Why Is Amsterdam The Capital Of The Netherlands?

December 24, 2020

As a Dutchman, I of course know that Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, and many foreigners probably know that as well. The strange thing is that in most countries the government is based in the capital of the country. Only this is strangely not the case in the Netherlands. So the big question is “why is Amsterdam the capital of the Netherlands?”.

Amsterdam was declared as the capital of the Netherlands in 1814 by King William I of Orange, but in 1815 this got rejected again. However, Amsterdam was always considered the capital. In 1983 Amsterdam was again incorporated into the constitution as the capital of the Netherlands.

The answer above probably still left you with some questions. Like what is the history behind making Amsterdam capital? What are the reasons for it? There is so much to know about the past and present of this great city. Therefore, I highly suggest you read on to get a complete picture behind all this. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Is Amsterdam the Capital of the Netherlands?

Yes, Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands. But the State General, Executive Branch, Supreme Court, and the Council of State of the Netherlands are situated in The Hague. That is why the question arises, whether Amsterdam or The Hague is the capital of the Netherlands.

But there is no need for such confusion. Because the official capital of the Netherlands, according to its Constitution is, Amsterdam. In its 1983 revision, article 32 states, “the King shall be sworn in and inaugurated as soon as possible in the capital city, Amsterdam”.

Then you probably wonder why the seat of the Government is in The Hague and not in Amsterdam? The answer to this question lies in the history of the Netherlands.

This is where the government of the Netherlands is housed in The Hague:

History Behind the Capital of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a distinct and interesting history when it comes to what the capital of the Netherlands is. This is because the Netherlands did not have an official capital for a long time. This later changed when Louis Napoleon, the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, moved to the Netherlands.

In 1587 the State’s General gathered in the city of Delft, but they moved to The Hague on 20th of January 1588 and stayed there till 1795. They moved to The Hague because the State’s Of Holland gathered here as well.

Because of this, you would have thought that The Hague was the capital of the Netherlands during this time, but this has never been officially declared.

When in 1806 the French Louis Napoleon was appointed Prince of the Kingdom of Holland, The Hague was still home to the government of the Netherlands. But in 1807 Louis Napoleon decided to move to the city of Utrecht because he thought living close to the sea was bad for his health.

Because the prince of the Kingdom of Holland was the center of power in the kingdom, the government moved to Utrecht as well. This made the city of Utrecht the capital of the Kingdom of Holland at that time.

Louis Napoleon was soon bored in Utrecht and thought about moving. As a result, the Amsterdam City Council offered Louis Napoleon to settle in Amsterdam. In April 1808 he moved into the town hall on the “Dam Square” in Amsterdam, and it became the Royal Palace and seat of the government.

When the French occupation was finally over in 1810, King William I returned to the Netherlands. He then decided to move the government back to The Hague, but Amsterdam maintained the capital of the Netherlands.

In 1814 Amsterdam was therefore officially named as the capital in the Dutch constitution. But this was dropped a year later because Belgium was added to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, this in order not to offend the Belgians

As a result, it was not formally clear for years that Amsterdam was the capital of the Netherlands, although it had been seen that way all this time.

Ultimately, it took until 1983 before Amsterdam was officially enshrined in the Dutch constitution as the capital of the Netherlands.

The Royal Palace in Amsterdam:

Why is Amsterdam the Capital of the Netherlands?

You now know the historical reasoning behind Amsterdam being the capital. But what are the cultural, political, and economical reasons behind it? That is what I will be discussing now.

City of capitalism:

Amsterdam is the birthplace of capitalism. It is here, where the first official capital market that is the stock market was established. It was called the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

The Dutch East India Company (VOC), the world’s first multinational company ensured the stock exchange and economic success of the Netherlands. Along with that, the trade of cheese, herring, and tulip bulbs from Amsterdam skyrocketed the economy of the Netherlands. 

The international trade of Amsterdam raised the Netherlands in the 17th century as an economic superpower and is still a hub of global trade today. Without Amsterdam, the Netherlands would not be the 4th largest economy in the European Union and 14th largest in the world today. 

Cosmopolitan city:

The laid-back nature, cultural diversity, and religious tolerance of Amsterdam make it a cosmopolitan city fit to be a country’s capital.

Amsterdam has been a cosmopolitan city since the Dutch Golden Age. In the 17th century, Jewish immigrants from Spain and Portugal fled to Amsterdam because of its relative religious tolerance. 

Most of these immigrants were intellectuals and migrants. They not only thrived in Amsterdam’s culture of trade but also contributed to the economic progress of the Netherlands during the Golden Age. 

The intellectual and religious freedom of Amsterdam, not only brought enormous wealth to the Netherlands in the Golden Age but continues to do so today. It also allowed for the progress of art, science, and technology. 

Today, Amsterdam is full of diverse people. People from different ethnicities and cultures reside here and contribute to the progress of the Netherlands. Moreover, the country earns huge revenue only from tourists that visit this cosmopolitan city every year.

As you can see Amsterdam is not only the economic center of the country but also education and culture. All of this is what made Amsterdam the capital of the Netherlands.

The Real Capital of the Netherlands

Anyone can dub The Hague as the “administrative capital” of the Netherlands. But the real and sole capital city of the Netherlands is Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is not only the largest city but also the economic backbone of the Netherlands. It is the cultural and economic heart of the country.

Although the laws and policies of the country are passed in The Hague which is why many used to consider it a second capital, Amsterdam is the city that reflects the proper implementation of a capital.

Amsterdam is also the city, which was uniformly recognized by the whole nation as the capital during the accession of King William I of Orange in 1814. Plus, Article 32 of the Constitution of the Netherlands that states Amsterdam as the capital city, leaves no room for debate about which city is the real capital. 

Then please check out the following articles:

- Why Is Amsterdam Called The Venice Of The North?
- Why Is Amsterdam The City Of Sin?
- 45 Interesting Facts About Amsterdam (Fully Explained)
- Why Is Amsterdam Famous? The Best City Guide For 2022

- 12 Best Amsterdam Canals Facts You Didn’t Know


We started this blog with the main question “why is Amsterdam the capital of the Netherlands?”. By diving into the history of the Netherlands together I hope that I have been able to give you a good and clear answer to this question.

You now know why the government of the Netherlands is not in the capital Amsterdam, but in The Hague. In addition, you have also learned which aspects have ensured that Amsterdam is a suitable capital of the Netherlands.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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