In Albert Camus’ novel The Fall, the protagonist says: “ Are you staying long in Amsterdam? A beautiful city, isn’t it? Fascinating? There’s an adjective I haven’t heard in some time.”
Amsterdam, most people will have trouble labeling the city under a single category.
It is a dilemma, a mystery that is not easy to explain, but at the same time it is charming and welcoming. It is the welcoming nature of the city that makes it one of the favourite destinations for any kind of traveller.
Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers of canals. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. The canal ring area were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, contributing to Amsterdam's fame as the "Venice of the North".
The protagonist in The Fall says about the canals: “How beautiful the canals are this evening! I like the breath of stagnant waters, the smell of dead leaves soaking in the canal and the funereal scent rising from the barges loaded with flowers. No, no, there’s nothing morbid about such a taste, I assure you. On the contrary, it’s deliberate with me. The truth is that I force myself to admire these canals.”
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam's name derives from Amstelredamme, indicating the city's origin around a dam in the river Amstel.
The Dam Square lies in the historical center of Amsterdam, its notable buildings and frequent events make it one of the most well-known and important locations in the city and the country. Dam Square is Amsterdam’s beating heart. Nowadays Dam Square in contrast with the old days it is now a very peaceful square which is home to scores of pigeons and street performers.
It is roughly rectangular in shape, stretching about 200 meters from west to east and about 100 meters from north to south. It links the streets Damrak and Rokin, which run along the original course of the Amstel River from Centraal Station to Muntplein (Mint Square) and the Munttoren (Mint Tower). The Dam also marks the endpoint of the other well-traveled streets Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat and Damstraat. A short distance beyond the northeast corner lies the main red-light district: de Wallen.
On the west end of the square is the neoclassical Royal Palace, which served as the city hall from 1655 until its conversion to a royal residence in 1808. Beside it are the 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
Today the square is also a venue for mass events, fun fairs and pantomime artists. Join the locals and relax at the base of the National Monument while listening to street organs. Chase the pigeons and dodge the many cyclists when you cross the square to go shopping or explore some of the historical buildings.