Basic Information and Facts on Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam (Netherlands) is the capital of the country that, next to its official name (Kingdom of the Netherlands), is also called Holland.

This page covers some general facts on Amsterdam's political system, population, economy, language, geography, etc.

Go here if you're looking for Amsterdam information for travelers.


Amsterdam (Netherlands) has about 750,000 inhabitants. If you also count the other cities that have grown together into the "bigger Amsterdam area", the population is over 2 million.

Amsterdam has always drawn a big influx of new inhabitants. Not only from native Dutch, who move there to study or work, but also internationally. According to the city administration, there's no city in the world that has more foreign inhabitants (175 of 194 countries world-wide are represented) than Amsterdam.


The Dutch language is quite hard to learn, with hard gagging "g" and "ch" sounds and complicated grammar. But don't worry, practically every Amsterdammer speaks English, and more often than not some German and/or French as well.


The Netherlands are a flat country. About half of the country lies below sea level. Amsterdam, on the whole, is just over sea level: between 0.5 and 2 meters. That's hardly safe: during the flood disaster of 1953, when 1800 people drowned, the water rose to 4.5 meters above sea level.

The Amsterdam soil is so weak that most buildings were built on poles. Archives show that the Dam Palace in Amsterdam was built on 13,659 wooden poles (nowadays they're made from concrete).

Go here if you're wondering, where is Amsterdam?


The Netherlands are a unitary state with provinces and municipalities. Amsterdam is a municipality, meaning it is run by a mayor (appointed by the government) and his eldermen, who together are held accountable by a directly elected City Council with 45 members. They reside in the Stopera, which also houses the Muziektheater.

The Social Democrats (PvdA) have since long been the biggest party in Amsterdam, and every mayor is traditionally Social Democrat. Hot political issues currently are the constructing of the North-South subway with skyrocketing costs, the crackdown on the Red Light District, poor neighborhoods, and in general everything that has to do with immigration and integration.

Liberal Amsterdam

Amsterdam (Netherlands) is famous for its liberal lifestyle. While the laws on e.g. prostitution, drugs and gay marriage in Amsterdam are no different than elsewhere in the Netherlands, Amsterdam is famous for its Red Light District where window prostitution is out in the open, it's coffee shops where everyone can legally buy small quantities of marihuana and hash, and its annual Gay Pride when the city is filled with partying, half-naked (but quite harmless) gay men from around the world. On April 1st, 2001, Amsterdam was also the first city in the world where gays were married.


Amsterdam is a main center of the Dutch economy, which is highly developed. Companies like Shell, Unilever, Heineken, Royal Ahold, ING Barings, ABN Amro and Philips Electronics all originated in the Netherlands.

Historically, Amsterdam has especially been a trading city, which also led to a lot of industry: shipping, petrochemicals, manufacturing etc. The new growth area is ICT: one out of seven Amsterdam jobs are in that field. Finance, the media sector, the 'creative class' and tourism are also important in Amsterdam (Netherlands). Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is the 4th busiest airport in Europe. In 2007, the Netherlands were the 4th biggest investors in the United States, right after the UK, Canada and Japan (and before France, Germany and other much bigger countries).

As the economy becomes more global, ever more Dutch companies are moving their headquarters to Amsterdam. Especially around it's 'South Axis', huge office buildings have shot up.


Amsterdam was founded around 1250 as a small fishers village around the Amstel river ('Amsterdam' is derived from 'Dam over the Amstel river'). The town grew fast into a full-fledged city. From the early 16th century on, hundreds of sailing ships from Amsterdam explored the oceans, bringing back lots of new goods and discoveries.

During the 17th century, the city was the richest and most powerful of the world. Stock companies and the stock market were invented in Amsterdam. Art and science blossomed, too. During the 18th century, the Dutch lost their dominance of the oceans to the British, who would become the world leaders. Amsterdam developed further to become the liberal, cosmopolitan city it is today. Here's more about Amsterdam history.

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