University of Amsterdam Past and Present


History of the Netherlands

Ancient times

Geographically a difficult area to live, the ancient Netherlands had for its inhabitants Celtic and German tribes, one very important feature - safety. Its rivers, lakes, wetlands, and woods were impossible to cross for the invaders.

It is only in the 1st century BC, that the ancient Roman Empire conquered the southern part of these lands establishing an important military post in Nijmegen. North of the today’s Netherlands remained not conquered nor even invaded. Under the Roman administration, prosperity grew for almost three hundred years.

Early Middle Ages

As the Roman state got weaker, barbaric Germanic tribes started to invade the land. Most powerful of them, the Franks invaded the territory in the 5th century and brought the Christianity with them. By 800 today’s Netherlands was a part of the powerful Franks Empire of Charlemagne. It is in Nijmegen that Charlemagne built one of his palaces. Tradition says that Nijmegen was his favorite residence, while Aachen (today in Germany) was the empire’s capital.

Economical growth in the Middle Ages

After the fall of the Charlemagne Empire (he died in 814) the Low Countries territory has been divided into several smaller states – ruled by dukes and counts. At the same time, already in the Middle Ages, a strong economical development made the Netherlands one of the richest areas in Europe. Agriculture along with crafts and commerce, rich towns and important trading links reaching as far as Asia and North Africa, transformed the Netherlands into the area where the feudal power has been limited, safety of movement and economical activity established, sustained growth possible.

Renaissance and fight for independence

The neighborhood powers – first Dukes of Burgundy and later the Habsburgs (after 1477, the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to Archduke Maximilian Habsburg) tried to dominate the Netherlands and introduce its taxation there.

In 1555, Charles of the Habsburg dynasty granted the Netherlands to his son, Philip II, king of Spain. As Philip II was, a Catholic and part of the Netherlands protestant the Dutch resisted not only the new taxation, but also the intolerance and oppressive methods of administration of the Spanish king and his governor Prince Alba. A long eighty years lasting war began. Feeling of the national identity developed in the Netherlands during this war.

In 1581, the Union of Utrecht proclaimed independence from Spain. The new nation suffered a series of reverses in the war, but finally in 1648 the Spanish recognized the sovereignty of the Republic. The Dutch Republic remained until 1794 at least nominally, under the power of the Austrian throne of Habsburg.

The discoveries era

Despite all the war destructions and hardship, the Dutch continued expansion on the seas and discoveries of the new routes and lands. By the mid-17th century, the Republic was the biggest maritime power of Europe, and Amsterdam was the most important financial center of the continent. Naturally, wars about the domination on the seas with England and wars to resist growing power of France on the mainland followed.

18th and 19th Century

Beginning of the 18th century, with the domination of the big absolutist empires of France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia on the continent, and United Kingdom on the sea, the demise of the tiny Dutch Republic begins. An important economical factor has also been the fall of Poland, which lost Ukraine to Russia and was not able anymore to supply grain to the Netherlands.

Growth of the liberal and republican ideas all over the world and resistance to these ideas by the people who ruled the Dutch Republic, lead at the end of the 18th century to the creation of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which after the fall of Napoleon included also the territories of the today’s Belgium and Luxemburg.

Belgium provinces revolted in 1830 and separated into the Kingdom of Belgium. Luxemburg although independent, has been united with the Netherlands by a person of a monarch. Luxemburg finally separated from The Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1890, when Dutch King William III died not leaving a male heir, which was a condition to rule the Duchy of Luxemburg.

Time of peace and prosperity

In the second half of the 19 century, through slow but constant economical growth and important constitutional reforms, the Netherlands became a liberal and modern state. During the WWI, the Netherlands remained neutral.

World War II

During World War II (1939-1945), the Netherlands was invaded and occupied by the Germans (1940). After two years of relative prosperity, when only the Jewish population has been prosecuted, the whole country began to suffer the burden of war and increasing German terror. 
Dutch resistance against the attempts of the Nazi Germany to incorporate Netherlands into the Third Reich during the WWII, and the leadership of the Royal Family in the struggle with the occupants, are still alive in the Dutch people memory.

Last decades

After the difficult years of reconstruction directly after the WWII, the Netherlands sustained in the second half of the 20th century a continuous and fast economical growth. Today the Netherlands is one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world.


 New Amsterdam as New York: An interesting episode of the Dutch and American history is an establishment in 1609 of an urban settlement called New Amsterdam on the island called today Manhattan, by an English explorer Henry Hudson, then in the service of the Dutch Far East Company. This first urban development has been later taken by the English and became New York. And although the Dutch took back the island and the city in 1673, they lost it again next year and New Amsterdam remained known as New York.



The Netherlands

The Netherlands being the most densely populated country of the world has very interesting cities, beautifully preserved nature, and varied landscape, always fresh through the wind from the sea. This is the country, where light astonishes the visitor. No wonder, that the Dutch gave human civilization several important painters.

Official Name

Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of the Netherlands and its overseas islands - Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

The Netherlands or Holland?

Talking about the Netherlands, people often incorrectly call it Holland. In fact, only the central part of the Netherlands is geographically named Holland. This part of the country consists now of two provinces Noord Holland (North Holland) and Zuid-Holland (South Holland). This is the region with important cities as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague (Den Haag), Delft, Leiden and Haarlem.

Geography and Climate

The Netherlands is located in North Western Europe, at the West and North-West coastline the North Sea; the country borders with Belgium from the South and Germany from the East and Northeast. Through its long North Sea coast (451 km) the climate of the Netherlands is a typical mild maritime climate, wet and mild, winters are rarely strong, summer is never very hot.

Provinces of the Netherlands

The Netherlands are traditionally divided into 12 provinces, which have their own capital, own self-rule and administration. Each of these provinces has very different sphere, different history, and different traditions. Thus, more than in any other country of Europe, richness of the Netherlands lays in its diversity.

Population and Languages

The Netherlands is populated in 81% by Caucasian Dutch population of Germanic or Gallo Celtic descent. Contrary to the popular ideas, more Dutch are catholic 31% than protestant 21%. In the Netherlands, women slightly exceed the male population. Dutch is an official language, spoken by almost total of the population, except for the expats coming from the Anglo-Saxon countries.

Short history of the Netherlands

Feeling of the national identity developed in the Netherlands during the war with Spanish domination, which lasted eighty years - from 1568 until 1648. Dutch resistance against the attempts of the Nazi Germany to incorporate Netherlands into the Third Reich during the WWII, and the leadership of the Royal Family in the struggle with the occupants, are still alive in the Dutch people memory.


The Netherlands is one of the most developed countries of the world. It has many industries and agriculture on a very high level of productivity. The biggest world’s companies as Shell and Unilever as well as the banking giants ING Group and ABN AMRO are based in the Netherlands. GDP per head is US $42,000, which is one of the highest in the world. The Netherlands is the member of the European Union and has adopted euro as its currency.

Political system

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Dutch monarch King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands serves as representative head of state and a person uniting the divided parliamentary politics. The parliament consists of two chambers. The Lower House (Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber) is elected every four years in a direct national elections together with the provincial parliaments.


History of the Dutch Royal Family

Prior to the Batavian Revolution of 1795, the semi-independent provinces of the Netherlands had chief-executives called stadtholders, who were all drawn from the House of Orange or the House of Nassau by primogeniture. After 1747 the office became formally hereditary in all seven provinces in the House of Orange-Nassau.

Coat of Arms of "The United Kingdom of the Netherlands"

The House of Orange-Nassau came from Dietz, Germany, seat of one of the Nassau counties. Their title 'Prince of Orange' was acquired through inheritance of the Principality of Orange in southern France, in 1544. William of Orange (also known as William the Silent) was the first Orange stadtholder (ironically, appointed by Philip II of Spain). From 1568 to his death in 1584, he led the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain. His younger brother, John VI, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, Stadtholder of Utrecht, was the direct male lineancestor of the later Stadtholders of Friesland and Groningen, the later hereditary stadtholders and the first King of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands remained, formally, a confederated republic, even when in 1747 the office of stadtholder was centralized (one stadtholder for all provinces) and became formally hereditary under the House of Orange-Nassau.

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1839) (Dutch: Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, French: Royaume uni des Pays-Bas) was the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden,French: Royaume des Belgiques) during the period after it was first created from part of the First French Empire and before the new Kingdom of Belgium split off from it in 1830.

This state, a large part of which still exists today as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was made up of the former Dutch Republic (Republic of the Seven United Netherlands) to the north, the former Austrian Netherlands to the south, and the former Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The House of Orange-Nassau came to be the monarchs of this new state.

William I (William the Silent), Prince of Orange (24 April 1533 – 10 July 1584)

During the Congress of Vienna in 1815 France had to give up its rule of the Southern Netherlands. These negotiations were not made easy, because William tried to get as much out of it as he could. His ideas of a United Netherlands were based upon the actions of Hendrik van der Noot, a lawyer and politician and one of the main players in the Revolution of the Southern Netherlands against the Austrian Emperor (1789–1790). In 1789, after the Southern Netherlands declared themselves independent, Hendrik knew this was a fragile state and he tried to be reunited with the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Since then William had never forgotten this and after the fall of Napoleon he saw a chance.

Three different scenarios were made:

  1. The Northern Netherlands restored within its old borders and the Southern Netherlands would become a barrier state under the rule of a great power, like Austria.
  2. If the Southern Netherlands would stay (partially) French, the Northern Netherlands should be extended to the Nete River or probably the whole of Flanders. In this scenario also portions of Germany would become Dutch. Then the border would be the line Mechelen-Maastricht-Jülich-Cologne-Düsseldorf where it ends at the river .Rhine
  3. France within its old borders, the Northern Netherlands unified with the Southern Netherlands and all of German territories on the left bank of the Rhine and north of the Moselle and the old Duchy of Berg and the old Lands of Nassau on the right bank of the Rhine.

The first two scenarios came from "Memorandum of Holland" made in 1813 after the Battle of Leipzig. The last scenario came from William himself. The first scenario never made it because the Great Powers (Great Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia) thought an independent Southern Netherlands/Belgium under an Austrian Prince was too weak and Austria was not interested in getting it back.

William I (Willem Frederik, Prince of Orange-Nassau (24 August 1772 - 12 December 1843) was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg

The Dutch question became a problem. The Great Powers of Europe chose the last scenario, but didn't want to go as far in enlarging the Netherlands as William had wanted. In the end, the Eight Articles of London granted William sovereignty over the following lands:

  1. The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (i.e., the Principality of the United Netherlands)
  2. The Austrian Netherlands within its borders of 1789 (so without French Flanders)
  3. The Prince-Bishopric of Liège, but on Prussia's behalf small changes were made to its borders

William was named Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands including Liege, which he temporarily ruled for Prussia. It was later incorporated into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Duchy of Luxembourg was not fully granted to William, because it was a member of the German Confederation. William however demanded that Luxembourg become a part of the Netherlands, as a unified Netherlands was stronger as a buffer for France. Historically it had been a part of the Seventeen Provinces or Burgundian Netherlands up to 1648, but Luxembourg was still a part of the discussions.

On 1 March 1815, while the Congress of Vienna was still going on, Napoleon escaped from Elba and he created a large army against the Great Powers of Europe. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (at that time within the kingdom) by Prussian, British, Belgian, Dutch and Nassau (under the prince of Orange) troops.

In response, on 16 March 1815, William proclaimed the Netherlands a kingdom, with himself as King William I. Furthermore, on 31 May 1815, William concluded a treaty at the Congress of Vienna whereby he ceded the Principality of Orange-Nassau to the Kingdom of Prussia in exchange for the Duchy of Luxembourg. As part of the deal, the Duchy was elevated to a Grand Duchy in a personal and (until 1839) political union with the Netherlands - albeit remaining within the German Confederation, being garrisoned by Prussian troops on behalf of the Dutch king.

With the unification, William completed his family's three-century quest (started by his ancestor William the Silent in 1579) to unite the Low Countries under a single rule. After the liberation of the Netherlands in 1813 by Prussian and Russian troops, it was taken for granted that any new regime would have to be headed by William Frederik of Orange-Nassau, the son of the last stadtholder William V of Orange-Nassau and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. William returned to The Hague, where on 6 December he was offered the title of King.

Wilhelmina was queen of the Netherlands for 58 years, from 1890 to 1948

William I (Willem Frederik, Prince of Orange-Nassau; 24 August 1772 – 12 December 1843) was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In Germany, he was ruler (as Fürst) of the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda from 1803 until 1806 and of the Principality of Orange-Nassau in the year 1806 and from 1813 until 1815. In 1813 he proclaimed himself 'Sovereign Prince' of the "United Netherlands." He proclaimed himself King of the Netherlands and Duke of Luxembourg on 16 March 1815. In the same year on 9 June William I became also the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and after 1839 he was furthermore the Duke of Limburg. After his abdication in 1840 he styled himself King William Frederick, Count of Nassau.

William was named Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands including Liege, which he temporarily ruled for Prussia. It was later incorporated into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Duchy of Luxembourg was not fully granted to William, because it was a member of the German Confederation. William however demanded that Luxembourg become a part of the Netherlands, as a unified Netherlands was stronger as a buffer for France. Historically it had been a part of the Seventeen Provinces or Burgundian Netherlands up to 1648, but Luxembourg was still a part of the discussions. With the unification, William completed his family's three-century quest (started by his ancestor William the Silent in 1579) to unite the Low Countries under a single rule.

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands collapsed after the 1830 Belgian Revolution. William I, King of the Netherlands, would refuse to recognize a Belgian state until 1839, when he had to yield under pressure by theTreaty of London. Only at this time were exact borders agreed upon. Nowadays, the Benelux Union (created in 1944 between Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) is in some ways a "distant heir" of the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Their respective political systems are very similar and Dutch is the official and vernacular language of 83% of its total population.

Power of the King

The newly formed kingdom was not like the Netherlands or Belgium today. Under the constitution, King William was both head of state and head of government, and had considerably more power than a King or Queen in a modern constitutional monarchy.

Juliana is inaugurated as Queen of the Netherlands

The Second Chamber of the States General of the Netherlands had 110 members. Despite the south's far greater population, both halves of the kingdom each elected 55 members—a source of considerable resentment in the south. The First Chamber was appointed by the king and consisted of old and new noblemen.

The Netherlands had eight ministers, who were responsible only to the King himself. In fact, they followed his demands. The King also could rule by "Royal Order".

The Royal family of Orange reigning now in the Netherlands, takes its roots in the 13th century. Since William I of Orange led the resistance Spanish rule in the Netherlandsin the 16th century, which resulted after prolonged wars in Netherlands remaining an independent republic, the House of Orange has a leading role in the country political life.

The Royal Family

King William III (Willem Alexander Paul Frederik Lodewijk, anglicised: William Alexander Paul Frederick Louis; 19 February 1817 – 23 November 1890) was King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1849 until his death in 1890. He was also the Duke of Limburg from 1849 until the abolition of the duchy in 1866. William was the son of King William II and Anna Pavlovna of Russia. On the abdication of his grandfather William I in 1840, he became the Prince of Orange. On the death of his father in 1849, he succeeded as King of the Netherlands.

William married his cousin Sophie of Württemberg in 1839 and they had three sons, William, Maurice, and Alexander, all of whom predeceased him. After Sophie's death in 1877 he married Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1879 and they had one daughter Wilhelmina, who succeeded William to the Dutch throne.

Queen Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander in the Gold Coach in 2007

Wilhelmina (Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria; 31 August 1880 – 28 November 1962) was Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1890 to 1948. She reigned for nearly 58 years, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Her reign saw World War I and World War II, the economic crisis of 1933, and the decline of the Netherlands as a major colonial power. Outside the Netherlands she is primarily remembered for her role in World War II, in which she proved to be a great inspiration to the Dutch resistance.

Abdication of the throne has become a de facto tradition in the Dutch monarchy. Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana both abdicated in favour of their daughters and William I abdicated in favor of his eldest son, William II. The only Dutch monarchs to die on the throne were William II and William III.

Juliana (Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina; 30 April 1909 – 20 March 2004) was Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1948 until 1980. She was the only child of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry. She was married to German aristocrat Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, with whom she had four daughters: Princess Beatrix (born 1938), Princess Irene (born 1939), Princess Margriet (born 1943), and Princess Christina (born 1947). During the Second World War she lived in exile with her children in Ottawa, Canada.

She became Queen of the Netherlands with her mother's abdication in 1948 and was succeeded by Queen Beatrix after her own abdication in 1980. During her reign both Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) (proclaimed in 1945, recognized in 1949) and Suriname in 1975 became independent from the Netherlands. Her birthday was celebrated annually as Koninginnedag (Queen's Day). Upon her death at the age of 94, she was the longest-lived former reigning monarch in the world.

Princess Beatrix following her abdication with her son and successor and his wife

Beatrix (Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard, 31 January 1938) reigned as Queen of the Netherlands from 1980 until her abdication in 2013. Princess Beatrix is the eldest daughter of Queen Juliana and her husband, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. Upon her mother's accession in 1948, she became heir presumptive. When her mother abdicated on 30 April 1980, Beatrix succeeded her as Queen.

She attended a public primary school in Canada during World War II, and then finished her primary and secondary education in the Netherlands in the post war period. In 1961, she received her law degree from Leiden University. In 1966, Beatrix married Claus von Amsberg, a German diplomat, with whom she had three children: Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands (b. 1967), Prince Friso (1968-2013) and Prince Constantijn (b. 1969). Prince Claus died in 2002. At the time of her abdication, Queen Beatrix was the eldest reigning monarch of the Netherlands.

Beatrix's reign saw the country's Caribbean possessions reshaped with Aruba's secession and becoming its own constituent country within the Kingdom in 1986 as well as the subsequent Antillean Dissolution in 2010, which created the new special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, and the two new constituent countries of Curaçao and Sint Maarten. On Koninginnedag (Queen's Day), 30 April 2013, Beatrix abdicated in favour of her eldest son Willem-Alexander.He is the first King of the Netherlands in 123 years.

Willem-Alexander (Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand; born 27 April 1967) is the King of the Netherlands. Willem-Alexander was born in Utrecht and is the eldest child of Princess Beatrix and Claus van Amsberg. He became Prince of Orange and heir apparent to the throne of the Netherlands on 30 April 1980, when his mother became queen regnant, and he ascended the throne on 30 April 2013 when his mother abdicated.

King Willem-Alexander, his wife Princess Maxima and daugthers Amalia, Alexia and Ariane

He went to public primary and secondary schools, served in the Royal Netherlands Navy, and studied history at Leiden University. He married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002 and they have three daughters:Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange (born 2003), Princess Alexia (born 2005), and Princess Ariane (born 2007).

Willem-Alexander is interested in sports and international water management issues. Until his accession to the throne, he was a member of the International Olympic Committee (1998–2013), chairman of the Advisory Committee on Water to the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment (2004–2013), and chairman of the Secretary-General of the United Nations' Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (2006–2013).



History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the greatest planned city of northern Europe, has always been a well-known name in world history and played a central role in the history of the Netherlands. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the centre of world economy, and nowadays the city is known for its tolerant character.

1200-1585: The Early History

Amsterdam was founded as a fishing village around the thirteenth century. Amsterdam developed round a dam in the Amstel river at the end of the 12th century. The name Amstelledamme occurs for the first time in the toll concession of Floris V, Count of Holland, dated October 27, 1275. During the 14th, but especially the 15th century, Amsterdam underwent a rapid development, which laid the foundation for the Golden Age. Only very few medieval buildings survive today. Some examples: the Old and New Churches and the Houten Huis (Wooden House) at the Begijnhof. Throughout the Middle Ages houses were generally built of wood, a vulnerable type of construction material. The famous Houten Huis is no exception to this rule. Consequently, most of them were destroyed. Nevertheless, a surprisingly large number of Amsterdam dwellings still have timber frames.

1585-1672: The Golden Age of Amsterdam

The period 1585-1672, the Golden Age, was the hey-day of Amsterdam's commercial success. At the time Amsterdam was the staple market of the world. During this period the characteristic Amsterdam cityscape developed; the 1613 and 1663 urban expansions still determine the city's characteristic appearance. Some of the most important historic buildings date back to this period, e.g. the town hall in the Dam Square (now the Royal Palace), the Westerkerk, Zuiderkerk, as well as a large number of canal houses among which De Dolfijn (Dolphin), De Gecroonde Raep (Crowned Turnip), the Bartolotti Huis, the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the Heads), the Poppenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 95 (commissioned by the Poppen family), the Trippenhuis (built for the Trip family), the Van Raey-huizen, Keizersgracht 672-674, and Sweedenrijk, Herengracht 462.

1672-1795: An Age of Gold and Silver

The year 1672 was a year of disaster for the Dutch Republic with the French and English attacking simultaneously. The Golden Age had come to an end. Nevertheless, Amsterdam managed to consolidate its prosperity during the period 1672-1795 in spite of the predicament the Republic found itself in. The city remained a major staple market and managed to retain its position as the financial centre of Europe. Whereas the Golden Age was primarily a period of pitch and tar, the new era is better characterised as an age of gold and silver. The large number of dwellings built at this time, both simple ones and rich canal houses, reflect the city’s prosperity. As a result the majority of the houses located in the city centre date back to the 18th rather than the 17th century. Some examples: Huis Van Brienen, Herengracht 284, Huis De Vicq-De Steur, OZ Voorburgwal 237, Zeevrugt and Saxenburg, Keizersgracht 224.

1795-1813: Recession and Decline

In 1795 the government of the patrician oligarchies was overthrown and the old Republic ceased to exist. Soon the French were to occupy the country. During the period 1795-1813 Amsterdam suffered badly from the economic recession, a state of affairs reflected by the stagnation of the demographic development. Many houses were vacant and some even collapsed for lack of maintenance. Fortunately some facades and interiors dating back to the Empire period survive today.

1813-1940: Recovery and Expansion beyond the Singelgracht

The period 1813-1940 is marked by economic recovery and, from 1870 onwards, by expansion. The increasing wealth brought about a rapid population growth. This development was primarily the result of the Industrial Revolution which triggered off a New Golden Age. The city now ventured into the area beyond the Singelgracht. Large poorly built working-class neighbourhoods were built. The period 1920-1940 was a time of economic recession. Therefore it is all the more remarkable that the so-called Ring 20-40 compares favourably to the 19th century jerry-building. This was also the period of large-scale damage to the historical city centre; canals were filled in and new traffic breakthroughs were realised.



Basic facts about Amsterdam

Although the seat of Netherlands government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the nominal capital. It is also the country's largest city, with a population of more than 820,000, and the most visited, with over 3,5 million foreign visitors a year.

The Netherlands is a country situated in Western Europe, bordering Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. To its north and west is the North Sea. Although the Netherlands is the country's official name, people often call it Holland. The provinces of North Holland and South Holland form only part of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam in Figures

Some interesting figures on how many bicycles, bridges, canals, cinemas or markets one can find in Amsterdam, as well as some statistics about the tourists and day visitors to Amsterdam.

Population: 820,654 (May 6, 2012)
Country: The Netherlands 
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1
Telephone area code: 020

Amsterdam Municipality

City of Amsterdam is run by the city council and a college of aldermen. The council is the highest authority in the city of Amsterdam and is responsible for all important decisions.

Money and currency

The currency in the Netherlands is the Euro ( € , EUR), which is used in almost all countries within the European Union. For details on changing money and methods of payment see ourtips for visitors.

Climate in the Netherlands

The warmest weather is from June to August, with temperatures between 21 - 26 degrees Celsius. There are rarely extreme temperatures. The air is relatively humid and fog is common in autumn and spring. There are stronger winds from October to March. Click for weather forecast.

History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, probably the most planned city of northern Europe, has long been a well-known city. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the centre of world economy, and nowadays the city is known for its tolerant character.

Dutch holiday

A Dutch holiday can add a festive note to your trip, particularly if it involves a parade or special observance somewhere in the country. But expect banks, shops, and most museums to be closed, and public transportation to operate on Sunday schedules for the listed holidays.

Architecture of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is where modern architecture developed organically between facades of historical buildings. Since it is not a big city, all sites of interest are within an acceptable distance. This is why Amsterdam is so popular with lovers of architecture.

Amsterdam Coat of Arms

The symbol of Amsterdam are three x shaped Saint Andrew crosses.

Dutch courses in Amsterdam

An overview of institutions providing Dutch lessons in Amsterdam. Prices, duration of the courses and quality of the courses vary, however, they are nevertheless all helpful for acquiring the native language of the Dutch.

Studying in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has two research universities and several schools of higher professional education offering programmes from Dentistry to Arts and Design. Follow our guide to student life in Amsterdam dealing with the fields of study and admissions requirements to Universities, student organizations, grants and scholarships, student hotspots and, most importantly, finding a place to live and employment in this cosmopolitan city.

Getting work in Amsterdam

To find a job in Amsterdam might be a difficult task, especially for a non-Dutch speaker. Now there are several agencies intermediating jobs for the international companies, where knowledge of Dutch language is not required. Learn here what you need before you apply for a job and see some job vacancies.

Creative writing workshop

This spring join one of wordsinhere’s two 10-week creative writing courses. Not keen to commit to 10 weeks? Try our 1-day workshops in performance, poetry, short story, screenwriting, and writing for young adults. Free Open Days will be held at The English Bookshop on 2 and 16 February (3-5pm) where you can meet the teachers, get more information and register. Or check out the course descriptions at and register electronically via email:! Registration closes 24 February.

Dutch language

Dutch is the national language of Holland, in addition is the mother tongue of well over 21 million Dutch people and Flemish people (Dutch- speaking nationals of Belgium). There are many online courses and schools for learning Dutch, some held by University of Amsterdam / Dutch for Fereigners.

Enjoying art and culture in the Jordaan

The Jordaan is compared to the rest of the town an oasis of peace with a labyrinth of narrow streets and little canals, nice for strolling around courtyards, art studios, and monumental buildings with stone tablets, old-fashioned ‘brown’ pubs, boutiques, markets or galleries. It used to be a ghetto with many artisans and small shopkeepers. Most of these people left for other districts and cities like Almere and Purmerend where they could rent bigger and modern houses. After a large renovation the Jordaan was discovered by a new generation occupants: artists, students, and young entrepreneurs.

Public Library Amsterdam

Openbare bibliothek Amsterdam (OBA) ie Public library is a good place to spend 30 minutes online (Free Internet for everybody) also for reading news papers or take some serious studies. The central library is located on Oosterdokskade 143, which is east of Central Station.


History of the University of Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has a long history. It evolved from the Athenaeum Illustre (founded in 1632) and is now one of the largest comprehensive universities in Europe. The "Agnieten Chapel" (Agnietenklooster) was built in 1470. The chapel is all that remains of the "Agnieten Chapel" (Agnietenklooster), that was illustrated by Cornelis Anthonisz in 1544. It was remodelled in 1631 to become the "Atheneaeum Illustre", which was the same year the old gate from 1571 was moved. Though it is considered the predecessor to the University of Amsterdam, it was not possible to earn a degree there and it wasn't lawfully recognized for diplomas until 1815. It wasn't until 1877 that it was recognized for doctorates, and that was the same year the name was changed to "Gemeentelijke Universiteit van Amsterdam". Professors were appointed by the city council and the mayor of Amsterdam was chairman of the board. This situation remained in place until 1961, when the financial responsibility for the school reverted to the national ministry of education.

At the foundation of the Athenaeum Illustre, the City Library was moved to the attics of the Agnietenkapel and thus formed the origin of the present University Library. Athenaeum Illustre, (or Amsterdamse Atheneum) was a city-sponsored 'illustrous school' founded after the Beeldenstorm" in the old "Agnieten Chapel" on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 in Amsterdam.

In Dutch "Beeldenstorm", roughly translatable to "Statue Storm", or "Bildersturm"  in German ("image/ statue storm"), also the "Iconoclastic Fury", is a term used for outbreaks of destruction of religious images that occurred in Europe in the 16th century. During these spates of iconoclasm, Catholic art and many forms of church fittings and decoration were destroyed in unofficial or mob actions by Calvinist Protestant crowds as part of the Protestant Reformation. Most of the destruction was of art in churches and public places.

Famous scientists such as Caspar Barlaeus, Gerardus Vossius, and Petrus Camper taught here. Established in 1632 by municipal authorities and later renamed for the city of Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam is the third-eldest university in the Netherlands. It is one of the largest research universities in Europe with 29,783 students, 4,629 staff, and an endowment of € 613.5 million.It is the largest university in the Netherlands by enrollment and has the second-largest university endowment in the country. The main campus is located in central Amsterdam, with a few faculties located in adjacent boroughs. The university is organised into seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Science, Law, Medicine, and Dentistry.

The University of Amsterdam has produced six Nobel Laureates and five prime ministers of the Netherlands. In 2014, it was ranked 50th in the world, 15th in Europe, and 1st in the Netherlands by the QS World University Rankings. The university placed in the top 50 worldwide in seven fields in the 2011 QS World University Rankings in the fields of Linguistics, Sociology, Philosophy, Geography, Science, Economics & Econometrics, and Accountancy & Finance.

Close ties are harbored with other institutions internationally through its membership in the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Institutional Network of the Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA), European University Association (EUA), the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), and Universitas.

University of Amsterdam

Those in the know are quick to agree: Amsterdam is an unbeatable choice for student life. Nowhere else will you find this heady mix of international population, thrilling nightlife, historic and hypermodern arts and culture, soothing nature and architectural beauty. And the Amsterdam Business School is located in the middle of it all. The ABS's strong international network and the University's excellent ties with the city's leading businesses each contribute to your job prospects inside and outside the Netherlands. You'll never forget - let alone regret - your time here.

The University of Amsterdam and the city of Amsterdam are closely intertwined. UvA’s Economics and Business  is situated on the Amsterdam Roeterseiland Campus, in the eastern part of the city centre. The UvA is making considerable investments in the redevelopment of the campus, making it a knowledge hub for Economics and Business, Law and Social and Behavioural Sciences. Clustering these disciplines promotes efficient exchange of knowledge and better collaboration, while also offering access to the many unique meeting places the city has to offer. Numerous buildings are being renovated and the outdoor area is also being redesigned.

This lively campus is easily reached by public transport. It is surrounded by numerous trendy bars and restaurants, along with well-known attractions like Artis (the Amsterdam zoo), the Hortus botanical gardens, the fascinating Tropen museum and the famous Hermitage museum. Study-related matters are supported by a large library, several bookstores and a copy shop.


Student Life

The people are the essential ingredient for having an incredible experience – in such a multicultural city as Amsterdam, networking should be a priority, especially for students. As it is crucial for learning about other people and cultures and just having as much fun as possible. Having drive, passion and fun in whatever you do is paramount to being happy and making others happier. The atmosphere of being a student in Amsterdam and living on campus is very desirable.

One word of advice from everybody is to find accommodation well in advance before you arrive in

Sports Center "Universum" at the Amsterdam Science Park

Amsterdam. There is a shortage of decent houses. Find out if you eligible for the 40% rent discount from the following website of Belastingdienst (in Dutch).

There are various scholarships you can apply for when studying in Holland. The VU Fellowship Scholarship is the main one from VU University Amsterdam. The amount awarded varies for European and Non European nationals. Make sure the application is completed in time.

For an extensive list of all available scholarships in the Netherlands, visit the Grantfinder at the website of NUFFIC.

You can join Sports Centers at different locations. Most locations have gym facilities and offer a wide variety of classes. It is definitely worth the investment to maintain an active lifestyle. You can even join one of the sports clubs!

International Student Societies

Graduation Students University College Amsterdam

International Student Network (ISN) and Erasmus Student Network (ESN) are the largest student associations which deal with enhancing the experience of international students in Amsterdam. Within these associations exists a board of five members (Dutch) and various committees (mixed nationalities).

Academic Student Associations
These are usually affiliated with a university school. If you are a member, you can attend all activities and events organised by them and have discounts on books with the member’s card. The business school offers the choice of joining the following societies, depending on your interest:

–          Financial Student Association (FSA) – The FSA hosts events for business students especially if you are interested in Finance Consulting, Accounting and Banking. Each year the FSA hosts an international research project which is open to all members. To become an active member you must speak Dutch.

–          Marketing Association Amsterdam (MAA) – For marketing orientated students. As well as professional events such as Amsterdam Marketing Event, Students’ Den etc, MAA also hosts social activities. They offer training and development opportunities. Their research project of 2012 will be held in Vietnam.

Famouse Tulips in Amsterdam

–          Aureus – The student association for the Business and Economics school (FEWEB), it offers social and professional events for both Dutch and International students. Proficiency in Dutch is not required to become an active member. It is also possible to become a writer for their magazine Avenir. Aureus also hosts some events throughout the year including the Amsterdam Academic Conference.

Each society allows you to become an active member but an application with a CV and Cover Letter is required.


Amsterdam is a compact, yet cosmopolitan city. Don’t be fooled by its village-like charm: Amsterdam is a European capital and as such offers a diverse and exciting selection of art, music, theatre, film, photography, dance and architecture. Art runs in the Netherlands’ DNA, from Rembrandt and the old masters through Van Gogh all the way to an exciting contemporary art scene. Amsterdam is home to a variety of world-famous museums: the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House Museum are a must for those wanting to delve into the artistic wealth of the Golden Age. The Van Gogh Museum houses a beautiful and touching collection of the works of one of the most famous Dutch painters. And the Stedelijk Museum takes the visitor on a journey through the last 150 years of art, offering a great overview of modern and contemporary art, design and architecture.

The contemporary art scene is bustling, too. A visit to one of Amsterdam's many art galleries is a great way to spend an afternoon. And at art fairs such as the Amsterdam Art Fair, theAffordable Art Fair, Realisme and Art in Redlight, visitors can discover the newest developments in the Dutch and international art scene.

Classical and contemporary music

With world-class performances, Amsterdam strikes all the right notes with classical music lovers, who’ll find everything from symphony orchestras, choral music and ensembles to chamber music and opera in inspiring venues of all sizes.

The Royal Concertgebouw is world-renowned for its acoustics and grand halls hosting world-class orchestras and performers as well as its very own Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. TheMuziekgebouw aan ’t IJ is a spectacular waterside building with an innovative, diverse contemporary programme. Opera lovers should make sure to take a look at the productions by the Dutch National Opera, which also collaborates with leading international companies. In addition, there is an abundance of smaller venues and churches regularly hosting classical concerts. The annual Grachtenfestival is another fantastic opportunity for enjoying classical music, putting on concerts by and on the canals. 

Theatre and dance

Amsterdam is packed with options for theatre lovers – even if you don't speak any Dutch. The first port of call should be the Stadsschouwburg, where the very best of Dutch theatre productions are often shown with English surtitles. Amsterdam’s main theatre also hosts international productions and festivals such as the annual Holland Festival, which (despite its name) has an international outlook. In addition, Amsterdam's opera and ballet talents are renowned around Europe. The city is also a playground for experts in the field of contemporarydance – look out for productions by the Nederlands Dans Theater and Rosas Ensemble.

Pop, rock and jazz

Legendary venues such as Paradiso and Melkweg make Amsterdam a popular stop for almost all major touring pop and rock bands and acts, and the city offers a wide variety of intimate clubs and the bigger arenas such as Heineken Music Hall to boot. The Dutch also have a clear passion for jazz, world and blues music, as evidenced by world-class international players that continually return to Amsterdam and its variety of jazz venues such as Bimhuis, the North Sea Jazz Club and Café Alto.


Amsterdam has a thriving film festival scene, hosting a huge variety of events including theImagine Film FestivalCinekid, the KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival, the Roze Filmdagen, the World Cinema Amsterdam festival and the acclaimed International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The city also has a wealth of both mainstream and independent cinemas on offer – the most spectacular ones being the historic Pathé Tuschinski and the strikingly modern EYE Filmmuseum. Add an extensive summer programme of open-air screenings, and Amsterdam is truly a city of film year-round.


The city is home to several premier photography museums and galleries, including Foam andHuis Marseille, both of which museums that exhibit all genres of photography in beautiful canal-side settings. Photography lovers should also watch out for fairs and exhibitions such as theUnseen Photo Fair and World Press Photo.


From its intimate comedy theatres dedicated to the art of improv and stand-up to the grand arena productions of touring comics, you're never far from a good laugh in Amsterdam. A number of the city’s clubs and performance groups specialise in English-language comedy, while Amsterdam has also gained recognition as an essential stop on major stand-up tours. 


Including more than 300 festivals every year, Amsterdam’s festival agenda spans all tastes and genres: the range of festivals is broad, powerful and diverse. The festival calendar is packed with everything from outdoor film extravaganzas to (multi-day) dance music parties, from kid’s festivals to art and fashion events and from culinary fêtes to chamber music in Golden Age canal-side houses.

Cultural policy

The City of Amsterdam values the arts as a way to bind communities together,  stimulating cultural development in its own right. Cultural policy doesn’t only rely on the historical culture embedded in the city’s surroundings, but also supports current cultural developments, and the city grants subsidies and funding to museums, theatres, concert halls and other cultural establishments. The arts sector provides employment for more than 12,000 people in Amsterdam; some 2,000 artists live in the city, and more than 3,000 students follow courses at the art and music academies. 





International Opportunities
The University of Amsterdam has numerous exchange programmes including Erasmus, Globe (non-European exchanges). The summer schools programs range from 2-4 weeks and can be found in a variety of countries including China, Denmark, Norway, France.

For Master students from the Business School (FEWEB), there is the possibility to undertake an MBA Summer Exchange in the USA at the University of Notre Dame.

For international internship opportunities see AIESEC.

From my personal experiences, I have always played an active role in contributing to the local community by volunteering in schools or fundraising. For volunteering opportunities in Amsterdam visit: Volunteering in Amsterdam.

SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise)
If you would like to contribute some of your time to developing social projects, to help members of society then visit ENACTUS

Professional Opportunities
For information of companies hiring in Amsterdam and their profiles visit AUREUS and FSA

Internships (Stages in Dutch) can be found on AUREUS STAGES  and FSA STAGES.

If you are looking for student jobs you can tutor privately, see STUDENTIFY

Dutch Courses
Dutch courses are offered by VU University and cost around 250 per intensive course of 8 weeks for university students. In my opinion, taking this course is a worthy investment for all international students as having knowledge of the local language will open doors to many multinational firms based in Amsterdam. See link Dutch as a Second Language 

You may also like this comprehensive guide of learning Dutch: STUDENTIFY .

Social Activities
Having a social life is very important and whether you attend the numerous activities organised by ESN throughout the year, or organise your own trips to other Dutch cities or international trips – this aspects should not be missing.

Partying comes at a high rate, especially if you live at Uilenstede. With the majority of international students living on campus at Uilenstede, it is impossible not to attend a party or dinner every week.

There is so much to do in Amsterdam. For more information visit: IAMSTERDAM

For very cheap train tickets to travel throughout the Netherlands check the Kruidvat Promotions for €12.49.

Cheap airlines throughout Europe




Useful Links:

Student Handbook Amsterdam

DMZO The Netherlands

Mental Help

Gay Amsterdam Community

Amsterdam Coffeeshops

Amsterdam Smart Shops

English Language Jobs


Expat Center

Student Rooms In Amsterdam Kamernet

Student Rooms in Amsterdam Marktplaats

Student Rooms in Amsterdam Easykamer


Map of Amsterdam / Map of Amsterdam.pdf









Find out more about accommodation options in Amsterdam

Average rent in University-managed accommodation:  €300–€550 per month
Internet access on the University of Amsterdam campus: FREE
Transport by bike: FREE
Student meal at the student restaurant Agora: €4.00
Drinks at the Student Café Krater: €1.60
Unlimited access to fitness facilities for one year at the University Sports Centre:  €154 per year
Cinema ticket: €10.00

Your guide to Amsterdam

Download the full map as a PDF


Clubs and Societies

University Student Union Sports & Societies

The University of Amsterdam has many student associations catering to a variety of student needs including social clubs, career and study societies and cultural and sporting societies. Some of the most prominent of these include:

The ASVA is the student union for all UvA students and supports a range of study and student guilds, both social and academic. For more information see

ISN is an organisation run by Dutch students for international students studying in Amsterdam. Their goal is to optimize the social-cultural integration of international students into Dutch society. They organize weekly activities for students, provide information on housing and work, run a coaching and mentoring system and publish a magazine all about (student) life in Amsterdam. For more information see

The ISC is run by current bachelor students and they organize social events for all students as well as a mentoring programme for first-year students. For more information see the University of Amsterdam website.

There are a number of student clubs and organisations at FEB under the umbrella of SEFA. These organise international study trips, company visits, career weeks, conferences, seminars, skills training and internships. For more information see

CREA organises courses and workshops in music, theatre, dance, visual arts, photography, literature and new media. CREA also organises a weekly Studium Generale programme on subjects related to art, science and society. For more information see

Trips and Activities

Find out about International Students' Trips more by visiting the ONCAMPUS Amsterdam Blog