Amsterdam began as a small fishing village on the Amstel River in the latter half of the 12th century. Four centuries after its Golden Age heyday, Holland’s capital is a charismatic global village and edgy European capital that attracts some 20 million tourists annually. While some come for tulips, cheese, and windmills, others are lured by the city’s tolerant vibe and easy access to sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.
Nearly everyone is charmed by Amsterdam’s picture postcard beauty, world-class museums and colorful counterculture. Yet few know the city is more culturally diverse than any other international capital, that canal houses are insanely narrow because residents were once taxed on the width of their properties, and that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice, Italy, which has earned its reputation as the Amsterdam of the South.
What’s more, did you realize that much of the city is supported by stilts, that locals like to keep their curtains open all the time thanks to Calvinist roots that preach they have nothing to hide, and that “coffeeshop” means something altogether different than a place to grab a cup of joe? To adopt a cat, you can go to the only animal sanctuary that floats—De Poezenboot, Amsterdam’s houseboat turned cat shelter, moored on the Singel Canal.
There’s more for cat lovers at the new Kopjes cat café in the city’s De Baarsjes neighborhood, as well as Katten Kabinet, a small museum devoted to cats in art through the ages, from ancient works by early Chinese and Egyptian artists to masterpieces by Toulouse Lautrec and Picasso. While the city is home to internationally renowned repositories of art like the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, it also encompasses museums devoted to small bags and purses, marijuana, sex, beer, cheese, tulips, houseboats, fluorescent light and more.
Check out this infographic for more fascinating facts about the city that captured my heart in 2007 and welcomed me as a resident five years ago:
Can you add the 26th fun fact? Share in the comments below!
Infographic Credit: whenonearth.net