Why Is Amsterdam Called Amsterdam?

Typical canal houses in Amsterdam
Typical canal houses in Amsterdam | © pixabay
Tom Coggins

In the late 10th century, settlers began reclaiming the swampy marshland around the northern mouth of the river Amstel. Over the next two centuries, several small towns developed on both sides of the river and were eventually united by a large dam. This unified community was christened Amstelredamme, in honour of the levee that connected its earlier borders.

Although the city’s name changed over the years it still retained its original content, whilst condensing its two main element, Amstel and Dam, into Amsterdam. As time went on, Amsterdam continued to grow around its namesake and attracted an increasing number of residents due to its burgeoning trade capacities. The city’s strategic location on the river Amstel allowed commerce to develop rapidly, whilst supplying its inhabitants with fertile farmlands, ample fishing resources, and an abundance of peat – which was an extremely valuable commodity until the earlier modern period.

The dam itself became a vital part of the city and many important buildings were constructed along its wings including the Royal Palace and de Nieuwe Kerk. By the 17th century, the entire embankment had been paved over and turned into an elevated, central plaza which is now known as Dam Square. For many years, this town square featured a fish market, which developed around the high concentration of small ships that moored on the dam’s banks everyday.

Dam Square is now completely surrounded by land

As central Amsterdam modernised during the 19th century, many waterways around the city were drained and converted into roads, including the river Amstel’s northern estuary Damrak. After this project was completed, Dam Square was effectively surrounded by land, meaning that it is now a terrestrial construction, despite its maritime heritage. Today, Dam Square (and its predecessors) still play an crucial role within Amsterdam and many culturally important events happen on the plaza throughout the year including memorial services, outdoor concerts and other celebrations associated with Dutch national holidays.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article