108 Interesting Facts About Amsterdam

Fun and interesting Amsterdam facts

Amsterdam, Netherlands, is known for its art and history, attractive canals, and leisurely pleasures. Find out what else the “Venice of the North” is famous for with these fun Amsterdam facts!

General Amsterdam Facts

  • Amsterdam is the capital and largest city in the Netherlands, a northwestern European country also informally called Holland. The country’s people and language are called Dutch.
  • However, the country’s seat of government is actually in another city, The Hague, which is often described as the Netherlands’ de facto (or actual) capital.
  • Amsterdam sits at the same latitude as Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  • It is antipodal (on the opposite side of the world) to Waitangi, New Zealand.
  • Amsterdam is in the province of North Holland, facing the North Sea.
  • Looking at a map, North Holland may look like a peninsula on the North Sea. But the large body of water beside Amsterdam is a shallow, freshwater lake called Markermeer. It is one of the largest lakes in Europe. It actually used to be a saltwater inlet until it was dammed in 1932.
  • Amsterdam is located at the mouth of the Amstel River, and the Amstel Dam on the river gives it its name.
The IJ body of water in Amsterdam at night
The IJ separates north and south Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam occupies either side of the Ij, a water body stretching from the coast to Markermeer. If it weren’t for one piece of land blocking its western end, this water would actually make most of North Holland an island.
  • Amsterdam is 2 m (7 ft) below sea level. Without damming and other water management systems, it would be underwater.
  • This water management goes back centuries and gives us the famous canals of Amsterdam.
  • With a population of 921,500, Amsterdam is Europe’s 18th-largest capital city. Its metropolitan population is 2.5 million.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Amsterdam was 98°F (37°C) in 2019, while the lowest was −3.46°F (-19.7 °C) in 1956.
Looking up a canal in Amsterdam with bikes parked on the side
A typical canal in Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam used to be called Amstelredam.
  • The official abbreviation for Amsterdam is AMS or AMST, while the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol code is AMS.
  • Some common nicknames for Amsterdam are ADAM, DAM, Venice of the North, and Jerusalem of the North.
  • Tourism slogans for Amsterdam have included “I AMsterdam” and “Visit Amsterdam, see Holland”.
  • People from Amsterdam are called Amsterdammers.
An Amsterdam flag blowing in the wind
The official flag of Amsterdam
  • The flag of Amsterdam is based on the escutcheon (shield) in Amsterdam’s coat of arms, but it is horizontal. It features three white Saint Andrew’s Crosses on a black band, with red bands on the top and bottom.
  • Amsterdam has 24 sister cities, including Athens (Greece), Montreal (Canada), and Beijing (China).  

Interesting Facts about Amsterdam Places

  • Amsterdam has more than 100 km (62 mi) of canals. The three main ones (Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht) date to the 17th century, called the “Dutch Golden Age”.
  • There are over 160 canals in Amsterdam, which is more than Venice (150). Amsterdam’s longest, Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal), is similar in length to Venice’s Grand Canal.
Brouwersgracht canal in Amsterdam with bridge and buildings lit up at night
Brouwersgracht Canal
  • Brouwersgracht is often called the most beautiful canal in Amsterdam. Its name means “Brewery Canal”, as it was once lined with breweries.
  • The city also features 90 islands and 1500 bridges over the canals. The most famous is Torensluis Bridge, also called “Tower Bridge”, as it once had a tower at its center.
  • Another famous one is Magere Brug, also known as the Skinny Bridge. It was featured in the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever and is considered the city’s most romantic.
  • Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht canal is where the young girl hid and wrote her famous diary during WWII.
Skinny Bridge in Amsterdam lit up at night
Skinny Bridge
  • Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum houses more paintings by the famous Dutch artist than any other in the world, including his famous Sunflowers and several self-portraits. It is the country’s most visited museum. This museum started the immersive, digital Van Gogh experience that now travels around the world.
  • Other famous tourist attractions in Amsterdam include Rijksmuseum (the national museum), Heineken Experience (a beer museum housed in the original brewery), Centraal Station (the country’s largest train station), Vondelpark, Royal Palace Amsterdam, and Dam Square.
  • Of all the cities in the world, Amsterdam is considered to have the highest density of museums and other cultural attractions.
  • The tallest building in Amsterdam is Rembrandt Tower, which has 35 floors and stands 492 ft (150 m) tall.
Empty spaces lit up with pink lights in the Red Light District of Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District is the largest in Europe
  • Amsterdam’s iconic buildings and landmarks include Cube Houses, Westerkerk, Magna Plaza, and Blauwbrug.
  • De Wallen, the Red Light District, is a major tourist attraction in Amsterdam. It is known for its legal brothels, sex shops, and sex museums.
  • Prostitutes often present themselves in behind windows in narrow alleyways in De Wallen, including Trompettersteeg, the city’s narrowest, and only 1 meter wide.
  • There is even a statue in De Wallen commemorating the area’s sex workers. Her name is Belle.
  • Amsterdam is also famous for its legal marijuana cafés/dispensaries, which are called “coffeeshops”. There are more than 60 in the Red Light District alone.
A row of houses that are off balanced beside a canal in Amsterdam, called the Amsterdam Drunk Houses
The Amsterdam “drunk” houses
  • At Canal Amstel 106, you can find a row of seven slightly sunken, lopsided homes known as the Amsterdam Dancing Houses.
  • Amsterdam is also known for its street markets, with one of the most famous and longest running being Albert Cuyp Market (De Pijp), going strong since 1905.

Amsterdam Economy and Society Facts

  • Amsterdam has been a center of LGBTQ+ rights for a long time. Homosexuality was decriminalized over 200 years ago there, the first gay bar appeared a century ago, and the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage.
  • For the LGBTQ community, Amsterdam is a very popular travel destination; each year, a huge audience attends the annual Amsterdam Gay Pride.
A large rainbow LGBT flag hanging from a building in Amsterdam
Decorations during Amsterdam Pride
  • Amsterdam is considered one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. The city has three times more bikes (800,000) than cars. It even has bicycle traffic congestion issues.
  • Around 50% of the Amsterdam city proper’s population are immigrants, with some of the largest non-Dutch groups being Indonesian, Moroccan, and other Europeans.
  • Amsterdam is considered one of the safest major cities in Europe.
Bicycles parked on a bridge in Amsterdam with snow on the ground
Bicycles in Amsterdam
  • In Amsterdam, 0.3% of people live below the poverty line.
  • The richest person in Amsterdam is Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, the great-granddaughter of Heineken’s founder, with a net worth of $16.7 billion.
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the 3rd busiest airport in Europe. It served 72 million passengers in 2019.
  • Amsterdam received 8.84 tourists in 2019, making it the 26th most visited city in the world. 
  • Some of the most popular newspapers in Amsterdam are Het Parool, De Telegraaf, De Trouw, De Volkskrant, The Holland Times, and De Pers. 
Entrance to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
  • Movies filmed in Amsterdam include The Fault In Our Stars, Black Book, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Diamonds are Forever, Diary of Anne Frank, and Ocean’s Twelve.
  • TV shows filmed in Amsterdam include Sense8, Blindspot, and Killing Eve.

Amsterdam Sports Facts

  • The most popular sports in Amsterdam are football, field hockey and korfball (a Dutch sport similar to basketball and netball).
  • Amsterdam is often considered the healthiest city in Europe. It is said to have around 800 sports clubs.
A woman sitting on a rail beside  some bikes with a canal behind her in Amsterdam
Healthy living in Amsterdam
  • In addition to approximately 100 smaller sports facilities located across several neighborhoods, Amsterdam also operates 26 sports parks, 19 sports centers, and dozens of major swimming pools.
  • Watersports like canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing can be enjoyed in Amsterdam.
  • Amsterdam hosted the Summer Olympics once in 1928, beating Los Angeles for the bid.
  • Arguably, the most well-known Amsterdammer in the world was footballer Johan Cruijff, also known as “Number 14.” He was named player of the century in Europe.
Windsurfers with typical Dutch windmills on the coast beside them
Windsurfing in North Holland
  • Gerrie Kneteman, a well-known cyclist, is also a native of Amsterdam. After having over 100 victories in his cycling career, he died while riding his bike in 2004.
  • Fanny Blankers-Koen, an Olympic athlete who made history at the 1948 London Games, was also an Amsterdam native. This mother of two earned 4 gold medals, earning the nickname “the Flying Housewife.”

Famous People from Amsterdam

  • Actors Gijs Blom and Daan Creyghton were born in Amsterdam.
  • Actresses Halina Reijn, Katja Herbers, Sallie Harmsen, and Tara Elders were born in Amsterdam.
  • Amsterdam native Paul Verhoeven has directed a long list of famous Hollywood films, including Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Startroopers.
  • Musicians Eddie Van Halen, Glennis Grace, Trijntje Oosterhuis, Douwe Bob, and Natalie La Rose are also native Amsterdammers.
  • Don Diablo is the most famous DJ born in Amsterdam. He has been ranked as top-10 in the world.
Portraits of four famous people who were born in Amsterdam
Famous Amsterdam natives Eddie Van Halen,
  • When Willem-Alexander became king of the Netherlands in 2013, the world-famous Dutch DJ (who was born in South Holland) performed at the crowning in Amsterdam.
  • Another world-famous DJ from South Holland, Tiësto, performed his longest set ever (12 hours) in Amsterdam.
  • The most famous rappers from Amsterdam are Yes-R and Lil’ Kleine.
  • The famous bands Focus and Claw Boys Claw are from Amsterdam.
  • The writers Herman Koch, Jessica Durlacher, and Alma Mathijsen were also from Amsterdam.
  • Amsterdam-born philosopher Baruch Spinoza was one of the most important thinkers of the early-17th-century rationalism movement.

Amsterdam Food Facts

  • Some dishes commonly associated with Amsterdam include Bitterballen (Dutch meatballs), Pannenkoeken (Dutch pancakes, Broodje Haring (a sandwich with cured herring and gherkins), Stroopwafels (thin waffle cookies), and Stamppot (mashed potatoes with vegetables).
  • Almond and lemon-flavored Weesper mopped cookies are named after the city of Weesp, which is now a part of Amsterdam.
Rows of Heineken beers in green bottles in a fridge
Heineken beer is Amsterdam’s most famous export
  • Beerenburg is a type of liquor invented in Amsterdam in the 16th century. It is made by adding herbs to jenever or “Dutch gin”, which is made in Amsterdam and a few other cities in the country.
  • Since its establishment in Amsterdam in 1864, Heineken has produced about 2 billion liters of beer.
  • Customers can order krokets and frikadel from hole-in-the-wall vending machines at the chain FEBO in Amsterdam.
  • Amsterdam is home to 23 Michelin-star restaurants. None have 3-star status, but these 5 have 2-star status: Flore, Spectrum, Restaurant 212, Ciel Bleu, and Aan de Poel.

Amsterdam History Facts

  • Pottery shards dating to almost 5000 years ago have been found under Amsterdam’s canals.
  • 1000 years ago, farmers began settling in the area.
  • In the great All Saint’s Flood of 1170, the landscape of Holland was greatly affected, with the area of Amsterdam becoming habitable.
Exterior of Oude Kerke or Old Church in Amsterdam
Oude Kerke is the oldest building in Amsterdam
  • The Oude Kerke (Old Church), currently Amsterdam’s oldest building, was first built in 1213.
  • Around 1270, people dammed the Amstel to prevent future floods.
  • “Amestelledamme” (at the dam of Amstelland) first appeared in a document in 1275.
  • Amsterdam obtained city rights from the then Bishop of Utrecht around 1300 or 1306 – the exact year is unclear.
  • The city was granted exclusive permission to import beer from Hamburg in 1323. Due to this, the city acquired a significant trade monopoly in Holland.
  • In 1425, the Singel Canal was built as a moat around the city. By 1585, the city started expanding beyond the canal.
Singel Canal in Amsterdam
Singel Canal was once a moat around the city
  • The Dutch East Company, largely considered the world’s first stock exchange and multi-national corporation, was founded in 1602 and had its headquarters in Amsterdam.
  • In the 1600s, Holland was a global superpower and Amsterdam was at the center of the Dutch Golden Age. The population exploded to over 100,000, many wonders were built in the Canal Ring area, and artists such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer made a name for themselves in the city.
  • Amsterdam became the nation’s capital in 1814.
  • In 1839, the country’s first train traveled from Amsterdam to Haarlem.
  • Amsterdam’s water supply began in 1853.
Rows of flowers in front of the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
The Town Hall of Amsterdam, now the Royal Palace of Amsterdam or Koninklijk Paleis van Amsterdam
  • Gerard Adriaan Heineken started making his famous Heineken beer beside Nieuwezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam in 1873.
  • In 1900, the Gemeentetram Amsterdam tramway was established.
  • Also in 1900, the city’s population reached half a million.
  • In 1928, the Olympic Games were held in Amsterdam.
  • The German occupation of Amsterdam began in 1940.
  • In 1942, Anne Frank and her family moved into their hiding space, where she famously kept her diary.
  • In 1945, Canadian troops liberated Amsterdam.
Statue of Anne Frank in Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam and The Netherlands legalized marijuana for personal use in 1976.
  • The Amsterdam Metro began operating in 1977.
  • In 1991, 20 paintings were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum but recovered 35 minutes later. Two more paintings were stolen in 2002 but also recovered.
  • In 2000, the nation became the first to legalize same-sex marriage. Prostitution was legalized in the same year.
  • In 2008, Amsterdam forbade smoking tobacco in restaurants, bars, cafes, hotel public areas, and most hotel rooms. Smoking cannabis is still allowed in registered coffeeshops.
A hand holding a joint above an ashtray at a coffeehouse in Amsterdam, with typical local buildings outside the window
A “coffeehouse” in Amsterdam
  • In 2010, the canals of Amsterdam were officially registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • On July 17, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam and was shot down by Russian forces above Ukraine, with not one of the 298 passengers surviving.
  • Popular places in Amsterdam were totally empty in the early days of the pandemic, but over 5000 protestors were seen during the George Floyd protests.

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