Royal Palace- Amsterdam, Netherlands

Royal Palace of Amsterdam (and Landon in the stroller)
Just a short walk from Amsterdam Central Station is Dam Square and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. With the entry fee, a free audio guide is provided that explains the main rooms and purposes of the building, and directs guests on a tour. I appreciated that this is one of three Royal palaces that the royal family actually uses, and it was open to the public to wander around the first two floors!
The stately citizen’s hall
Atlas with the world on his back
Originally, this building was a town hall where the local government operated. It was built in the 17th century and the architect was inspired by Roman architecture. At that time in the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam was the most important city for trade in the world. In order to get to the 2nd floor where the tour began with my stroller and sleeping baby, I had to ask for a special escort that made sure I stayed on the tourist floors. The elevators were hidden behind locked doors as well. I felt like a secret agent or dignitary having my own escort for the elevator! 
The first room of the tour was the Citizen’s hall in the center of the building. Its original use was as a meeting place for citizens of Amsterdam to come and discuss their grievances and issues with the rulers of the city. It is used now for large state receptions, and is ornately decorated with sculptures and carvings on the walls, paintings on the ceiling, and maps inlaid to the floor. Atlas with the world on his back stands above all other sculptures. The details and craftsmanship exhibited by the builders and artists that worked on this hall was insane. At the time it was built, the town hall was used by tax accountants and clerks, the burgomasters that kept order and essentially ruled the area, and magistrates that decided court cases. There were dedicated rooms for all of these offices that have changed in decor and purpose over time.  
Ceiling of the Citizen’s hall
The Americas as they were known in the 17th century (1600s)

In the Citizen’s Hall, everything was highly symbolic. There were maps of the world on the floor and also maps of the heavens, reminding the people their place in both the earth and in heaven. The sculptures below had to do with justice and benevolent rule.

Citizen’s Hall sculpture
A gallery off of the Citizen’s Hall

The grandeur of the Citizen’s Hall continued in the arched galleries and lavishly furnished rooms. In 1808, Louis Napoleon, Napoleon’s brother, became King of Holland and moved into the castle. He had the rooms decorated according to the latest fashion- French Empire style, and much of his influence and decor is still appreciated today. Although Louis Napoleon only lived in the palace for a few years, when he left he left most of the furniture behind! After he left, the monarchs of Holland used the palace infrequently, and the property was sold in the 1930’s to the state of the Netherlands which designated it as a royal palace. Monarchs since then have lived in the palace more and use it for formal receptions, gatherings, weddings, and abdication and crowning. 

Magistrate’s chamber
The first room off the Citizen’s hall was the Magistrate’s chambers. All of the old rooms are now decorated as either salons/sitting rooms, or bedrooms because guests of the monarchs actually stay in these rooms during big state events!

The ceilings in every room were just fantastic

As well as having a skilled architect, when the building was built they hired the best and most skilled painters and sculptors to sculpt and paint pieces for the building. The oil paintings in each room were made in the intention to remind the magistrates or burgomasters of their duties to rule effectively and fairly.

Another ceiling and room
Amazing details!

This ceiling was in a salon where the current monarch meets special guests prior to
larger receptions

Some of the most interesting rooms in the castle had to to with the judgment of lawbreakers. For the death penalty cases, the burgomasters and magistrates would meet together in a room with huge Biblical paintings that were meant to remind them of their duties- the council chambers. There was a painting of Solomon counseling the two mothers with the one baby. This was to remind the council to use wisdom in their judgments. The scaffolding for the gallows reached to the 2nd floor. We were shown a room where the accused would sit and meet with a priest before being led out of the window onto the scaffolding to his/her death. All kind of gruesome but interesting that it is now a nice little salon for sitting and chatting!

Burgomaster’s chambers- this painting is Moses appointing the 70 elders of Israel

I also learned a bit about Louis Napoleon’s wife, who stayed in the building for just a few months before moving back to France. She did not think the furnishings and environment was up to snuff with her usual treatment and sumptuous surroundings. The room below was her room, I believe.

Tribunal room

Back down on the first floor, we went to the tribunal room, where the accused waited to hear their sentences. The shamed statues seemed to buckle under the weight of holding up the building. There were macabre scenes of dead babies and demons and all kinds of bad things also carved into the wall. The secretary sat at a lectern and pronounced the sentences, then the guilty were taken up to the 2nd floor to be hanged.

Secretary’s lectern

Not to leave everyone on a sad note, here is the royal balcony. It was added in the early 1900’s, and is now a very important balcony where the new monarchs come out to greet the people, the newly married couples come out, etc. It was empty the day we were there, for good reason- it was pouring rain! It was still fun to see it all in person and up close. 

The Royal Balcony
I would definitely recommend stopping by the Royal Palace on a visit to Amsterdam. It is a fairly short tour full of historical information and beautiful decor and art!


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