20 Fun Facts about Amsterdam

by Tanja
Amsterdam Dam Square

1. In 1850, 30% of the population in Amsterdam lived off begging.

2. The water in the Amsterdam canals is so clean that Artis Zoo gives its elephants pure drinking water straight from the Amsterdam canals.

3. Dancing was forbidden in Amsterdam at the beginning of the 20th century.

4. In Amsterdam, people on a low income can take their pets to the vet for free once a year.

5. Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands, but the government of The Netherlands is not seated in Amsterdam, but in The Hague.

6. All over Amsterdam, there are hidden water taps under the ground. They were installed in fear of a big disaster so we would always have drinking water.

7. Bees in distress in the world? Not in Amsterdam. Since 2000 there 45% more bee species in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has worked hard to abolish harmful pesticides and set up special flower gardens inside the city.

8. The Royal Palace on Dam Square is the only royal palace in Amsterdam. However, it was never built for Kings or Queens. It was Napoleon’s brother Louis who declared himself King of Holland (1806-1810). Before that, Holland was part of a republic. The ‘Royal Palace’ was Amsterdam’s grand City Hall.

Royal Palace Amsterdam
The Royal Palace on Dam Square was built in the 17th century to be a City Hall.

9. In the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), visitors who came to Amsterdam were shocked to see prostitution so openly. Women also walked the streets unaccompanied by men, a sight that was nowhere else seen.

10. During the Dutch-Spanish 80 year-war, Dutch cities fought the Spanish King. But not in Amsterdam. Ship wharfs kept building ships for the Spanish, that were consequently sunk by the Dutch rebels.

11. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol lies four meters under sea level. That is because the people dug out the marshland to use the peat to cook and heat the houses.

12. Amsterdam’s first gay bar still exists: it’s Café ‘t Mandje on Zeedijk 63. The bar was opened in 1927! The owner was Bet van Beeren and she was a lesbian. She allowed men to dance with other men. But no kissing!

13. The Rijksmuseum was designed by the Catholic architect Pierre Cuypers. The protestant King William II was not happy with the result. ‘I will not set a foot in that convent’, he said in 1885 after completion. He refused to attend the official opening.

14. Every year between 12.000 and 15.000 bikes are dredged out of the Amsterdam canals.

15. Yes, you are not mistaken. Dutch people are the tallest people in the world.

16. When a room is lit with blue or purple light in the Amsterdam Red Light District, it means the woman might not entirely be a woman.

17. Amsterdam houses are built on wooden poles. Most were drilled in during the 17th century, which is why many Amsterdam houses tend to be crooked and leaning sideways…

Crooked houses Amsterdam
The 3 crooked 'Dancing Houses' along the Amstel river.

18. There are more women than men in Amsterdam. There is especially a surplus of Dutch young women (between 20 and 25 years old). For every 100 men in this category, there are 145 women!

19. Besides having a normal mayor, Amsterdam also has a Nightlife mayor, a Bicycle mayor and an official city poet.

20. Anne Frank’s diary is the most translated Dutch book. It was translated into 70 different languages and published in over 60 countries.

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