Amsterdam is located in the western part of the Netherlands and is the country's largest city with a population of over 1 million.
Amsterdam was originally called 'Aemstelredamme', which roughly translates to 'dam in the Amstel'. It was built in the late 12th century, beside the Amstel River, over a dam, which is now called Dam Square. A series of dams were created over a period of time to control the flooding which inundated the city from the North Sea.
It was originally a fishing village, which developed into one of the most important and influential seaports of the 17th century. At the time, Amsterdam achieved the status of being the center of the economic world. As a result, it became very prosperous and this era is often referred to as the Dutch Golden Age.
The city continued to flourish and expand during the succeeding centuries despite political upheavals and invasion by the French and English. During the years of the industrial revolution, it continued its growth, which in turn lead to an increase in its population.
It suffered badly during World War II with many of its Jewish citizens being deported and killed by the Nazis. Further expansion took place after the war.
As a result of the power and wealth accumulated during the 17th century, many grand and imposing structures were built. Amsterdam still retains many of these well preserved, historical buildings. Unfortunately, only a few medieval buildings remain due to their wooden construction.
One of the highlights of this city is its network of canals. Although it is a relatively large city, the traffic congestion does not seem too overwhelming and much of the vehicular traffic is via these canals.
Amsterdam is multicultural with most people speaking more than one language. English is very common as is French and German.
The currency used in the Netherlands is the Euro. There are no added taxes when buying goods, as these have already been calculated into the price. You are also under no obligation to tip for service though you may wish to if you feel the service has been of an exceptional standard.
The city is renowned for its relaxed attitude to sex and some drugs. It is also the cultural center of the Netherlands and home to the National Ballet Company, the National Orchestra and sporting teams. The city has a rich cultural heritage resulting in a wide variety of museums, theatres and art galleries.
Besides the historical buildings, there are also numerous parks and outdoor facilities in Amsterdam. The biggest park is Vondelpark and there is a large forest with lakes to the south of the city.
The warmest time of year is between June and August when temperatures are generally between 20 – 27 degrees Celsius. In winter, the temperature often hovers around zero degrees although snow is a rarity. Unfortunately it frequently rains and is often overcast.
Amsterdam is a relatively flat city, with many of the historical and interesting sights within walking distance of each other. This makes it user friendly with the traveling tourist.