10 surprising facts about Amsterdam you might not already know ...

Amsterdam is a city full of surprises.  Here are 10 surprising facts about Amsterdam you might not already know …

  1. A million people live within the city limits and there are as many bikes as people.  The Dutch are very friendly until they get on their bikes.  Take care out there!
  2. Only 50% of Amsterdam’s inhabitants are actually Dutch – the remainder are made up of 176 nationalities, making it one of the most diverse cities in the world.
  3. The houses are built on reclaimed swamp land and are all propped up on stilts of pinewood buried below the waterline to prevent rot.  Some of them are rotting though and the government funds concrete caps to sure them up – an expensive and difficult process.
  4. There are strict restrictions on the external house wall paint colours to preserve the beautiful look of the city’s canals and streets.
  5. It is forbidden to take pictures of the sex workers in the Red Light District.  The law is strictly enforced and if you break it,  you risk having your camera/phone taken off you and smashed to bits whilst a cup of urine (kept ever ready just inside the door to each of the red light windows) is tipped over your head.
  6. The canal houses were deliberately built leaning forward so that merchandise could be hauled up the building without risking damage to the windows, which were the most expensive part of the building.
  7. Most houses have a crank hook at the highest pint of the gable which used to be for the merchants to haul up their goods to the storage rooms at the top of the house.  These days, you see furniture and crates being lifted up the same way – very practical in these tall, narrow houses.
  8. The houses are so narrow because taxes were raised on the width of the house, but not the height.  The narrowest (No 7) is just a door’s width – but it is shaped like a pizza slice at the back – clever!
  9. Ducks make their nest in boats sometimes and if they do, they have squatter’s rights – you have to wait for them to leave before you can have your boat back!
  10. The commonest cause of death in Amsterdam is not, as you might think, drug related.  Twenty to thirty people drown in the canals every year, many of them in the process of relieving themselves after a night out on the town.  What a way to go?
10 Surprising Facts about Amsterdam
Facades are fiercely protected - this one is being re-built from behind.
10 Surprising Facts about Amsterdam
Ducks have squatter's rights in boats!

If you like your facts and figures, a visit to the Museum Het Grachtenhuis is a good place to find out more interesting facts about Amsterdam.