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Visiting the Royal Palace on the Dam at Amsterdam: 17th century municipal Classicism, turned royal

Updated on December 16, 2011
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Royal Palace and Dam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Royal Palace and Dam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands | Source
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is welcomed upon arrival for a visit to the United States, 1982
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is welcomed upon arrival for a visit to the United States, 1982 | Source
Map location of Amsterdam municipality
Map location of Amsterdam municipality | Source

Cornelis de Graeff van Zuid-Polsbroek's office, now the monarch's palace

This was erected as a municipal building. Mind you, 17th century Dutch municipal dignitaries were very grand people, and the building ended up becoming royal in designation, as one of the Dutch monarch's palaces.

So they thought that, with the building being so grand, they would give it to the monarch instead, did they? Well, actually, it wasn't as simple as this. For a start, when it was built, from 1648 to 1665, designed by architect Jacob van Campen (1596-1657), there wasn't a Dutch monarch to give it to. (Although if you really wanted one, there was: the King of Spain, but the Dutch had long since ceased to pay much attention to him)(1). The palace was largely built during the time that Cornelis de Graeff van Zuid-Polsbroek (1599-1664) was Regent and Mayor of Amsterdam. This was during the Dutch Golden Age, and this former City Hall's Classical splendour surpassed that of not a few royal palaces around the world.

The Netherlands did not formally become a monarchy until 1815, after French Revolutionary and Napoleonic invaders had been sent home; in the meantime, though, the French invaders had installed, as King of Holland, Louis I, who happened to be the brother of French Emperor Napoleon I. King Louis liked the City Hall, built as Cornelis de Graeff van Zuid-Polsbroek's office, so much, that he turned it into his palace. However, after King Louis I was succeeded by his son, King Louis II — aged 5; he reigned for 8 days — France annexed The Netherlands and a French governor was installed at the palace; the latter resident, in turn, was turned out after Napoleon's defeat. At this juncture, William of Orange-Nassau, whose family had long played an important rôle in Dutch affairs decided, — with the tacit agreement of the European powers — to proclaim himself King William I.

Since then, the former City Hall has functioned very satisfactorily and rather splendidly as a royal palace for the Dutch monarchs. In 1980, on the abdication of Queen Juliana, Queen Beatrix ascended to the throne of The Netherlands and has thus held title to the palace.

In Dutch the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, with its Classical frontage, is known as Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam , or, more simply, Paleis op de Dam — Palace on the Dam, referring to Dam Square, in Amsterdam's Downtown. A large cupola tops the palace, from which it was possible for dignitaries and officials to watch the sailing of ships.


(1) In 1648 the Spanish king, having with his predecessors been at war with the Dutch, decided to admit what nearly everyone else had long realized, that The Netherlands was an independent country.

Also worth seeing

In Amsterdam , other popular visitor attractions include: the Nieuwe Kerk, facing the Royal Palace; the Anne Frank House at Prisengracht 263-265; the Munt tower (Dutch: Munttoren ) is a well-known landmark by the meeting of the Amstel River and the Singel Canal, and many others.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam-Schipol Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services between Amsterdam-Schipol and Downtown Amsterdam. There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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      Alan 4 years ago

      I would strongly rnemomecd you get the Lonely Planet City Encounters books for at least Paris and Berlin. I had them during my trip overseas over Summer and found them invaluable. They only focus on the cities themselves and, as such, are small and happily fit into a back pocket. They also come with maps of the cities and schematic diagrams of the public transport.When you go to Berlin:- Avoid the tourist public transport pass. The normal x-day-long one is cheaper.- See the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.I don't know if you've sorted out accommodation for Paris and Berlin, but I can tell you where I stayed, if you're interested.