The actual charter that granted toll privileges to Amsterdammers when they travel, Source: Amsterdam City Archives

Amsterdam celebrates its birthday on 27 October, but why?

Amsterdam celebrates its birthday on 27 October, but why?

It has to do with a medieval count by the name of Floris V

Many European cities know the year when they were granted city rights, usually through a document called a charter, but not that many know the exact date of that momentous event. Amsterdam is one of those lucky few, it seems.

Every year, on 27 October, the Dutch capital marks its birthday basing this claim on a document from the distant 1275. Back then, the Count of Holland, Floris V, granted toll privilege to the residents “at the dam in the Amstel River” (apud Amestelledamme).

The privilege to travel freely

The toll privilege actually predates the city charter itself, which was granted by the Bishop of Utrecht in 1300 or 1306. The road toll document, however, recognized the residents of the Dam as a community with special rights. The privilege meant that they could travel freely through the county without having to pay any fees at bridges and canal locks.

The ship captains or merchants carried a toll letter, which was an official copy of the count’s document. The toll privilege stayed until 1795.

This came in recognition of the settlement’s increased importance at the mouth of the Amstel River. Early on, its residents had turned to trading using their strategic location to make the most of the passing traffic. It looks like entrepreneurial spirit has been encoded in the Amsterdammers' bloodstream since the origins of their city.

The Dam in the name refers to the actual dam, which was built five to ten years before the granting of the privilege, and it gradually turned into the beating heart of the city. Today, this is where the Dam Square is located.

Amsterdammers had become a business community one had to reckon with, feudal lords and bishops notwithstanding. The valuable document that recognized that first right is a certificate that is preserved in the City Archives, and it’s the one you can see in the photo.

Thus, on 27 October 2025, Amsterdam turns 750 years!



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