The Dam Square marks the spot where the city of Amsterdam was born, sometime in the thirteenth century, with the building of a Dam connecting the east and west shores of the river Amstel. The Dam on the Amstel gave the city of Amsterdam its original name: "Aemstelledamme".
Streets and shops
Nowadays the Dam is a lively square in the centre of Amsterdam, where many events of national importance are celebrated and several of the most popular shopping streets in Amsterdam meet. The Kalverstraat, the Nieuwendijk, Damstraat, Warmoestraat, Rokin and Damrak are the foremost shopping avenues leading to the Dam Square. The Bijenkorf is a popular luxury warehouse that has its main entrance on the Dam.
Immediately noticeable on the Dam Square is the large cone shaped monument located on the eastern half of it. The National Monument on the Dam was erected there in 1956, to commemorate the many lives lost during the second World War. The National Monument plays a central role in the yearly televised commemoration ceremony on the fourth of May, presided by the Dutch Royals (Nationale Dodenherdenking).
Royal Palace Amsterdam
On the western half of the Dam the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam) dominates the scenery. The Royal Palace was originally built in the Dutch golden age, the seventeenth century, as a prestigious new Amsterdam city hall.
It wasn't officially a Palace until 1808 when emperor Napoleon's younger brother Lodewijk, took up residence there, after being installed as the king of the Netherlands. After the short-lived kingship of Napoleon's younger brother, the building would eventually be passed into the hands of the Dutch Royal family in 1815, who still use it as palace for royal receptions and ceremonial events. The Royal Palace is also open to visitors most days of the week.
Next to the Royal Palace, on the north-west part of the Dam, the fifteenth century church Nieuwe Kerk is the most prominent eye catcher. First opened in 1409, it was as a larger alternative to the original Amsterdam church, built to meet the demands of a quickly growing city population. Since the 1980's the Nieuwe Kerk is no longer in use for religious services. Nowadays the Nieuwe Kerk is used mainly for exhibitions, cultural events, and occasionally the ceremonies of the Dutch royal family.
The exact time the Dam was built is uncertain, but general consensus is that it must have been some time around 1270. The Dam connected the first settlements on the Amstel river's banks which were located on the current Warmoestraat and Nieuwendijk.
The top of the Dam was gradually made wider over the years, as it's function slowly shifted to town square, where several markets were held, and justice was spoken and executed. The first city hall was built there in the fourteenth century, making the Dam the political centre of Amsterdam. The new city hall, later to become the Royal Palace would also be built on the Dam.
As the Amsterdam's main town square the Dam has been at the centre of many events of historic relevance in recent centuries, but above all it has remained a popular meeting place for the residents of Amsterdam.