Although it is commonly assumed that The Hague (Den Haag) is the capital, it is in fact Amsterdam. Article 32 of the Dutch constitution states: "The King will be sworn in in the capital, Amsterdam".
Apart from the center, the municipality comprises the following parts: Amsterdam Noord, Amsterdam Oud Zuid, Bos en Lommer, De Baarsjes, Driemond, Durgerdam, Geuzenveld-Slotermeer, Holysloot, IJburg (under development), Oost/Watergraafsmeer, Osdorp, Oud-West, Ransdorp, Ruigoord, Sloten, Slotervaart/Overtoomse Veld, Westerpark, Zeeburg, Zuider Amstel, Zuidoost (including Bijlmer; see also Bijlmerramp), Zunderdorp.
Amsterdam Noord is separated from the rest of Amsterdam by the IJ waterway, for connections see there.
Amsterdam has one of the largest medieval city centers in Europe. Countless buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, now considered historical monuments, are to be found around a series of semicircular canals. These face the old harbor which once opened onto the Zuyderzee (now cut off from the sea and known as the IJsselmeer).
Amsterdam is also famous for its lively red-light district, de Wallen and its numerous coffee shops[?] selling cannabis. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Prostitutes are considered bona vide entrepreneurs; they pay taxes and are otherwise treated like any other self-employed tradesperson. Cannabis, on the other hand, is not, strictly speaking, legal; rather it is tolerated, meaning the sale and possession of small quantities is not prosecuted.
Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century. A dam was built on the river Amstel, hence its original name Amstelredam, dam on the river Amstel. The early "Amsterdammers" acquired a talent for trade and from the fourteenth century onwards trade with the Hanseatic cities flourished.
Then in the 16th century, the Dutch war of independence began against the Spanish. Although originally on the Spanish side, Amsterdam switched sides in 1578. As a result, freedom of religion was reinstated, a very positive move at the time. Religious wars were raging throughout Europe and many people were looking for a place of refuge where they would not be condemned for their religion. Wealthy Jewish families from Spain and Portugal, prosperous merchants from Antwerp, fleeing the destruction and ransacking of their city by the Spanish, and the Huguenots from France all sought refuge in Amsterdam.
The Seventeenth century was Amsterdam's Golden Age. Amsterdam's ships sailed to North America, Indonesia, Brazil and Africa, building an impressive empire in the process. Rembrandt also worked in this century, and the city expanded around its canals during this time. Amsterdam became the most important port of the world and an international center for banking.
The 18th and 19th century saw a decline in the prosperity of Amsterdam. Wars against England and France took their toll on the city and trade was lost to London. At the end of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution reached Amsterdam. Waterways to the sea and to the river Rhine improved communication with the rest of Europe and the world. Amsterdam got a new lease on life, but never reached the same supremacy as before.
World War I did not affect Amsterdam as the Netherlands remained neutral, although trade and industry suffered. During World War II German troops occupied the city starting on May 15, 1940 and about 100,000 Jewish people were deported from Amsterdam, almost completely wiping out the Jewish community in Amsterdam.
The sixties and seventies put Amsterdam back on the map, for reasons other than trade. The tolerance of soft drugs made the city an ideal place for the hippie generation. Riots and clashes against the police became common, and many illegal squatters were forcefully expelled from their shelter. In 1980, while Queen Beatrix pledged her oaths to become the new Queen of The Netherlands in the New Church on Dam square, a group of protesters outside fought against a police force.
Amsterdam is the cultural central of the Netherlands, with much activity in the arts, dance, theater, and music.
In addition to the above-mentioned museums, Amsterdam is also the home of the Stedelijk Museum[?] (20th century art), the Amsterdam Historical Musum, the Jewish Museum, the Nautical Museum, and others. Also located here is the Sweelinck Conservatory of Music, the Theatre Group Amsterdam, and the National Dance Theatre.
Facing the Museumplein is the world-famous concert hall, Concertgebouw, home of the Concertgebouworkest. Opera and dance performances take place in a newer theatre, the Muziektheater[?] (informally called Stopera, a contraction of the Dutch words for city hall[?] and opera; both are in the same structure). Another older, but famous theatre is Carré[?] along the river Amstel[?].
Founded in the early 1600s, Amsterdam's Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, with many old and rare specimens.
There are numerous private art galleries in the center of the city.
The RAI[?] conference center center hosts many large commercial exhibitions and congresses each year.
Amsterdam is the home town of Ajax, a team in the Dutch Football League. It has won the European Cup several times, and the World Club Cup twice. In the mid 1990s they abandoned their old Ajax Stadium De Meer for the new Arena stadium, located in the south-east of the city.
Amsterdam has two major universities, the University of Amsterdam[?] (Universiteit van Amsterdam, the UvA), and the Vrije Universiteit[?] (the originally Protestant Free University or VU). It also has a Music Conservatory and a Social Academy. Its academy for modern art, De Rietveldacademie[?], named after the famous Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, has a good international reputation.
See also North/South Line.