This square is the very spot where Amsterdam was founded around 1270. Today pigeons, tourists, buskers and the occasional funfair (complete with Ferris wheel) take over the grounds. It's still a national gathering spot, and if there's a major speech or demonstration it's held here.

Long before it hosted fun and games, the square was split into two sections: Vissersdam, a fish market where the Bijenkorf department store now stands, and Vijgendam, probably named for the figs and other exotic fruits unloaded from ships. Various markets and events have been held here through the ages, including executions – you can still see holes on the front of the Royal Palace where the wooden gallows were affixed.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Medieval Centre & Red Light District attractions

1. Madame Tussauds Amsterdam

0.03 MILES

Sure, Madame Tussauds wax museum is overpriced and cheesy, but its focus on local culture makes it fun: 'meet' the Dutch royals, politicians, painters and…

2. Royal Palace

0.03 MILES

Opened as a town hall in 1655, this resplendent building became a palace in the 19th century. The interiors gleam, especially the marble work – at its…

3. Nationaal Monument

0.05 MILES

The obelisk on the Dam's eastern side was built in 1956 to commemorate WWII's fallen. Fronted by two lions, its pedestal has a number of symbolic statues:…

4. Nieuwe Kerk

0.08 MILES

This 15th-century late-Gothic basilica is only ‘new’ in relation to the Oude Kerk – the city's Old Church, dating from 1306. A few monumental items…

5. Kalverstraat

0.11 MILES

You're sure to end up on this crowded street at some point. Named after the livestock markets held here in the 17th century, Kalverstraat is now a place…

6. Below the Surface

0.11 MILES

During the construction of Amsterdam's 2018-opened Noord/Zuidlijn (North–South metro line), more than 134,000 archaeological finds were unearthed from…

7. Papegaai

0.13 MILES

An unexpected oasis in the sea of consumerism on Kalverstraat, the curious Petrus en Pauluskerk, aka Papegaai, is a Catholic church from the 17th century…

8. Rokin

0.13 MILES

South of the Dam, this street is part of the route most visitors take from Centraal Station into town, the name being a corruption of rak-in (inward reach…