Dam Square is a five-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station and can be reached via the Damrak canal; this square is one of the city’s busiest tourist centres, both day and night.
The square joins the main Damrak and Rokin streets, which follow what was once the original route of the Amstel river, and today is a virtually unmissable crossroads for those visiting Amsterdam.
Today, the square has expanded beyond the original space; it now consists of Middeldam, the original area, and Plaetse, an adjacent square to the west.
The square originated in the 13th century, when a dam was built around the Amstel to encourage settlement along the river as the Dutch port gradually expanded. The name Dam, which means dam in Dutch, reflects the original function that this space of land, removed from the waters, was supposed to have. The square was to represent the core of the city around which new settlements would develop.
Dam Square was to be the centre of the port’s commercial activities; it housed a large fish market and was the place where goods were loaded and unloaded. The area became a centre not only of commercial activities, but also of political power, when the city’s town hall was erected here.
Then, during the 19th century, the Damrak, the former mouth of the river Amstel, was partially filled in so that the square was surrounded by land on all sides.
The Dam Square is a square very dear to the Dutch people; it was here that the population poured in to celebrate the liberation of the Canadian troops in 1945. Specifically, however, the day of 7 May 1945 is also remembered for a bloody episode: the festive people were taken by surprise by shots fired from a balcony of the Grote Club, which overlooked the square.
German soldiers, probably drunk and hostile to the festivities, started firing into the crowd, killing more than 20 people and wounding 100 others.
The square is lined with monuments and attractions of high interest to tourists.
Of all the attractions on Dam Square, the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace) is undoubtedly the most interesting. The neoclassical palace served until 1655 as the city’s town hall before being converted into a royal residence in 1808.
Although no longer the home of the Dutch royal family, this Grand Palace is still used for official receptions.
Other highlights of Dam Square include the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk), often used for important art exhibitions and the Beurs van Berlage, a former stock exchange building now used as a concert hall and exhibition space.
Also on the square is the National Monument, a stone pillar by J.J.P. Oud, in memory of the Dutch soldiers who died during World War II. Shopaholics should not miss a visit to the Bijenkorf, a luxury department store occupying five floors of an elegant 1870s building.
Another icon of Dam Square is the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, now acquired by the NH hotel chain. It is one of the best known luxury hotels in the city due to its excellent restaurant, quality service and of course its central location in Amsterdam. The hotel was opened over 100 years ago and immediately became synonymous with luxury, comfort and tranquillity.
Today, the square is populated with cafés, restaurants and shops. The popularity of the place is high and the square is often animated by events and initiatives of all kinds. There is no shortage of street performers, a large market is set up here during the Christmas holidays and it is also the centre of Carnival celebrations, national anniversaries and those related to the Dutch Monarchy.
Dam Square is very popular with tourists and locals alike and it is not unusual to see creative performances by street artists. During the summer, at New Year and at Easter, the Square hosts a fair and a large Ferris wheel.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.