Before it became a major port and capital, Amsterdam was a small fishing village. It was not until the 13th century that the city was created, thanks to a new dike - dam in Dutch - on the River Amstel, Amsterdam literally meaning 'dike on the Amstel'. Gradually the city and its port became a centre of international trade, attracting visitors and refugees from all over the world.
At the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), in response to the influx of people, the canals were built to facilitate maritime traffic and to defend the city. It was at this time that Amsterdam took on the face we know today. In 2010 they were even declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.