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Amsterdam’s Royal Palace — Why it was called the World’s Eighth Wonder

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Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam
Royal Palace Amsterdam (Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam)

Amsterdam Royal Palace on Dam Square (Paleis op de Dam)

The Amsterdam Royal Palace on Dam Square in the center of Amsterdam was originally built as a city hall for Amsterdam’s mayors and magistrates.

It was designed in the 17th century by Jacob van Campen and built on 13,659 wooden piles driven deep into the sandy soil. In Amsterdam this construction technique is still necessary and used today.

The building was built in 1648 as the town hall of Amsterdam and became a Royal Palace in 1808 when King Lodewijk Napoleon, the first king of Holland, moved in.

The ponderous exterior of the palace – intended to convey the civic power of 17th-century Amsterdam in particular and the Dutch Republic in general – belies its magnificent interior.

The Palace is the largest and most prestigious building from the Golden Age, making it one of the Netherlands’ most important monuments.

Officially known in Dutch as the Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam (Royal Palace Amsterdam), it is often referred to simply as Paleis op de Dam (literally, Palace on the Dam).

Still in Use as a Residence

For more than 200 years, the Royal Palace Amsterdam has been one of the residences of the Dutch head of state. The Palace is the official reception palace of King Willem-Alexander. In addition, it is open to visitors as often as possible.

The Palace plays a major role during state visits, but also other royal occasions, such as New Year’s receptions, gala dinners and award ceremonies. The most extraordinary and important of the receptions which take place there are state visits.

Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam: ‘The World’s Eight Wonder’

The poet Constantijn Huygens hyped it as ‘the world’s Eighth Wonder’, a monument to the cockiness Amsterdam felt at the dawn of its Golden Age.

However, the exterior is only really impressive when viewed from the rear — where Atlas holds his load from a great height — and you’ll have to go inside to understand what Huygens meant. This interior also helps the visitor realise that the confidence felt at the time was once laced with fear: God, the devil and their elements were always on hand to kick you in the teeth when you least expected it.

Inside the Palace, the epic Citizen’s Hall, with its decoration in grand marble and bronze that images a miniature universe, is meant to make you feel about as significant as the nibbling rats seen carved in stone over the door above the Bankruptcy Chamber. Though much of the art reflects the typically jaded humour of a people who have seen it all, the overall impression is one of deadly seriousness: one screw-up and you could end up among the grotesque carvings of the Tribunal and sentenced to die in some uniquely tortuous and public way.

Kinder, gentler displays of creativity, though, can be seen in the chimney pieces, painted by artists such as Ferdinant Bol and Govert Flinck, both pupils of Rembrandt (who, ironically, had his own sketches rejected)..
The Royal Palace Amsterdam (Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam), also known as the Palace on Dam Square (Paleis op de Dam), is the official reception palace of the Royal House.

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The Palace is open to the public as often as possible. During and before official functions the palace it is not possible to visit.

Check the available visiting dates for the Amsterdam Royal Palace.

Amsterdam Royal Palace: Address and Information

Address
Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam / Royal Palace Amsterdam
Dam square, Amsterdam

Opening Times & Tickets
Open: 10:00 am – 17:00 (10 – 5 pm)

Every day of the week, but with exceptions. The Palace is placed at the King’s disposal and is active use by the Dutch Royal House. The Palace is closed during Royal events.

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Getting There
The palace is located at Dam Square, an easy 10-minuted walk from Central Station. At the station you can also take any tram into the city to the ‘Dam’ or ‘Dam Square’ stop (First or second stop depending on which tram you take).

Disabled Access
The palace has easy wheelchair access. It includes a lift, a wheelchair-accessible toilet, and wheelchairs for the use of visitors.

Louis Napoleon

In 1806 the Republic was forced to accept Louis Napoleon, the brother of the French Emperor, as the King of Holland. He took possession of the city hall, which he converted to a royal palace, redecorating it in Empire style.

In the course of the 20th centry, Louis Napoleon’s modifications were reversed and the palace was restored to its original state of a government building based on classical models. However, many of Louis Napoleon’s furnishings are still on view today.

At the King’s Disposal

The Royal Palace on the Dam is one of the three palaces (Huis ten Bosch and Noordeinde being the others) which the State has placed at the King’s disposal by Act of Parliament. It is used mainly for entertaining and official functions, for example state visits, the King’s New Year reception and other official receptions. Every year, it provides the setting for the presentation of the Erasmus Prize, the Royal Grant to Painting and the Prince Claus Prize.

– Source: cited from older version of this page: The Dutch Royal House

The palace is also used on National Memorial day, May 4th, when the Dutch remember those who suffered and died under the Nazi German occupation during WWII. The King and his entourage walk from the palace to the National Monument at the opposite end of Dam Square, where they participate in a wreath-laying ceremony.

Royal Palace no longer white

A comparison between the 1668 painting of the palace by Jan van Kessel, and the current photograph above shows that the building has drastically changed color over the years.

Amsterrdam Royal Palace
Painted by Jan van Kessel, in 1668, the Amsterdam Town Hall (now the Royal Palace) still sports its original color. (Incidentally, note that this picture clearly shows the origin of the name Amsterdam: a dam in the river Amstel)

The palace was built using Bentheimer – a sandstone that originally has a white appearance with a slight yellowish gleam. Unfortunately, while the stone is strong enough, it is very susceptible to weathering, which accounts for the palace’s current grey/brownish appearance.

While the palace’s interior was recently renovated, it was decided — largely for financial reasons — not to bring back the palace’s erstwhile white appearance.

Cleaning the building had been considered before the most recent renovation, but the cost — estimated at €100 million, was considered prohibitive. In addition, there is a possibility the cleaning process could damage the stones.

Jacob van Campen, architect of the Royal Palace Amsterdam

Jacob van Campen, architect of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Royal Palace during the Second World War

Amsterdam’s Royal Palace during the Second World War

Other things to see and do at Dam Square

Discover what other things you can see and do at Dam Square

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About This Article

Category: Dam Square, Old City Center, What to See and Do
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An Amsterdammer last updated this post on CET (Central European Time)

   
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