You’ve heard about the coffee shops, canals, tulips and renowned bike culture. But what else makes Amsterdam one of the world’s most popular travel destinations? Let’s set the Van Gogh paintings to the side for a moment. Here are 10 fascinating things you might not know about the Dutch capital.
- 1. The city stands on 11 million poles
- 2. You can travel 100 kilometers on the canals
- 3. Europeans can’t get enough Amsterdam beer
- 4. A houseboat just for the cool cats
- 5. Its canals are full of bicycles
- 6. Anne Frank’s diary is available in 70 different languages
- 7. Vondel Park is full of parakeets
- 8. The houses are narrow for a good reason
- 9. The city features the most museums per capita in the world
1. The city stands on 11 million poles
With half of the Netherlands sitting a meter (3 feet) above sea level, and Amsterdam itself built on clay, the foundation of the city is a major feat of engineering. As you’d learn in the Amsterdam Museum, 11 million wooden poles support the buildings from sinking. Wooden piles are even put in place to stop trees in Vondelpark from slipping into the naturally marshy ground. If it were up to us, we’d take our chances living on one of the city’s iconic house boats.
2. You can travel 100 kilometers on the canals
If you’ve ever dreamt of living on a houseboat, Amsterdam is the city for you! With over 165 canals, it’s possible to travel 100 kilometers (60 miles) on the water in the city limits. Of course, the 17th century Singelgracht area might be competitive — after all, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the meantime, you can always take a 1-hour cruise to pick the perfect spot on the canals to drop your anchor and set up your Dutch dream life.
3. Europeans can’t get enough Amsterdam beer
Looking to quench your thirst? Amsterdam has the winning ingredients. While most European countries have their own beer, the Dutch can proudly claim to have the most popular. Founded in Amsterdam in 1864, Heineken now churns out almost 200 million hectolitres (5.2 billion gallons) of its famous brew every year. At the Heineken Experience, you’ll have the chance to learn the brewing process — all while sipping down a cold glass yourself.
4. A houseboat just for the cool cats
In a city made up of a patchwork of canals, living on a boat is far from out of the ordinary. Everywhere you look on a canal cruise, you’ll see the people of Amsterdam going about their daily lives on the water. But it’s not just people living on boats in the city. The city has its own boat just for cats. ‘The Catboat’ started in the 1960s and is now a well-known shelter for stray felines.
5. Its canals are full of bicycles
Make sure to look both ways out there — and we’re not just talking about the roads. With an estimated 1 million bicycles in the city, Amsterdam’s cycle lanes function like highways. And — perhaps after one too many Heinekens — a lot of cyclists take their bikes for a swim in the canals. A whopping 25,000 are fished from the canals each year. While we don’t recommend taking your ride for a quick dip, a private bike tour is still the best way to visit the lesser known parts of the city… stop every now and then to peer down into the waterways. Perhaps you’ll glimpse a few yourself.
6. Anne Frank’s diary is available in 70 different languages
No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without learning about its darkest period. On the Anne Frank Tour, you’ll hear the full story of the Nazi-occupied city. Frank hid with her family in a secret annex for 2 years between 1942 to 1944 before they were captured. Her story is now told around the world and her diary has been translated into 70 different languages.
7. Vondel Park is full of parakeets
While you might not expect it, you might run into a flock of parakeets as you journey through Amsterdam. An estimated 4000 of the green-feathered parrots live in Vondelpark. Why? One urban legend states that a truck carrying exotic birds overturned, allowing its cargo to escape. Others instead believe that an old woman set a pair of mating parakeets free. Whatever the truth is, the birds’ existence is both bizarre and fitting.
8. The houses are narrow for a good reason
The picturesque houses that line the canals of areas like Jordaan in Amsterdam are renowned for their slender profiles. In fact, the narrowest of all has a facade that is only one meter wide! There’s a good explanation for this strange phenomenon. Back in the 17th century, the locals were taxed on the width of their property, making a narrow house a great way to save money.
9. The city features the most museums per capita in the world
For a relatively small capital city, Amsterdam is head and shoulders above most when it comes to culture. The city reportedly boasts more museums and theaters per capita in the world. If the world-class works in the Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, and Stedelijk Museums don’t suit you, there’s plenty more to see. Start ticking some off your list on this museum and canal tour.