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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The city, which had a population of 1.36 million (with suburbs) on 1 January 2008, comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the 6th-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with a population of around 6.7 million.

Its name is derived from Amstel dam, indicative of the city’s origin: a dam in the river Amstel, where the Dam Square is today. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were formed.

The city is the financial and cultura capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world’s top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world is located in the city centre. Amsterdam’s main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam. Anne Frank House, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops, draw 4.2 million tourists annually.

Geography

Amsterdam is part of the province of North-Holland and is located in the northwest of the Netherlands next to the provinces of Utrecht and Flevoland. The river Amstel terminates in the city center and connects to a large number of canals that eventually terminate in the IJ.

Amsterdam is situated 2 meters above sea level. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders. To the southwest of the city lies a man-made forest called het Amsterdamse Bos. Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea through the long North Sea Canal.

Amsterdam is intensely urbanized, as is the Amsterdam metropolitan area surrounding the city. Comprising 219.4 square kilometers of land, the city proper has 4457 inhabitants per km2 and 2275 houses per km2. Parks and nature reserves make up 12% of Amsterdam’s land area.

Tourism

Amsterdam is the 5th busiest tourist destination in Europe, receiving more than 4.2 million international visitors annually. The number of visitors has been growing steadily over the past decade. This can be attributed to an increasing number of European visitors. 41,743 beds were located in 19,400 rooms in 351 hotels as of 2007. Two thirds of these hotels are located in the city’s center. Hotels with 4 or 5 stars contribute 42% of the total beds available and 41% of the overnight stays in Amsterdam.

The room occupation rate was 78% in 2006, up from 70% in 2005. The majority of tourists (74%), originate from Europe. The largest group of non-European visitors come from the United States, accounting for 14% of the total.[59] Certain years have a theme in Amsterdam to attract extra tourists. For example, the year 2006 was designated “Rembrandt 400”, to celebrate the 400th birthday of Rembrandt van Rijn. Some hotels offer special arrangements or activities due to these years. The average number of guests per year staying at the four campsites around the city, range from 12,000 to 65,000.

Retail

Shops in Amsterdam range from large department stores such as De Bijenkorf founded in 1870 and Maison de Bonneterie a Parisian style store founded in 1889, to small specialty shops. Amsterdam’s high-end shops are found in the streets Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat and Cornelis Schuytstraat, which are located in the vicinity of the Vondelpark.

One of Amsterdam’s busiest high streets is the narrow, medieval Kalverstraat in the heart of the city. Another shopping area is the Negen Straatjes: nine narrow streets within the Grachtengordel, the concentric canal system of Amsterdam. The Negen Straatjes differ from other shopping districts with the presence of a large diversity of privately owned shops. The city also features a large number of open-air markets such as the Albert Cuypmarkt, Westermarkt, Ten Katemarkt, and Dappermarkt.

Fashion

Fashion brands like G-star, Gsus, BlueBlood, 10 feet and Warmenhoven & Venderbos, and fashion designers like Mart Visser, Viktor & Rolf, Marlies Dekkers and Frans Molenaar are based in Amsterdam. Modelling agencies Elite Models, Touche models and Tony Jones have opened branches in Amsterdam.

Supermodels Yfke Sturm, Doutzen Kroes and Kim Noorda started their careers in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has its garment center in the World Fashion Center. Buildings which were formerly housing brothels in the red light district, have been converted to ateliers for young, up-and-coming fashion designers.

Culture and entertainment

During the later part of the 16th century Amsterdam’s Rederijkerskamer (Chamber of Rhetoric) organized contests between different Chambers in the reading of poetry and drama. In 1638, Amsterdam opened its first theatre. Ballet performances were given in this theatre as early as 1642. In the 18th century, French theatre became popular.

Opera could be seen in Amsterdam from 1677, first only Italian and French operas, but in the 18th century, German operas. In the 19th century, popular culture was centred around the Nes area in Amsterdam (mainly vaudeville and music-hall). The metronome, one of the most important advances in European classical music, was invented here in 1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel.

At the end of this century, the Rijksmuseum and Gemeentelijk Museum were built. In 1888, the Concertgebouworkest was established. With the 20th century came cinema, radio and television. Though most studios are located in Hilversum and Aalsmeer, Amsterdam’s influence on programming is very strong. Many people who work in the television industry live in Amsterdam. Also, the headquarters of SBS 6 is located in Amsterdam.

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Paris

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The Louvre, Paris, France

Paris

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While the Parisian cliches of romance and bike baskets full of baguettes are proven true, the unexpected manages to rear its head. Who wouldn’t love a city that closes its streets so everyone can rollerblade?

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Contract for £700m Victoria Tube station

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New entrances, a new ticket hall and step-free access will be built at the station

A £700m project to revamp Victoria Tube station is set to begin after Transport for London (TfL) selected a contractor.

The central London station, used by 80 million people a year, will get a new ticket hall, entrances, escalators and step-free access to all platforms.

Vinci BAM Nuttall Limited, a joint venture, will begin the first phase of construction, a new ticket hall under Bressenden Place, in 2011.

The revamp, which aims to cut passenger congestion, will be completed by 2018.

‘Vital upgrade’

The upgrade work will involve construction of a new North Ticket Hall, new entrances, expansion of the existing South Ticket Hall, step-free access to both Tube and national rail platforms, new lifts and escalators and a new passageway to the Victoria Line platform.

The project was first announced by the former mayor Ken Livingstone in 2007 but was only approved for funding by TfL last October.

Richard Parry, London Underground’s strategy and commercial director, said the upgrade was “vital” and would help the station to “cope with future demand, cut congestion and improve access”.

“This will be a huge benefit to residents, commuters and tourists, and customers will no longer face being held up by the station having to shut for several minutes in the rush hour because it is too full.

“It will also be much quicker and easier for passengers to enter and exit Victoria Underground station as they won’t have to cross several busy roads.”

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