Amsterdam, Netherlands, the largest city, a seaport, and the official capital of the nation. It is in Noord (North) Holland Province, 25 miles (40 km) northeast of The Hague, seat of the government. Amsterdam's name stems from a 13th-century dam built on the Amstel River
History There was only a fishing village on the site of Amsterdam until the 13th century, when feudal lords built a castle there and a dam across the mouth of the Amstel River to keep out the sea. A shipping community grew up rapidly, and in 1369 Amsterdam joined the Hanseatic League. In the 16th century many Flemish Protestant merchants and Spanish and Portuguese Jewish diamond cutters fled to Amsterdam because of religious persecution by the Spanish. In the Peace of Westphalia (1648), commercial advantage for the newly independent Netherlands was assured by closing the sea outlet of Amsterdam's rival port, Antwerp, which was still held by Spain. Amsterdam became the trading and financial center of western Europe. Under Napoleon Bonaparte Amsterdam was made capital of the Kingdom of Holland. It continued as the capital city of the independent Kingdom of the Netherlands founded in 1815. The gradual silting up of the channel to the Zuider Zee (now the IJsselmeer) threatened the city's future. During the 19th century, three canals were built to connect Amsterdam with the North Sea and the Rhine River.
Theamsterdam Canals • Notable canals in the Canal Belt • Inward to outward, the canals are as follows: • Singel • Main article: Singel (Amsterdam) • Singel with the Bloemenmarkt flower market in Amsterdam • The Singel encircled the city in the Middle Ages. It served as a moat around the city from 1480 until 1585, when Amsterdam expanded beyond the Singel. The canal runs from the IJ bay, near Central Station, to the Muntplein square, where it meets the Amstel river. It is now the inner-most canal in Amsterdam's semicircular ring of canals. The canal should not be confused with the Singelgracht canal, which became the outer limit of the city during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th Century. •  Herengracht • The Herengracht (Patricians' Canal or Lord's Canal) is the first of the three major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam. The canal is named after the herenregeerders who governed the city in the 16th and 17th century. The most fashionable part is called the Golden Bend, with many double wide mansions, inner gardens and coach houses on the Keizersgracht. •  Keizersgracht • Keizersgracht in Amsterdam • The Keizersgracht (literal English translation: Emperor's Canal) is the second and the widest of the three major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam, in between the Herengracht and the Prinsengracht. It is named after Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.Prinsengracht