The Dutch Royal family only use the Royal Palace for official visits. Whenever the royals do not use the palace, it's open to visitors.
Amsterdam – Been There

Amsterdam’s Eighth Wonder of the World

Photo by Travelwide

Amsterdam – Been There Amsterdam’s Eighth Wonder of the World

Sitting on Dam Square, a massive cobbled plaza thronged with tourists, Amsterdam's Royal Palace is often overlooked by those on their way to such attractions as the nearby Madame Tussauds.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

After its opening in 1655, the Palace was hailed by poet Constantijn Huygens as the “Eighth Wonder” of the world. A 1668 painting by Jan van Kessel shows it with its limestone exterior still gleaming white, standing behind the dam on the River Amstel that gave Amsterdam its name. It was commissioned as the Town Hall, making the “Royal Palace” name – adopted in 1806 when Louis Napoleon was briefly king of Holland – an incongruous one. The building – right in the heart of the city center – was a tribute to the businessmen who financed it, rather than any monarch.

It was built on 13,659 wooden piles, the same technique used for most of the city. This ambitious undertaking gave rise to a 16th-century riddle by Desiderius Erasmus: “I know of a city where the residents live in the treetops like crows.”

Inside, the furnishings left by Louis Napoleon make an interesting tour for those who like Empire furniture or ormolu clocks but the highlight for me is the vast Citizen’s Hall. A giant Atlas bearing a globe – there is another on the apex of the roof outside – looks down on a gleaming marble floor inlaid with three maps showing the known world of an earlier era. While the west coast of North America is missing, and Australia looks very vague indeed, the rest of the world is shown in detail, a tribute to the reach of the nation’s seafarers.

At the center of both hemispheres – and a third sphere of the universe itself – sits Amsterdam, whose reach literally spanned the globe along the waterways that start nearby. Like Atlas, the city carried a world on its shoulders but one it made itself. From here, a merchant could send out a ship that might come back with a cargo to make his fortune.

This grand space and the city around it, are a manifestation of the saying: “God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”


Reflection of buildings in one of Amsterdam's famous canals. Photo by Kieran Meeke / Getty Images

Kieran Meeke

Kieran Meeke

Getty Images

Reflection of buildings in one of Amsterdam's famous canals.

Other stories about Amsterdam

Wolvenstraat, part of the 9Streets with trendy shops and cafés in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam.

7 cliché activities in Amsterdam you will actually enjoy

Amsterdam is one of those cities that is drenched in clichés. I’ve overheard people saying that they thought Amsterdam was itself a country (Holland clearly isn’t interesting enough to benefit from word of mouth publicity), that the Dutch  all wear wooden shoes (imagine the pain!), that Amsterdam is  covered in tulips, and that literally everyone   smokes weed. All. Day. Long. I’m not here to smash your dreams into a thousand tiny pieces, but that’s plain bullcheese. On the other hand, some Amsterdam clichés are true and are definitely worth giving a try. They aren’t clichés for nothing, am I right?