Like Hollywood is internationally known and has gained popularity thanks to the big Hollywood sign in Mount Lee during the 70s, during the 20th Century Amsterdam has gained some fame and popularity with the IAmsterdam sign in Museumplein, with the Rijksmuseum in the background.
The I Amsterdam sign can be found in Schiphol Airport, second I Amsterdam sign can be found in Sloterplas Lake in West Amsterdam. The third is next to the Eye Museum. Even though the sign used to be in Museumplein, it was very controversial and in December 2019 was removed by decree.
Nowadays many tourists who come to Amsterdam are confused and wondering what happened to the famous IAmsterdam sign, an icon of the city, famous worldwide by now. What some of them don’t know is that the sign is still alive, but placed somewhere else. They also don’t know why did they chance such a touristic spot. Here it is why:
I Amsterdam Sign
The I Amsterdam sign was placed in Museumplein in 2004. It was a project, a campaign created by Kesselkramer, a company in charge of Amsterdam publicity, communication and representing the city in the whole world.
For years this company has been in charge of making public decisions for the city and its prestige: including coming up with the idea in 2004 of adding some identity to the city by including a spot that people would identify, be included on photos and later on selfies, etc.
I Amsterdam is the brand of the city of Amsterdam, a company created to represent all the official events and a place where tourists can find souvenirs, information about the city and more.
The I Amsterdam sign is both a publicity sign and an identity sign. This already started as a controversial move not supported by all the political parties in Amsterdam.
Everything changed in 2019 when a motion-filled by one of the left parties of Amsterdam was approved: the sign had to be removed from there to avoid the accumulation of tourists in Museumplein among other things.
Removal of I Amsterdam Sign
There are many reasons why the party decided to create this motion and sign the petition for the removal. Among these, here there is a list of reasons:
- The GroenLinks (Green Left Wing) party was elected in 2018 and with it, the idea of removing the sign started. It was this party with the city council that decided to bring the citizens of Amsterdam to the booth to vote for the removal of the sign.
- The citizens of Amsterdam voted unanimously for the removal of the sign, some of them because of the accumulation of tourists and the reduction of the mobility for cyclist. Basically, it meant too many people in a very reduced space of time.
- “Disneyfication of Amsterdam”: some people, and apparently most Amsterdammers, think that the sign makes the capital of culture and history of northern Europe was going to become another version of Disney with signs and selfie-sticks all over.
- Sense of Individualism: according to the Groenlinks party, the sign only brings a sense of individualism in a country that tends to go for a more socialist approach and more equality. This is completely arguable but this is part of the reasons. Read more about the socialist approach of the Netherlands.
- The message of the city has to change: no more only tourism and banalities and more history, solidarity and identity.
Where to Find the I Amsterdam Sign
At the end of 2019, the sign was removed and two were placed in different locations in Amsterdam, for tourist to be able to enjoy the sign and keep taking photos but in a less-public and representative locations:
At the beginning of the creation of the sign, this sign was moved to tour around the country for different events, celebrations and festivals as a way of giving publicity to the city. It was then that was established, after around a year, in the middle of Museumplein.
The next two locations were:
- Schiphol Airport: this is a permanent location, right next to where most tourists tend to be: at Schiphol Airport, right in front of the door and Schiphol plaza, Outside Arrivals 1. This is definitely the new favourite locations of the two because of how easy to find and how easily accessible it is for literally everybody, almost compulsory!
- Sloterplas: This is the second location, specifically by the Sloterplas lake in West. This sign wasn’t thought for tourists specifically but more for publicity of the city, mostly in movement, for events: these letters are hard to be photographed and are designed for any activity in movement. Besides, the location is far away from the city centre and therefore from most tourists. And, as original as it is, it is not the same.
- Amsterdam Eye Museum – You have to take a ferry from Centraal Station to Amsterdam Noord. I Amsterdam sign is just next to Amsterdam Toren and Eye Museum. This is the closest I Amsterdam sign from Centraal Station.
Facts about the I Amsterdam Sign
If you are curious to know more about this sign that evolved from being a simple advertisement to a complex symbol of the whole nation and not only Amsterdam, there you go:
- High (high enough): The sign in Museumplein was 2 meters high and 24 meters long. Nowadays this is the same measures for the one in Schiphol. It allowed people to climb on top and inside them to take photos and make them more original thank just standing.
- Weight: Each letter is about 250 kg, which would explain why to many people could climb them and they wouldn’t end up on the floor or damaged and lasting over 15 years in the same location.
- Missing Letter: According to Dutch Amsterdam, in February 2010, two of the letters ‘went missing.’
- Forbidden to Climb: Besides I have already mentioned that the letter are especially good to climb them and take photos on top of them, these are not meant to be climbed as the stickers around the statues. This is obviously ignored by tourists and the law is not enforced.
- Curious fact: there were over 5000 selfies taken every single day. Can you imagine how many tourists that is? Anyway, even though the location has changed right now, it is still very popular.
- Privat Property (sort of): The sign belongs to a company, which means all the rights are for them and if there is any benefit or something related, they have to be paid. On the good side, you can tag your photo on IG #iamsterdam and you will be featured on their account.
- Plagiarism or Inspiration: Many cities around the world have copied Amsterdam: I know of this very small sign in Jerusalem copying it but it is frequent. All in all, don’t you think that maybe the sign was inspired by the Hollywood sign?
- IAmsterdam Card: The same company that created the IAmsterdam sign created the I amsterdam City Card a card with some good deals if you are planning your trip to Amsterdam.
To Sum Up…
Inevitably the sign has become a part of the city and a way of representing the country all over the world. However, there are many ways of taking this, the touristic side and the local side. I have talked to many of my friends from Amsterdam and asked them what they thought of it and what were the real reasons to vote against the sign being in Museumplein. These are the two points of view:
In Favour of the Sign
Most people in favour of the sign staying in Museumplein were mainly either tourists. In fact, if you ask people who work for tourism, it is true that they don’t get anything but an agglomeration of people out of the sign.
Amsterdam has enough beauty and enough events and activities going on for all tastes and to entertain anyone all year round (if you run out of ideas you only have to read our blog to find thousands!) but in any case, they don’t get any economical profit.
Tourists, however, have this expectation and the preconceived idea that they will find it and they feel betray and disappointed when it is not in its iconic place in front of the Rijksmuseum.
Maybe, there should be a movement or more information to tell tourists beforehand were to find it and why it has been removed to avoid confusion.
Against the Sign
Most Amsterdammers, those who vote YES for the removal of the sign, were against the sign remaining in Museumplein. As I said before, there are many reasons why this is the way it is:
- Too many tourists in a public area
- Too many people thinking Amsterdam is just that
- Too many people in the bike lane next to the sign making Dutch cyclist get mad every single day of the year.
However, think about this: what if your hometown or your country was famous because of a Coca Cola ad that has been in the same place for over a decade?
I believe they have their full right to want their city to be represented by its museums, architecture and location more than an add invented by a company, just saying. It is pop culture more than Dutch culture.