Amsterdam’s origins lie on Dam Square and you’ll get a sense of this history as you look at the structures here. Today the square is also a venue for mass events, fun fairs and pantomime artists. Join the locals and relax at the base of the National Monument while listening to street organs. Chase the pigeons and dodge the many cyclists when you cross the square to go shopping or explore some of the historical buildings.
The most imposing building is the 17th-century Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace), where Napoleon's brother Louis ruled the Netherlands during French occupation. King Willem van Oranje made this building the City Hall, but today it’s used for royal and national events. On any day except Mondays you can pay to take a self-guided or private tour. See the ornate rooms with interiors painted by Rembrandt and other master painters.
You can’t miss the white obelisk, a National Monument built in 1956 to commemorate World War II veterans. On May 4, the Dutch gather here to observe a minute of silence for war victims, followed by a joyful Liberation Day celebration the next day. On the birthday of the King, in April, and during soccer championships, Dam Square is flooded with revelers wearing the national color, orange, and drinking celebration beers.
Situated next to the Royal Palace is the Gothic-looking Nieuwe Kerk, with massive stained glass windows, an intricately carved pulpit and two impressive organs. The historic church is now a venue for cultural exhibitions and concerts.
Whether you’re window-shopping or ready to spend, there are major department stores around the square, such as De Bijenkorf (Beehive). Treat yourself to coffee with cake in the store’s café overlooking the old stock exchange, the Beurs van Berlage. Shop for the latest fashions or visit the wax statues of Madame Tussauds in the Peek & Cloppenburg building.
Dam Square is a short walk from Central Station along the street of Damrak and many trams and buses stop here. If you are driving, consider leaving your car at one of the park-and-ride lots at the edge of the city. There are parking lots in the city center, but spaces are limited.