As you walk down the Damrak from Centraal Station, you'll be heading toward the commercial center of Amsterdam and the place where most visitors organically converge—the Dam, the heart of the city since a dam was built over the Amstel in the 13th century. Home to the Royal Palace (Het Koninklijk Paleis), the 15th-century Nieuwe Kerk (church), and the oddly phallic National Monument, the Dam itself is a bit anticlimactic, but it plays a role as a focal point for protests and celebrations. There are lots of international-chain shopping opportunities in the pedestrianized Nieuwendijk and Kalverstraat leading off the Dam. Top cultural stops here include the Amsterdam Museum, as well as the peaceful Begijnhof, the best known of the hofjes, or almshouses built round a central courtyard. The entrance to the latter can be found off graceful Spui, which is the literary headquarters of the city–-it's a beautiful square with a clutch of great bookshops, and it hosts famous book and art markets.
- Photo: © Halie Cousineau/ Fodors Travel
- Photo: Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodors Travel
- Photo: © Ross Brinkerhoff / Fodors Travel
- Photo: © Halie Cousineau / Fodors Travel
- Photo: Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock
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