Home to the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) and the Nieuwe Kerk, Dam Square (or just Dam), is Amsterdam's main square. It traces its roots to the 12th century and the dam built over the Amstel (hence the city's name). The waters of the Damrak (the continuation of the Amstel) once reached right up to the Dam, with ships and barges sailing to the weigh house. Folks came here to trade, talk, protest, and be executed. In the 17th century it was hemmed in by houses and packed
with markets. Behind the Nieuwe Kerk there's an atmospheric warren of alleys with proeflokaal (liquor tasting house) De Drie Fleschjes (the Three Small Bottles) on Gravenstraat dating from 1650. In the 19th century the Damrak was filled in to form the street leading to Centraal Station, and King Louis, Napoléon's brother, demolished the weigh house in 1808 because it spoiled the view from his bedroom window in the Royal Palace. Today the Dam is a bustling meeting point with street performers and fairs on high days and holidays.
National Monument. The towering white obelisk-shaped object opposite the Palace on the other side of Damrak, the National Monument was erected in 1956 as a memorial to the Dutch soldiers who died in World War II. Designed by architect J. J. P. Oud (who thought that De Stijl minimalism was in keeping with the monument's message), it's the focal point for Remembrance Day (on May 4th) that commemorates Dutch lives lost in wars and peacekeeping missions around the world. Every year, the Queen walks from the Koninklijk Paleis to the monument and lays flowers. The monument contains 12 urns: 11 are filled with earth from all the Dutch provinces, and the 12th contains earth from the former colonies (Indonesia, Surinam, and the Antilles). Oud designed the steps to be used as seating, and today it's still a favored rest spot and a great place to watch the world go by. Follow Damrak south from Centraal Station. Raadhuisstraat leads from Dam behind the Palace to intersect main canals., 1012.