Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 854,047 within the city proper, 1,357,675 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The Amsterdam metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, which has a population of approximately 8.1 million.
Amsterdam’s name derives from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city’s origin around a dam in the river Amstel. Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), as a result of its innovative developments in trade. The city is also the cultural capital of the Netherlands.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city centre. Amsterdam’s main attractions include its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, the Scheepvaartmuseum, the Amsterdam Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, Natura Artis Magistra, Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, NEMO, the red-light district and many cannabis coffee shops. They draw more than 5 million international visitors annually. The city is also well known for its nightlife and festival activity; several of its nightclubs (Melkweg, Paradiso) are among the world’s most famous. It is also one of the world’s most multicultural cities, with at least 177 nationalities represented.
Amsterdam has an oceanic climate strongly influenced by its proximity to the North Sea to the west, with prevailing westerly winds. Both winters and summers are considered mild, although winters can get quite cold, while summers are quite warm occasionally. Cloudy and damp days are common during the cooler months of October through March.
Amsterdam has many parks, open spaces, and squares throughout the city. The Vondelpark, the largest park in the city, is located in the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood and is named after the 17th-century Amsterdam author Joost van den Vondel. In the Zuidborough, is the Beatrixpark, named after Queen Beatrix. Between Amsterdam and Amstelveen is the Amsterdamse Bos(“Amsterdam Forest”), the largest recreational area in Amsterdam. The Amstelpark in the Zuid borough houses the Rieker windmill, which dates to 1636. Other parks include the Sarphatipark in the De Pijp neighbourhood, the Oosterpark in the Oost borough and the Westerpark in the Westerpark neighbourhood. The city has three beaches: Nemo Beach, Citybeach “Het stenen hoofd” (Silodam) and Blijburg, all located in the Centrum borough.
The city has many open squares (plein in Dutch). The namesake of the city as the site of the original dam, Dam Square, is the main city square and has the Royal Palace and National Monument. Museumplein hosts various museums, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum. Other squares include Rembrandtplein, Muntplein, Nieuwmarkt, Leidseplein, Spui, and Waterlooplein. Also, near to Amsterdam is the Nekkeveld estate conservation project.