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Fun Facts About Amsterdam

by Rafal Sulowski

1.180 nationalities live in Amsterdam and 190 in The Netherlands

Photo by0805edwin || Pixabay

I am from Poland, a country where diversity didn’t exist at the time when I was a child. Actually, I didn’t even know anyone from abroad. Now it is different, but still, you won’t see any foreigners on the streets of my town. It’s quite funny because I moved to a country where 190 different nationalities live together, it’s a great experience. Life is about learning and with that amount of different people, religion, perspective, values, languages we grow together! Sometimes it makes me feel stupid when people say they are from countries I can not even find on the map, but living with so many different people is priceless. It gives you totally different perspective and thanks to that you can grow as a human being. So Proud to be part of this community!

If you are a tourist or an expat or anyone who would like to meet internationals I encourage you to check some events on MeetUp. It’s full of international groups, initiatives, and meetings.

2. Houses in Amsterdam are very narrow because they used to be taxed by the width of the front elevation.

Architecture in Amsterdam is one of the kind and I just love to walk around or ride my bike, stop sometimes to enjoy a cup of coffee and breath atmosphere of this beautiful city. Each and every house in Amsterdam look different, you can see that they have a different style, height or color.

Singel 7 || Photo courtesy of Kees Stoof|| Flickr

Houses in Amsterdam are very narrow and you don’t wanna know how the staircase looks like. The narrowest houses in Amsterdam are around 2 meters in width, they look cool and they are amazing spots to take some photos.

  • Singel 7,
  • Oude Hoogstraat 22
  • Kloveniersburgwal 26

I recommend you to visit Oude Hoogstraat 22. It’s called the narrowest house in Amsterdam and it’s open to the public. On the bottom floor, there is a tea shop, on the second and third floor, you find a small ( actually very small ) tea room. They serve coffee, tea, breakfast. If you plan to visit you should make a reservation. It’s very small and most of the time packed. Follow this link to find their website and in the contact section, you will find their phone number and email address.

3. Amsterdam has got more bridges than Venice

When someone tells you about canals and romantic bridges, the first place that comes to your mind is an Italian capital of love – Venice. I was very surprised when on one of town tours our guide mentioned that there are more bridges in Amsterdam than in Venice. There are 1281 bridges in Amsterdam and when you compare it to 409 bridges in Venice it 3 times more.

Bridges in Amsterdam are very often decorated with lights and at night they look gorgeous. One of the best ways to explore Amsterdam is to go for a bike ride when it gets dark! Especially during the light festival which takes place from the beginning of November till the end of January. The whole city is decorated with lights and there are many highlighted exhibitions. It’s an open space event and you don’t need any tickets.

4. There are around 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam

Photo by djedj ||Pixabay

It’s quite surprising when you think of it. In 2500 houseboats floating on the canals of Amsterdam live people. Many of these boats are almost 100 years old. They are renovated and provide electricity, water, and heating but they still look like years ago. Houseboats in Amsterdam are permanently anchored to the particular address.

It’s possible to rent a houseboat when you visit Amsterdam. It may be a very unique experience. You can rent a houseboat on booking.com –> Link

5. Bikes in Amsterdam have always right of way, over cars and pedestrians.

When visiting Amsterdam you really must be careful when it comes to cyclists. Many people have no idea about traffic and their cycling skills leave much to be desired. Moreover, when you drive a car and the bike hits you it’s your fault.

Bicycles in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station || Photo Courtesy of Stas Rozhkov

Bikers always have right of way. Just be careful! To calm you down I must say that I have never had any bike accident and I cycle a lot, it’s not that bad as you may think 🙂

6. There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam

It can be funny but when you cross Amsterdam districts you can see that there is a huge amount of bikes. There are 880.000 bicycles in Amsterdam and 800.000 inhabitants. 78% of Amsterdamers have their own bike.

Old Bicycles in Amsterdam Zuidas || Photo Corutesy of Udo Geisler

I can’t imagine how bad traffic would be here if the Dutch Government wouldn’t invest in biking infrastructure. 32 % of all trips happening in Amsterdam on a daily basis are by bike in comparison to car trips 22%.

The thing that is quite amazing for me and I haven’t seen that in any other place on the planet are bike parking! Huge bike parking! They have multiple floors and they plan to build the biggest underground parking just in front of the central station. According to the plan it’s going to be opened in 2020 and it will add much more extra parking space.

7. There is a Floating Flower Market in Amsterdam

Photo by dilpe || Pixabay

Floating Flower Market is called by locals “Bloemenmarkt” and it’s located at Singel, 1012 DH Amsterdam. It has been opened since 1862, 6 days a week from Monday till Saturday. It’s a cool place in the city center, located in the canal ring, not far away from Rembrandtplein. You can get there fresh flowers and flower bulbs, which are a great souvenir from Amsterdam.

What’s special about it, it’s the only floating flower market in the world. This unique market takes place in this spot, because years ago vendors were bringing their flowers to the city center by boat and it was the best way of transport at the time.

You can buy here all sorts of tulips, narcissus, geraniums and many more. There are also many souvenirs such as : clogs, bulbs, wooden tulips or cheese. Talking about flowers, I encourage you to visit Keukenhof. This is the biggest flower garden in Europe and I must admit, it’s breathtaking.

8. 11.000 wooden stilts support the city upon loose foundations

Most of Amsterdam is under the sea level. Here you can read the article: Is Amsterdam Below Sea Level? The lowest point in Amsterdam is 6,7 meters below sea level. The soil is muddy and because of that houses in the Netherlands need some extra stabilization. That’s why they put wooden poles under houses. Nowadays concrete poles are getting more popular. Those poles can be even 20 meters long and every 30 years they must be replaced and I heard that cost a lot.

Photo by Brunel Johnson on Unsplash

It’s very interesting that under the Royal Palace on the Dam square there are 13,657 poles. Sometimes when you see construction in The Netherlands you can hear a very loud sound. It’s when they dig and put a pole in the ground.

9. The most common crime in Amsterdam is Bike Theft

Bike theft in Amsterdam and in the Netherlands, in general, is a very common crime. It’s, in fact, the most frequent crime. One of my bikes was also stolen some time ago, but it was my fault because I left it unlocked for a moment. A moment… but long enough to get stolen. If you lock your bike properly, you have a good lock and connect your bike to a firm piece of metal or concrete then your bike is safe and you have nothing to worry about.

When you want to rent a bike In bike rental shops you can get extra insurance in case of theft. It’s wise to pay extra 5 Euro for insurance and it covers bike theft but also flat tire and other accidents.

When you buy a bike for example on marktplaats.nl or from someone on the street you can check if this bike isn’t stolen. There is an online registry of stolen bikes. You can find it here. You must have a bike frame number, you just type it on this website and it will show you details of bike and information if this bike is registered as stolen.

10. Most of Amsterdam area in under the sea level

Some parts of the town are 2 meters above sea level, some are 4 meters under sea level and the lowest point of this city is 6,7 meters below sea level.

So… are Dutch afraid of the flood? Not really. In the Netherlands, they fight with the sea for years and they are the worldwide specialist in this field. Their complicated system of dunes, dikes, pumps is sure-fire. When you visit the Netherlands you will notice that canals often are almost at the same level as waterside. Maybe there is a 20 cm difference, however, the level of the water is all the time the same and they control it very well.

Dutch government plans already their future because of rising sea levels.

11. Don’t confuse Cafe and Coffeeshop

Photo by rkloever|| Pixabay

Yup… that may be a little confusing. You walk along beautiful Amsterdam streets and you feel like having a break. You see coffeeshop and you think that little black one and apple pie is a great plan, so you enter coffeeshop. You are probably very surprised seeing all the stoned people and smelling weed all over the place. So keep in mind:

When you want a coffee you go to CAFE
When you want to get some weed you go to Coffeeshop.

Coffeeshops also serve coffee but their main income comes from selling weed. In The Netherlands, you can buy 5 grams of weed daily. You can smoke it in Coffeeshop or at home. It’s illegal to smoke weed on the streets and if you do, you can get a fine. When you are new in Amsterdam and you are willing to visit coffeeshop you should first learn some basic coffeeshop etiquette. Check my other article on AmsterdamPartyGuide to learn more about coffeeshop rules.

12. Amsterdam lowest point is 6,7 meter below the sea level

As I told you before the most part of the Amsterdam is below sea level, but don’t worry – Dutch have everything under control! 😀 At least, I hope so.

13. The total length of Amsterdam cycling paths is 400 km

It’s shocking how many cycling paths are in Amsterdam. You can get almost everywhere on the bike. Actually, you can get everywhere. Even when you need to cross a canal, for example when you are on the way to Amsterdam Noord you can use a free ferry and of course you can carry your bike with you.

There is 400 km of cycling paths in Amsterdam itself. But you may wonder why the Dutch government invested so much in cycling infrastructure? In 1970 after the second world war there was a car boom, people got wealthy and many could afford a car. Because of the huge amount of cars in The Netherlands, an enormous amount of people died in car accidents.

Only in the year 1971 – 3000 people were killed in car accidents and 400 of them were kids. Dutch decided to end up this massacre and protest started. Thanks to demonstrations Dutch Government change their policy, they put high taxes on cars, invested in cycling paths and supported bike businesses. Thanks to that we see that beautiful cycling culture in the Netherlands. Other countries could learn a lot from the Dutch. Especially in Go Green era, when ecology is so important.

14. Each and every year around 25.000 bikes end up in Canals.

With that huge amount of bikes and canals, it’s obvious that some bicycles end up in the water. It’s nothing surprising to see a bike in the canal. But how comes that such a big number of bicycles drown in canals? There are many reasons. One of them is that drunk vandals just throw some bikes in the water for their own amusement…

Another reason is that bike thieves throw bikes in the water because they want to quickly dispose of evidence. Probably some bike owners also do this with their old bikes, which can’t be repaired anymore. Every year Amsterdam municipality salvage 15 000 bicycles from Amsterdam canals.

15. Every year around 15 people drown in canals

Is this article about fun facts? mhmm. I write about this one so you are aware that’s not smart to walk drunk along canals. Every year 100 people end up in canals according to Amsterdam fire department. Half of these accidents happen in the city center and on the weekend. Just be careful. It may surprise you but in most cases, there is no rail along the canal.

16. You can get stoned legally

Yup Yup! You can smoke some pot legally in Amsterdam, but.. wait? legally? mhmm, it’s a little bit confusing. Soft drugs aren’t actually legal but tolerated. For example smoking on the street is illegal and if you do so, you will get a fine. Still better than in my country of origin :]

You are allowed to smoke in a coffeeshops, although not all of them have a smoking lounge and you can smoke in your private apartment. If you are a tourist you can’t smoke in the hotels apart of a few of them in Amsterdam ( List Here ) so the only a way for you to smoke is in Coffeeshop. Here is another article about the Best Coffeeshops in Amsterdam and I mention my favorite ones with the smoking area. ( List of The Best Coffeeshops in Amsterdam ) But to give you a short tip – my favorite coffeeshop is The Stud and you are allowed to smoke there.

In general, authorities in the Netherlands turn a blind eye for the personal use of marihuana. Even if you smoke a joint somewhere in the park you won’t have any problems. Just don’t smoke on the main street in Amsterdam, you know what I mean. I think they do a great job with drugs because they can control them. The same is with prostitution. To be honest you can get weed anywhere in the world. Here it is taxed and under control.

17. There are 165 canals in Amsterdam

Canals! Canals Everywhere. That’s what I love about this city, it’s full of beautiful canals. There is 165 canals in Amsterdam with a total length of over 100 km ( 60 miles ) The Canal Ring is part of UNESCO World Heritage.

18. Horse in the canal

This is a pretty fun fact. In the 19th century there were horses all over Amsterdam and often they end up in canals. Trust me, it’s not easy to pull up a horse from a deep canal. But there was one smart guy, a butcher named J.C.Sinck, he invented the machine which allowed him to pull horses up from the canal. Sometimes, unfortunately, it was too late to save the horse. If it was your horse you could buy fresh horse meat the next day in J.C.Sinck butchery.

19. Dutch people are the tallest people on the planet

It’s not a fun fact when you go to the concert or any other kind of event and you see completely nothing ^^ I have a Dutch friend who sometimes travels to China, he is a very tall man and he feels like the Gulliver surrounded by little people.

On the left Dutch Prime Minister – Mark Rutte

Dutch men on average measure 183 cm. Since 1865 Dutch people have grown 20 cm while at the same time Americans have grown only 6 cm. Scientists don’t really know why Dutch people grow tall that fast. Maybe it is because of their high diary diet.

20. Amsterdam is a Coffee Valhalla

Photo by edar || Pixabay

According to stats from the International Coffee Organization, The Netherlands is 5th in the world when it comes to coffee consumption. That’s why I feel here like at home. Coffee is the only addiction, that we all agree, we should get some more. Dutch people consume 8,4 kg coffee each year per person.

Amsterdam is a Coffee paradise, and there are hundreds of beautiful small cafes. Don’t confuse with coffeeshop – in coffeeshop you buy weed. I won’t tell you which cafe is the best, because there are so many any probably I still don’t know some gems on Amsterdam’s map. Just walk around and you will find something very cozy and relaxing. I used to search lists of the best cafes in Amsterdam, but I was surprised to find out that these that I found accidentally my favorites.

21. Every year 10.000 bikes are taken out of canals.

There are many sources of information on this and I found numbers from 10.000 to 15.000. Come back to number 14 on this list and there is a video of bicycle fishing.

I have seen also regular people who with the use of a very strong magnet try to pull up metal things from a canal and often it’s a bicycle. When a canal is shallow and water is clear it isn’t surprising to see a bike in the water 😉 Welcome in the Netherlands.

22. There are more women than men in Amsterdam

Now all the men have a smile on their faces 🙂 Yes, this is true. For 100 men in Amsterdam, there are 145 women. If you are single men, grab your backpack and go to Amsterdam 🙂 Women in Amsterdam aren’t housewife type, most of them have a successful carrier, they run business and they are independent.

23. There are no curtains

Yes! In most cases, people even on the ground floor don’t have any curtains and you can see everything in their houses. In the beginning, it felt weird for me and the first thing I did, when I moved here, I bought curtains. I couldn’t stop staring in people’s houses, ok, I still can’t stop. And it was very surprising to me that no one stares like me. It seems to be normal and people get used to this.

I don’t know if that’s a truth, but I heard a story, why it’s that way. Years ago when in Amsterdam most men were sailors and they weren’t at home for long periods of time, they didn’t have curtains so neighbors could check if their wife were faithful 🙂 Local teamwork!

24. Amsterdam is one of the safest cities in the world

People often ask me if in fact Amsterdam is a safe city and to be honest I have never had any problem in Amsterdam and in The Netherlands in general. You may think that because of diversity, many nationalities, religions, as well and legalized weed and prostitution there could be some tension. Nothing further from the truth. Amsterdam is very quiet and you are safe here. In fact, in Safe City Index from 2015 Amsterdam ranked 5th in the ranking of the safest cities in the world.

Dutch Village with colorful wooden houses and church


The only (low risk) things you should be aware of is bike theft and pickpocketing.

25. There are 200 coffeeshops in Amsterdam itself

Nowadays there are +/- 200 coffeeshops in Amsterdam. There is less coffeeshops in The Netherlands every year. Imagine that in 2005 there was 729 coffeeshop in Amsterdam itself. Why there are only 200 now? It’s because of recent drug regulations.

Grey Area Coffeeshop

In 2012 there was implemented a policy that allows municipalities to ban tourists from coffeeshops. In some regions in the south of the Netherlands, you are not allowed to buy weed as long as you don’t have a Dutch document. The city council take up a decision on whether to implement this policy or not. Some municipalities allow you to buy weed only if you live within a 150km radius.

In 2008 the Dutch government introduced a new law that won’t allow coffeeshops in a distance of fewer than 250 meters from schools. Because of this new rule only in Amsterdam, 43 coffeeshops were closed. There was a discussion about this new law because customers under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to buy weed anyway, so this new law wouldn’t change much. However, it was implemented.

Weed is Legalized in The Netherlands since 1970. I like this idea because thanks to that Dutch separate soft and hard drugs and they have weed under control.

26. Why Orange Colour?

You may think why Orange is a National Dutch color? There is in fact no orange on their flag. The Colours of Dutch Flag are blue, white and red, so what’s up?

Photo by Antonio Olmedo || Flickr

Orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family. It comes from the 16th century from the name of Dutch Kind, Willem van Oranje. He was the first one of the family House of Orange-Nassau.

I am sure you have seen football games of the Dutch national team and their orange color t-shirts. But the biggest event where you can see their orange souls is King’s Day, on the 27th of April. It’s a day when the whole Netherlands celebrate and you won’t find anyone without an orange colour.

27. Parrot swarm in Amsterdam

When walking around Amsterdam and most often in Vondelpark, you will notice beautiful green parrots. It’s funny because when you think about parrots you bring memories of a very warm climate – definitely not a Dutch climate.

There are more than 4000 parakeets in Amsterdam. They came here with sailors and they decided they like the Netherlands.

28. Every Building in Amsterdam is supported by Wooden Poles

As you already know half of the Netherlands in under a sea level. Most of Amsterdam is under sea level. It’s not easy to build on that kind of muddy soil. Because of that Dutch invented a system of supporting wooden and concrete poles, they put under the building. They measure as much as 20 meters and provide stabilization for construction.

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