Amsterdam, the city that knows no boundaries


There’s a new trend that has been brewing in Amsterdam when it comes to branding the city to tourists, and that’s making tourist attractions that are not actually in Amsterdam part of the city when it is convenient to do so (*cash register sounds*).

The cities of IJmuiden, Bloemendaal and Zandvoort on the coast are now just ‘Amsterdam Beach’, although they are closer to the bigger city of Haarlem, which is sometimes casually annexed to what is now being referred to as ‘The Greater Amsterdam Area’ by city marketing people. Schiphol Airport has been called Amsterdam Airport for ages although it is not in Amsterdam and the ‘Bulb Region’ again closer to Haarlem is the ‘Amsterdam Flower Strip’. Oddly enough, the most ‘bulbous’ region of the country is actually north of there, but that’s just inconvenient.

The lovely castle of Muiderslot 15 kilometres from Amsterdam is being sold to tourists as ‘Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot’. The number of foreign visitors doubled in 2012 from 10,000 to 20,000 (*cash register sounds*).

Although Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, it’s never really marketed as such, probably because the Dutch refer to Amsterdam as that big city over there and not as ‘the nation’s capital’. However, this absorbing of non Amsterdam attractions makes many an Amsterdam resident uncomfortable. What gives Amsterdam the right to poach tourist attractions? Money? I mean Schiphol, OK, it’s tough to pronounce, but the beaches 20 kilometres away? That’s overstretching boundaries.

According to Amsterdam FM radio, Amsterdam presents itself abroad as being a city that is much bigger than its actual municipal boundaries. If the locals of other cities don’t mind the poaching and enjoy the money like Muiderslot does, then fine, Amsterdam just got that much bigger (*cash register sounds*).

While us mortals in Amsterdam still have to use normal city limits, we are all the dupe of some city marketing we can’t believe in ourselves because we know it’s not Amsterdam. Why are the 1.5 million tourists that come to Amsterdam every year being treated like morons? It almost looks to me as if we are ashamed of quaint villages like Zaandam with its famous windmills and its having housed Russian Tsar Peter the Great for a week. And will this branding go so far as to make the city of Utrecht 30 min away by train a suburb of Amsterdam? Don’t laugh, that’s where this megalomaniac trend is headed.

To quote any good Dutch person talking to tourists and expats: Amsterdam isn’t the Netherlands. Hell, Amsterdam is not even itself anymore.

(Link:, Photo of Muiderslot Castle by Coanri/Rita, some rights reserved)


  1. Annica says:

    “Although Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands”
    Ehm… excuse me?!

  2. BM says:

    Although the constitution does not say “Amsterdam is the capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands”, article 32 does explicitly name Amsterdam as the capital:

    “Upon assuming the royal prerogative the King shall be sworn in and inaugurated as soon as possible in the capital city, Amsterdam, at a public and joint session of the two Chambers of the Parliament.”

  3. inge says:

    We, Rotterdammers and “Hagenaars”, the (former in my case ) inhabitants of
    The Hague always knew Amsterdammers are full of it. With wind I mean. Or is it gas?
    And yes, Annica, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and they have this misconception that the rest of the Netherlands is build around them.
    Zielig he!

  4. Orangemaster says:

    I don’t know of any other country that has such bad vibes towards its capital. The Americans don’t, Canadians don’t, the French can be a bit sour about Paris but it is still beautiful, the Belgians will complain a bit about Brussels.

    Amsterdam bashing won’t change a thing, especially not what foreigners think of Amsterdam.

  5. inge says:

    Dear Orangemaster, Amsterdam is without a doubt a beautiful and vibrant city I never said it isn’t.

  6. I don’t have statistical data, but most Mexicans that are not from Mexico City have a whole set of prejudices and horrible things to say about the inhabitants of the capital. On the other hand, the people from Mexico City have this attitude that civilization stops 60 km away from the Zocalo. So it is a well balanced system. In a way.

  7. Green_mantle says:

    Orangemaster “…that has such bad vibes towards its capital. The Americans don’t…”
    You’re kidding right? One of the most common comments about Washington, DC(USA capital), would be some variation of Lisa Simpson’s “The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some two hundred years ago and very little has changed; it stank then and it stinks now.” And Lisa likes swamps!

    Now, the average American may find the monuments stunning, awe inspiring, beautiful, etc., but the bile, hatred, loathing, etc. being directed internally toward Washington DC as the seat of government?

    That being said, the US has an interesting national characteristic, kind of a family thing, we may slam our city, state, whatever, but probably not safe to do if you’re not one of us… We may hate them, but they’re family.

  8. Branko Collin says:

    Surely when Lisa said that she was referring to the federal government rather than the city and its inhabitants?

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