has been replaced by King’s Day. On April 30, 2013, Holland’s Queen Beatrix abdicated in favor of her son, then Prince Willem-Alexander. King Willem-Alexander’s birtday in on April 27. King’s Day — which pretty much resembles Queen’s Day — is therefore celebrated on that day.
King’s Day is a nationwide celebration of King Willem-Alexander’s birthday, on April 27. Though every single city and village in the Netherlands joins the party, lots of people head to Amsterdam on that day.
In 2014, King’s Day replaced Queen’s Day — which took place on April 30.
‘I amsterdam’ is the advertising slogan with which the City of Amsterdam brands itself. Located in back of the Rijksmusem, the I AMSTERDAM logo — 2 meters (6.5 feet) high and 24 meters (26 yards) long — has become one of the most photographed sights in Amsterdam. However, in December 2018 the letters were removed. A smaller copy of the motto is moved around the city. The motto, designed in 2004 by advertising agency KesselsKramer, is meant to convey Amsterdam’s inclusiveness: everyone should be able to say, “I Am Amsterdam.” It is meant to serve not only as part of the city’s tourist and business promotion activities, but also to convey to the city’s hugely diverse population that we’re all one — and should be proud of it. ‘IAmsterdam’ is a registered trademark owned by Amsterdam Partners — a public private cooperation between the business community, the City of Amsterdam, regional local governments and regional promotional organisations. The first three letters of the logo, I AM are red, while the rest of the letters — STERDAM — are white. When the logo was revealed there was speculation that the design was plagiarized from one made two years earlier by designer Vanessa van Dam. Her ‘IAmsterdammer’ — with a similar accent on the first three letters — had been printed on 120.000 postcards. The City eventually settled with her by buying the rights to the logo for € 20.000
The good news: the old joke about Amsterdam having four seasons a day is just not true. The bad news: at times it seems like it could be true anyway. Overall Amsterdam has the same mild climate as the rest of the Netherlands, but the weather in Amsterdam remains somewhat unpredictable.
Why is everyone wearing orange clothes?
Huh? We don’t. Well, actually, we do — but only on certain occasions. Orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family, which hails from the House of Orange. But you probably want a more extensive explanation.
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