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Why not spend an enjoyable weekend in Amsterdam? Who wouldn't want to stroll along the canals or pause on one of the 1281 bridges? Amsterdam has lots of sights of interest, excellent shopping opportunities and many different exhibitions in over fifty museums.

Like many other big European cities, Amsterdam is known for a number of authentic districts. The three most appealing of these are the Jordaan, the Pijp and the centre.

The Jordaan:
The Jordaan is probably one of Amsterdam's best known districts. Originally a genuine working-class district, it has produced many well-known Dutch popular artists. Over the last twenty years, the Jordaan has become increasingly popular among yuppies and double income couples, and the original population has moved to other parts of the city. The Jordaan is characterized by lots of great restaurants, shops and courtyards. The biweekly markets on Mondays and Saturdays are definitely worth a visit.

The Pijp:
Another well-known working-class district is the Pijp. To this very day this district is a mix of different groups of people and cultures. People ask themselves where the name the Pijp (the Pipe) came from, but no one really knows. The most logical explanation is probably that the name originated from the many factory pipes that the district used to have. This district is full of wonderful and interesting shops, but the biggest and most sociable market in the Netherlands, the Albert Cuypmarkt, should certainly not be missed.

The centre:
Amsterdam's centre is the site of many important buildings. There's the Royal Palace on Dam Square (built originally as the city hall) and, of course, the 165 canals which, with their combined total length of over 100 kilometres, give Amsterdam its unique ambience. The centre's most unusual area is the wallen (walls). There, prostitutes sit openly behind their windows, waiting for customers. Although the municipality of Amsterdam is in the process of restricting window prostitution, it's still a unique and relatively safe place to visit.

History

Amsterdam was founded around eight hundred years ago as small settlement where the Amstel River meets the IJ. Amsterdam was given the rights of a city some time around 1300 and comprised approximately 1000 inhabitants. Over the coming centuries it would develop into one of the world's leading trading cities.

Amsterdam underwent major growth in the 14th and particularly the 15th centuries. The Golden Age, the period from 1585 to 1672, was a time in which trade brought great riches. Amsterdam experienced unprecedented growth and influential merchants founded the Dutch East India Company (VOC). VOC vessels sailed the world and the company's trade in slaves, spices and tobacco made it the biggest corporation of that time. The urban development which took place in 1613 and 1883 still determines the face of the city today. Amsterdam owes its most important monuments, like the Town Hall on Dam Square, the Westerkerk and the Zuiderkerk, and many canal houses to this period.

At that time, Amsterdam was not only an important trading city, but also one of the leading financial centres of what was then Europe. The money earnt by the merchants was invested in magnificent canal houses, and also in art. Many painters and architects worked in Amsterdam. One of the most famous artists of that time is, of course, Rembrandt.

Around 1795 the country was occupied by the French. This signaled the end of the republic. Amsterdam experienced trying economic times in the period that followed. The beginning of the 19th century saw a period of economic recovery. Increasing prosperity caused Amsterdam's population to grow rapidly.

The population of Amsterdam was hard hit during WWII. Prior to WWII, Amsterdam was home to a large Jewish population. The majority did not survive the occupation.

At the end of the 20th century Amsterdam entered a new period of prosperity, The city became a model of tolerance and emancipation.