Amsterdam: A Trip through History
An Amsterdam walking tour is like taking a trip back through history. Learn that history for yourself before you go on an Amsterdam trip and be better prepared to understand what you see.
Beginnings of the City
The first occurrence of the city's name was on a document in 1275, which permitted the "people living near Amestelledamme" from paying a particular toll. The name evolved over the next hundred years, appearing as "Aemsterdam" in 1327. It is a new city compared with other Dutch cities; Rotterdam, Nijmegen, and Utrecht are all much older. It continued growing, and began its life as a trade city partnering with the Hanseatic League. Its port presence quickly made it an important gateway for religious pilgrims, and set precedent for its later rise as a port city.
Elements of this early history are still visible on any Amsterdam trip today. An Amsterdam walking tour will take visitors through the city's oldest city center, built around a canal system. Visitors can also see how modern architecture has been built alongside the more ancient structures, most of which have been preserved.
Some 400 years after the city's founding, the Dutch people rebelled against their former Spanish rulers. They ultimately won independence, and the new Dutch capital became a center of tolerance in Europe. Persecuted peoples were able to find shelter, and the fruits of their labors still show today. A trip north could be hazardous for Iberian Jews, but they risked it for a chance at a free life.
In addition, Flemish printers and intellectuals began flocking to Holland's capital as Flanders began to crack down on merchants, printers, and others. The city welcomed them, and became a major center of free press as a result. The influence of these merchants and their wealth can be seen today. They are the ones responsible for the development of the city's buildings and cultural life, and many of the old beautiful homes now seen in the city's residential districts. These families also began to mold the city into the elite merchant capital it would soon become.
The Dutch Golden Age
By the 17th century, the Dutch ports had become the trading center of Europe. It had ships coming from as far away as Africa and Asia with a variety of goods. The Amsterdam trip was the key leg of a wide network, and Dutch merchants were the keys to that network.
Becoming the City of Today's Amsterdam Walking Tour
As the years passed, the Amsterdam trip lost its importance in comparison with wars fought between the Dutch and the English. Some new construction occurred at the end of the 19th century, but the city remained mostly static. It became a target of Nazi occupation during World War II, and many of its treasures were taken by desperate people.
Ultimately, the city emerged from Nazi control, and began developing into the modern city of today. New suburbs developed, some limited modernization occurred, but most elements of the city were maintained and left intact. Today's Amsterdam walking tour shows all these disparate factors in the city's development, visible in buildings, streets, and canals.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Harmen is an author for Amsterdam City Tours, Amsterdam trip experts who specialize in providing an excellent Amsterdam walking tour for any trip.