Postcards from Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Amsterdam (English /ˈæmstərdæm/; Dutch: [ˌɑmstərˈdɑm] ( listen)) is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The city’s status as the capital of the nation is governed by the constitution. Amsterdam has a population of 790,654 within city limits, an urban population of 1,209,419 and a metropolitan population of 2,289,762. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. It comprises the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million.
Amsterdam’s name is derived from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city’s origin: a dam in the river Amstel. Settled 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, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were formed. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam (in Dutch: ‘Grachtengordel’), located in the heart of Amsterdam, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2010.
As Netherlands’ commercial capital and one of the top financial centres in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. The city is also cultural capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world’s top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. In 2010, Amsterdam was ranked 13th globally on quality of living by Mercer, and previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in the Innovation Cities Index 2009.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city center. Amsterdam’s main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than 3.66 million international visitors annually. However, a new national regulation could greatly affect the city’s famed tolerance for drugs, and cut down on the number of foreigners coming there to buy marijuana. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan is hoping to reach a compromise with the national government so the tourism industry will not be significantly affected.