Amsterdam is the capital city of and the most populous within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its status as the Dutch capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands though it is not the seat of the Dutch government, which is at The Hague (Den Haag). Amsterdam has a population of 810,084 within the city-proper, 1,569,300 in the urban region and 2.3 million in the greater metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. It comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million.
Amsterdam's name derives from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city's origin as a dam of the river Amstel. Originating 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 neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As the commercial capital of the Netherlands and one of the top financial centres in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. The city is also the cultural 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. In 2012, Amsterdam was ranked 2nd best city to live by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and 12th globally on quality of living by Mercer. The city was previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in the Innovation Cities Index 2009.
The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city center. Amsterdam's main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than 3.66 million international visitors annually.
Amsterdam is located in the western Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. The river Amstel terminates in the city centre and connects to a large number of canals that eventually terminate in the IJ. Amsterdam is situated 2 metres below sea level. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders. A man made forest, Amsterdamse Bos, is situated southwest. Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea through the long North Sea Canal.
Amsterdam canals in summer
Amsterdam is intensely urbanized, as is the Amsterdam metropolitan area surrounding the city. Comprising 219.4 kilometres (136.3 miles) of land, the city proper has 4,457 inhabitants per km2 and 2,275 houses per km2. Parks and nature reserves make up 12% of Amsterdam's land area.