From the outside, it is somewhat hard to believe that these ponderous premises were declaimed by poet and diplomat Constantijn Huygens as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." It was built between 1648 and 1665 as the largest secular building on the planet. From the inside, its magnificent interior inspires another brand of disbelief: this palace was actually built as a mere city hall. Golden Age artistic greats such as Ferdinand Bol, Govert Flinck and Jan Lievens were called
in for the decorating (Rembrandt's sketches were rejected). In the building's public entrance hall, the Burgerzaal, the world was placed quite literally at one's feet: two maps inlaid in the marble floor show Amsterdam as the center of the world, and as the center of the universe.
The building has remained the Royal Palace ever since Napoléon's brother squatted there in 1808, and it's one of three palaces at the disposal of Queen Beatrix, who hosts official receptions and state visits here. Royal memories of Amsterdam are probably a bit mixed. Her wedding in 1966 was disrupted by a radical student group throwing smoke bombs at her carriage, and in 1980 her coronation was derailed by riots on the Dam. And at the 2010 Dodenherdenking (Remembrance of the Dead) ceremony by the National Monument, a man screamed during the two-minute silence prompting a panic and stampede among the crowd, who no doubt feared a rerun of the 2009 Queen's Day tragedy, when a gunman drove through the route of the royal procession killing seven. The Palace hosts art exhibitions and displays on the history of the building itself. Official occasions mean opening times can vary.
Dam, Amsterdam, 1001 AM, Netherlands