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Amsterdam facts for kids

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City and municipality
Amsterdam - Boat - 0635.jpg Concertgebouw 04.jpg
Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum - panoramio - Nikolai Karaneschev.jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: Grachtengordel, one of Amsterdam's canals, Royal Concertgebouw, Rijksmuseum
Flag of Amsterdam
Coat of arms of Amsterdam
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Mokum, Damsko
Motto: Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig (Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate)
Highlighted position of Amsterdam in a municipal map of North Holland
Location in North Holland
Country Netherlands
Province  North Holland
 • Municipality 219.32 km2 (84.68 sq mi)
 • Land 165.76 km2 (64.00 sq mi)
 • Water 53.56 km2 (20.68 sq mi)
 • Randstad 3,043 km2 (1,175 sq mi)
Elevation −2 m (−6.6 ft)
Population (municipality & urban, Feb 2017 (CBS); metro 2014 (OIS Amsterdam); Randstad, 2011)
 • Municipality 851,573
 • Density 4,908/km2 (12,710/sq mi)
 • Urban 1,351,587
 • Metro region 2,431,000
 • Randstad 7,100,000
Demonym(s) Amsterdammer, A'dammer
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postcode 1000–1109
Area code 020
GeoTLD .amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital and largest city in the European country of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is famous for its canals and dikes. Unlike most other countries, the national government is not in Amsterdam, but in The Hague.

About 838,000 people were living in Amsterdam in 2016. The city hosts two universities (the University of Amsterdam and the Free University Amsterdam) and an international airport "Schiphol Airport". About 2.2 million people live in the metropolitan area. The city of Amsterdam is the world's most multi-cultural city. It has people living there from 175 different countries.


A dam was built in 13th century in the river Amstel (that's why the city is called Amsterdam). The old harbor of the city, Damrak, is now one of the busiest streets in the city. The city was for the first time mentioned in 1275 by count Floris V, count of Holland and Zeeland who gave the people of Amsterdam some more freedom. The city got its city rights probably in 1306; at least soon after the year 1300. The city became a major trading port pretty soon, with a successful trading route to the Baltic Sea. The city grew fast in the 15th century. Because the city basically lies in swamp, the builders of the city had to dig canals to use the digging-ground for getting the living-ground higher. Homes were built on wooden poles, and the canals served as a pretty effective primitive sewer.

The city was one of the first cities in Western Europe to be fairly democratic: Wealthy citizens chose the leaders of the city. Amsterdam declared war on the Spanish in 1578, during the Eighty Years' War. When the city of Antwerp fell to the Spanish in 1585, many people of Antwerp fled to Amsterdam. Antwerp was also a major trading city, and when its people moved to Amsterdam, they took their trading-networks with them. That's why Amsterdam became an even more important trading city after that. This launched the Dutch Golden Age. The number of people living in Amsterdam during the War rose from less than 30,000 in 1570 to over 100,000 in 1622. That number would even rise to 200,000 near the end of the 17th century, making the city a very large city for its time (only London and Paris also had that many people). In the 18th century, the number of people living in Amsterdam fell back to 140,000, ending the Golden Age.

The 19th century was the time for the first trains and trams in Amsterdam. The first train ran from Amsterdam to Haarlem in 1839. The number of people was rising, with about 250,000 living in Amsterdam in 1850, and more than 500,000 in 1900. Amsterdam was a heavy industrialised city by then. Before the Second World War, there were about 140,000 Jews living in Amsterdam. Most of those people did not survive the war. After the war, Amsterdam became a centre of tolerance and culture; to be different is not abnormal in Amsterdam. It is expected that Amsterdam will grow 12.6% until 2025. It will then hold almost 900,000 people, and the metropolitan area will hold almost 2.5 million people by then.


Amsterdam with North Sea Canal by Sentinel-2, 2018-06-30
Satellite picture of Amsterdam and North Sea Canal
Topographic map of Amsterdam and its surrounding municipalities, 2014
Large-scale map of the city centre of Amsterdam, including sightseeing markers, as of April 2017

Amsterdam is located in the Western Netherlands, in the province of North Holland, whose capital is not Amsterdam, but rather Haarlem. The river Amstel ends in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals that eventually terminate in the IJ. Amsterdam is about 2 metres (6.6 feet) below sea level. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders. A man-made forest, Amsterdamse Bos, is in the southwest. Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea through the long North Sea Canal.

Amsterdam is intensely urbanised, as is the Amsterdam metropolitan area surrounding the city. Comprising 219.4 square kilometres (84.7 square miles) 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.


1210 Amsterdamse grachten 101a
Reguliersgracht, autumn 2010

Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) of canals, most of which are navigable by boat. The city's three main canals are the Prinsengracht, Herengracht, and Keizersgracht.

In the Middle Ages, Amsterdam was surrounded by a moat, called the Singel, which now forms the innermost ring in the city, and gives the city centre a horseshoe shape. The city is also served by a seaport. It has been compared with Venice, due to its division into about 90 islands, which are linked by more than 1,200 bridges.


Nieuwendammerdijk, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands - panoramio (3)
Nieuwendammerdijk en Buiksloterdijk, Amsterdam-Noord, winter 2010

Amsterdam has an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) strongly influenced by its proximity to the North Sea to the west, with prevailing westerly winds. While winters are cool and summers warm, temperatures vary year by year. There can occasionally be cold snowy winters and hot humid summers.

Summers are moderately warm with a number of hot days every month. 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. The record extremes range from −19.7 °C (−3.5 °F) to 36.3 °C (97.3 °F). Days with more than 1 millimetre (0.04 in) of precipitation are common, on average 133 days per year.

Amsterdam's average annual precipitation is 838 millimetres (33 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.


Amsterdamse stadsdelen 2010
Districts of Amsterdam

Amsterdam consists of eight districts:

  • Centrum
  • Noord
  • West
  • Nieuw-West
  • Zuid
  • Oost
  • Zuidoost
  • Westpoort

Cityscape and architecture

Amsterdam Cityscape
View of the city centre looking southwest from the Oosterdokskade
Amsterdam in 1538
A 1538 painting by Cornelis Anthonisz showing a bird's-eye view of Amsterdam. The famous Grachtengordel had not yet been established.

Amsterdam fans out south from the Amsterdam Centraal station and Damrak, the main street off the station. The oldest area of the town is known as De Wallen (English: "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 medieval and colonial age canals of Amsterdam, known as grachten, 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. This can be recognised by the suffix -meer which means lake, as in Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer, and Watergraafsmeer.


Town Houses on Canal in Amsterdam - Nov 1977
Singel Canal - Nov 1977
Prinsengracht towads Lekkeresluis from Bridge Prinsenstraat 2016-09-12

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.

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.

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. 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.


Amsterdam Scheepvaarthuis 002
The Scheepvaarthuis, by architects Johan van der Mey, Michel de Klerk, Piet Kramer is characteristic of the architecture of the Amsterdam School.

Amsterdam has a rich architectural history. The oldest building in Amsterdam is the Oude Kerk (English: 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. The oldest stone building of the Netherlands, The Moriaan is build in 's-Hertogenbosch.

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.

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, Philips Vingboons and Daniel Stalpaert.

Begijnhof is one of the oldest hofjes in Amsterdam.
Öffentliche Bibliothek und Konservatorium Amsterdam
The Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam and Conservatorium van Amsterdam, two examples of 21st-century architecture in the centre of the city

Around 1815, architects broke with the baroque style and started building in different neo-styles. 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. 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.

The old city centre is the focal point of all the architectural styles before the end of the 19th century.

Most historic buildings in the city centre and nearby are houses, such as the famous merchants' houses lining the canals.


Transportation within the city of Amsterdam is characterised by bicycles and public transportation. Large freeways only exist around the city, terminating at the A10 Ringroad. Navigating by car through the city centre is discouraged, with the government sponsoring initiatives to reduce car usage.


Amsterdam bicycle
Many bikes parked in Amsterdam
Tram in central Amsterdam


Amsterdam is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and is a centre of bicycle culture. 38% of all journeys in the city are made by bicycle. Most main streets have bike paths. Bike racks are ubiquitous throughout the city. There are about 1,000,000 bicycles in the city. Each year, about 100,000 of them are stolen and 25,000 end up in the canals.


Amsterdam has a large collection of canals. In total over 150 of these waterways crisscross the city and its surroundings, dividing the city of Amsterdam into approximately 90 mini islands. This network of islands is joined together by a vast number of bridges, totaling over 1,000. For many centuries, these canals or waterways were used as the main transportation routes in Amsterdam. Everything ranging from water to coal, from food to spices used to be transported over these canals. Today these canals are only suitable for smaller barges, pleasure craft and the canal tour boats. There is however one main exception: DHL has its own DHL parcel boats that delivers packages across town using the old waterways.

Public transport

Public transport in Amsterdam consists of metro, tram, bus and ferry routes operated mainly by GVB, the city-owned public transport operator.


Transportation by car is discouraged by the local government, with steep parking fees and a great number of streets are closed off for cars in the city centre. The A10 Ringroad surrounding the city connects Amsterdam with the Dutch national network of freeways.


There are 10 train stations in Amsterdam. See Amsterdam railway stations for more information.


The international airport Schiphol

Eurolines has coaches from Amsterdam to destinations all over Europe, these depart from Duivendrecht railway station. IDBUS operates coaches from Amsterdam to Lille and Paris, departing from Amsterdam Sloterdijk railway station. Megabus operate coaches from Amsterdam to London and other UK cities, departing from Zeeburg P&R site, on Tram 26 (Stop Zuiderzeeweg).

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is less than 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station. It is the biggest airport in the Netherlands, the 3rd largest in Europe and the fourteenth largest in the world. It handles about 68 million passengers a year (2017) and is home base to KLM, since 2004 part of Air France-KLM.

The nearby port city of IJmuiden is a popular travel option for those wishing to visit Amsterdam. DFDS Seaways is one of the main companies to operate in and out of IJmuiden.

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