History of Amsterdam

Although the seat of government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the constitutional capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is also the country’s largest and most visited city, with more than 3.5 million foreign visitors per year.

1200-1585: The beginnings

Amsterdam was founded as a fishing town around the 13th century. Amsterdam developed around the dam on the Amstel in the late 12th century. In the Middle Ages, houses in Amsterdam were built of wood, a vulnerable building material. As a result, a number of buildings were destroyed and few buildings from this period remain in Amsterdam today.

1585-1672: the golden age

This is when Amsterdam reached its commercial peak. During this period, Amsterdam was the economic centre of the world, and it was also during this period that Amsterdam developed most rapidly. Some of the most important historical buildings date from this period, such as the Royal Palace, the Westerkerk, the Zuiderkerk, as well as a huge number of boathouses along the various canals.

1672-1795: the Golden and Silver Age

The year 1672 was a year of great disaster for the Dutch Republic, with the French and the English attacking the country simultaneously. The Golden Age had come to an end. But Amsterdam managed to maintain its prosperity during the period 1672-1795. A new era was born, called the era of gold and silver. The large number of houses built during this period, both simple and rich, reflects the prosperity the city enjoyed.

1795-1813: Recession and decline

In 1795, the government was overthrown and the former republic ceased to exist. Soon afterwards, the French occupied the country. During this period, Amsterdam suffered severely from economic recession.


The period 1813-1940 was marked by economic recovery, and after 1840 by expansion. The increase in wealth led to rapid population growth. The development was mainly the result of the industrial revolution, which initiated a new golden age.