From its humble beginnings as a 13th-century fishing village on a river bed to its current role as a major hub for business, tourism and culture, Amsterdam has had a strong tradition as a centre of culture and commerce.
With over 180 nationalities, Amsterdam is scoring high marks on diversity. One thing that sets Amsterdam’s diversity apart is its antiquity. Maybe it’s stretching things to say that Amsterdam invented diversity, but it is certainly the case that Amsterdam’s growth – its rise to Golden Age greatness – had precisely to do with its diversity. And it’s not a stretch to say this: in becoming the melting pot of Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, the city set the template for modern urban life. Amsterdam embraces a variety of different lifestyles, religions and beliefs. For example, the city is considered by many to be the gay capital of Europe and still has an active squatters movement. It might seem contradictory to outsiders, but the city’s enormous variety of residents works by allowing everyone to be who they are and say what they think.
You won’t have to be in Amsterdam for long to realise that cycling is an integral part of life there. Parents on bikes loaded with children and shopping, business people heading to a meeting, friends off for a night on the town; they all rely on their trusty bike to weave their way quickly and easily through the city. Estimates conclude that there are more bikes in Amsterdam than permanent residents!
Amsterdam’s Canal Ring
Alongside tulips and windmills, the global image of Amsterdam is one of a city entwined with water. Since its development in the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring has grown to be one of the world’s most unique urban landscapes. And it not only remains a historic and beautiful water network through the city, but a stunning backdrop for fantastic cultural and sporting events throughout the year.
Built during the Golden Age of the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring, known locally as the Grachtengordel, is comprised of a network of intersecting waterways. These were developed through the drainage and reclamation of land for new development. Yet what was initially a practical feature, allowing the city to grow beyond its fortified boundaries, subsequently evolved into the area’s characteristic gabled canal-side estates and spectacular monuments thanks to financial enrichment from the booming maritime trade. The most famous trademarks of this new canal belt became the concentric loop of the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel canals.