Amsterdam, the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Amsterdam has a population of 851,373 within the city proper, 1,351,587 in the urban area, and 2,410,960 in the Amsterdam metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The metropolitan area 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 around a dam in 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 (17th century), a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading centre for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries the city expanded, and many new neighbourhoods 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. Since the annexation of municipality Stolen in 1921 by the municipality of Amsterdam, the oldest historic part of the city lies in stolen (9th century).
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 seven of the world's 500 largest companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. In 2012, Amsterdam was ranked the second best city to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and 12th globally on quality of living for environment and infrastructure by Mercer. The city was ranked 3rd in innovation by Australian innovation agency 2thinknow in their Innovation Cities Index 2009. The Amsterdam seaport to this day remains the second in the country, and the fifth largest seaport in Europe. Famous Amsterdam residents include the diarist Anne Frank, artists Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh, and philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
With its universities, academies, and research institutes, along with more than 40 museums, numerous theaters, and entertainment venues, Amsterdam is the country's leading cultural center. In addition, the city is famous for its historic homes, laid out in a pattern of concentric segments in the shape of a fan and built on piles driven through an upper layer of mud into the firm, sandy bottom up to 18 meters below. All told, some 6,750 buildings dating from the 16th to 18th centuries are crowded into an area of 2,000 acres, dissected by 160 canals (grachten), themselves home to numerous houseboats. Many picturesque bridges link the city's 90 islands, eight of them old wooden bascule bridges, including the Magere Brug (Mager Bridge), one of the city's most frequently photographed.