Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands, has a fascinating history that spans several centuries and it’s one of our most popular destinations with UK river cruise guests.

The History Of Amsterdam

Origins: The area where Amsterdam is situated was originally a small fishing village in the 12th century. It was established around a dam on the Amstel River, from which the city derived its name (Amstelredamme).

13th-15th Centuries: Amsterdam grew steadily in the 13th and 14th centuries as a trading centre. It received city rights in 1300, granting it privileges for self-governance. The city’s strategic location near the North Sea and its connection to important trade routes helped it flourish.

Dutch Golden Age: Amsterdam experienced its most significant growth and prosperity during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The city became a major hub for global trade, with a thriving maritime industry and the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602. Amsterdam’s canals were constructed during this period, and its historic canal ring, known as the Grachtengordel, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Cultural Centre: Amsterdam became renowned as a cultural and intellectual centre during the Dutch Golden Age. It attracted artists, scholars, and thinkers, including Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, and Baruch Spinoza. The city’s artistic and intellectual achievements left a lasting impact on European culture.

Colonial Legacy: Amsterdam’s wealth during the Dutch Golden Age was partially derived from colonial activities. The Dutch controlled a vast overseas empire, including colonies in the East Indies (present-day Indonesia) and the West Indies (Caribbean). The city benefited from the trade in spices, textiles, and other goods brought from these colonies.

Industrialisation and Modernisation: In the 19th century, Amsterdam went through industrialisation and urban expansion. The city’s population grew, and modern infrastructure, such as railways and public parks, was developed. Industrialisation brought economic changes, and Amsterdam transformed from a primarily trade-based city into an industrial centre.

World War II: Like much of the Netherlands, Amsterdam endured the hardships of World War II. The city was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1945. The Jewish population suffered greatly during this time, with many being deported and killed in concentration camps. Anne Frank, a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis, wrote her famous diary in Amsterdam during this period.

Post-War Reconstruction and Contemporary Amsterdam: After the war, Amsterdam underwent a period of reconstruction and renewal. Urban planning projects focused on preserving historic buildings and enhancing the city’s cultural and artistic heritage. Today, Amsterdam is known for its vibrant cultural scene, diverse population, tolerance, and progressive social policies.

Amsterdam’s rich history, from its humble beginnings as a fishing village to its role as a global trade and cultural centre, has shaped the city’s character and contributed to its status as a popular destination for visitors from around the world.

Amsterdam – The Capital Of The Netherlands

Amsterdam – Things To See And Do

Amsterdam offers a wide array of attractions and activities for visitors. Here are some popular things to see and do in Amsterdam:

Anne Frank House: Visit the Anne Frank House, where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. Explore the museum to gain insight into their life in hiding and learn about the impact of the Holocaust.

Van Gogh Museum: Immerse yourself in the world of renowned Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. The museum houses the largest collection of his works, including famous paintings like “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night.”

Rijksmuseum: Discover Dutch art and history at the Rijksmuseum. Admire masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” and Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid.”

Canal Cruises: Take a leisurely canal cruise to explore Amsterdam’s picturesque waterways. Enjoy the scenic views of historic buildings, bridges, and charming canal houses.

Vondelpark: Relax in the beautiful Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest public park. Enjoy a picnic, rent a bike, or simply take a stroll through the lush greenery.

Jordaan Neighbourhood: Explore Jordaan, known for its charming streets, boutique shops, art galleries, and cosy cafes. It offers a glimpse into Amsterdam’s traditional and bohemian culture.

Red Light District: Experience Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District, known for its legalised prostitution and vibrant nightlife. Explore the area, but please be respectful of local customs and guidelines.

Dam Square: Visit Dam Square, the heart of the city. Admire the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), and various monuments. It’s a bustling hub with shops, restaurants, street performers, and events.

Floating Flower Market: Wander through the Bloemenmarkt, the world’s only floating flower market. Browse the colourful stalls selling a wide variety of flowers, bulbs, and souvenirs.

Heineken Experience: Discover the history of the iconic Dutch beer at the Heineken Experience. Take a brewery tour, learn about the brewing process, and enjoy interactive exhibits.

The Nine Streets: Explore De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets), a picturesque neighbourhood known for its boutique shops, vintage stores, and cosy cafes. It’s a great place for shopping and leisurely strolls.

Albert Cuyp Market: Experience the bustling atmosphere of the Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam’s largest outdoor market. Browse stalls offering a wide range of goods, including fresh produce, clothing, and street food.

These are just a few highlights, and Amsterdam has much more to offer!


Sailings Featuring Amsterdam 

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