For those who subscribe to the Knowledge is Power, rather than the Ignorance is Bliss , school of thought we offer this distilled snapshot of Amsterdam's past:
Amsterdam's history is inextricably linked to the waters that now form the mainstay of the capitals tourist industry. Back in the 12 th century the area surrounding modern-day Amsterdam was a soggy-untamed landscape of migrating lakes and shifting marshes. The local fishermen decided that they could increase their productivity by building a dam across the River Amstel. In 1275 the Count of Holland granted anyone who 'lives near the Amstel Dam' exemption form paying waterway-tax and the city was born.
Trade flourished as Amsterdam became an economic fulcrum between the Northern Baltic States and Southern Europe . Money began to pour in, but troubles were just around the corner. The ever-expanding Calvinist merchant class began to wrestle power from the catholic aristocrats.
Spain stepped-in to bolster the catholic cause, but William of Orange won independence for Amsterdam (and seven surrounding provinces) in 1578.
This new-found liberty signalled the start of Amsterdam's Golden Age, and the city soon became the cultural and economic envy of Europe . As the home of the Dutch East India Company, Amsterdam controlled global maritime trade, while Dutch painters such as Rembrandt and Frans Hals were making equally as impressive artistic waves.
Holland 's lack of colonial aggression made their foreign territories easy targets and by the 18 th century Amsterdam's global influence was beginning to wane. In 1795 Napoleon invaded and crowned his brother king.
The Netherlands attempts to remain neutral in WWII (as they has during The Great War) were thwarted by Nazi invasion in 1940. The city's sizeable Jewish population was hardest hit and it would be five long years before Amsterdam was liberated by the allies in May 1945.
During the 1950's and 1960's Amsterdam was once again enjoying the economic highlife as the capital began to shift from blue to white collar industries. Today Amsterdam's easy-going spirit and wealth of cultural treasures makes it one of the continent's best-loved weekend breaks.
Amsterdam Tourist Office: Amsterdam has six VVV Tourist offices spread across the city with the most accessible branches at: Schiphol Airport , Centraal Station (platform 2b) and their main office opposite Centraal Station (Stationsplein 10), Tel: 0 20 201 88 00.
Airport enquiries: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Tel: 800 7244 7465
Emergencies: Tel: 112
We've selected five 'essential reads' to ensure that you get the most out of your weekend break in Amsterdam .
Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank: Life in occupied Amsterdam movingly seen through youthful eyes.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier : A portrait of Dutch social mores in the 17 th century loosely hung around the subject of Vermeer's celebrated painting.
The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama: A historical look at just what makes the Dutch, Dutch.
Dutch & Flemish Paintings by Peter C. Sutton: The definitive coffee-table compendium.
Brilliant Orange : The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner : Pub Quiz winning insight into Holland 's love affair with the beautiful game.