Why is Amsterdam the Capital of the Netherlands?

Why is Amsterdam the Capital of the Netherlands?
Why is Amsterdam the Capital of the Netherlands?
 

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The capital of the Netherlands is none other than Amsterdam – a vibrant city known for its unique culture that attracts millions of tourists every year from around the world. 

The city’s metropolis has roughly 2.48 million residents and nearly 1.56 in the urban area. Because of its many canals, Amsterdam is often referred to as “the Venice of the North.” 

Amsterdam is one of the best-known cities in Europe, especially as the international hub for trade and finance, and one of its most unique features that sets it apart from most other cities is its focus on cycling being the main method of transportation for the city’s residents. 

Amsterdam has an impressive network of bike lanes and paths across the entire city, making nearly every area of the city accessible by bike.  

Read on to learn more about this incredible city and its unique history, art, and culture. 

Where is the Capital of the Netherlands Located?

Where is the Capital of the Netherlands Located?
Where is the Capital of the Netherlands Located?

The Netherlands is unique in that its capital doesn’t hold its seat of government. While Amsterdam is the country’s official capital, the Hague is home to all the Netherlands’ government offices. 

Amsterdam is located in the Dutch province of North Holland (the Netherlands is composed of twelve provinces) at the mouth of the Amstel River, after which it is named. The Amstel River was prone to flooding, so the Amstel Dam was built to control the destructive deluges. The city is named for the Amstel Dam. 

Amsterdam lies on the banks of the Amstel River and is connected to the North Sea by the narrower North Sea Canal. The extensive network of canals is surrounded by flat lands and polders, which Amstel Dam keeps from flooding.  

The name of the Amstel River – which the dam and city are both named after – comes from the word Amstelle, which comes from the words aam (meaning river) and stelle (which means shore or riverbank).   

Brief History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam Netherlands dancing houses over river Amstel landmark in old european city spring landscape.
Amsterdam Netherlands dancing houses over river Amstel landmark in old european city spring landscape.

Going from a small fishing village to the international hub of finance in just a few short centuries, Amsterdam certainly has a lot to be proud of. 

Early Days

Because Amsterdam lies in an area that for a long time has been wet bogs and peatland, Amsterdam is younger than many other Western European port cities. 

Evidence shows that farmers first settled in the region about three thousand years ago. Artifacts such as a stone grinding wheel and pottery fragments from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman Age have been found in the region. 

However, because of the frequent flooding of the region, it is doubtful that anyone settled permanently in the region – the most likely situation is that early Amsterdam’s first settlers were nomadic and would only settle during the dry season, when flooding was less likely. 

Amsterdam was first founded as a small fishing village in the 12th century, when the IJ began to recede from the peatland and allowed some land to finally dry out enough to build settlements on it. 

The All Saints Flood in 1170 changed the landscape of what is now Amsterdam and connected the waterways, making the flow more active so it could therefore be drained more effectively. After this drastic landscape change, the first settlement popped up and people were able to build permanent homes in the region. 

Middle Ages

Amsterdam officially became a city – that is, it was granted city rights – around the year 1300. The city flourished in the Middle Ages, becoming a center of Christianity and attracting pilgrims from all over Europe during the Protestant Reformation. The city was also a valuable trade port. 

The Dutch Golden Age occurred during the 17th century and made Amsterdam the wealthiest European city during the period. Amsterdam became the hub of international trade, sending out ships to many regions throughout the world including but not limited to the West Indies, Africa, North America, India, Brazil, and Indonesia. 

Amsterdam was also heavily involved in the slave trade, with the city being an important port for Dutch slave ships until the British government pressured the Dutch to cease the abhorrent practice in 1814. The Industrial Revolution only made the city more successful in the 18th century, with this period of time being commonly referred to as the city’s second golden age. 

Modern Day Amsterdam

Today, Amsterdam remains one of the most influential and well-known cities in the world. It is a cultural epicenter, home to internationally acclaimed landmarks such as the Van Gogh Museum and is the international center of finance. 

Modern Amsterdam is known for its success in the business and tech sectors, and the city sees millions of tourists annually from around the world. 

When did Amsterdam Become the Capital of the Netherlands?

Traditional old buildings and tulips in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Traditional old buildings and tulips in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam was designated the capital of the Netherlands in 1814, though it was first founded around 1170 as a small fishing village after the All Saints Flood and officially granted city rights in the year 1300. 

Why is Amsterdam the Capital of the Netherlands?

Due to its prime location along the Amstel River and its proximity to the North Sea, Amsterdam was a natural choice for a trade port and only grew from its success in international trade. 

The city’s size and location contributed to it being named the capital of the Netherlands. 

Best Places to Visit in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination. And once you see all the great places it has to offer, you’ll see why! 

  • Van Gogh Museum – Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh is perhaps one of the best-known painters of the modern era, and this museum is home to the largest collection of his paintings in the world. 
  • The Anne Frank Museum – this house is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for years during WWII
  • Rijksmuseum – enjoy this collection of seven million art pieces that first began in 1809
  • The Royal Palace – the ceremonial home of the King of Holland, this palace was built in 1648 as a sign of their authority
  • Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam – enjoy the beautiful scenery at these botanical gardens, which – of course – includes the famed Dutch tulips (as long as you visit in the spring).

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!