The Royal Palace or Koninklijk Paleis in Amsterdam was once dubbed “The World’s Eight Wonder” by the poet Constantijn Huygens. The unofficial title was an indication of its importance as a monument of its confidence when Amsterdam was basking in its Golden Age.
The 350 year-old landmark can’t be missed as it impressively sits in the middle of Dam Square right next to the Nieuwe Kerk. To this day, it is still being used by the royal family for important events – award ceremonies, state visits and other official functions, and when it is not, it is open for public viewing.
The “Eighth Wonder of the World” is Indeed an Architectural Marvel
The Palace, which the poet Contantijn Huygens dubbed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, was designed by Jacob van Campen along orthodox lines when it was constructed between 1648 and 1655. To secure and support the structure in Amsterdam’s sandy substrate, it needed 13,659 wooden piles driven deeply into the ground.
The interior is magnificent, but it reflects the fear of evil with outlandish carvings of the Tribunal. There is the Citizens’ Hall embellished with a splendid mix of bronze and marble and bronze. It is a symbol of the universe with marbled floors that bear the maps of the Eastern, Western and the Northern Celestial Hemispheres.
The exterior is massive; it was deliberately designed to convey the civil power and the Dutch Republic prevalent in the Golden Age of Amsterdam. The Palace is especially impressive when viewed from the rear where Atlas, perching above the palace, can be viewed best from a lofty height. He is metaphorically carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, which is 1000 kg. The chimney pieces are outstanding creative works painted by two brilliant pupils of Rembrandt, Govert Flinck and Ferdinant Bol.
From City Hall to Royal Palace
The Royal Palace Amsterdam wasn’t always a palace. It used to be the City Hall in the 17th century for the burgomasters and magistrates, the biggest one at that in Europe. It served the need of the city being the most significant merchant hub in the world during the time.
It became the royal palace during the reign of King Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor in 1808 when he decided to live there until 1813 when Napoleon was overthrown. The palace was given back to the city, including some 2,000 pieces of regal Empire furniture, ranging from brass chandeliers to opulent tapestries – that are still on display to this day. The changes made by King Louis were reversed to restore the Royal palace in its original classic glory.
The Royal Palace Highlights
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam has 17 grandiose rooms, halls and galleries that are open to the public. The largest and most notable of all is the Citizens’ Hall, an image of a miniature universe. Annual exhibitions are held in autumn and summer.
By the Act of Parliament, the Palace is at the Queen’s disposal and is still being used during official functions, such as during Queen’s New Year reception, state visits of foreign dignitaries and the National Memorial day. It is also used as a venue for the annual presentation of the Prince Claus Prize, the Erasmus Prize, and the Royal Grant to Painting. It also serves as the setting for the exhibits – outstanding artwork of young, contemporary artists in autumn and the rich historical highlights from the Golden Age in summer.
Visiting the Royal Palace of Amsterdam
To get to the Dam Square, you can just easily take a 10-minute walk from the Central Station or take a tram. If you or a travel companion is using a wheelchair, you need not worry; the palace is accessible. It has an accessible toilet, there is a lift, and there are even wheelchairs for visitors who may have a need for them.
The Royal Palace is open to public; tours start at 10:00 am and extend until 5:00 pm, but it is not open every day. Consult the palace calendar for schedules.
To visit the Royal Palace even during Royal Events 24-7, use the virtual tour on Google Art Project.