Historic Amsterdam

Historic Amsterdam

Historic: Many people have a preconceived notion of Amsterdam as a modern city primarily designed for young people who are out for a good time. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as this historic city has been in existence since the 12th century and still exudes an old world charm and timeless beauty.

Historic: The Beginning

From its humble origins as a small fishing village in the early 1200’s, Amsterdam developed into a major port and a centre for trade and the arts. The city was built near a dam on the Amstel River and the first mentions of Amsterdam appeared in 1275. As part of Holland’s land reclamation plans, dikes were built along the Amstel allowing the city to expand its port and corner the market for importing beer and herring, two of the most profitable businesses of the time.
By the mid 1500’s, Amsterdam was a major centre of commerce importing wood, grain, fish, furs, iron ore and salt and, as the city thrived, the population grew rapidly to accommodate the need for workers in various associated trades like printing and banking.

War and Peace

Historic AmsterdamBy the late 15th century, and with a population now exceeding 30,000, Amsterdam was the largest city in what was then called the province of Holland. The import and export trades were booming and large ocean-going ships sailed into the heart of the city right to what is today’s Dam Square. At this period of time, the Reformation was raging across Europe and religious differences between Catholics and Protestants saw the city divided and embroiled in the Eighty Years war from 1568. Ten years later, and with Amsterdam isolated from the rest of Holland, a peace treaty was signed with the city now governed by Protestants aligned with William of Orange. The war continued in Holland until the Peace of Munster ended hostilities with Spain in 1648.

The Golden Years

Already a rich and powerful city, the 17th century was a golden time for Amsterdam as wealth and power increased still further. Vast sums of money were spent on a magnificent system of canals and bridges alongside which the wealthiest Amsterdammers built the tallest and finest houses. Two massive churches were erected, the Zuiderkerk (South Church) and Westerkerk (West Church), as well as the modern-day Dam Palace which was built on the ruins of the old Gothic city hall which had burned down in 1652.
With so much affluence in the city, the population grew to almost 200,000 and poets, playwrights, painters and artists were attracted into Amsterdam, amongst the most famous being the artist Rembrandt and the philosopher Descartes.

Decline and Renewal

Following the golden period, Amsterdam began a slow decline as the city lost its trading status to other merchant fleets and wars against Sweden, Norway, France and England followed as a result of the ensuing economic collapse. Amsterdam reinvented itself as a financial and banking centre and once again resumed its position as one of the world’s foremost cities. With the opening of Central Station in 1889, the city became a focal hub for trans-European travel and money was invested in building theatres and museums as well as extending and modernising the already impressive canal system.

World War II

Although Holland declared itself to be neutral at the onset of World War II, the country was invaded on the 10 May 1940 and occupied by the German army in a matter of five days. Amsterdam itself suffered little damage during the war but the city’s Jewish population suffered badly with an estimated 10% of the city’s population deported to death camps. Mass deportations started in July 1942 when Jews were herded into the Hollandse Theatre before being shipped to the concentration camps of Germany and Poland. Some Jews, like Anne Frank and her family, were hidden by Amsterdammers but most were eventually discovered and shipped off to meet their death.

Exploring Amsterdam

Despite being a modern and vibrant city, Amsterdam is also a throwback to the past with plenty to see and explore. The heart of the city is a series of concentric rings of canals and quiet streets that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Unlike other major cities, the heart of Amsterdam is compact and easy to explore on foot. In fact, walking around the city is the best way to get to know Amsterdam in all its glory. No visit to this beautiful is complete without a trip on the canal boats along Herengracht and past the Anne Frank house or a visit to the Rembrandt or Van Gogh Museum.
With over two million tourists visiting the city every year, finding suitable accommodation in Amsterdam can sometimes be a problem but a perfect solution is the Hostel Annemarie which is centrally located near the Vondelpark and a minute’s stroll to the Museumplein and the Van Gogh Museum.
There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam that a long weekend is scarcely enough time to fit everything in and a short stay at the Hostel Annemarie is not only very affordable but its central location will not just save money but give you those extra valuable hours to enjoy strolling the quaint cobblestone streets and the picturesque canal banks.