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In the mid-17th Century, painter Jacob van Campen was given the assignment to design a new town hall. The city council wanted a grand symbol of their leading role in Europe at that time - Holland's Golden Age - as well as their economic and civic power. The building had to make this clear for everyone to see. The Koninklijk Paleis became the biggest in Europe at the time of its construction. In 1808, this building was refurbished into a Royal Palace by the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis, king of the region during the French occupation. The Dutch royal family, the Oranje-Nassaus, receive royalty and dignitaries at the palace. After coronations, the new king or queen also present themselves to the citizens of the Netherlands from the balcony of the palace.
The Dam Square can be rightly considered as the epicentre of the Amsterdam City Center. This old center of the city is rich in history, architecture and culture. Some of the beautiful bridges that let you navigate across the city center have been around since the 17th Century and the magnificent buildings that dot this area belong to the medieval period. There are several options for a quick bite and even for a laid back lunch, if hunger strikes during your escapade. Global, retail outlets are also available but the essence of the historic, city center are the local vendors and their charming shops.
In the 13th Century, the river Amstel was dammed here, and on the banks of the river, a small fishing community called Amstelerdam was founded. Boats could unload their freight there and alongside the Damrak. When the Nieuwe Kerk was rebuilt and the Royal Palace (originally the town hall) was built, the enclosed square served as the city center, both socially and for administrative purposes. The city was governed and law and order was maintained from there, as can be seen in pictures of public executions on a scaffold in front of the town hall. After World War II, the War Memorial was erected in Dam Square, which is now a gathering place for thousands of people and numerous pigeons.
Lovingly refered to as the 'Venice of the North', Amsterdam is a city with unique geographical features. Through the Defence Line of Amsterdam, water was used as a shield to protect the city in times of war. The fortification includes seriers of forts constructed around the city with tracts that can be filled with water to refrain the enemies from entering the city. The Defence Line of Amsterdam has never witnessed combats but its unique construction and use of hydraulics has earned it an UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Located at Dam Square, The National Monument was unveiled on on May 4th, 1956 in honor of those who died during World War II. The monument is a 73 feet (22 meter) tall obelisk, with two stone lions standing beneath. Every year on May 4th, you will find a large gathering of dignitaries, as well as many other people, commemorating the victims of the war.
Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker is best known by his pen name, Multatuli, and was one of the most prominent critics of the Dutch colonial system (as well as a favored author of Sigmund Freud). In 2002, he was declared the most important Dutch writer of all-time. A statue to Multatuli now sits on the Torensluis bridge, over the Singel canal, and was created by Dutch artist Hans Bayens. The statue features a stylized bust of the author, looking out over the terraces of the cafés that now dominate the bridge.
The Makelaers Comptoir is a former guildhall located in the city of Amsterdam. This 17th Century building is one of the few guildhalls left in the city. It was constructed between 1633 to 1634 as a brokers' house. These brokers coordinated the trade practices that took place within and outside the city. The house has a stepped gable roof and a front pediment gate having two beautiful Ionic pilasters. Although not open to the public, it is often rented out for small occasions like meetings or dinners.