Top 50 general questions about Amsterdam

How many people are there living in Amsterdam? Why do the Dutch wear Orange? Where can I find windmills? What language do they speak in Holland? Where can I find most bars? Is it safe? That and much more in this post.



What’s the difference between Holland and The Netherlands and where is Amsterdam located?

Amsterdam is located in Holland and is the capital of the Netherlands. The Netherlands has 12 provinces, of which two are called North Holland and South-Holland. Amsterdam is in the Southeastern part of North Holland. Holland is in the west of the small country. The Netherlands is in Western Europe and its bordering countries are Belgium in the south, Germany on the East and the North Sea on the Nord and West. When you swim over the North Sea to the West side you will reach England.


What language do the locals speak in Amsterdam?

The locals in Amsterdam and the Netherlands speak Dutch. Dutch is part of the West Germanic language group. As are other languages as English, Low German and High German. While the official and native language is Dutch, most people in Amsterdam speak English very well. The city is home to 180 nationalities so you will hear English but also other languages throughout the city. Lots of second and third generation Dutch-Moroccans and Turkish are living in the Netherlands which means you will hear them speak Berber, Arabic or Turkish. You do not need to know the Dutch language in order to enjoy your visit to the Netherlands, though we encourage you to learn a few words. See here which words we would recommend learning!


How many residents are living in Amsterdam?

834.713 called Amsterdam home on 1 January 2016. Amsterdam is a big metropolitan area with many different municipalities like: Duivendrecht, Hoofddorp, Aalsmeer, Badhoevedorp, Amstelveen, Zaandam and Diemen. Altogether these municipalities represent about 2.5 million people. Amsterdam is growing with around 11.000 people per year and has never in its history grown so fast. Especially higher educated people want to live in Amsterdam for work, education, culture and for each other. Another reason most people coming to the capital are higher educated is because they can afford it to live in the expensive city.


How many bikes are there in Amsterdam?

Many! There are different figures about the exact number, but a method using the wisdom of the crowd estimated a staggering number of 881.000 bikes. That means that every household has 2 bikes on average. In 2016, 8893 people reported that their bike got stolen, the real number of stolen bikes is much higher as many do not report that their bike got stolen. Moreover, each year around 14.000 bikes are fished up from the canals.


Why is Amsterdam named Amsterdam?

The name Amsterdam is derived from the city’s origins. The city grew around the Amstel and in this River they built a Dam. Together this is AmstelDam, by many years this became Amsterdam. Some say they city may have been named after a dike built years earlier.


How many windmills are there in Amsterdam?

There are in total 6 windmills in Amsterdam.

  • Krijtmolen d’Admiraal, trass- and chalkmill (1792, North)
  • De Gooyer, a flour mill, the tallest wooden windmill and octagonal in shape (1814, East)
  • De Riekermolen, a polder windmill (1636, South)
  • The Rembrandt Sloten, a polder windmill (1847, West)
  • De 1200 Roe or De Bloem , polder mill (1632, West)
  • The Otter, a saw mill. The only one remaining of the 49 sawmills (1631, West)

Want to know more about windmills in Amsterdam and their locations? Check out our map and blog here.


How many houseboats are there in Amsterdam?

There are approximately 2500 truly unique houseboats on the canals and rivers in Amsterdam.


What are other names for Amsterdam?

Venice of the North, because Amsterdam has more canals than Venice.

Damsco, some people call Amsterdam like this because of Dam square.


What is Dam square?

Dam square is the most well-known square in the Netherlands and thus in its capital Amsterdam. The Dam is literally a Dam in the River Amstel, although you do not notice this when you are on Dam square itself. The Royal Palace is located at the Dam and national events take place here. An example is annual Remembrance Day for the Second World War (May 4th) which take place in front of the National Monument.


What does Mokum mean?

Mokum is a nickname for Amsterdam. Before the Second World War the Jewish population was enormous in Amsterdam. In Hebrew ‘makom,’ means ‘place.’, this name sticked with its inhabitants.


How is someone living in Amsterdam called?

Someone living in Amsterdam is called an Amsterdammer.


How many canals does Amsterdam have?

THe capital has 165 canals. These canals have a length 100 kilometer


Where can you swim in the canals in Amsterdam?

It’s not allowed to swim in the canals. When ‘Waternet’ will see you they will give you a warning. When you do not get out of the water they will ask the police to fine you. Of course people do swim in the canals (unwillingly or willingly). Cleanest is to swim in the Amstel River. An illegal unofficial spot is in front of the Hermitage. Here you will find a nice wooden platform on which you can chill and get out of the water with a ladder. Next to that there is an annual swim called the Amsterdam City Swim. Prior to this swim extra sanitation of the water takes place. In 2012 the current Queen Maxima swam in the canals.


How many people drown in the canals every year?

This seems to be a top secret. To protect tourism? To defend not building ladders to get out of the canals? No one knows. Reports from the Public Health Service and Police show that between 8 to 17 people drown every year in the canals. Most drowning are drunk, stoned and under the influence of certain substances. Mostly men, relieving themselves into the canals.


How many bridges does Amsterdam have?

There are 1680 bridges. This means it  has more canals than Venice and more bridges than Paris. A lot of bridges have a historic character and most of the bridges in Amsterdam can open to let boats pass. The bridges literally unite Amsterdam. In the 19th century the capital was 82 little islands. Nice fact is that 346 bridges have a name, for the other 1334 Amsterdammers may choose the names in the near future. A nice video about bridges (in Dutch) can be found here.


What is the most famous bridge in Amsterdam?

The most famous bridge is the Magere Brug, the Skinny Bridge over the Amstel River. The bridge is on the Kerkstraat between the Keizersgracht and the Prinsengracht.


What is the abbreviation of Amsterdam?

Some people abbreviate Amsterdam to A’dam or Adam.


What is the airport code for Amsterdam?

The only airport of Amsterdam is called Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and has code: AMS.


Why do so many canal houses tilt forward?

There are certain reasons for this. Some joke that Amsterdammer do not like to clean their windows and this will prevent rain from hitting the windows. More serious arguments are that many of these homes were once warehouses for goods. These warehouses were built slighty tilted to prevent the goods from damaging the building’s facade on the way up or down. After this was done, this approach was copied in other buildings. Another reason is that many foundations are damaged. The wood in the wet ground does not do well.


What is the tallest building in Amsterdam?

The Rembrandttoren is the highest sky scrapper of Amsterdam and is named after painter Rembrandt van Rijn. The 36-story office tower is 135 meters tall, 150 if you count the spire. That is not tall considering international standards. The average building height in the city center is around 15 meters. The Rembrandttoren is located in the East, next to Amsterdam Amstel Station.


Is there a free publicly accessible view point?

Yes there is. The Central OBA, central library between Amsterdam Central Station and Nemo is 7 floors high and is overlooking the beautiful city center.


What is a brown café?

A brown café has a dark wood interior, nicotine-stained ceiling and low-wattage lighting. You may find brown cafés everywhere in Holland, but most of them are in Amsterdam.


Is there a zoo in Amsterdam?

The zoo in Amsterdam is called ‘Artis Royal Zoo’. It was founded in 1838 and is therefore the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and Europe and the third oldest zoo in the world.

What is Queen’s and King’s day?

This is the national holiday to celebrate the birthday of the Queen or King. Since 2014 the Kingdom of the Netherlands has a King instead of a Queen. King Willem-Alexander’s Birthday is on the 27th of April. On this day you will find everyone where orange and people trying to sell everything on the street. It’s one of the most fun days in the Netherlands.


Why was Queen’s day on the 30th of April?

The birthday of Queen Beatrix was in winter time (31 January), to celebrate Queen’s day on this day would be unfortunate as all people gather on the streets to celebrate. That is why Queen Beatrix did not change the date of her mother’s birthday. Her mother Queen Juliana’s birthday was on the 30th of April. So since 2014 the date to celebrate King’s day has been set on the 27th of April.


Why is everyone wearing Orange?

During sport games and on King’s Day you’ll be finding many Dutch wearing orange. This is because of the family name of the Dutch Royal family. The name contains: ‘From Orange’. This is why the Dutch Football team / soccer team is called ‘Orange’ (Oranje in Dutch), but also during other sport games the teams are called ‘Oranje’.


Is Amsterdam a safe city?

When looking to the statistics of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is not a safe city. When looking internationally to other capitals and bigger cities it is very safe. Amsterdam is a safe city to visit. In the Safe City Index 2015 Amsterdam took on the 5th position in the list of safest cities in the world (2015). Though you can buy marijuana freely in coffee shops, smart drugs in smart shops and prostitution is legal, Amsterdam is not a dangerous city. Other popular European tourists destinations are ranked quite a bit lower: Barcelona (15), London (18), Brussels (22), Paris (23) and Rome (27).

The Area around Central Station, the Red light district are the areas with most crimes. This is very predictable as most people are living here. After this district you are ‘most unsafe’ in New-West and South-East. These areas are still safe though. See here an interactive map of criminality in Amsterdam.


Can women safely travel in and to Amsterdam?

Yes. It is a safe city for women, regardless of their age or whether travelling alone or together.


How did Amsterdam become such a tolerant city?

This has a historical reason. Amsterdam is a city where trade has always been important rather than ideology or religion. Everybody was welcome, as long as they brought trade of money with them. This made Amsterdam a traditionally immigrant city as many other cities were kicking out Protestants, Catholics or Jews. Jews from Spain and French protestants found a safe haven, between 1585 and 1630.


Why does Amsterdam and the Netherlands tolerate prostitution and the use of drugs?

First, Amsterdam is a tolerant city. Second, the Dutch know they will create an even bigger black market when banning these activities. In other words: it’s going to happen anyway. And why not make some money out of it and try to regulate it?


What is the monthly rent of an average sized (60m2) apartment in Amsterdam City CENTRE?

An averaged sized apartment of 60 m2 in for example the Jordaan district is around EUR1500 – 1750 per month. This is excluding electricity, gas and water.


What is the quality of life in Amsterdam?

Amsterdammers love their architecture, with the historic city centre, a healthy work-life balance, competitive business benefits and cultural diversity, the city has a high quality of life. Amsterdam is frequently ranked in the top 15 of Mercer’s Quality of Living index. Nowadays, concerns are raised about the availability of affordable housing and overcrowding (particularly the high number of tourists in the city center).


How much do I tip in Amsterdam?

Tipping is common in restaurants and taxi’s. A rate between 5 and 12% is considered normal. Few people tip in bars and pubs as well.


What is the most visited park in Amsterdam?

Vondelpark is the central park of Amsterdam and has around 10 million visitors per year. 9 out of 10 locals say they come in the Vondelpark at least once a year. It is conveniently located right next to entertainment area Leidseplein.


Is BARBECUING allowed in the Vondelpark?

No, that is since March 2017 not allowed anywhere in the park anymore and it is strongly enforced by law enforcers, the fine is € 90,-.


What is a coffeeshop? Can I buy coffee in a coffeeshop?

A coffeeshop in Amsterdam is a bar- or pub-looking place where you can legally buy soft drugs (marijuana or hashish), space cakes. They mostly also serve coffee, tea, sometimes freshly-squeezed juices and sandwiches.


Is it allowed to smoke marijuana or hashish on the streets in the Netherlands?

No, that is not allowed. In public and in public places it is not allowed to smoke marijuana or hashish.


How many coffeeshops are there in Amsterdam?

There are around 150 coffeeshops in Amsterdam. This is almost one third of the total coffeeshops in the Netherlands.


Do all Amsterdammers visit coffeeshops?

In the city center most coffeeshops will be packed with tourists. Outside the center most visitors will be Dutch. Most people in Amsterdam and the Netherlands do not smoke weed. It is even said that less people in the Netherlands smoke weed than in for example the USA. Around 26% of tourists visit a coffeeshop during their stay in Amsterdam and 10% of tourists mention this as a primary reason to visit the city.


Will non-Dutch be banned from buying weed and other products in coffeeshops?

Yes and no, in Amsterdam nobody will be banned from buying weed and other products in coffeeshops. This is because the political leaders from Amsterdam are against a so called ‘Weed pass’. It would hurt tourism and increase illegal drug trading on the streets.

What is a ‘Weed Pass’?

A ‘Weed Pass’ is registration at a coffeeshop where you can then buy your weed. For this registration you’ll get a pass and this makes it look like a membership. This pass is only issued to locals. Municipalities close to the borders with Germany and Belgium did enforce a so called weed pass to stop the so-called drug tourism. Many people from Germany and Belgium come to the Netherlands. Smoke and then drive back. This has caused many accidents. Municipalities may determine themselves whether or not to allow tourists into their coffeeshops. In Amsterdam the weed pass has never been introduced, and will not be imposed in the near future. Non-locals may continue to smoke.


Are they closing coffeeshops in amsterdam?

Till 1 January 2016 some 31 coffeeshops had to close because they were too close to primary and secondary schools.

How’s the weather in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is close to the sea (30 KM). This makes the weather mild. This means not super cold winters and not super warm summers. In winter it gets to zero degrees. In summer it may get 30 degrees Celsius.


What is the best time to visit Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is nicest in summer, from May to September. July and August are most popular and are considered peak season. Winters are, due to the position of the Netherlands next to the North Sea, relatively mild but can be cold (especially when wind comes from the East) and can be wet too.


What the lake / river behind Amsterdam Central Station called?

This is called ‘t IJ. The IJ is a river behind Central Station. It connects the Port of Amsterdam to the rest of the water ways in the Netherlands and Europe. It is one of Europe’s busiest marine corridors. The pronunciation of ‘IJ’ is like ‘eye’. ‘Het IJ’ is pronounced like: ‘hat eye’.


Which calendar is used in Amsterdam?

In Amsterdam the Christian Calendar is used. The Christian calendar consists of 365 or 366 days, which is divided into 12 months. The months in the calendar has no relationship with lunar cycles. A set of seven days is considered as one week in the Christian calendar.


Which currency is used in Amsterdam / the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is part of the European Union and the Euro zone. From 1 January 2002 the Euro has been in use. Until 2002 the Dutch Guilder was used. For every 2,2 Guilder the Dutch got 1 euro.


What is the best place to change my money in Amsterdam?

It’s best to use your debit card at an ATM to get cash. This will get you the best rates. Another option is not to take cash. Amsterdam is one of the most cashless cities in the world. You can use your debit or credit card almost everywhere, for any amount of money. Shops are happy not to get cash.


How many students are there in Amsterdam?

There are 113.000 students in Amsterdam of which 47.000 live in the city. There are 26 educational institutes of which the Applied University of Amsterdam (46.000 students), University of Amsterdam (31.000 students) and the VU University Amsterdm (22.000 students) are the biggest.


How many museums are there in Amsterdam?

The city has in total 52 museums. Amsterdam is famous for its beautiful museums. The most visited museums are: Rijksmuseum (2.5 million, 2016), Van Gogh Museum (2.1 million, 2016) and Anne Frank House (1.3 million, 2016).


How many bars are there in Amsterdam?

It is said that Amsterdam has over 1000 bars and pubs! Most bars per square meter can be found in the Jordaan district.


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