Amsterdam was founded around the 14th century, and is (like Venice) largely built on poles to make sure the marshy ground did not affect the stability of the buildings. The centre of the city is surrounded by canals, built in the early 17th century. In that period the Netherlands had become an important seafaring nation that grew affluent from world trade. In 1626, Dutchman Peter Minuit was the one who acquired Manhattan from the Indians, for merely $30, and called it New Amsterdam. The Dutch ruled the important area until 1664, when Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant was ejected in favour of the English. The settlement was then renamed New York and English became the official language there.
Standing on the Dam square, opposite of the National Monument, you can see the Dutch Royal Palace, reportedly built on 13.500 wooden poles. On the left of the palace is the beginning of Amsterdam’s busiest shopping street, de Kalverstraat. Walking through this street makes it almost impossible not to buy anything. After a thousand meters, on your left you will find the Leidsestraat, leading you to the Leidsplein square. Here you can find numerous restaurants, bars, and also the Casino. Crossing the Singelgracht canal and following the street to your left, you will walk towards the beautiful Rijksmuseum. This national museum houses a magnificent collection of 17th century Dutch paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals among others. Its most famous painting hangs in its own room at the end of the Gallery of Honour. It is officially called ‘Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant van Rutenburch’, painted by Rembrandt in 1642. Through the years it became covered with grime, and was therefore later mistaken for a night scene. This way it acquired its incorrect but world-wide known name De Nachtwacht (the Night watch).