Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam is the city's most important square. It is located not far from Amsterdam central station, a 5-10 minute walk down Damrak.
Let's take a brief tour of the Dam illustrated by our map...
Originally a 13th century dam on the river Amstel, Dam was used as a fish market where ships could dock and unload goods. Over time the square grew in size and importance with the building of the new church, city hall and nearby stock exchange.
Today it connects the main artery streets Damrak and Rokin (illustrated in dark grey on our Dam Square map above along with the other main street to the west Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal) and also provides access to the major shopping streets of Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk, highlighted pink.
Dam square is a busy focal point for many arriving visitors and shoppers. Street performers set up on the square's cobble stones, tourists mill about taking photos and feeding the pigeons whilst trams frequently rattle past. On a sunny day the cafe terraces on the northern flanks fill up with coffee and beer drinkers.
Dam (West side)
Dam has a number of important buildings - the imposing Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) completed in 1655 was originally Amsterdam's town hall which became an imperial palace in 1808 during Napoleon's reign. A weighing house used to be right in the centre of the square but was demolished after Napoleon's brother (Louis Bonaparte) complained about the view!
Next to the palace in the north-western corner is the Gothic Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam's New Church dating back to the 14th century (though rebuilt in 1645 after a fire) and today used as an exhibition/function space.
Walking out of the square between the palace and church you will reach the beautiful Magna Plaza, completed in 1899 and formerly Amsterdam's main post office. It is now a small high-end shopping mall focussed mainly on fashion, jewellery and gifts.
The south-west side of the Dam also features the Madame Tussaud's waxworks museum whose large circular window provides a great view over the square. The building also hosts a Peek & Cloppenburg fashion department store. From this side you can enter the pedestrianised Kalverstraat, Amsterdam's main shopping street which houses many chains.
On the north-western side of Dam there is 't Nieuwe Cafe and an ice cream shop with outdoor seating, a branch of H&M clothes store and an ABN AMRO bank with ATM machines. Niewendijk shopping street runs parallel to Damrak.
Dam (East side)
The smaller eastern side of the square is dominated by the National Monument (built in 1956 to commemorate World War 2). Every year on May 4th there is a memorial ceremony held in the square.
Surrounding the eastern side of the square you will see Bijenkorf, a 5-storey upscale Dutch department store dating back to 1870; next door is a large office building with some bars and outdoor terraces; on the eastern side is the NH Grand Krasnapolsky hotel, one of the city's most well known 5 star hotels - there is a cafe inside the foyer. It also has short-stay apartments.
On the south-eastern flank there is a large tourist souvenir shop, a Ripley's Believe It or Not! attraction and a Gassan Diamond store. Walking south down the back alley of Nes will take you to some of Amsterdam's theatres, various cafes and the art-deco Rho hotel. Nearby at Rokin 9 you will also find Scheltema, the biggest bookstore in the Netherlands.
For a few days around Easter, summer and also at New Year, Dam square hosts a fairground with a large ferris wheel.
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