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Amsterdam, located in the province of North Holland, is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The city’s name comes from Amstelredamme since the city originated as a dam of the river Amstel. Although Amsterdam originated as a small fishing village in the 12th century, it became one of the most pivotal ports in the world throughout the 17th century. At this time, the city greatly expanded, and the now-infamous 17th-century canals were built.
Amsterdam is possibly best known for its extensive canal system. The city boasts over one hundred kilometers of canals, 90 islands, and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Prinsengracht, Herengracht, and Keizersgracht offer a symmetrical basis to the city center through the three concentric belts that they form. The 17th-century canals and with the 19-20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam that surrounds the city are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Amsterdam is home to a rich architectural palate due to its storied and international history. The Old Church (Oude Kerk) is the the oldest building in Amsterdam, consecrated in 1306. One of the only remaining wooden buildings and one of the few examples of Gothic architecture in Amsterdam is het Houten Huys, which was built in 1425. Throughout the 16th century, wooden building were largely demolished, and replaced by brick structures in the Renaissance style. By the 17th century, baroque architecture dominated the cityscape, and coincided with Amsterdam’s Golden Age.
The best way to experience Amsterdam is by walking around the many canals and absorbing the detailed and diverse architectural styles. Besides its plethora of scenic promenades, Amsterdam is home to vast parks such as Vondelpark, an array of top-notch international cuisines, and world famous museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.