All-time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam: a critical look

When in Amsterdam has realised that every website associated with Amsterdam travel has a top list of things to do in this city. Some websites only have Top 5 or 10 lists.

When in Amsterdam could provide our own list but honestly there is no Top 10 list. Waking up in Amsterdam the list changes day to day because of mood, weather and the place in question.

So we are going to give you the All-time Top 10 list of things to do in Amsterdam (updated November 2015).

Our approach is simple: 

  • Collation
  • 100 web pages were analysed.
  • Search Terms were “top things to do in Amsterdam”, ‘top 10 things in Amsterdam’
  • To qualify the page needed to have in its title top things to do in Amsterdam. For Example: Top 5, Top 10, Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam.

We collated the results then ran a critical look at the list to provide you with an alternative.
Counting down from 10 to 1.

Amsterdam floating flower market
Timmer's Flowers and Plants: Amsterdam Floating Flower Martket
photo: Sonia Hermosin
10. Amsterdam’s Famous Floating Flower Market
The last market in Amsterdam still on the water. A wonderful place for colour and it is central. The Dutch are famous for cut flowers and bulbs. The 1637 stock market meltdown because of speculation on tulip bulbs made the Dutch synonymous with the Turkish flower.

Critical look:
  • The market has no educational aspect at all.
  • The market is not really floating.
  • A retail market servicing mostly tourists from Europe.
  •  Custom’s regulations restrict other visitors from taking back bulbs to their countries.
  • It is worth a look if in the area especially for the Timmer's family stall famous for their quality cut flowers and plants.

  •  Alsmeer Flower Market: An hour by bus outside Amsterdam it is the World’s largest flower market and the world’s 4th largest building. You can’t help but learn on the self-guided tour.
Named after the famous 17 century poet and playwright Vondel it is Amsterdam’s central park. The park was created in 1864 after Victorian England made such gardens popular. It has a Picasso sculpture, wonderful bike paths, the film museum and a theater.
Vondel Park, Amsterdam

Critical look:

  • As is commonly reported Vondel Park receives 10 million visitors a year. 
  • On a sunny day finding a quiet spot in Vondel Park is not possible.
  • The smell in parts also demonstrates the lack of toilet facilities. This has been added to over the last few years.(thanks to comments section)
  • The high numbers of visitors and its central location, the park attracts people that want to be noticed. Unsocial behaviour and drunkenness does occur at the end of a hot day.
  • Westerpark is central and large like Vondel Park. The east-west layout results in more sunshine hours, if you are lucky to get a sunny day in Amsterdam. Large range of bars, eateries and toilets.

8. Visit the Albert Cuyp Market
With over 220 stalls and situated within the old Latin Quarter of Amsterdam, the Albert Cuyp market is the largest street market in the Netherlands and professes to be one of the largest daily markets in Europe. Named after the 17th century painter the market has operated since 1905.

Critical look:
  • It is not the most affordable of Amsterdam street markets.
  • Expensive nature means working class Amsterdammers go to other street markets.

  • Dappermart: cheaper, more rustic, fewer tourists, rated top 10 shopping streets in the world by National Geographic 2007.
  • The new Foodhallen opened in late October 2014. Indoor food market similar to New York's Chelsea Market. Great for a meal and indoor activity.

7. Ride a bike
With an estimated 600 000 to 1 million bicycles circulating in Amsterdam, the city is one of the bike capitals of the world. The compact and flat nature of the city makes biking a fast and affordable travel option in Amsterdam.

sightseeing Amsterdam bike
Amsterdam bike
Critical look:
  • Most anger from locals towards visitors is about biking or walking in bike paths. 
  • Many Amsterdammers believe that visitors should take a test before being allowed to rent or ride a bike in Amsterdam.
  • Riding a bike in Amsterdam City Centre traffic is not for beginners.

  • Walk smaller areas and take Amsterdam trams in between – bike riders don’t mess with trams.
  • Take a guided walking tour of Amsterdam's Old City Centre  with a private, small or larger group tours. 
  • Take a countryside bike tour or a neighbourhood bike tour and enjoy Amsterdam with good bike paths. Dutch biking the way it is supposed to be, enjoyable.
The second or third largest beer maker in the world depending with whom you talk started in Amsterdam. The old brewery has a tour called the Heineken Experience.

heineken brewery
Heineken Experience, Amsterdam
Critical look:
  • They have not made beer in this brewery since the 1980s.
  • The tour concentrates on the advertising and marketing power of this international brand.
  • The tour only includes two half pints of Heineken. Trying to make friends with people who don't like beer on a brewery tour. Just to savour more of the product is a thirsty persons dilemma.
  • Spending the price of entrance to the Heineken Experience at one of Amsterdam’s active micro-breweries or quality beer bars will result in more beer. 
  • Amsterdam’s micro-brewery scene is building: Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Prael, De Bekeerde Zuster (the twisted sister) are well worth visit for beer lovers. Some Breweries conduct tours for groups and or individuals.
  • There are beer tours as well as pub and club crawls for the young.

5. Canal Tour
Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North. Even though the canals do not smell and the canals are not deep like Venice 20% of Amsterdam's surface is water. With over 100 kilometers of canals, around 90 islands and 1500 bridges traveling by water is a great way to see the city.

Critical look:
  • Few Amsterdammers use their canals.
  • There are three main canal tour companies in Amsterdam. They run tours that are similar with recorded messages, and their boats have no historic relevance to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam local boat tour
Local Boating Experience, Amsterdam

  • Find a local Amsterdammer with a boat. Finding a local boat cruise is easier to find when the weather is good. Inquire with other tour providers you may use. Amsterdammers' have a network of boat operators in the city. 
  • Visit Het Grachtenhuis (Canal House Museum) learn how Amsterdam's world heritage listed canals were created.
  • Rent your own boat and captain yourself. Sleopdelen, Boaty. Becareful, when the weather is good on a weekend, out come the party boats.

4. Red Light District
Situated in the oldest part of Amsterdam this area provides an eclectic mix of sex shops, brothels, coffeeshops, hotels, gay bars and around 300 red light windows. Since 2000 Amsterdam legalised sex workers. The Red Light District is the main centre of this industry in Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • There is more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District. The area is often full of young men peering at the scantly clad women.
  • On weekends the neighbourhood can be over loaded with travelling parties of men and women. Exciting for early evening walk.
  • Take a guided walking tour of the Red Light District. The area is the oldest in town and full of hidden secrets. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way compared to peering into the bewitching red lights.
  • Go during the day and see the shopping, art and history side of the area.

The greatest collection of Dutch art and history in the Netherlands. Normally ranked in the top 20 of museums in the world. The Rijksmuseum was under construction between 2003 and 2013. The masterpieces are layed out in a new style with focus still on the grand hallway of Masters. Classics by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer are well represented.  

rijksmuseum amsterdam sightseeing
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


  • Rembrandt House: Comparable there are no crowds and you can see what sort of bed the old master Rembrandt slept in and toilet he used. Also the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the world.
  • For practile information on how to avoid the queues of the Rijksmuseum and not be disappointed read this blog. Rijksmuseum Critics: What you need to know before you visit.

2. Van Gogh Museum
The expressionist painter was famed for his rough style, sharp colours and considered a trail blazer for modern art. This museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings under one roof and tells the story of the man from child hood to his end at 37 years old.

van gogh museum amsterdam sightseeing
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • Van Gogh did not spend a lot of his life in the Netherlands.
  • His fame has only come about through Van Gogh's influence on 20th century art.
  • Expect large lines.
  • Pre-purchase your tickets at the tourist information centre at the front of Central Station. Go late to avoid the crowds. 
  • On Friday night the museum is open to 10pm with a relaxed and enjoyable environment.
  • Go on a day trip to Kroller Muller Museum to experience the largest private collection.

1. Anne Frank Museum
The location of the Jewish Frank family hiding place during WWII. Teenage Anne documented her experience from the annex of this Amsterdam house during Nazi occupation. The book has become one of the world's most widely read. This popularity accounts for approximately 1 million visitors a year to this museum.

anne frank house sightseeing
Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.

Critical Look:
  • For a small museum there are a lot of people at certain times. 
  • The museum has a difficult job balancing the broader context of the period.
  • It is more of a pilgrimage than a museum.

  • Avoid the long lines and buy on lineGo late in the evening or arrive early before it opens and the school groups arrive. 
  • Resistance museum provides you with a greater snap shot of World War II in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Rated one of the best museums in the Netherlands don't expect long lines here maybe just a school group now and then.
  • The Jewish Historical Museum provides detail on the Jewish community's influence on Amsterdam through the centuries. Ticket to this museum includes entrance to the Portuguese Synagoge and nearby Deportation centre.  

Overview of Amsterdam's Top 10 Things to Do:
  • The 'Big 3' as the industry calls them, fill out the top three. 
  • Sex, alcohol and boats are four, five and six. 
  • Bikes, markets, parks and flowers round out the list. 
Quite a range for a small city of less than 1 million people. Have you got a suggestion? Let us know what you enjoyed in Amsterdam.

For more things to do check out the following:

November in Amsterdam

December in Amsterdam: What to do

Top Things to do in Amsterdam: Winter

A Lovers' Guide to Amsterdam: things to do

Amsterdam Top 10 things to Eat: a critical approach

Things to do in Amsterdam: Local tips from Famous Amsterdammers

Overcoming the biggest problems for Visitors to Amsterdam

All Time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam for Teenagers: A critical approach

If you are bringing a teenager who reads books click here

When in Amsterdam.....enjoy!

Small Country Big Heart: New Zealand, France and the Amsterdam connection

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

When in Amsterdam has been watching the rugby and the 2011 Rugby World Cup has reached its final stage. France is to take on New Zealand for rugby’s greatest prize. The two countries have clashed many times on and off the sporting field. As rugby fans ready for the final on Sunday, a new ship sets sail from Amsterdam based organisation, Greenpeace. The conservation organisation, Greenpeace, was at the centre of an international incident between France and New Zealand that tested the small country’s courage on a world stage.

New Zealand a small country has always made world headlines with their fearsome All Black rugby team. The national team has dominated the world rankings holding the top position longer than any other country. France and the All Blacks have always provided exciting games at the World Cup. Perhaps the best game in rugby world cup history was the 1999 match where France beat the All Blacks 43-31. France has never won the World Cup and it was in 1987 the All Blacks claimed their only World Cup trophy by beating the French 29-9. The tenacity of All Blacks is not limited to rugby.

New Zealanders are famous throughout history for their courage. In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary was the first Westerner to summit Mt Everest. In World War I New Zealand had one of the highest casualty and death rate per capita of any country involved in the first Great War with the exception of Serbia. In the Second World War NZ suffered more per ratio than any other country of the Commonwealth. Charles Upham from Christchurch is the only combat solider to win the Victoria Cross twice. The highest award for valour issued by the British Empire.

New Zealand has also shown its courage on the world stage by rejecting nuclear energy and weapons. In the 1980s this small country was the world leader in the anti-nuclear movement. The government of the time established a law making New Zealand a nuclear free zone. American ships were rejected from New Zealand waters and the small country lost its biggest and most powerful ally.

The French too were criticised for their nuclear goal, and testing nuclear weapons in Pacific territories. The famous quote from former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange that 'there's only one thing worse than being incinerated by your enemies, and that's being incinerated by your friends'.

In 1985 French secret agents detonated explosives beneath the hull of the Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior while it rested in Auckland harbour. The Amsterdam based organisation was to set sail to try and interrupt French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. The Government of New Zealand criticised the French who rejected any involvement. Documents released 20 years later showed it was authorised by French President Francois Mitterrand.

The attack in Auckland would now be described as terrorism but NZ Prime Minister correctly labelled the explosion as ‘a major criminal act’. France finally acknowledged their involvement. They jailed the agents involved, a Minister resigned and they paid the New Zealanders $7 million in compensation.

As the finalists were earning their place in the Rugby World Cup, Greenpeace launched the new Rainbow Warrior III. The new 58 meter schooner is to set sail from its German boat builders on Friday. It will continue to fight for conservation and is heading for Brazil to raise awareness of rainforest destruction. Amsterdam based, Greepeace is more diplomatic in its approach today compared to its more militant style activities in the 1980s.

In the 1985 New Zealand stood up to the might and arrogance of France. On Sunday New Zealand will have to overcome their superiority complex with rugby. Within every superiority complex there is an inferiority complex. Once again France is the opponent. Once again Auckland is the location but for New Zealand a small country with a big heart it will be the battle with themselves that they need to win if they are to take the World Cup Rugby trophy.

When in Amsterdam you can watch the World Cup final at Coco’s Outback, near Rembrandtplein.

Can I Smoke Cannabis in Amsterdam? Update Oct. 2011

Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshops have been in the news recently. Headlines like ‘No Tourists in Netherland’s Coffeeshops’ and ‘Dutch to ban foreigners from Cannabis Coffeeshops’ have dotted the news for the last year.

When In Amsterdam has received many questions from prospective visitors asking if they will be able go to Amsterdam’s famous Cannabis Coffeeshops when visiting the city in the forthcoming months. The simple answer is, Yes.

For a November 2012 update click here.

Why all the attention?

Feb. 2010: National Government critics Amsterdam for not enforcing the 2008 agreement of Local Councils of a 250 meter exclusion zone of Cannabis Coffeeshops near schools.

May 2011: National Government announces plans to introduce a ‘Weed Pass’ that would limit entrance to Cannabis Coffeeshops to residents of the Netherlands.

Oct. 2011: National Government says it will move to ban strong strains of Cannabis.

The political attention of Cannabis Coffeeshops has been led by the Christian Democrats (CDA).  The CDA is conservative political party that has been in power, as part of a coalition, at national level since 2001.

Today, the CDA has a strict policy on drugs. Since 2008 the CDA policy stance on drugs is that ‘the Dutch policy of tolerance towards drugs should be abolished and that all Coffeeshops should be closed’. It should be noted that it was the CDA that created the policy of drug tolerance in the early 1970s that eventually allowed Coffeeshops to become licensed businesses.

Simply put nothing has changed in Amsterdam over the last few years. Cannabis Coffeeshops that have closed have so because they have broken the strict rules of their license. 

If you are visiting Amsterdam you are free to visit a Coffeeshop as long as you have ID that stipulates you are over 18 years of age.

Enjoy the liberties Amsterdam has to offer but please don’t take it too far. Amsterdam cannabis is strong and many a visitor has over estimated its potency and this has detracted from their visit.

When in Amsterdam…enjoy!

Fun facts:

  • Dutch cultivated opium in their colonies for centuries ending in 1915. Opium production accounted for 10% of income from Dutch colonies. Most income came from selling slaves.
  • In 1900 Dutch open Cocaine producing factory. 14 000 kg of cocaine produced per year until WWI. During WWI 30 000 kg were produced per year. The Netherlands was the leading world producer of cocaine in the 1920s and 1930s.

What is a Coffeeshop?

A licensed business that sells small amounts of soft drugs: cannabis and hashish. They are called Coffeeshops because they do not possess an alcohol serving license and they do serve coffee.

Salt and Pepper: Amsterdam and bicycles (part 1. The 1800s)

Everyone who has visited Amsterdam has a story about bicycles. The city is synonymous with the two wheel, pedal powered machines. Every travel blog and travel website mentions bikes. Some are immediately enamoured others feel threatened, telling stories of the inability to safely negotiate Amsterdam’s streets. No photo album of the city is without a photo of a bike, some have more than 100 photos just of bikes! When you first enter the city by train, plane or automobile you are confronted with thousands of the two wheel transporters. This is a topic from which, When In Amsterdam can’t get away.

Instead of trying to compile a Top 5 list, compressing information into one posting. The approach to bicycles in Amsterdam is going to be gradual, leisurely and interactive.  We are going to start at the beginning and provide you time to digest and allow feedback.  If you have a bicycle experience or a story to do with the Dutch or Amsterdam join the conversation. Let us start the exploration of this phenomenon where not many do, at the beginning.

Early History of bicycles

Bikes burst onto the European stage in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Historians argue as to who should be credited with placing two wheels beneath a human being. Irregardless, the first bikes were made of wood with no pedals.  Such a machine was brought to the Paris exposition in 1818 by a German whom described his contraption as a running machine. Historians do agree that the first modern bicycle with pedals and a crank was patented in 1861 by Ernest Michaux, a Frenchman who owned a coach making company.

The design soon came to the United States through an employee of Michaux, Pierre Lallement. Pierre patented the model known as the ‘Boneshaker’ in the States. During the 1870s and 1880s metal work improved and models like the Penny Farthing became popular among the rich of Europe and the US.

Early bicycle history Amsterdam

In Amsterdam the first pioneer to establish a bike shop was J.T. Scholte who was also the agent for Timmer. Timmer set up the first bike rental company in Amsterdam and would conduct learn to ride activities. Scholte was a metal worker and sold a Boneshaker model through Timmer to another metal worker Henricus Burgers who started to make his own bikes. These men are celebrated as the pioneers of bicycles in the Netherlands.

In 1883, the General Dutch Cyclists Union (ANWB) was established. Today this is also the national automotive association. The ANWB is credited with positioning the bike within the national identity. During the late 1800s the Netherlands was struggling with industrialisation, the economy was slow. Mass emigration to the US was taking place and the population were creating its own pillars of support. Catholics, Protestants and Socialists are examples of groups that were looking after their own communities. The poor economy also meant that the rich, poor disparity was great.  

The ANWB through a country wide advertising campaign used cycling to unite the Dutch. Values of independence, discipline and consistency were identified as national characteristics. These values needed to be preserved during a period of uncertainty. In 1896 they launched the ‘Everyone on a bike’ campaign.
Bicycles were the answer to change and modernity. Touring the country was a way to reconnect with one’s country and reinforce the national identity. The car was about speed. The bike was about getting in touch with the landscape and its people. The bike was positioned as a symbol of the people for the people. See the pictures of Dutch and Amsterdam royalty on bikes.
Queen on a bike

Football King on a bike

Crown Prince and family on bikes

Entering the 1900s demand for bicycles was high. Farmers, postmen and even the army gave up their horses and jumped on bikes. The Dutch army had a battalion of bicycles that were mounted with machine guns.

The combination of a flat country, weak economy, diverging social identity and the industrial revolution meant that the Netherlands needed a symbol of unity. The answer was the bicycle.

Join the conversation. How have bicycles changed your life? Do you have any interesting stories of the Dutch, Amsterdam and bicycles?

Stay posted for Part 2 Salt and Pepper: Amsterdam and bikes: first half of the 20th Century

To see bike related pictures of the Dutch in the 1800s have a look at the following link:

Other useful links found were:
Cycling in Amsterdam: Policies and Development
Ebert, Anne-Katrin. Cycling Towards a Nation: the use of bicycle in Germany and the Netherlands 1880-1940.
Blog on History of Burgers
Wikipedia- Amsterdam
Global Rankings web site

Overcoming the Biggest Problem Visitors have in Amsterdam.

Gaining a Sense of Direction.

You may have been a Boy Scout, a Girl Guide, a Navy Seal or a SAS officer. Unfortunately, these skills don’t help you on your first, second or even your third visit to Amsterdam. The capital of the Netherlands rivals, parts of London, Istanbul, Hanoi, and Venice for complicated layout.

When in Amsterdam you maybe the sort of traveller that loves to wander, get lost and find weird new things. Great, there is good lost and bad lost. Wasting extended parts of your holiday can be an adventure but also extremely frustrating. With this blog entry you can do both because armed with some knowledge you can get more out of your stay in this beautiful city and find your way back to your bed.

First, why is Amsterdam so complicated?
  1.  Not too many high points or land marks. The country is topographically flat. Hence the name, the Netherlands. Most cities have hills, mountains, a coast, a river or a visible business district with tall skyscrapers that can serve as a reference point.
  2. The old city center has been designed on a semi-circle layout. No modern city grid system for Amsterdam the streets don’t run north-south, east-west, instead streets are circular and radial.
  3. The city has many street names that are longer than the ally or street they name. Also, street names can change suddenly at an intersection or a canal.

Common strategies:

Winging it:

Pros: Amsterdam is a relatively small city. Eventually you will find your way back. You will stumble on things you never would have found.

Cons: Everything looks the same. To an untrained eye most of Amsterdam buildings and canals look the same. This is because they were generally designed or built in the same period. This is why Amsterdam is one of the most intact historic cities in Europe.

 Looking for high points:

Pros: The high points, church towers and towers in the city center are high and can been seen from a radius of a few city blocks.

Cons: Most of the towers were designed by the same person, Hendrik de Keyser. This means they look the same and can easily be mistaken for each other. See the attached picture of Amsterdam’s skyscape. It hasn’t changed much in over 400 years.
Amsterdam towers

Using a paper or app map:

Pros: You think you know where you are, knowledge is power.

Cons: Many street names are too long to be printed on a map. This results in the street name’s omission or being shortened to something that is not on the street sign in front of you. For example:  Eerste Lindendwarsstraat but the map says 1e Lindendwarsstraat. You attract petty criminals with your fancy phone.

Essential tips from the locals:
  1. 1.       Know your north point

Generally, Central Station is your north point. When asking for directions ask where Central Station is and then get your bearings.
  1. 2.      Mark your map

Hotel/hostel, main attractions and places you want to visit. When you find a place you like ask someone to mark it on your map.  
  1. 3.       Know the main canals

Keizersgracht(Emperor’s canal), Herengracht (Gentleman’s canal, Prinsesgracht(Prince’s canal). You may not be able to pronounce them but knowing that these three canals run around the city centre in a horseshoe shape will help. Also know that the house numbers on these canals start on the north-west side of the city and go up in an anti-clockwise direction. Many a visitor has walked more miles than necessary without this information.
  1. 4.       Know your tram lines

Tram tracks are the best reference points. Amsterdam has a fantastic network of trams. Following the line is often the fastest way to get out of the maze of alleyways and heading in the right direction. Keep an eye out for Trams that are listed as Central Station. This will help you with gain your north point.  When using your map look how many tram lines you will cross to get to your destination and what number trams run on those lines.
  1. 5.       Ask somebody

This may help. Amsterdammers are famous for their tolerance and their friendliness. However, if you keep hearing ‘go down to the canal and turn left at the next bridge’ refer to the first four points.
  1. 6.       Go in, before you go out

What many people don’t realize and maps don’t accurately depict is that when a city is design on concentric circles the blocks get bigger the further you go out. Rather than follow the same canal it is often quicker to head one or two canals towards the center and then head back out. This will save your legs the extra distance.

6. Go on a walking tour on your first day.

Great way to orientate yourself and learn about the city along the way. There are tours for every budget from Free tours for those on a shoe string. There are small group tours for those that wish for value for money and Private tours for those who wish a personal experience or with large groups.

Lastly, When in Amsterdam….. Enjoy!

Where is Amsterdam?

Where is Amsterdam?

Did you know the answer to this question? If not, don’t worry because you’re not the only one. By the end of this blog you will know what many people don’t, that is where and what is Amsterdam?

This question, When in Amsterdam came across in a conversation had when travelling Papua New Guinea (PNG), a country east of Indonesia. A well-educated young man called John who spoke excellent English and had travelled throughout the Pacific region had never heard of this famous European Capital city. It is the capital of the Netherlands. ‘The Netherlands?’ John replied with confusion. At the mention of the word, Holland, a smile came across his face. “Yes, Holland, very good soccer team I support them in the World Cup. I like orange. I liked Ruud Gullit but you are wrong the Hague is the capital of the Holland?”

John from a county on the other side of the world from Amsterdam was almost right but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Where is Amsterdam? Amsterdam is a city located at latitude 52˚22’23’’north and longitude 4˚53’32’’east in the south of the Province of North Holland in the Netherlands. The Netherlands or commonly referred to as Holland is a small country of 16 million people in north-west Europe. It borders Belgium to the south and Germany to the east and north. To the west is the North Sea which is north of the English Channel and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean.

John and many people, maybe you are one of them, are right to be confused between Holland and the Netherlands. The difference between Holland and the Netherlands is that Holland is two western provinces of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands.

How did this come about? Holland in the middle Ages was its own region with its own lords and governors who were connected to either the old Kingdoms of Germany or France. Historically, Holland was rich and many countries traded with Holland. Under Napoleon the regions of this part of Europe were place together and called the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official name is still the Kingdom of the Netherlands but because many countries had important trade connections with Holland the name, Holland, has stuck.

In Amsterdam it does not matter which word you use, Holland or the Netherlands. Just be careful when travelling north, south or east in the Netherlands as the people there will not appreciate you calling them Hollanders. 

John was also right to be confused about the capital of the Netherlands. This is because the political parliament of the Netherlands is in The Hague. This strange anomaly officially occurred in 1815 after Napoleon had been sent into exile after defeats at Leipzig and Waterloo. The new King of the Netherlands, Willam I, knew the importance of Amsterdam as a trade and financial center. Also, Amsterdam had been the capital under Napoleon occupation. The constitution of 1815 lists Amsterdam as the capital but the seat of parliament is in The Hague. The reason behind this is that the royal family had previously been regent of the region now known today as parts of Belgium and the Netherlands. They were Princes and called the House of Orange and Nassau. Historically this family had been located in The Hague since 1584 when William of Orange was assassinated in a town close to The Hague called Delft.

‘So this is why they wear orange, the soccer team?’ John immediately interjected. Yes, the Dutch wear orange as their national color because the royal family of the Netherlands is called the Orange family. However, most Amsterdammers don’t wear a lot of orange because the royal family has historically lived further south in The Hague. Amsterdam’s colors are red and black. ‘This Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and not The Hague. Only the parliament is in the Hague?’ John replied. Yes. ‘And Holland is in the Netherlands?’ John added. Yes. ‘What a complicated little country’ John concluded. Yes.