It would be pretty logical to expect Dam square to be the location of the dam over the Amstel river which gave the city its name over 800 years ago - but the experts say it probably wasn't.
The Dam was refurbished at vast expense a few years ago, a process which included covering the entire area in impossbile-to-cycle-over cobbles. If it was Paris or Brussels, the city council would have banned cars and trams and opened up the Dam to cafe terraces and street entertainment. But, this is Amsterdam, so they end up pleasing no-one.
The one redeming feature is the Nationaal Monument, a memorial to all the Dutch who died during WWII. It becomes a focal point for remembering the dead (Dodenherdenking) on May 4 every year. Unveiled in 1956 the 22 metre obelisk was designed by J.J.P. Oud and is decorated with sculpted figures.
The two lions fronting the memorial are national symbols and imbedded in the wall behind are urns containing earth from each Dutch province and the colonies of Indonesia, Antillies and Surinam. The Latin text reads "Here where the heart of the Fatherland lies may the memorial, that citizens carry in their deepest hearts, look up to the stars of God."