Visit Amsterdam’s lively central square, a venue that’s seen both protests and celebrations.
Dam Square lies right at the heart Amsterdam, and dates back to the 13th century origins of this capital. Today, it is the focus for gatherings and events, including a large fun fair that is held several times a year. Join the crowds, relax and watch the world go by, or enjoy some retail therapy.
You can’t miss the National Monument, a towering white stone pillar, erected in 1956 to commemorate lives lost in World War II. Every year on the 4th of May, crowds gather for a minute’s silence in memory of the war dead, before celebrating Liberation Day on the 5th. If you happen to be visiting on the 30th of April, Queen’s Day (King’s Day from 2014), or during any of the international soccer tournaments, the square turns orange, as it fills with revellers all dressed in the national colour.
On any day apart from Monday, take a self-guided or private tour of the imposing Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) where you can feast your eyes on the ornately-decorated rooms decked with works by great artists including Rembrandt. Originally built as the City Hall in the 17th century, it was occupied by Napoleon’s brother Louis when he ruled the Netherlands during the French occupation. It’s now a venue for royal and state occasions, including receptions and awards ceremonies.
Next to the Royal Palace, is the 15th century Gothic-style Nieuwe Kerk. Although no longer used for regular religious services, it is the chosen venue of the Dutch royal family for investitures and weddings. It also serves as an exhibition space, and sometimes, you can hear organ recitals here.
The department stores around the square such as De Bijenkorf (The Beehive), are the perfect place to while away a couple of hours. Drop into the café for traditional coffee and cake overlooking the Beurs van Berlage, the old stock exchange. Head to the nearby Peek & Cloppenburg building to see the life-like wax statues of Madame Tussauds.
Dam Square is just a short walk from Central Station, and many tram and bus lines stop here. If you’re driving, it’s probably best to leave your car in one of the Park-and-ride car parks at the edge of the city.