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Amsterdam travel guide — Amsterdam tourism and travel information

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about Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city of the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. The city itself has 738,763 residents (7 September 2004) and over 170 nationalities, while the population of the greater Amsterdam area is ca. 1,450,000.

Amsterdam history

Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century. A dam was built on the river Amstel, hence its original name Amstelredam, 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. Amsterdam gained city rights in 1300 or 1301, granted by Guy van Henegouwen, the Bishop of Utrecht, but this was only a confirmation of the earlier rights given to the city by one of the Lords of Aemstel. Already on 27 October 1275 Amestelledamme [sic]] had been given freedom of tolls.

Then 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. Amsterdam had remained a Roman Catholic city, and Roman Catholicism remains the major religion in the city to this day. Amsterdam is still home to several old Catholic churches (which have in some cases been converted to Protestant churches), and each year the Stille Omgang is still walked in march, a procession commemorating the "Miracle of the Host" of 1345. 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. Wealthy Jewish families from Spain and Portugal, prosperous merchants from Antwerp fleeing the destruction and ransacking of their city by the Spanish, and the Huguenots from France 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 center for banking.

The 18th and 19th century saw a decline in the prosperity of Amsterdam. Wars against the United Kingdom 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. At this time the Netherlands felt it had to defend its main city, to do this the Stelling van Amsterdam was constructed, a unique ring of 42 forts and land that could be flooded.

World War I did not affect Amsterdam as the Netherlands remained neutral, although trade and industry suffered.

Between the wars, the Dutch built a dike separating the Zuider Zee from the North Sea, thus creating the IJsselmeer. Thus, the great waters to the east of Amsterdam were no longer salt water, but fresh water, and thus could be used for drinking, as rivers flow into the IJsselmeer.

During World War II German troops occupied the city starting on May 15, 1940 and about 100,000 Jewish people were deported from Amsterdam, almost completely wiping out the Jewish community in Amsterdam. Anne Frank was one of those people. Before the war, Amsterdam was the world's center for the diamond trade. Since this trade was mostly in the hands of Jewish businessmen and craftsmen, the diamond trade almost disappeared. Amsterdam is still important, but the city of Antwerp in Belgium is the main center 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 squatting in unoccupied buildings became widespread. Riots and clashes with the police were frequent. In 1980, while Queen Beatrix was inaugurated as the new Queen of The Netherlands in the New Church on Dam square, a group of protesters outside fought against a police force.

The Eighties, Nineties, and Noughties saw administrative changes, as the city was divided in several semi-autonomous city parts. In 1995 the national government proposed creating a city province consisting of Amsterdam and neighbouring towns, but this was rejected by the city population in a referendum with a percentage of over 90% against. The primary opposition was not against creating the city province, but the splitting up of the city: the city parts would have become towns in their own right with their own mayors. Opposers feared that this would destroy the city's cohesion. The city province proposal was shelved and forgotten. Nevertheless, since 1995 the city parts have gradually become more autonomous, and neighbouring towns have been drawn into the city more politically and economically, so in a sense the city province has arrived in the form of 'Greater Amsterdam'.

The eighties and onward also saw a small exodus of people leaving Amsterdam for the 'growth cities' of Purmerend, Almere and other cities near Amsterdam.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Amsterdam".

This city is also known as: Amsterdam.

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