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Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, located in the south of
the province North Holland. The name Amsterdam literally means Amstel dam. The
city was founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village. The
historical centre with its concentric canals was largely built during the Dutch
Golden Age in the 17th century. As of January 1, 2006 the city of Amsterdam has
a population of 743,027 inhabitants and is by population size the largest city
in the Netherlands. The urban area has a population of 1,209,419 inhabitants
and is part of the conglomerate metropolitan area Randstad, with a population
of 6,659,300 inhabitants.
Amsterdam is renowned for its canals (grachten), of which many exist
within the city centre. The principal canals are three similar waterways, with
their ends resting on the IJ, extending in the form of crescents nearly
parallel to each other and to the outer canal. Each of these canals marks the
line of the city walls and moat at different periods. Lesser canals intersect
the others radially, dividing the city into a number of islands; the city has
has been compared with Venice because of this. The innermost canal is the
Herengracht (Lord's Canal). Beyond it lie the Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal)
and the Prinsengracht (Prince's canal) respectively.
Amsterdam is noted for many outstanding museums, including the
Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, and its
world-class symphony orchestra, the Concertgebouworkest, the home base of which
is the Concertgebouw. The Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of Van
Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world. Anne Frank House is also a popular
Amsterdam is also famous for its red-light district, de Wallen. Window
prostitution is legal in the Netherlands at specific places. The red-light
district is located in the centre of the city along major canals and is clearly
marked on maps.
Centred around the Wallen, but also elsewhere in the city, coffee shops sell
cannabis. This is not completely legal but is tolerated when small quantities
of cannabis (up to 5 grams) are involved.
Amsterdam is the home town of Eredivisie club Ajax. Its home base is the
modern stadium Amsterdam Arena, located in the south-east of the city. The team
shares that facility with the Amsterdam Admirals, an American football team in
In 1928, Amsterdam hosted the Games of the IXth Olympiad. The Olympic
Stadium built for the occasion has been completely restored and is now used for
cultural and sporting events.
Amsterdam also is home to a famous ice rink, the Jaap Eden baan. The
Amstel Tijgers play in this arena in the Dutch ice hockey premier league. In
speed skating many international championships have been fought in the
400-meter lane of this ice rink.
The city also has a baseball team, the Amsterdam Pirates, who play in the Dutch
Major League. There are three field hockey teams, Amsterdam, Pinoké and Hurley,
who play their matches around the Wagener Stadium. These teams are often
referred to as playing in Amsterdam; however, all of them (even Amsterdam)
play their matches in the neighbouring city of Amstelveen. There is also a
basketball team, the Amsterdam Astronauts, who compete in the Dutch premier
division and play their games in the Sporthallen Zuid, near the Olympic
Since 1999 the city of Amsterdam has honoured its best sportsmen and
women at the Amsterdam Sports Awards. Boxer Raymond Joval and field hockey
midfielder Carole Thate were the first to receive the awards in 1999.