Dam Square where Tourists and Locals Meet
Are you meeting up with friend in Amsterdam? Dam Square and in particular the National Monument is the best place for your rendez-vous. This vast square buzzes with activity all year round. In spring, the fun fair attracts locals and tourists with its Ferris wheel. In summer, street entertainers and buskers mix with horse-drawn carts and marauding tour-guides thrusting their umbrellas proudly to the sky. In winter, Amsterdammers and visitors feed the hungry pigeons. Join the crowd, sit at the foot of the national monument and listen to the carillion of the Royal Palace that peals out folk songs and pop music.
The National Monument is a 21-metre tall white stone obelisk, in memory to the victims of World War II both in the Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. Suffering figures adorn the bottom of the monument. Along the back are the crests of the Dutch provinces, bordered by the dates 1940-1945. Each year the Queen, veterans and many others lay wreaths in commemoration of those who were killed.
The monument was erected in 1956. In the 1960s it was a popular a popular place for hippies who bundled up in sleeping bags and spent the night and most of the day at Dam Square. In 1970 the marines chased them away forever and tourists adopted the place as a meeting point.
Sit down at the foot of the momument. At the corner of Dam Square and Damrak is De Bijenkorf an upmarket department store, Across from where you are sitting is the Royal Palace which started life as Amsterdam’s townhall. On the right is Nieuwe Kerk, New Church, a Gothic building and not so new after all. It is no longer a church but is used for exhibitions. Attached to it is a café that churns out coffee, apple pie and light meals.
The long queue at the corner of Rokin indicates the entrance to the Dutch branch of the wax-works museum Madam Tussaud. Just round the corner of Rokin and Dam is Amsterdam Diamond Center where you can watch diamonds being cut, but whether you buy depends on the cut and your wallet.
Right behind the National Monument is Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. At the end of 19th century a Polish immigrant, Wilhelm Krasnapolsky, leased a run-down coffee house which he renamed Café-Restaurant Krasnapolsky. He kicked it into new life, refurbished it and put in mirrors. He installed electric light, a novelty in late 19th century Amsterdam and his business flourished. He bought palm trees and other exotic plants and trees and created the Winter Garden which is still a chic gathering place.
I am almost sure that I have convinced you that Dam Square and the National Monument is the ideal place to wait for your friends, see other tourists and Amsterdammers. When they have turned up and you would like to see what the Dam looked like end 19th century, go to Amsterdam Historisch Museum and check out Breitner’s painting of Dam. He painted it between 1895 and 1898 and I am sure you will recognise it.
WHAT: Bijenkorf Department Store
WHERE: Dam Square (map)
OPENING HOURS: Monday 11.00 – 19.00, Tuesday and Wednesday 9.30 – 19.00, Thursday and Friday 9.30 – 21.00, Saturday 9.30 – 19.00, Sunday 12.00 – 18.00.
Five floors display goods from international designers to hip labels and from socks to cosmetics. Bijenkorf means beehive. That’s exactly what the store looks like during Crazy Days, three days of shopping madness each October. The view from the roof was used as the fictive capital of Tomania, in Charlie Chaplin’s film the Great Dictator.
WHAT: Nieuwe Kerk
WHERE: Dam Square (map)
OPENING HOURS: daily 10 am – 6 pm, Thursdays until 10 pm
Nieuwe Kerk, New Church, is not very new but built in the fifteenth century. The church is used as exposition area with rotating exhibitions.
WHAT: Madame Tussaud’s Amsterdam
WHERE: Dam Square, map
OPENING HOURS: daily 10:00 -17:30
The experience is divided into two parts; scenes from Dutch history and national and international celebrities. Sculptures are regularly refreshed. When celebrities are no longer famous or when Prime Ministers have left office they are removed. It takes three months to make a sculpture. The first cast is made entirely from clay. The final product is not made of wax but of fibreglass
WHAT: Amsterdam Historic Museum
WHERE: Three entrances: Kalverstraat 92, Sint Luciënsteeg 27 and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357, map
OPENING HOURS: Monday – Friday 10.00 – 17.00 Saturday and Sunday 11.00 – 17.00
The Historic Museum is housed in a former orphanage and tells the story of Amsterdam from a 15th century cauldron to soften tar for shipbuilding to homosexuality in the 20th century. Artifacts, maps and paintings guide the visitor through history.
Dam Square in 1895, Wikipedia
National Monument: personal collection
ADe BijenkorfDam 1, Amsterdam, NetherlandsView Details and Book
BNieuwe KerkGravenstraat 17, 1012 NL Amsterdam, NederlandView Details and Book
CMadame Tussaud's PanopticumDam 20, amsterdam, Amsterdam,, NetherlandsView Details and Book
DAmsterdams Historisch MuseumNieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357, Amsterdam, NH, 1012 RC, The NetherlandsView Details and Book