Visit Holland - The Netherlands

Top 15 interesting facts about Amterdam

1.If you land at Amsterdam's airport (Schiphol), remember that you are 4 meters below sea level. Actually, if there weren't any dikes, about a quarter of the Netherlands would disappear into the North Sea.

2.Amsterdam's soil is so swampy that the city had to be built on long wooden poles that were driven into the ground. One of the Amsterdam facts that every Dutch school child had to learn by heart, is that the Royal Palace at the Dam Square was built on over 13,569 poles. If you're walking in the old city centre, you'll see some old buildings heavily leaning to one side. These days, concrete poles are used.

3.Measured by square kilometers, Amsterdam has the highest number of museums of all cities in the world. Amsterdam's city administration counts 51 museums.

4.It's estimated that during the Golden Age (put here between 1580-1670), when Dutch painters were among the best of the world, 5 million paintings were made - surely one of the most amazing Amsterdam facts. Almost every Dutch home had at least one painting.

5.Amsterdam has the highest number of nationalities of any city in the world: 175 (and there are 194 internationally recognized countries in the world…)

6.By some estimates, Amsterdam has more bikes (1 million) than people (about 750,000). There are twice as many bikes as cars in the country.

7.Amsterdam has no less than 165 canals and 1,281 bridges, earning the city the reputation of 'Venice of the North'. There are also 2,500 house boats (boats with a fixed place in one of the canals that are used as permanent houses).

8.The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. The average Dutchman is just over 6 feet, while Dutch women average 5-foot-7.

9.Amsterdam has one of the most famous Red Light Districts in the world with window prostitution. There are almost 500 such windows in Amsterdam, next to brothels etc. Daily, about 1,000 prostitutes are working in Amsterdam and in a given year, the city sees about 8,000 different prostitutes.

10.There are over 200 'coffee shops' in Amsterdam where you are allowed to buy up to 5 grams of cannabis (marihuana or hash). Since the 1970s, buying of cannabis has been decriminalized. Five grams, by the way, is enough to stay sky high for several days. Most other drugs are banned, however.

11.In 2008, a tobacco smoking ban was introduced in Dutch cafes and restaurants, but you are still allowed to smoke marihuana and hash in Dutch coffee shops - if only you don't mix it with regular tobacco… That's bad for you, you see...

12.Amsterdam was the first capital to allow gay marriage (the Netherlands allow this since 2001). Regular marriages, with all rights and obligations, are now possible for gay and lesbian couples as well.

13.Stemming from the time that the British fought many naval wars with the Amsterdam ships for control of the world's oceans, they still have quite sayings depicting the Dutch. "Dutch courage" is courage coming from alcohol, "going Dutch" means everybody pays for himself in a restaurant, and a "Dutch uncle" is someone who criticizes you while you haven't asked for advice.

14.While Amsterdam is the capital city of The Netherlands, the Dutch government and parliament are located in The Hague.

15.Just like Tel Aviv in Israel, Amsterdam's nickname is 'Mokum', which is the Hebrew word for "place" or "city". This is due to the traditionally large Jewish population of Amsterdam, which was decimated during WWII.