Photograph by Jon Hicks/CORBIS
Squatting between Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the west and north, the Netherlands has been crisscrossed countless times by invading armies all the way back to those of Julius Caesar, in the first century A.D. • Its "golden era" arrived in the 17th century, with the founding of far-flung colonies. • This was also the period of Old Masters Rembrandt and Hals. • Today, the treasures they painted, and many more, may be found in world-class museums from Amsterdam to Rotterdam.
Photograph by Stefano Amantini/Atlantide
Often promoted as the gateway to Europe, the Netherlands’s largest metropolis has always been one of the continent’s most progressive and cosmopolitan capitals, and nothing much has changed since the city first came to glory as a trading center in the 17th century. You can still relive that Golden Age. Stroll, boat, or bike along the city’s canals, lined with gabled houses, to experience one of Europe’s best preserved, photogenic, and intact historic city centers, or visit the Dutch master paintings in the Rijksmuseum. But don’t stop there. Always looking ahead, and reinventing itself, Amsterdam has recently emerged as a 21st-century style center. How to sample the city’s purely contemporary side? Run through the theme boutiques and galleries of the western canal ring, dine at one of the city’s creative global kitchens, catch a contemporary dance performance at the Muziektheater, or visit the revitalized East Docklands area, which offers a study in sleek contemporary architecture and smart urban planning.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonGetting around: Whether it's by foot or via bicycle, locals as well as visitors are well rewarded by canal-linked Amsterdam's charming architecture.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonLet it rain; let it rain! An umbrella-protected bicyclist, pictured here with Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum as backdrop, just keeps on going.
Lloyd Hotel Café
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonIn the hip and happenin' Eastern Docklands area of Amsterdam, the Lloyd Hotel Café, occupying a former customs house, offers simple fresh fare at its restaurant.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonNine Streets, Amsterdam's most famous area for shopping, is dotted with fashion shops, jewelry stores, art galleries, and boutique hotels, like the Ambassade.
De Taart Van M'N Tante Bakery
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonA server at De Taart van m'n Tante bakery chats with customers. The two owners of the bakeshop also have an Amsterdam bed-and-breakfast, Cake Under My Pillow.
Oude Schans Canal
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonOn the Oude Schans canal, Café de Sluyswacht occupies a 1695 lockkeeper's house and offers views of Montelbaanstoren, a medieval tower.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonA fraternity of then and now? Visitors to the Rijksmuseum share the scene with men inhabiting Rembrandt's 1662 "The Sampling Officials" canvas.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonSounds of Amsterdam: A car's a stage on Spui Street, where a mobile rock band offers up vocals and instrumentals for the passersby.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonCome springtime, the city of Amsterdam, from offices and shops to homes and gardens, is awash in tulips, in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Photograph by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton CoulsonThe wearing of orange happens every April 30 (Queen's Day), part of a daylong party that floods the streets and canals of Amsterdam.
Photograph by Berry Stokvis, HH/Redux
Location: The Netherlands
Date Established: 1935
Size: 21 square miles (54 square kilometers)
- Amsterdam; 1,145,000
- 41,528 square kilometers (16,034 square miles)
- Dutch, Frisian
- Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim
- Life Expectancy:
- GDP per Capita:
- U.S. $27,200
- Literacy Percent:
Netherlands Facts Flag
For several decades natural gas production has subsidized a welfare system. Funds are needed for continued flood-control efforts, for cleaning up the Rhine and the North Sea, and for combating damage to forests by acid rain. The government seeks to cut back on all forms of pollution by up to 90 percent. Tourism is important to the country, and many come to see Dutch art, architecture—and the flowers. Tulips are a major industry, and the Dutch produce billions of bulbs a year—more than any other country.
The Netherlands was a major colonial power, but its largest colonies, Indonesia and Suriname, gained independence decades ago. The islands of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles still form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
- Industry: Agroindustries, metal and engineering products, electrical machinery and equipment, chemicals
- Agriculture: Grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fruits; livestock
- Exports: Machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, foodstuffs