Amsterdam: The Capital of the Diamond

TRAVELING / Holland / Amsterdam: The Capital of the Diamond
Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

What makes Amsterdam so attractive is the 17th century historical atmosphere combined with the mentality of a modern metropolis creating a friendly and relaxed environment.

The small scale of the buildings and the intimacy of the streets, canals and squares create an atmosphere that visitors find unique.

The city has the highest museum density in the world and is home to cultural highlights, such as the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Hermitage Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum with Rembrandt’s world-famous Nightwatch.

Other well known places of interest in Amsterdam are the Palace on the Dam, the Artis Zoo, Jewish Historical Museum and the Rembrandt House. Take a canal tour of Amsterdam and discover the historical canal district which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011.

The best way to get around Amsterdam is on a bike. You won’t become any more local than by cycling around Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has many parks, open spaces, and squares throughout the city. Vondelpark, the largest park in the city, is located in the Oud-Zuid borough and is named after the 17th century Amsterdam author, Joost van den Vondel. Yearly, the park has around 10 million visitors.

In the park is an open-air theatre, a playground and several horecafacilities. In the Zuid borough, is Beatrixpark, named after Queen Beatrix. Between Amsterdam and Amstelveen is the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest), the largest recreational area in Amsterdam.

Annually, almost 4.5 million people visit the park, which has a size of 1,000 hectares and is approximately three times the size of Central Park.

Amstelpark in the Zuid borough houses the Rieker windmill, which dates to 1636. Other parks include Sarphatipark in the De Pijp neighborhood, Oosterpark in the Oost borough, and Westerpark in the Westerpark neighborhood. The city has four beaches, the Nemo Beach, Citybeach "Het stenen hoofd" (Silodam), Blijburg, and one in Amsterdam-Noord.

The city has many open squares (plein in Dutch). The namesake of the city as the site of the original dam, Dam Square, is the main town square and has the Royal Palace and National Monument.

Museum plein hosts various museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum. Other squares include Rembrandtplein,Muntplein, Nieuwmarkt, Leidseplein, Spui, and Waterlooplein. 

The Amstel river has been a vital part of the Netherlands since the Middle Ages and its steady currents have been supplying Amsterdam with water and transportation for over 800 years

During the late 12th century, a group of fishermen settled on the wide banks of a river in the northern part of the ‘lowlands’. They named their new home Aeme-stelle, an old Dutch word that symbolizes an area with an abundance of water. This small township steadily grew into a bustling city and its inhabitants began to reclaim large crops of land from the river’s surrounding marshland. Eventually, they dammed the estuary and renamed their settlement Amsterdam in honor of their accomplishment.

Dam Square Is Built On Top of This Ancient Dam. Although today the river runs around Amsterdam’s city-center, via the city’s iconic canal belt, it originally flowed directly through Dam Square, where it was suppressed into a slower stream that fed into the river Ij. In the early 20th century, large subterranean pipes were built underneath the square in order to channel the water.

The Amstel Is An Amazing Feat of Engineering. The Dutch have been building astounding waterworks since the Middle Ages, and during this time managed to divert the flow of two rivers into one larger body that formed the Amstel. Many parts of the river have been altered by engineers over the last 8 centuries, including large sections of its underlying bedrock, making the Amstel partially artificial.

There Are Many Places Named After The Amstel. The land surrounding the Amstel is particularly fertile and was historically used to harvest peat, a naturally occurring carbon based fuel. Several towns sprung up around the river during the Middle Ages and named themselves after the river, including Amstelveen, Ouder-Amstel, Ouderkerk aan de Amstel and Nes aan de Amstel.

Amstel Brewery Used Ice From The River to Chill Their Beer. The Amstel brewery was founded in 1870 on the banks of the river. The building diverted water into its factory complex to chill its stock and in winter scavenged ice from the river for refrigeration. The ice was then crushed and stuffed into insulated cellars that contained Amstel’s  titular beer.

The River Has Inspired Countless Artists. The river’s winding banks and rustic farmlands have inspired many Dutch artists. Rembrandt used his skills to capture the river on an overcast evening and painted an outstanding landscape that dramatically illuminates rural Noord-Holland with an interplay of light and shadow. In his early years, Mondrian also depicted the river, with a vivid post-impressionist styled oil painting.

Also the River Is A Vital Part Of Modern Dutch Culture. A concert celebrating Liberation Day takes place each year on the bridges that cross the Amstel. This event is one of many, with several other festivals held along the river. Some even take to its waters and Amsterdam’s annual Gay Pride parade ends on the river’s northern banks.

Its Banks Are Lined With Monuments. Several important national heritage sites are preserved along the Amstel. The Hermitage Museum, Amsterdam overlooks the river and the city’s Jewish monument leans over its banks. In 1943 Amsterdam’s municipality opened de Magere Brug; a beautiful bridge that is among the most romantic spots in the city.

It Is Surrounded By Amazing Bike Lanes. The area around the Amstel is astonishingly beautiful and contains several parks that are united by a long cycle route that leads out of central Amsterdam. Rides along the Amstel are absolutely breathtaking and can be made into a delightful day-trip that travels towards Ouderkerk aan de Amstel and then back round to Amsterdam.

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