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

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Royal Palace Amsterdam
The Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam started out as the city’s town hall

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 by Jacob van Campen in the 17th century and built on 13,659 wooden piles driven deep into the sandy soil. This method of construction is still necessary and used in Amsterdam today.

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

The palace’s ponderous exterior – meant 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 most important monuments in the Netherlands.

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

‘Paleis op de 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 an important role during state visits, but also during other royal occasions, such as New Year’s receptions, gala dinners and award ceremonies. The most extraordinary and important receptions that take place here 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)..

Video: Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam

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.

Skip the Line Ticket & Audio Guide: Amsterdam Royal Palace

Follow in the footsteps of kings and queens and explore the Royal Palace of Amsterdam with an informative audio guide. Learn more about the history of Amsterdam in the Dutch “Golden Age.”

The free audio guide is available in  Dutch, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, or Chinese.

Most visitors spend about one hour on a visit to the palace.

The Palace is open to the public as often as possible. It welcomes about 300,000 visitors a year. Note: On some days, namely during and before official functions, it is not possible to visit the palace.

DutchAmsterdam recommends GetYourGuide:

Amsterdam Royal Palace: Address and Information

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.

Skip-the-line ticket.

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, King of Holland

In 1806 the Republic was forced to recognise Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor, as King of Holland. He took possession of the Town Hall, which he transformed into a royal palace and redecorated in the Empire style.

During the 20th century, the changes made by Louis Napoleon were reversed and the palace was restored to its original state as a government building in the classical style. However, many of Louis Napoleon’s furnishings can still be seen 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 Remembrance Day, May 4, when the Dutch commemorate those who suffered and died under German occupation during World War II. The king and his entourage walk from the palace to the National Monument at the other 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 photo above shows that the color of the building has changed drastically 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 of Bentheimer, a sandstone that originally has a white appearance with a slight yellowish tinge. Unfortunately, although the stone is strong enough, it is very susceptible to weathering, which is why today the palace has a grey-brownish appearance.

When the exterior of the palace was renovated from 2009 to 2011, it was decided – mainly for financial reasons – not to restore the palace to its former white appearance.

Before the last renovation, cleaning the building had been considered, but the cost, estimated at 100 million euros, was deemed too high. There is also the possibility that the cleaning process could damage the stones.

Video: Jacob van Campen, architect of the Royal Palace Amsterdam

Video: Jacob van Campen, architect of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam

Video: Amsterdam Royal Palace during the Second World War

Amsterdam’s Royal Palace during the Second World Wa

Other things to see and do at Dam Square

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

More Amsterdam Tourist Information

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