Looking for fun facts about Amsterdam? From cycling culture to the red light district, check out these amazing Amsterdam facts now!
We absolutely love Amsterdam! It’s one of our favorite cities in the world. And with its 20 million yearly visitors, we’re not the only ones.
Built among swampland by fishermen in the 12th century, the small fishing village grew to become the largest city of a very powerful European empire.
Today, Amsterdam remains as a cultural center of Europe with world-class art museums, stunning architecture, and of course, its famous canal system.
Discover everything “The Venice of the North” has to offer with these fun facts about Amsterdam.
Amsterdam was an important city during the Dutch Golden Age, a period of immense success and power for the Netherlands spanning the years 1588 to 1672. This period gave rise to some of the most famous artists of all time, including Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt.
Today, Amsterdam is known as a progressive and diverse city with over 176 different nationalities, making it one of the most diverse in the world.
Speaking of the canal system, did you know that Amsterdam has over 1,700 bridges? No wonder so many people in Amsterdam live on houseboats!
Grab yourself a coffee and a delicious stroopwaffel, and see what other Amsterdam facts we have in store for you!
19 Fun Facts About Amsterdam
1. The intricate canals of Amsterdam
There are more than 160 canals in Amsterdam that separate the city into 90 different islands. Okay, we understand the necessity of all those bridges now.
Mainly built in the 17th century, the canal system, known to the Dutch as Grachtengordel, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. It is estimated that over 3,000 people live on houseboats in the canals.
2. The Golden Age
At one point in history, Amsterdam was the largest city of the world’s most powerful maritime and economic empire. Often referred to as the “Dutch Miracle” during the period of approximately 1588 to 1672, the Dutch were the world leaders in trade, science, military and art.
The Golden Age was short-lived however, as it ended with two successive wars that led to economic decline.
3. Midnight marriages for LGBT+
On April 1st, 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. On that day, at the stroke of midnight, four same-sex couples were married by Amsterdam’s mayor at City Hall.
And how cute is this. All four couples married in Amsterdam that day are still together and celebrating over 20 years of wedded bliss! Awwwww…
4. The weed capital of Europe
Many people travel to Amsterdam to partake in cannabis culture. Cafes and dispensaries line the streets offering everything from pre-rolled joints to cannabis-infused hot chocolates.
But here’s one of the more interesting Amsterdam facts: the rate of cannabis use among the citizens of Amsterdam is actually quite low at about 5% of the population.
Why get high when you can make good money from weed-seeking tourists? We see you Amsterdam!
5. Fat bridge, skinny bridge
We mentioned the massive amount of bridges in Amsterdam, but here are two very special bridges.
Torensluis Brug is one of the oldest bridges in the city. It is 3-times wider than a regular bridge and was designed with built-in jail cells in the arches.
Magere Brug or Skinny Bridge, is a drawbridge over the Amstel River with two lifts to allow boat traffic. Make sure you check out both when visiting the city.
6. Turn on the red light
The Red Light District (RLD) is famous in Amsterdam for its hipster art scene, cannabis coffee shops, and of course, naughty nightlife.
The small area is mostly pedestrian and got its famous name from the prevalence of red neon signs lining the cramped streets. In the RLD, the buildings and laneways glow an eerie red.
7. The crooked houses of Amsterdam
The city of Amsterdam was founded on swampland, so it’s not hard to see why citizens built their houses on top of drilled wooden poles.
But with the wet soil eating away at the wood over time and the soft earth underneath, many houses lining the streets and canals of Amsterdam are crooked and look about to topple over. Thankfully, new builds in Amsterdam utilize steel poles instead of wood.
8. An epicenter of European art
During the Dutch Golden Age, the art scene in the Netherlands was vibrant, thriving, and unique among Europe. The Dutch, instead of painting with romanticism typical to the Baroque period, were known for painting realistic scenes of the middle class at work or play.
Today, Amsterdam boasts dozens of art museums, with the Rijksmuseum having the largest and most extensive collection of Dutch art.
9. Everyone gets a bike!
Amsterdam is a world-class city for cyclists. Over 70% of Amsterdam locals bike to and from work and school everyday. Cycling is such an integral part of the culture that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam!
Here’s one of our favorite fun facts about Amsterdam: Between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles have to be fished out of the canals every year. We have no idea why so many people throw them away!
10. The floating flower market
When you’re in Amsterdam you’re never far from a flower shop. Known especially for tulips, the Netherlands has the perfect climate and soil for growing flowers.
One of the more quirky flower shops is Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market. Found in the Singel canal the market is open Monday to Saturday rain or shine, selling fresh cut flowers and bulbs right on the water.
11. Green space in the center of the city
Vondelpark was created in 1867 and is the largest park in Amsterdam at over 47 hectares. Because of the wet soil in Vondelpark, the trees planted there can only live up to 50 years before falling over.
The question is: If a tree falls in Vondelpark does it make a sound? Or is the ground too soft that it falls in silence?
12. Lights, tulips and Medieval rock
The people of Amsterdam love a good social event! It’s no surprise the city’s event calendar is filled with festivals. The Amsterdam Lights Festival has artists using lights to present art and can be viewed on foot or on boat.
National Tulip Day celebrates the national flower with a display of over 200,000 tulips in Dam Square.
Castlefest is everything medieval, from pagan folk music, stonework crafts and the ceremonial torching of the Wickerman.
13. Are the coffee refills free?
Amsterdam is a coffee-obsessed city with over 1,000 coffee shops with some of the best cups of java that Europe has to offer. Amsterdam residents are the second largest consumers of coffee in the world, drinking 3.2 cups of coffee per day.
Now we ask: Have the people of Amsterdam mastered the art of drinking coffee and cycling at the same time? Or is that how all those bikes ended up in the canals?
14. Amsterdam is sinking
We suggest bringing some flood pants to Amsterdam because the city is sinking… slowly. Each year the city is said to sink up to 10 millimetres with cracks and sinkholes appearing along the waterways and threatening to collapse bridges.
Luckily Amsterdam is the world leader in engineering flood prevention structures such as dykes. However, the cost of repairing the damaged infrastructure costs the people of Amsterdam billions each year.
15. Fear the orange wave
Like most countries in Europe, the Netherlands is football (soccer) obsessed. Amsterdam is home to the largest football arena in the country. The massive Johan Cruijff Arena has a capacity of 54,000.
When it’s sold out, the seats are flooded in a wave of orange, the color of the national football team.
16. Europe’s leading beer brand
Heineken is one of the most recognized beer brands world-wide, but did you know it is brewed in Amsterdam? In the 1860s, Gerard Heineken bought the largest brewery in Amsterdam after receiving an inheritance.
After a few years of financial struggle, in 1873 Heineken decided to brew his own yeast to set him apart from his competitors. This magical yeast propelled Heineken to its legendary status and is still in use today.
17. Are you feeling cheesy?
Calling all cheeseheads! The Netherlands is known for its many varieties of delicious cheese. Famous cheeses originating in the Netherlands include Old Amsterdam, Edam and Gouda.
The Westland family who lost their livelihoods after a dam was built on their fishing grounds turned to cheese producing and created Old Amsterdam.
You can check out some other fun facts about cheese here!
18. The fastest country on two blades
We mentioned earlier that the Dutch were obsessed with football, but come winter time it is speed skating that takes center stage.
Built for the 1928 Olympic Games, the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam was repurposed in 2014 and be used as a long track speed skating rink for the Dutch national championships. Interestingly, the Dutch team has won more Olympic speed skating medals than any other country.
19. A tale of two Amsterdams
What would you say if we told you New Amsterdam has over 10 times the population of Old Amsterdam? Believe it! The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was founded in the 1600s and is better known today as Manhattan.
The Dutch held the city until 1664, when the British took it over and renamed it New York.
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
Which of these fun facts about Amsterdam has inspired you the visit the city?
If you’ve got any other facts you think we missed, let us know in the comments below and we’ll add it to our Amsterdam facts!