Dam Square is Amsterdam’s most important square. It is located in the heart of the city close to Amsterdam Central station, a 5-10 minute walk down Damrak. The majority of visitors to Amsterdam are likely go through Dam Square at some point.
Let’s take a tour around Dam Square illustrated by our map.
Originally a 13th century dam on the river Amstel, Dam Square 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 and also provides access to the major shopping streets of Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk, highlighted in pink on our map.
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 drift past. On a sunny day the café terraces on the northern flanks fill up.
Dam Square (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!
You can book Royal Palace tickets here
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 and ceremonial space.
On the north-western side of Dam there is ‘t Nieuwe Kafé and the striped 4-storey Reisbureau der Staatsspoorwegen building. It was completed in 1915 and designed by Karel de Bazel and now has the Naked Espresso coffee bar at ground level.
Turning towards Damrak, we have stores from Swarovski and H&M between the Niewendijk shopping street which runs north. The corner building at Damrak is De Bisschop built in 1934 which has a Sinterklaas gablestone and used to host an ABN-AMRO bank branch.
If you look closely on the ground of the square you may also see the NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil) stone on the square. This covers a bolt marking the official sea level reference point.
If you walk 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 with fashion, jewellery and a food court.
A bit further down Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal (behind the Royal Palace) can be found an Albert Heijn supermarket.
The south-west side of Dam Square features the Peek & Cloppenburg building (built in 1917) which is a German department store selling clothes. The 5-storey limestone building has a number of interesting reliefs on its facade.
The building is shared with the Madame Tussaud waxworks museum whose large circular window provides a great view over the square. You can book Madame Tussaud tickets here
You also get fine views from the second floor of the Peek & Cloppenburg store itself.
From this side you can enter the pedestrianised Kalverstraat, Amsterdam’s main shopping street which houses many chain stores.
Dam Square (East side)
The smaller eastern side of the square is dominated by the National Monument with its 22m high stone pillar. It was built in 1956 to commemorate World War 2 and every year on May 4th there is a memorial ceremony held on the square.
Surrounding the eastern side of the square you will see De Bijenkorf, a 5-storey upscale Dutch department store on Damrak constructed between 1911 and 1914.
Next door is the modern Verwelius office and apartment building complex with the Majestic and Euro Pub outdoor terraces below; on the eastern side is the NH Grand Krasnapolsky hotel, one of the city’s most well known hotels – it’s possible to walk in to see the glass-roofed Winter Garden room at the back.
A Discover Dam Square (Ontdek de Dam) bronze sculpture can be found on this side and features the main buildings on the square. This was placed in 2021 by artist Street Art Frankey and is in lego-block form. There is an associated free audio tour (which is very informative) about the 15 buildings on Dam Square here
At the entrance to the Pijlsteeg alley (next to Krasnaposky) can be found the oldest house on Dam, built in 1632. The house has a gablestone of the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The narrow street used to be part of the red-light district and housed various brothels. You can find the historic Wynand Fockink distillery and tasting rooms at Pijlsteeg 31.
On the south-eastern flank there are a number of tourist souvenir shops and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attraction.
The large Industria buliding (bulit in 1916) at the corner of Rokin hosts a Gassan Diamond store and the stylish Hotel TwentySeven, a 5 star design hotel. Underneath is an archway tunnel (Beurspoortje) which leads onto Rokin.
Nearby at Rokin 9 you will also find Scheltema, the biggest bookstore in the Netherlands. There is a metro station a little further south on Rokin. Metro line 52 runs from Amsterdam Noord (North) to Amsterdam Zuid (South).
Walking south down the back alley of Nes will take you to some of Amsterdam’s theatres, various cafés and the art-deco Rho hotel
All in all, it’s worth spending a little time discovering the background and history of Amsterdam’s main square.
Last updated 14 October 2021. This article was first published in 2013 and has been regularly updated.