The canals of Amsterdam are as typical a symbol of the Netherlands as are tulips, windmills and wooden clogs, and have earned the Dutch capital the nickname the 'Venice of the North'. The waterway network was conceived as a huge town planning project in the early seventeenth century, which encompassed residential, trade and defense elements. This was the Golden Age for the country, when economic prosperity was at its height and Amsterdam was the world's commercial centre and focus of scientific and philosophical thought. Dutch art, military and science led the field and the city – whose name literally means 'dam on the Rive Amstel' – was one of the world's most important ports.
Today, the capital of the Netherlands is open and tolerant and combines modernity with a solid historical culture. The Rijksmuseum, with its fine collection of paintings Vermeer and Rembrandt and other masters, and the Van Gogh Museum, are both world famous. And the beautiful sixteenth- and seventeenth-century architecture of the old town makes the city a delightful and romantic location for a short break.
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