Dam Square

Dam Square

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Dam Square, or simply the Dam is a town square
Town square
A town square is an open public space commonly found in the heart of a traditional town used for community gatherings. Other names for town square are civic center, city square, urban square, market square, public square, and town green.Most town squares are hardscapes suitable for open markets,...

 in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, the capital of the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. Its notable buildings and frequent events make it one of the most well-known and important locations in the city.

Location and description

Dam Square lies in the historical center of Amsterdam, approximately 750 meters south of the main transportation hub, Centraal Station
Amsterdam Centraal
' is the central station of Amsterdam. It is one of the main railway hubs of the Netherlands and is used by 250,000 passengers a day, excluding transferring passengers. It is also the starting point of Amsterdam Metro lines 51, 53, and 54. The station building of Amsterdam Centraal was designed by...

. It is roughly rectangular in shape, stretching about 200 meters from west to east and about 100 meters from north to south. It links the streets Damrak
The Damrak is a partially filled in canal at the centre of Amsterdam, between Amsterdam Centraal railway station and Dam Square, running north-south. It is the main street where people arriving at the station enter the centre of Amsterdam. Also it is one of the two GVB tram routes from the station...

 and Rokin
Rokin is a major street in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Originally it was part of the river Amstel, and was known then as Rak-in . When the quays along the Rokin were constructed in 1913, they were named after the water which they adjoined.The Rokin begins at Muntplein square and ends at Dam square...

, which run along the original course of the Amstel
The Amstel is a river in the Netherlands which runs through the city of Amsterdam. The river's name is derived from Aeme stelle, old Dutch for "area abounding with water"....

 River from Centraal Station to Muntplein
Muntplein (Amsterdam)
The Muntplein is a square in the centre of Amsterdam. The square is in fact a bridge — the widest bridge in Amsterdam — which crosses the Singel canal at the point where it flows into the Amstel river...

 (Mint Square) and Munttoren
The Munttoren or Munt is a tower in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It stands on the busy Muntplein square, where the Amstel river and the Singel canal meet, near the flower market and the eastern end of the Kalverstraat shopping street....

. The Dam also marks the endpoint of other well-traveled streets, Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat
The Kalverstraat is the busiest shopping street of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. It is named after the kalvermarkt that was held here until the 17th Century....

 and Damstraat. A short distance beyond the northeast corner lies the main red-light district
Red-light district
A red-light district is a part of an urban area where there is a concentration of prostitution and sex-oriented businesses, such as sex shops, strip clubs, adult theaters, etc...

, de Wallen
De Wallen
De Wallen is the largest and best-known red-light district in Amsterdam and a major tourist attraction. It is located in the heart of the oldest part of Amsterdam, covering several blocks south of the church Oude Kerk and crossed by several canals....


On the west end of the square is the neoclassical Royal Palace
Royal Palace (Amsterdam)
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix by Act of Parliament. The palace was built as city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. The building became the royal palace of king Louis Napoleon and later...

, which served as the city hall from 1655 until its conversion to a royal residence in 1808. Beside it are the 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk
Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam)
The Nieuwe Kerk is a 15th-century church in Amsterdam, located on Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace.-History:The bishop of Utrecht gave the city of Amsterdam permission to use a second the parish church in 1408 because the Oude Kerk had grown too small for the growing population of the city....

 (New Church) and the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. The National Monument
National Monument (Amsterdam)
The National Monument is a 1956 World War II monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam...

, a white stone pillar designed by J.J.P. Oud and erected in 1956 to memorialize the victims of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, dominates the opposite side of the square. Also overlooking the plaza are the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky and the upscale department store
Department store
A department store is a retail establishment which satisfies a wide range of the consumer's personal and residential durable goods product needs; and at the same time offering the consumer a choice of multiple merchandise lines, at variable price points, in all product categories...

 De Bijenkorf
De Bijenkorf
De Bijenkorf is a chain of upscale department stores in the Netherlands with its flagship store on Dam Square, Amsterdam. It was founded by Simon Philip Goudsmit in 1870 as a small store along the Nieuwendijk, one of Amsterdam's oldest streets, it offers many prestigious brands in clothing,...

. These various attractions have turned the Dam into a tourist zone. The square abounds with city pigeons, popular for birdfeeding
Bird feeding is the activity of feeding wild birds, often by means of a bird feeder.-History:James Fisher has written that the first person recorded as feeding wild birds was the 6th century monk Saint Serf of Fife who tamed a robin by feeding it. In the harsh winter of 1890-91 in Britain national...



The Dam derives its name from its original function: a dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

 on the Amstel River, hence also the name of the city. Built in approximately 1270, the dam formed the first connection between the settlements on the sides of the river.

As the dam was gradually built up it became wide enough for a town square, which remained the core of the town developing around it. Dam Square as it exists today grew out of what was originally two squares: the actual dam, called Middeldam; and Plaetse, an adjacent plaza to the west. A large fish market arose where ships moored at the dam to load and unload goods. The area became a center not only of commercial activity but also of the government, as the site of Amsterdam's town hall.

As a market square
Market square
The market square is a feature of many European and colonial towns. It is an open area where market stalls are traditionally set out for trading, commonly on one particular day of the week known as market day....

, the Dam had a weigh house that can be seen in some old paintings. It was demolished in 1808 by order of Louis Bonaparte
Louis Bonaparte
Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, Prince Français, Comte de Saint-Leu , King of Holland , was the fifth surviving child and the fourth surviving son of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino...

 who, upon taking up residence in the newly converted Royal Palace, complained that his view was obstructed.

The Damrak, or the former mouth of the Amstel River, was partially filled in the 19th century; since then, the Dam square has been surrounded by land on all sides. The new land made room for the Beurs van Zocher, a stock exchange
Stock exchange
A stock exchange is an entity that provides services for stock brokers and traders to trade stocks, bonds, and other securities. Stock exchanges also provide facilities for issue and redemption of securities and other financial instruments, and capital events including the payment of income and...

 that was built in 1837. After the stock trade moved to the Beurs van Berlage
Beurs van Berlage
The Beurs van Berlage is a building on the Damrak, in the center of Amsterdam. It was designed as a commodity exchange by architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage and constructed between 1896 and 1903. It influenced many modernist architects, in particular functionalists and the Amsterdam School...

 in 1903, the Zocher building was demolished. In its place, De Bijenkorf
De Bijenkorf
De Bijenkorf is a chain of upscale department stores in the Netherlands with its flagship store on Dam Square, Amsterdam. It was founded by Simon Philip Goudsmit in 1870 as a small store along the Nieuwendijk, one of Amsterdam's oldest streets, it offers many prestigious brands in clothing,...

 department store has stood since 1914.

In 1856, a war memorial
War memorial
A war memorial is a building, monument, statue or other edifice to celebrate a war or victory, or to commemorate those who died or were injured in war.-Historic usage:...

 named De Eendracht (The Unity) was unveiled inside the square before King William III
William III of the Netherlands
William III was from 1849 King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg until his death and the Duke of Limburg until the abolition of the Duchy in 1866.-Early life:William was born in Brussels as son of William II of the Netherlands and...

. A stone column with a female statue on top, the monument acquired the nickname "Naatje of the Dam". It was taken down in 1914.

Dam Square shooting, 1945

On 7 May 1945, two days after German capitulation, thousands of Dutch people were waiting for the liberators to arrive on the Dam square in Amsterdam. In the Grose Club members of the Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 watched as the crowd below their balcony grew and people danced and cheered. The Germans then placed a machinegun on the balcony and started shooting into the crowds. The motives behind the shooting have remained unclear.

The shooting finally came to an end after a member of the resistance climbed into the tower of the royal palace and started shooting onto the balcony and into the Club. At that moment, a German officer together with a Resistance commander found their way into the Club and convinced the men to surrender. At the brink of peace, 120 people were badly injured and 22 pronounced dead.


Several tram
A tram is a passenger rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets and also sometimes on separate rights of way. It may also run between cities and/or towns , and/or partially grade separated even in the cities...

 lines traverse the Dam and have stops there. In the time of the horse tram
A horsecar or horse-drawn tram is an animal-powered streetcar or tram.These early forms of public transport developed out of industrial haulage routes that had long been in existence, and from the omnibus routes that first ran on public streets in the 1820s, using the newly improved iron or steel...

 (end 19th century) the Dam was the most important tram hub of Amsterdam. After 1900 this function moved to the Stationsplein (Station Square).

Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, Amsterdam's main square became a "national" square well known to nearly everyone in the Netherlands. It has frequently been the location of demonstrations and events of all kinds, and a meeting place for many people. On 4 May every year, the Dutch celebrate National Memorial Day
Remembrance of the Dead
Remembrance of the Dead is held annually on May 4 in the Netherlands. It commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II....

 (Nationale Dodenherdenking), in observance of which the last addition to the square, the National Monument
National Monument (Amsterdam)
The National Monument is a 1956 World War II monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam...

, was set up in 1956.

Several times a year, such as on Queens Day
Koninginnedag or Queen's Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 30 April , Koninginnedag is Queen Beatrix's official birthday. Though Queen Beatrix was born on 31 January, the holiday is observed on 30 April as it was the birthday of her mother and...

 or near Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, there is a big funfair
A funfair or simply "fair" is a small to medium sized travelling show primarily composed of stalls and other amusements. Larger fairs such as the permanent fairs of cities and seaside resorts might be called a fairground, although technically this should refer to the land where a fair is...

on Dam Square.

External links