History of the Royal Palace Amsterdam
The Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) located on the ‘Dam’ (Dam Square) in Amsterdam, is one of the three palaces still used by the Royal Family. Paleis Huis ten Bosch and Noordeinde Paleis being the other two. It is very hard to miss and I’d wager that any visitor who has come to Amsterdam will have seen this building. The exterior’s yellowish sandstone turned grey/brownish over the centuries.
While the Royal Palace in Amsterdam isn’t King Willem-Alexander’s place of residence, he occasionally receives important guests here. It is used for state visits, award ceremonies, and other official receptions. When the palace is not being used by the royal family, it is open to the public regularly host exhibitions, including the Royal Award for Painting each autumn.
The palace was built by Jacob van Campen to serve as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age back in the 17th century. In 1808, French conqueror Napoleon appointed his brother Louis as King of the Netherlands and Louis took up residence here. He took possession of the city hall, which he converted to a royal palace, redecorating it in Empire style.
As the empire started to crumble, Louis made a hasty retreat, leaving many of his opulent furnishings behind which are still on view today. In 1813, Prince William, later King William I, returned the Palace to the city of Amsterdam. However, after his investiture, the new King realized the importance of having a home in the capital and asked the city authorities to make the Palace available to him once again. It was not until 1936 that it became state property.
Following the course of the 20th century, his modifications were reversed and the palace was restored to its original state of a government building based on classical models.
When you walk upstairs the first area you arrive into is the main grand hall known as the Citizens’ Hall (Burgerzaal).
This impressive area has marble floors inlaid with maps of the western and eastern hemispheres. You’ll find a sculpture of Atlas carrying the celestial globe on his shoulder and amazing chandeliers. As you walk around the first floor, you’ll see other rooms including the City Council Chamber where you can find various lavish furnishings. The Magistrates’ Court is also particularly interesting, with carved reliefs that date back to the mid-XVII century.
A self-guided tour to me was necessary and quite informative. I really admired the marble floors, magnificent paintings, delicate sculptures, and especially the gigantic chandeliers – imagine having to clean them? With the audio, you really learn about its royal history.
Filming was not allowed inside but the Palace has a Youtube channel featuring a lot of nice videos so you can see the interior and more about history. iAmsterdam has put out a post 10 Hidden Secrets of the Royal Palace Amsterdam.
While visitors are not allowed on the famous balcony, you do walk by it and this is the closest I’ll ever be to it.
The balcony of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam is where Queen Juliana announced the new queen to the people and it is also where Prince Willem-Alexander kissed Princess Maxima on their wedding day.
Admission is €10 & kids under 18 are free. Museumkaart holders are also free. Included in the entrance fee is a self-guided audio tour in which you select your language of choice. I believe proper one-hour guided tours can be arranged at an extra cost [outside of Corona period]. There were restrictions on having to pre-book online (we did that a few hours before), how many people were in a room at a time (often limited to 3) so you occasionally had to wait a minute before entering the next room – but that was fine. Our entry was at 3:30 pm and when we left we were one of the last few still left in the building so it was very quiet.
When you step outside the Palace, you are located on the Dam.
It is also where you can find the National Monument, a white stone pillar dedicated to the victims of World War II and the XV century Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). Though it is no longer a functional church, it is still used for royal events such as weddings and coronations. The most recent high profile event in the church was the coronation of Willem Alexander in 2013, following the abdication of Queen Beatrix after 33 years on the throne.
The palace and Dam Square are also used on National Memorial Day, May 4th, when the Dutch remember those who suffered and died under the Nazi German occupation during WWII. The King and his entourage walk from the palace to the National Monument at the opposite end of Dam Square, where they participate in a wreath-laying ceremony.
Dam is also famous for the daily protests and police and pigeons. You’ll always see groups (sometimes a single person) holding signs – typically about political and social issues. On June 1st, nearly 5,000 people attended the “Black Lives Matter” protest against racism and police brutality in the US and EU. The Dam Square protest was widely criticized because protestors were not able to keep 1.5m from each other, particularly towards the middle of the crowd.
I shared that I visited here with a few Dutch friends – all said they’ve never been. Perhaps I’ve inspired them to go check out their historical palace open to the public instead of simply walking by on the way to the shopping streets.