Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The city's status as the capital of the nation is governed by the constitution. Amsterdam has a population of 820,256 within city limits, an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,289,762. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country(SONY PCGA-BP1N battery). It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million.
Amsterdam's name is derived from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city's origin: a dam in the river Amstel. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age(SONY PCG-5G2L battery), a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were formed. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam (in Dutch: 'Grachtengordel'), located in the heart of Amsterdam, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2010(SONY PCG-5G3L battery).
As Netherlands' commercial capital and one of the top financial centres in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. The city is also cultural capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world's top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. In 2010, Amsterdam was ranked 13th globally on quality of living[(SONY PCG-F305 battery) by Mercer, and previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in the Innovation Cities Index 2009.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city center. Amsterdam's main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than 3.66 million international visitors annually(SONY PCG-5J1L battery).
The earliest recorded use of the name "Amsterdam" is from a certificate dated 27 October 1275, when the inhabitants, who had built a bridge with a dam across the Amstel, were exempted from paying a bridge toll by Count Floris V. The certificate describes the inhabitants as homines manentes apud Amestelledamme (people living near Amestelledamme). By 1327, the name had developed into Aemsterdam(SONY PCG-5J2L battery). Amsterdam's founding is relatively recent compared with much older Dutch cities such as Nijmegen, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. In October 2008, historical geographer Chris de Bont suggested that the land around Amsterdam was being reclaimed as early as the late 10th century. This does not necessarily mean that there was already a settlement then since reclamation of land may not have been for farming—it may have been for peat, used as fuel. (SONY PCG-5K2L battery)
A woodcut depicting Amsterdam as of 1544. The famous Grachtengordel had not yet been established.
Amsterdam was granted city rights in either 1300 or 1306. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely because of trade with the Hanseatic League. In 1345, an alleged Eucharistic miracle in the Kalverstraat rendered the city an important place of pilgrimage until the adoption of the Protestant faith. The Stille Omgang—a silent procession in civil attire—is today a remnant of the rich pilgrimage history. (SONY PCG-5L1L battery)
In the 16th century, the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The main reasons for the uprising were the imposition of new taxes, the tenth penny, and the religious persecution of Protestants by the Spanish Inquisition. The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years' War, which ultimately led to Dutch independence. Strongly pushed by Dutch Revolt leader William the Silent, the Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance(SONY PCG-6S2L battery). Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, Huguenots from France, prosperous merchants and printers from Flanders, and economic and religious refugees from the Spanish-controlled parts of the Low Countries found safety in Amsterdam. The influx of Flemish printers and the city's intellectual tolerance made Amsterdam a centre for the European free press.
Dam Square in the late-17th century: painting by Gerrit Adriaenszoon Berckheyde(SONY PCG-6S3L battery)
The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, and Africa, as well as present-day Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil, forming the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company(SONY PCG-6V1L battery). These companies acquired overseas possessions that later became Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was Europe's most important point for the shipment of goods and was the leading Financial Centre of the world. In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the Dutch East India Company became the world's first stock exchange by trading in its own shares. (SONY PCG-6W1L battery)
Amsterdam lost over 10% of its population to plague in 1623–1625, and again in 1635–1636, 1655, and 1664. Nevertheless, the population of Amsterdam rose in the 17th century (largely through immigration) from 50,000 to 200,000.
Amsterdam's prosperity declined during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The wars of the Dutch Republic with England and France took their toll on Amsterdam. During the Napoleonic Wars, (SONY PCG-7111L battery) Amsterdam's significance reached its lowest point, with Holland being absorbed into the French Empire. However, the later establishment of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 marked a turning point.
The Singel with the Munttoren in the background, ca. 1900.
The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam's second Golden Age. New museums, a train station, and the Concertgebouw were built; in this same time, the Industrial Revolution reached the city(SONY PCG-71511M battery). The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal was dug to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea. Both projects dramatically improved commerce with the rest of Europe and the world. In 1906, Joseph Conrad gave a brief description of Amsterdam as seen from the seaside, in The Mirror of the Sea(SONY PCG-6W3L battery). Shortly before the First World War, the city began expanding, and new suburbs were built. Even though the Netherlands remained neutral in this war, Amsterdam suffered a food shortage, and heating fuel became scarce. The shortages sparked riots in which several people were killed. These riots are known as the Aardappeloproer (Potato rebellion). People started looting stores and warehouses in order to get supplies, mainly food. (SONY PCG-7113L battery)
National Monument – a memorial to the war victims
Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and took control of the country. Some Amsterdam citizens sheltered Jews, thereby exposing themselves and their families to the high risk of being imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. More than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Perhaps the most famous deportee was the young Jewish girl Anne Frank, who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. (SONY PCG-7133L battery) At the end of the Second World War, communication with the rest of the country broke down, and food and fuel became scarce. Many citizens traveled to the countryside to forage. Dogs, cats, raw sugar beets, and Tulip bulbs—cooked to a pulp—were consumed to stay alive. Most of the trees in Amsterdam were cut down for fuel, and all the wood was taken from the apartments of deported Jews(SONY PCG-7Z1L battery).
Many new suburbs, such as Osdorp, Slotervaart, Slotermeer, and Geuzenveld, were built in the years after the Second World War. These suburbs contained many public parks and wide, open spaces, and the new buildings provided improved housing conditions with larger and brighter rooms, gardens, and balconies. Because of the war and other incidents of the 20th century, almost the entire city centre had fallen into disrepair(SONY PCG-7Z2L battery). As society was changing, politicians and other influential figures made plans to redesign large parts of it. There was an increasing demand for office buildings and new roads as the automobile became available to most common people. A metro started operating in 1977 between the new suburb of Bijlmer and the centre of Amsterdam. Further plans were to build a new highway above the metro to connect the Central Station and city centre with other parts of the city(SONY PCG-8Y1L battery).
Subway station Nieuwmarkt with historic images of the Nieuwmarkt riots
The incorporated large-scale demolitions began in Amsterdam's formerly Jewish neighbourhood. Smaller streets, such as the Jodenbreestraat, were widened and saw almost all of their houses demolished. During the destruction's peak, the Nieuwmarktrellen (Nieuwmarkt riots) broke out, where people expressed their fury about the demolition caused by the restructuring of the city(SONY PCG-8Y2L battery).
As a result, the demolition was stopped, and the highway was never built, with only the metro being finished. Only a few streets remained widened. The new city hall was built on the almost completely demolished Waterlooplein. Meanwhile, large private organisations, such as Stadsherstel Amsterdam, were founded with the aim of restoring the entire city centre(SONY PCG-8Z2L battery). Although the success of this struggle is visible today, efforts for further restoration are still ongoing. The entire city centre has reattained its former splendor and, as a whole, is now a protected area. Many of its buildings have become monuments, and in July 2010 the Grachtengordel (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht) was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List(SONY PCG-8Z1L battery).
Amsterdam is part of the province of North Holland and is located in the west of the Netherlands next to the provinces of Utrecht and Flevoland. The river Amstel terminates in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals that eventually terminate in the IJ. Amsterdam is situated 2 metres above sea level. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders. To the southwest of the city lies a man-made forest called het Amsterdamse Bos(SONY PCG-7112L battery). Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea through the long North Sea Canal.
Amsterdam is intensely urbanized, as is the Amsterdam metropolitan area surrounding the city. Comprising 219.4 square kilometres of land, the city proper has 4,457 inhabitants per km2 and 2,275 houses per km2. Parks and nature reserves make up 12% of Amsterdam's land area. (SONY PCG-6W2L battery)
Amsterdam has an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb), strongly influenced by its proximity to the North Sea to the west, with prevailing westerly winds. Winters are mild. Amsterdam, as well as most of the North-Holland province, lies in USDA Hardiness zone 8b. Frosts mainly occur during spells of easterly or northeasterly winds from the inner European continent(SONY PCG-5K1L battery). Even then, because Amsterdam is surrounded on three sides by large bodies of water, as well as having a significant heat-island effect, nights rarely fall below −5 °C (23 °F), while it could easily be −12 °C (10 °F) in Hilversum, 25 kilometres southeast. Summers are moderately warm but rarely hot. The average daily high in August is 22.1 °C (71.8 °F), and 30 °C (86 °F) or higher is only measured on average on 2.5 days, placing Amsterdam in AHS Heat Zone 2(SONY VGP-BPS2 battery). The record extremes range from −24 °C (−11 °F) to 36.8 °C (98.2 °F). Days with measurable precipitation are common, on average 187 days per year. Amsterdam's average annual precipitation is 915 millimetres (36.0 in). A large part of this precipitation falls as light rain or brief showers. Cloudy and damp days are common during the cooler months of October through March(SONY VGP-BPS3 battery).
A bird's-eye view of Amsterdam's city centre
Amsterdam fans out south from the Amsterdam Centraal railway station. The Damrak is the main street and leads into the street Rokin. The oldest area of the town is known as de Wallen (the quays). It lies to the east of Damrak and contains the city's famous red light district. To the south of de Wallen is the old Jewish quarter of Waterlooplein. The 17th century canals of Amsterdam, known as the Grachtengordel(SONY VGP-BPS4 battery), embraces the heart of the city where homes have interesting gables. Beyond the Grachtengordel are the former working class areas of Jordaan and de Pijp. The Museumplein with the city's major museums, the Vondelpark, a 19th century park named after the Dutch writer Joost van den Vondel, and the Plantage neighbourhood, with the zoo, are also located outside the Grachtengordel.
Several parts of the city and the surrounding urban area are polders(SONY VGP-BPS5 battery). This can be recognised by the suffix -meer which means lake, as in Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer, and Watergraafsmeer.
Boat on the Prinsengracht in 2006
The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning. In the early 17th century, when immigration was at a peak, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals with their ends emerging at the IJ bay. Known as the Grachtengordel, three of the canals were mostly for residential development(SONY VGP-BPS8 battery): the Herengracht (where "Heren" refers to Heren Regeerders van de stad Amsterdam (ruling lords of Amsterdam), and gracht means canal, so the name can be roughly translated as "Canal of the lords"), Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal), and Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal). The fourth and outermost canal is the Singelgracht, which is often not mentioned on maps, because it is a collective name for all canals in the outer ring(SONY VGP-BPS8A battery). The Singelgracht should not be confused with the oldest and most inner canal Singel. The canals served for defence, water management and transport. The defences took the form of a moat and earthen dikes, with gates at transit points, but otherwise no masonry superstructures. The original plans have been lost, so historians, such as Ed Taverne, need to speculate on the original intentions: it is thought that the considerations of the layout were purely practical and defensive rather than ornamental. (SONY VGP-BPL8 battery)
A woodcut (1885) of the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, a canal that is now filled in
Construction started in 1613 and proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the layout, like a gigantic windshield wiper as the historian Geert Mak calls it – and not from the centre outwards, as a popular myth has it. The canal construction in the southern sector was completed by 1656. Subsequently, the construction of residential buildings proceeded slowly(SONY VGP-BPS9 battery). The eastern part of the concentric canal plan, covering the area between the Amstel river and the IJ bay, has never been implemented. In the following centuries, the land was used for parks, senior citizens' homes, theatres, other public facilities, and waterways without much planning.
Over the years, several canals have been filled in, becoming streets or squares, such as the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal and the Spui. (SONY VGP-BPS9/S battery)
Main article: Expansion of Amsterdam since the 19th century
After the development of Amsterdam's canals in the 17th century, the city did not grow beyond its borders for two centuries. During the 19th century, Samuel Sarphati devised a plan based on the grandeur of Paris and London at that time. The plan envisaged the construction of new houses, public buildings and streets just outside the grachtengordel(SONY VGP-BPS9A battery). The main aim of the plan, however, was to improve public health. Although the plan did not expand the city, it did produce some of the largest public buildings to date, like the Paleis voor Volksvlijt.
Following Sarphati, Van Niftrik and Kalff designed an entire ring of 19th century neighbourhoods surrounding the city’s centre, with the city preserving the ownership of all land outside the 17th century limit, thus firmly controlling development. Most of these neighbourhoods became home to the working class. (SONY VGP-BPS9A/B battery)
In response to overcrowding, two plans were designed at the beginning of the 20th century which were very different from anything Amsterdam had ever seen before: Plan Zuid, designed by the architect Berlage, and West. These plans involved the development of new neighbourhoods consisting of housing blocks for all social classes(SONY VGP-BPS9/B battery).
After the Second World War, large new neighbourhoods were built in the western, southeastern, and northern parts of the city. These new neighbourhoods were built to relieve the city's shortage of living space and give people affordable houses with modern conveniences. The neighbourhoods consisted mainly of large housing blocks situated among green spaces, connected to wide roads, making the neighbourhoods easily accessible by motor car(SONY VGP-BPS9A/S battery). The western suburbs which were built in that period are collectively called the Westelijke Tuinsteden. The area to the southeast of the city built during the same period is known as the Bijlmer.
Built in the Renaissance style, designed by the Dutch architect Hendrick de Keyser, the Westertoren (1637) is the highest church tower (85m) in Amsterdam(SONY VGP-BPL9 battery).
The old city houses on Damrak
Amsterdam has a rich architectural history. The oldest building in Amsterdam is the Oude Kerk (Old Church), at the heart of the Wallen, consecrated in 1306. The oldest wooden building is het Houten Huys at the Begijnhof. It was constructed around 1425 and is one of only two existing wooden buildings. It is also one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Amsterdam(SONY VGP-BPS10 battery).
In the 16th century, wooden buildings were razed and replaced with brick ones. During this period, many buildings were constructed in the architectural style of the Renaissance. Buildings of this period are very recognisable with their stepped gable façades, which is the common Dutch Renaissance style. Amsterdam quickly developed its own Renaissance architecture(SONY VGP-BPL10 battery). These buildings were built according to the principles of the architect Hendrick de Keyser. One of the most striking buildings designed by Hendrick de Keyer is the Westerkerk. In the 17th century baroque architecture became very popular, as it was elsewhere in Europe. This roughly coincided with Amsterdam’s Golden Age. The leading architects of this style in Amsterdam were Jacob van Campen, Philip Vingboons and Daniel Stalpaert. (SONY VGP-BPS11 battery)
Early 20th century houses in the architecture of the Amsterdam School
Philip Vingboons designed splendid merchants' houses throughout the city. A famous building in baroque style in Amsterdam is the Royal Palace on Dam Square. Throughout the 18th century, Amsterdam was heavily influenced by French culture. This is reflected in the architecture of that period. Around 1815, architects broke with the baroque style and started building in different neo-styles. (SONY VGP-BPL11 battery) Most Gothic style buildings date from that era and are therefore said to be built in a neo-gothic style. At the end of the 19th century, the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau style became popular and many new buildings were constructed in this architectural style. Since Amsterdam expanded rapidly during this period, new buildings adjacent to the city centre were also built in this style. The houses in the vicinity of the Museum Square in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid are an example of Jugendstil(SONY VGP-BPL12 battery). The last style that was popular in Amsterdam before the modern era was Art Deco. Amsterdam had its own version of the style, which was called the Amsterdamse School. Whole districts were built this style, such as the Rivierenbuurt. A notable feature of the façades of buildings designed in Amsterdamse School is that they are highly decorated and ornate, with oddly shaped windows and doors(SONY VGP-BPS12 battery).
The old city centre is the focal point of all the architectural styles before the end of the 19th century. Jugendstil and Georgian are mostly found outside the city’s centre in the neighbourhoods built in the early 20th century, although there are also some striking examples of these styles in the city centre. Most historic buildings in the city centre and nearby are houses, such as the famous merchants' houses lining the canals(SONY VGP-BPS13 battery).
The administration of the municipality of Amsterdam used to be divided into 15 boroughs or stadsdelen; the central one, Centrum, being circled by Westerpark, Bos en Lommer, De Baarsjes, Oud-West, Oud-Zuid, Oost/Watergraafsmeer, Zeeburg and Amsterdam-Noord, with the six outer boroughs (Westpoort, Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, Osdorp, Slotervaart, Zuideramstel, and Zuidoost) creating a further encirclement. On 1 May 2010, the number of boroughs was reduced to eight (Centrum, Noord, Oost, Zuid, West, Nieuw-West, Zuidoost, and Westpoort) (SONY VGP-BPS13Q battery).
The 8 boroughs of Amsterdam
"Amsterdam" is mostly understood to refer to the municipality of Amsterdam. Colloquially, some areas within the municipality, such as the village of Durgerdam, may not be considered part of Amsterdam. Statistics Netherlands uses three other definitions of Amsterdam: metropolitan agglomeration Amsterdam (Grootstedelijke Agglomeratie Amsterdam, not to be confused with Grootstedelijk Gebied Amsterdam, a synonym of Groot Amsterdam) (SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q battery), Greater Amsterdam (Groot Amsterdam, a COROP region) and the urban region Amsterdam (Stadsgewest Amsterdam). These definitions are not synonymous with the terms urban area and metropolitan area, which are commonly used in English speaking countries for the purpose of defining large conurbations. The Amsterdam Department for Research and Statistics uses a fourth conurbation, namely the City region Amsterdam. (SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q battery) This region is similar to Greater Amsterdam but includes the municipalities Zaanstad and Wormerland. It excludes Graft-De Rijp.
The smallest of these areas is the municipality, with a population of 742,981 in 2006. The metropolitan agglomeration had a population of 1,021,870 in 2006. It includes the municipalities of Zaanstad, Wormerland, Oostzaan, Diemen and Amstelveen only, as well as the municipality of Amsterdam. Greater Amsterdam includes 15 municipalities, and had a population of 1,211,503 in 2006. (SONY VGP-BPS13/B battery) Though much larger in area, the population of this area is only slightly larger, because the definition excludes the relatively populous municipality of Zaanstad. The largest area by population, the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (Dutch: Metropoolregio Amsterdam), has a population of 2,22 million. It includes for instance Zaanstad, Wormerveer, Muiden, Abcoude, Haarlem, Almere and Lelystad but excludes Graft-De Rijp(SONY VGP-BPS13B/B battery). Amsterdam is part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a total population of 6,659,300 inhabitants.
Main article: Government of Amsterdam
As with all Dutch municipalities, Amsterdam is governed by a mayor, aldermen, and the municipal council. However, unlike most other Dutch municipalities, Amsterdam is subdivided into seven "stadsdelen" (boroughs), a system that was implemented in the 1980s to improve local governance. The stadsdelen are responsible for many activities that had previously been run by the central city(SONY VGP-BPS13A/S battery). The city had initially been divided into 15 stadsdelen. 14 of those had their own council, chosen by a popular election. The 15th, Westpoort, covers the harbour of Amsterdam, had very few residents, and was governed by the central municipal council. Local decisions are made at borough level, and only affairs pertaining to the whole city, such as major infrastructure projects, are handled by the central city council(SONY VGP-BPS21A/B battery).
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands in a technical legal sense. The present version of the Dutch constitution mentions "Amsterdam" and "capital" only in one place, chapter 2, article 32: The king's confirmation by oath and his coronation take place in "the capital Amsterdam" ("de hoofdstad Amsterdam"). Previous versions of the constitution spoke of "the city of Amsterdam" ("de stad Amsterdam"), without mention of capital. (SONY VGP-BPS21B battery) In any case, the seat of the government, parliament and supreme court of the Netherlands is (and always has been, with the exception of a brief period between 1808 and 1810) located at The Hague. Foreign embassies are also in The Hague. The capital of North Holland is Haarlem.
The coat of arms of Amsterdam
The coat of arms of Amsterdam is composed of several historical elements. First and centre are three St Andrew's crosses, aligned in a vertical band on the city's shield (although Amsterdam's patron saint was Saint Nicholas) (SONY VGP-BPS21 battery). These St Andrew's crosses can also be found on the cityshields of neighbours Amstelveen and Ouder-Amstel. This part of the coat of arms is the basis of the flag of Amsterdam, flown by the city government, but also as civil ensign for ships registered in Amsterdam. Second is the Imperial Crown of Austria. In 1489, out of gratitude for services and loans, Maximilian I awarded Amsterdam the right to adorn its coat of arms with the king's crown(SONY VGP-BPS21/S battery). Then, in 1508, this was replaced with Maximilian's imperial crown when he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In the early years of the 17th century, Maximilian's crown in Amsterdam's coat of arms was again replaced, this time with the crown of Emperor Rudolph II, a crown that became the Imperial Crown of Austria. The lions date from the late 16th century, when city and province became part of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands(SONY VGP-BPS13AS battery). Last came the city's official motto: Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig ("Heroic, Determined, Merciful"), bestowed on the city in 1947 by Queen Wilhelmina, in recognition of the city's bravery during the Second World War.
The Zuidas district is the main business district of Amsterdam and is still largely under construction. Many Dutch multinationals have their headquarters here, like ABN AMRO and Akzo Nobel(SONY VGP-BPS13S battery).
Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is currently one of the best European cities in which to locate an International Business. It is ranked fifth in this category and is only surpassed by London, Paris, Frankfurt and Barcelona. Many large corporations and banks have their headquarters in Amsterdam, including The Royal Bank of Scotland, Akzo Nobel, Heineken International(SONY VGP-BPS13B/S battery), ING Group, Ahold, TomTom, Delta Lloyd Group and Philips. KPMG International's global headquarters is located in nearby Amstelveen, where many non-Dutch companies have settled as well, because surrounding communities allow full land ownership, contrary to Amsterdam's land-lease system.
Though many small offices are still located on the old canals, companies are increasingly relocating outside the city centre. The Zuidas (English: South Axis) has become the new financial and legal hub. (SONY VGP-BPS13B/G battery) The five largest law firms of the Netherlands, a number of Dutch subsidiaries of large consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group and Accenture, and the World Trade Center Amsterdam are also located in Zuidas.
There are three other smaller financial districts in Amsterdam. The first is the area surrounding Amsterdam Sloterdijk railway station, where several newspapers like De Telegraaf have their offices. Also, Deloitte, (SONY VGP-BPS14 battery) the municipal public transport company (Gemeentelijk Vervoersbedrijf) and the Dutch tax offices (Belastingdienst) are located there. The second Financial District is the area surrounding Amsterdam Arena. The third is the area surrounding Amsterdam Amstel railway station. The tallest building in Amsterdam, the Rembrandt Tower, is situated there, as is the headquarters of Philips.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange (AEX), nowadays part of Euronext, is the world's oldest stock exchange and is one of Europe's largest bourses(SONY VGP-BPL14 battery). It is situated near Dam Square in the city's centre.
De Wallen, the largest red-light district of Amsterdam, is a major tourist attraction.
Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.63 million international visitors annually, this is excluding the 16 million day trippers visiting the city every year. The number of visitors has been growing steadily over the past decade. This can be attributed to an increasing number of European visitors. Two thirds of the hotels are located in the city's centre(SONY VGP-BPS14/B battery). Hotels with 4 or 5 stars contribute 42% of the total beds available and 41% of the overnight stays in Amsterdam. The room occupation rate was 78% in 2006, up from 70% in 2005. The majority of tourists (74%) originate from Europe. The largest group of non-European visitors come from the United States, accounting for 14% of the total. Certain years have a theme in Amsterdam to attract extra tourists. For example, the year 2006 was designated "Rembrandt 400"(SONY VGP-BPS14/S battery), to celebrate the 400th birthday of Rembrandt van Rijn. Some hotels offer special arrangements or activities during these years. The average number of guests per year staying at the four campsites around the city range from 12,000 to 65,000.
De Wallen, also known as Walletjes or Rosse Buurt, is a designated area for legalised prostitution and is Amsterdam's largest and most well known red-light district. This neighborhood has become a famous attraction for tourists(SONY VGP-BPS14B battery). It consists of a network of roads and alleys containing several hundred small, one-room apartments rented by sex workers who offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights.
Shops in Amsterdam range from large department stores such as De Bijenkorf founded in 1870 and Maison de Bonneterie a Parisian style store founded in 1889, to small specialty shops. Amsterdam's high-end shops are found in the streets Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat and Cornelis Schuytstraat, (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery) which are located in the vicinity of the Vondelpark. One of Amsterdam's busiest high streets is the narrow, medieval Kalverstraat in the heart of the city. Another shopping areas are the Negen Straatjes and Haarlemmerdijk and Haarlemmerstraat. Negen Straatjes are nine narrow streets within the Grachtengordel, the concentric canal system of Amsterdam. The Negen Straatjes differ from other shopping districts with the presence of a large diversity of privately owned shops(SONY VGP-BPS22 battery). The Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk were voted best shopping street in the Netherlands in 2011. These streets have as the Negen Straatjes a large diversity of privately owned shops. But as the Negen Straatjes are dominated by fashion stores the Haarlemmerstraat and Haarlemmerdijk offer a very wide variety of all kinds of stores, just to name some specialties: candy and other food related stores, lingerie, sneakers, wedding clothing(SONY VGP-BPS18 battery), interior shops, books, Italian deli's, racing and mountain bikes, skatewear, etc.
The city also features a large number of open-air markets such as the Albert Cuypmarkt, Westerstraat-markt, Ten Katemarkt, and Dappermarkt. Some of these markets are held on a daily basis, like the Albert Cuypmarkt and the Dappermarkt. Others, like the Westerstraat-markt, are held on a weekly basis(SONY VGP-BPS22/A battery).
Fashion brands like G-star, Gsus, BlueBlood, Iris van Herpen, 10 feet and Warmenhoven & Venderbos, and fashion designers like Mart Visser, Viktor & Rolf, Sheila de Vries, Marlies Dekkers and Frans Molenaar are based in Amsterdam. Modelling agencies Elite Models, Touche models and Tony Jones have opened branches in Amsterdam. Supermodels Yfke Sturm, Doutzen Kroes and Kim Noorda started their careers in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has its garment centre in the World Fashion Center. Buildings which formerly housed brothels in the red light district have been converted to ateliers for young fashion designers, AKA eagle fuel(SONY VGP-BPS22A battery) .
Amsterdam has a population of 800,000 inhabitants. On 1 January 2012, the ethnic makeup of Amsterdam was 49.5% Dutch and 50.5% foreigners. In the 16th and 17th century non-Dutch immigrants to Amsterdam were mostly Huguenots, Flemings, Sephardi Jews and Westphalians. Huguenots came after the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685, while the Flemish Protestants came during the Eighty Years' War(SONY Vaio VGN-CR11H/B battery). The Westphalians came to Amsterdam mostly for economic reasons – their influx continued through the 18th and 19th centuries. Before the Second World War, 10% of the city population was Jewish.
The first mass immigration in the 20th century were by people from Indonesia, who came to Amsterdam after the independence of the Dutch East Indies in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s guest workers from Turkey, Morocco, Italy and Spain emigrated to Amsterdam. After the independence of Suriname in 1975(SONY Vaio VGN-CR116E battery), a large wave of Surinamese settled in Amsterdam, mostly in the Bijlmer area. Other immigrants, including refugees asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, came from Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s, many 'old' Amsterdammers moved to 'new' cities like Almere and Purmerend, prompted by the third planological bill of the Dutch government. This bill promoted suburbanisation and arranged for new developments in so called "groeikernen"(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ battery), literally "cores of growth". Young professionals and artists moved into neighbourhoods de Pijp and the Jordaan abandoned by these Amsterdammers. The non-Western immigrants settled mostly in the social housing projects in Amsterdam-West and the Bijlmer. Today, people of non-Western origin make up approximately one-third of the population of Amsterdam, and more than 50% of children(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11S battery).
The Church of St. Nicholas (Sint Nicolaaskerk)
The largest religious group are Christians (17% in 2000), who are divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants. The next largest religion is Islam (14% in 2000), most of whose followers are Sunni.
In 1578 the previously Roman Catholic city of Amsterdam joined the revolt against Spanish rule, late in comparison to other major northern Dutch cities. In line with Protestant procedure of that time, all churches were converted to Protestant worship. Calvinism became the dominant religion(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15T battery), and although Catholicism was not forbidden and priests allowed to serve, the Catholic hierarchy was prohibited. This led to the establishment of schuilkerken, covert churches, behind seemingly ordinary canal side house fronts. One example is the current debate centre de Rode Hoed.
The Amsterdam Esnoga
A large influx of foreigners of many religions came to 17th-century Amsterdam, in particular Sefardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, Huguenots from France, and Protestants from the Southern Netherlands(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15G battery). This led to the establishment of many non-Dutch-speaking religious churches. In 1603, the first notification was made of Jewish religious service. In 1639, the first synagogue was consecrated. The Jews came to call the town Jerusalem of the West, a reference to their sense of belonging there.
As they became established in the city, other Christian denominations used converted Catholic chapels to conduct their own services. The oldest English-language church congregation in the world outside the United Kingdom is found at the Begijnhof(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ4000 battery). Regular services there are still offered in English under the auspices of the Church of Scotland. The Huguenots accounted for nearly 20% of Amsterdam's inhabitants in 1700. Being Calvinists, they soon integrated into the Dutch Reformed Church, though often retaining their own congregations. Some, commonly referred by the moniker 'Walloon', are recognizable today as they offer occasional services in French.
In the second half of the 17th century, Amsterdam experienced an influx of Ashkenazim, Jews from Central and Eastern Europe(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ460E battery), which continued into the 19th century. Jews often fled the pogroms in those areas. The first Ashkenazi who arrived in Amsterdam were refugees from the Chmielnicki Uprising in Poland and the Thirty Years' War. They not only founded their own synagogues, but had a strong influence on the 'Amsterdam dialect' adding a large Yiddish local vocabulary(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11L battery).
Despite an absence of an official Jewish ghetto, most Jews preferred to live in the eastern part of the old medieval heart of the city. The main street of this Jewish neighborhood was the Jodenbreestraat. The neighborhood comprised the Waterlooplein and the Nieuwmarkt. Buildings in this neighborhood fell into disrepair after the Second World War, and a large section of the neighbourhood was demolished during the construction of the subway(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z battery). This led to riots, and as a result the original plans for large-scale reconstruction were abandoned and the neighborhood was rebuilt with smaller-scale residence buildings on the basis of its original layout.
Catholic Churches in Amsterdam have been constructed since the restoration of the episcopal hierarchy in 1853. One of the principal architects behind the city's Catholic churches, Cuypers, was also responsible for the Amsterdam Central Station and the Rijksmuseum, which led to a refusal of Protestant King William III to open 'that monastery'(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11M battery). In 1924, the Roman Catholic Church of the Netherlands hosted the International Eucharistic Congress in Amsterdam, and numerous Catholic prelates visited the city, where festivities were held in churches and stadiums. Catholic processions on the public streets, however, were still forbidden under law at the time. Only in the 20th century was Amsterdam's relation to Catholicism normalized, but despite its far larger population size, the Catholic clergy chose to place its episcopal see of the city in the nearby provincial town of Haarlem. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18M battery)
In recent times, religious demographics in Amsterdam have been changed by large-scale immigration from former colonies. Immigrants from Suriname have introduced Evangelical Protestantism and Lutheranism, from the Hernhutter variety; Hinduism has been introduced mainly from Suriname; and several distinct branches of Islam have been brought from various parts of the world(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18 battery). Islam is now the largest non-Christian religion in Amsterdam. The large community of Ghanaian and Nigerian immigrants have established African churches, often in parking garages in the Bijlmer area, where many have settled. In addition, a broad array of other religious movements have established congregations, including Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ210CE battery).
Although the saying "Leef en laat leven" or "Live and let live" summarizes the Dutch and especially the Amsterdam open and tolerant society, the increased influx of many races, religions, and cultures after the Second World War, has on a number of occasions strained social relations. With 176 different nationalities, Amsterdam is home to one of the widest varieties of nationalities of any city in the world. The immigrant share of the population in the city proper now counts about 50%.(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31S battery)
Despite the presentation and common perception of Amsterdam as an open and tolerant society, especially the non-western minorities experience increasing degree of cultural suppression. Among others, in line with the well publicized negative attitude changes in Dutch politics towards certain (especially Islamic) minorities, Turkish-language and Arabic-language TV channels (Turks and Moroccans constitute the biggest immigrant communities) have been dropped from the basic cable TV package. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z battery)In recent years, politicians are actively discouraged against campaigning in minority languages. In the previous local elections politicians were criticized by current Amsterdam mayor Mr van der Laan (then minister of Integration) for distributing election leaflets in minority languages and in some cases leaflets were collected. Due to this anti-Multicultural stand in a multicultural city, van der Laan has been accused of hypocrisy by its own party's PvdA main candidate. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31E battery)Also during the same period, possibly due to his belief in integration via (possibly not always voluntary) assimilation, Amsterdam has been one of the municipalities in the Netherlands which provided immigrants with extensive and totally free Dutch language courses. Although this has been largely funded by central Dutch government, in terms efficiency and widespread use, Amsterdam has been in the forefronts of this programme. This has benefited many immigrants(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31J battery).
Inhabitants by origin
In 2011, 35.0% of the total population and 52.6% of young people under 18 were of non-European origin.
In the city centre, driving a car is discouraged. Parking fees are expensive, and many streets are closed to cars or are one-way. The local government sponsors carsharing and carpooling initiatives such as Autodelen and Meerijden.nu. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31M battery)
Regional buses, and some suburban buses, are operated by Connexxion and Arriva. Currently, there are sixteen tram lines, and four metro lines, with a fifth line, the North/South line, under construction. Three free ferries carry pedestrians and cyclists across the IJ to Amsterdam-Noord, and two fare-charging ferries run east and west along the harbour. There are also water taxis, a water bus, a boat sharing operation, electric rental boats (Boaty) and canal cruises, that transport people along Amsterdam's waterways(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31B battery).
The A10 ringroad surrounding the city connects Amsterdam with the Dutch national network of freeways. Interchanges on the A10 allow cars to enter the city by transferring to one of the 18 city roads, numbered S101 through to S118. These city roads are regional roads without grade separation, and sometimes without a central reservation. Most are accessible by cyclists. The S100 Centrumring is a smaller ringroad circumnavigating the city's centre(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ32 battery).
A tram crossing a bridge over the river Amstel
Amsterdam was intended in 1932 to be the hub, a kind of Kilometre Zero, of the highway system of the Netherlands, with freeways numbered One to Eight planned to originate from the city. The outbreak of the Second World War and shifting priorities led to the current situation, where only roads A1, A2, and A4 originate from Amsterdam according to the original plan. The A3 road to Rotterdam was cancelled in 1970 in order to conserve the Groene Hart(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21 battery). Road A8, leading north to Zaandam and the A10 Ringroad were opened between 1968 and 1974. Besides the A1, A2, A4 and A8, several freeways, such as the A7 and A6, carry traffic mainly bound for Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is served by ten stations of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways). Five are intercity stops: Sloterdijk, Zuid, Amstel, Bijlmer ArenA and Amsterdam Centraal. The stations for local services are: Lelylaan, RAI, Holendrecht, Muiderpoort and Science Park. Amsterdam Centraal is also an international railway station(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21S battery). From the station there are regular services to destinations such as Austria, Belarus, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Switzerland. Among these trains are international trains of the Nederlandse Spoorwegen and the Thalys(Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris-Cologne), CityNightLine, and InterCityExpress. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M battery)