Interesting facts about the City of Amsterdam

Whether you have been in Amsterdam for a month, or a few years – the city is, certainly one of the most fascinating of all European cities and you are no doubt, discovering new and exciting things about your host country, on a daily basis. Many erasmus may, at first, find it difficult to fit in or difficult to figure out the culture and the way that the Dutch prefer to get things done. A task, as simple as finding apartments for rent in Amsterdam could prove daunting, as there are rules and regulations, which could make renting a ‘small’ apartment illegal. However once all the bureaucracy has been overcome, expats will quickly learn that Amsterdam guards many interesting and little known facts and by getting to know these facts, expats will start to see their host country in a different light.

museums Amsterdam

Things To Do

Amsterdam – city of bikes, canals … and a whole lot more

The city has more than one million bikes while the population in Amsterdam totals roughly 800 000.

Interestingly more than 50.000 bikes are stolen – by the city. If you find that your bike has vanished, it probably has not been stolen. The government has put in place a very strict policy when it comes to bicycles that are parked incorrectly. If you have parked your bike in an illegal space that is not zoned for bikes, the chances are pretty high that is has been confiscated and can be retrieved at the AFAC depot.

There are more than 300 coffee shops in the city that legally sell up to 5 grams of soft drugs to each person. In the early 1970s, cannabis was made legal, however stronger drugs are banned.

Amsterdam has more museums than any other city in the world, measured per square meters. The museums cover all sorts of strange and bizarre topics, ranging from painters to museums as well as the history of sex and marijuana.

The world renowned Koh-I-Noor diamond was cut in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has been constructed entirely on piles which are massive stakes that have been driven into the ground. Central station has six thousands stakes holding it up.

Schiphol Airport is four meters below sea level.

Amsterdam was named after the Amstel River and the Dam which was built to supply water to the newly found city! Amstel is also a name of a beer that was also named after the river as it is brewed locally.

In the event that global warming causes the sea levels to rise even by a fraction, Amsterdam could be engulfed by water, as it will be one of the first cities flooded. Since the city is actually well below sea level and much of the country has been reclaimed by the sea, it is virtually entirely flat and is 6.7 meters below sea level at its lowest point. With this in mind, the Dutch are experienced at finding ways to keep the sea from taking over their country and making it a modern day Atlantis and as such, when hurricane Katrina struck, the USA government turned to the experienced Dutch to assisting in repairing the levies in New Orleans.

Cat lovers, will be fascinated to find that a house boat, Poezenboot (Cat boat) in Amsterdam serves as a haven for stray or abandoned cats. A woman who had been actively re-housing stray cats on land, decided to use a houseboat for this purpose. The woman has since passed on, but the Poezenboot house boat remains and caring volunteers now help out with the kitties.

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world and it is situated in the centre of the city.
One of the oldest areas in Amsterdam is known as de Wallen and it is here where the world famous red light district is located.

Oude Kerk (or the Old Church) is the oldest building in the city and it is located in the centre of de Wallen area. This ancient church dates back to 1306!

Throughout this fascinating Dutch city, one can expect to find 165 canals and a total 1,281 bridges, which has given the city the name of ‘Venice of the North’. The city also boasts an impressive 2,500 house boats. The boats that have a fixed place in the many canals are used as permanent accommodation.

Amsterdam is home to the highest number of nationalities than any other city in the world. Amsterdammers are made up of 175 internationally recognized nationalities, and there are only 194 internationally recognized countries in the world.

The city is also known for its liberated approach to sex and drugs, and Amsterdam is home to one of the most famous Red Light Districts in the world that offers window prostitution. There are close to 500 windows in Amsterdam, and on any given day, one will find that there are more than 1,000 prostitutes working in the city.

Although the city is pretty relaxing about smoking marihuana, in 2008, tobacco smoking was banned in Dutch restaurants and cafes – although the smoking of marihuana is still permitted in the supplying coffee shops.

Amsterdam was the first capital that allowed gay marriages to take place.

This Dutch city is rich and vibrant and with an average of 16 000 concerts or theatrical performances hosted by the city, annually along with the canals, houseboats, windmills and the infamous Red Light District, it is little wonder that there are more than 150 000 visitors each year.

Quick facts to impress the locals with





City trams






Flower market




Diamond polishing factories






Wooden drawbridges




Statues and sculptures






Art galleries


Wax statues at Madame Tussaud’s


Animals at the Artis Zoo


Concerts and theatrical performances per year




Cafes and bars






Hotel beds


Visitors to the city per year