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Fun, Cool, Weird & Interesting Facts about Amsterdam

The capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, a vibrant and beautiful city punctuated by canals and easily recognised thanks to its beautiful brick façade houses. Here’s a guide to the best of fun, cool, weird, and interesting facts about Amsterdam!

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#1 Amsterdam is 219.3 km²

Amsterdam is 219.3 km². This roughly translated into around 166 square miles.

#2 The origins of the name Amsterdam

The name ‘Amsterdam’ derives from ‘Amstelredamme’, meaning ‘dam/ dyke over the river Amstel’. The name came about during the 13th-century when the now Dutch capital was a small fishing village on the River Amstel.

#3 Amsterdam has only been the capital of the Netherlands since 1983

One of the most surprising facts about Amsterdam is that it’s only been the capital of the Netherlands since 1983. Prior to this, the capital of the country was The Hague, which is today synonymous with politics and of being home to the museum which houses the Girl with the Pearl Earring painting. The Dutch government and parliament remain in The Hague to this day.

The Peace Palace, Den Haag

#4 The Stock exchange located in the city centre is the oldest in the World

The stock exchange in Amsterdam dates all the way back to 1602 when it was established by  the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or “VOC”).

#5 Amsterdam is very international

Amsterdam is home to more nationalities than any other city in the World! For a population of under 1 million residents, the city is actually home to people of over 180 different nationalities. Furthermore, in a typical year, Amsterdam can see up to 20 million visitors!

#6 Amsterdam has lots of bridges

One of the most unusual facts about Amsterdam is that it has one of the highest number of bridges of anywhere in the world! Indeed, while Amsterdam is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’, the Dutch capital boasts well over 1200 bridges, which is triple that of Venice’s 400 or so river crossings.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands: canal view in the autumn

#7 Amsterdam is constructed on 11 million poles

And while we’re on the subject of Venice, it’s worth noting that Amsterdam, much like Venice, is constructed on poles. Most of the Netherlands is constructed only around a metre above sea level, on clay, and so Amsterdam is constructed on 11 million wooden poles to stop the buildings (and even the trees in the parks) from sinking into the ground.

Amsterdam Centraal is built on around 9000 poles, whereas the average house is constructed on around 10. Though the poles provide some support, many buildings are slightly sinking into the ground, meaning that they’re slightly wonky. The most famous of the wonky houses in Amsterdam are known as the ‘dancing houses’.

#8 Amsterdam boasts over 160 canals

There are 165 canals in Amsterdam, which in turn means that there are over 100km worth of canal in total in the city. Most canals are between 2 and 3 metres deep and were largely constructed between 1585 and 1665.

In 2010, the Amsterdam Canal Ring was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. In order to best experience the canals, I highly recommend booking an Amsterdam canal cruise like one of these.

Beautiful canal in Amsterdam

#9 There are over 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam

With so many canals and waterways in the Dutch capital, it should come as no surprise that there are over 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam! One houseboat called De Poenzenboot even operates as a nonprofit sanctuary for stray cats. For an even more unique experience during your stay in the city, you might consider booking to stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam.

Hotelschip Gandalf houseboat

#10 There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people

It’s estimated that, while the population of the city of Amsterdam is around 800,000, there are actually around 1.2 million bicycles in the city! What’s more is that, thanks to over 400km worth of bike lanes, Amsterdam is actually more easily explored by bike than on foot (and, of course, you’ll easily cover more ground that way)!

Of these, it’s estimated that around 25,000 bikes are thrown into or lost to the canals on an annual basis. If you’re going to be exploring the Dutch city for yourself and would like to get to know the city with the help of a guide, consider booking this Small-Group Bike Tour of Central Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands : Sophie Nadeau cycling

#11 There are over 1000 bars in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is known for its nightlife and so it should come as no surprise that there are well over 1000 bars in the city! The oldest bar in Amsterdam is Café Karpershoek, which is often alleged to have been founded in 1606.

It’s noted as the oldest as it was one of the first bars to acquire a legal trading license. One of the more unusual bars in Amsterdam is t’Aepjen. Founded as early as 1519, the name of this historic drinking establishment refers to “In the Monkeys.” 

This harks back to when sailors would return from abroad and pay for their drinks using monkeys. In time, the bar became so overrun, that regular customers would complain about the fleas!

Drink a beer in In 't Aepjen

#12 A quarter of Amsterdam is below sea level

It may or may not surprise you considering the number of poles needed to construct the city or the amount of canals in Amsterdam, but a quarter of the Dutch capital is actually below sea level! At one spot in the city, the city is actually 6.7 meters below sea level!

#13 Vondelpark is home to parakeets

One of the most unexpected sights you might enjoy in Amsterdam is looking at wild parakeets in Amsterdam’s largest park, Vondelpark. Though no one quite knows how the bright green birds came to live in the park, one popular theory suggests that the birds first arrived when an elderly lady released a pair of mating parakeets into the park.

#14 The narrowest house in Amsterdam is just a metre wide

One of the more iconic features of Amsterdam architecture are the incredibly narrow houses. This is not simply a design choice but instead the houses were constructed in this manner so as to avoid high taxes as buildings during the 17th-century were taxed on their canal-side width as opposed to their depth. The narrowest house in Amsterdam is just 1 metre across!

Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Canal View

#15 The symbol of Amsterdam is 3 Xs

 Throughout the city, as well as on Amsterdam’s coat of arms, you’ll see three black crosses. These are the St. Andrew’s Crosses and represent Saint Andrew, a fisherman who was a martyr on the cross in the 1st Century CE. The crosses were adopted by Amsterdam when it was still a small fishing village in the 16th-century.

#16 It’s illegal to urinate into the Amsterdam canals

For obvious hygiene reasons, it’s illegal to urinate into the canals of Amsterdam. That is, of course, unless you’re pregnant! What’s more is that asides from hygiene measures, the law is there for safety. It’s estimated that a dozen people die each year in Amsterdam as a result of falling into the canals while urinating.

#17 The Rijksmuseum wasn’t originally founded in the Netherlands

One of the more fun facts about Amsterdam is that the Rijksmuseum was originally founded in the Hague and then only later moved to Amsterdam. Today, the museum is the most famous in the Dutch capital and is the perfect rainy day activity in the city.

If you want to visit the museum yourself and save some of your precious time in Amsterdam, then I highly recommend buying your entrance ticket in advance.

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Fun, Cool, Weird & Interesting Facts about Amsterdam

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