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Royal Palace Amsterdam Dam Square

By far the stateliest structure on Dam Square, Amsterdam's historical centre, is the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace). It was constructed by Jacob van Campen, between 1648 to 1655, as an extravagant town hall. It was designed to reflect the success of The Netherlands' most prosperous era, "the Dutch Golden Age". At the time it was the largest secular building on Earth and was labeled the "Eighth Wonder of the World". Today, the palace is one Amsterdam's few freestanding buildings at the west end of the Dam. Its 114 window facade once radiated the opulence of the great sea-faring nation. Its interior remains breathtaking and are the main reason why hundreds of thousands continue to visit every year.

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Interior Design of the Palace

For such a grand undertaking, it was only natural that the Dutch masters be the chosen decorators. Creative duties were delegated to Rembrandt's students Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck. His contemporary, Jan Lievens, was also given some of the duties. Rembrandt's own prospective sketches were rejected.

While they set about painting the ceilings, white Italian marble was laid on the floors below. Sculptures were placed strategically throughout the rooms and hallways. Evidence of the 17th-century Amsterdammers' vanity is everywhere. It can be plainly see in the opulence of the building and decor.

As you step into the public entrance hall (the Burgerzaal), for example, you'll see two maps beneath your feet; note that Amsterdam is not only at the centre of the world, but, due to the heavens painted above, also at the heart of the universe.
Picture of the palace in Dam Square


Outside the roof is capped with what are now merely reminders of the city's seafaring prowess. The pediment overlooking the Square is adorned by Flemish sculptor Artus Quellin's baroque-style ode to ocean, and atop the cupola, a golden weathervane fashioned in the shape of a Dutch sailing ship twirls in the breeze.
Front of the Royal Palace

From a Town Hall to a Royal Palace

Despite the lavish nature of the building, inside and out, it was only a town hall. That was until the early 19th century. In 1806, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was imposed as King of Holland. After holding court at The Hague and Utrecht, he moved to Amsterdam two years later. King Louis Napoleon chose to stay in the town hall. The building subsequently received a French Empire makeover.

Furnished by the French Rulers

King Louis was only here a couple of years. There is still an impressive collection of furniture remaining from his stay. This includes various tapestries, clocks and extravagant chandeliers.

Back to Dutch Rule

In 1813, the building reverted to Dutch ownership. It became the home of Prince Willem VI (later King Willem I). It's now the property of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is the official residence of the Dutch Royal Family. It is used to host royal functions. The Queen's New Year reception is one of the more renown of these functions.

Have Fun and Learn More

The palace's history is covered in great detail in a superb English-language video presentation that's shown continuously in the Magistrate's Court on the second floor. In it you'll also learn many fascinating facts relating to the building's construction, including how 13,659 wooden piles were laid in Amsterdam's boggy foundations to support the hall - a figure drilled into the minds of all Dutch schoolchildren by means of adding 1 and 9 to either end of the total number of days in a year.
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