04 October 2008
NETHERLANDS - AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The city, which had a population of 747,290 on 1 January 2008, comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the 6th-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with a population of around 6.7 million. Its name is derived from Amstel dam, indicative of the city's origin: a dam in the river Amstel where the Dam Square is today. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During this time, the city was the leading centre for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were formed. The city is the financial and cultural capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world's top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city . The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, part of Euronext, is located in the city centre. Amsterdam's main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, its red-light district and its many cannabis coffee shops, draw 4.2 million tourists annually.