Just as Hollywood gained international fame and popularity in the 1970s with the large Hollywood sign on Mount Lee, Amsterdam gained international fame and popularity in the 20th century with the IAmsterdam sign on Museumplein and the Rijksmuseum in the background.

The “I Amsterdam” sign is at Schiphol Airport, the second “I Amsterdam” sign is at Sloterplas west of Amsterdam. The third sign is next to the Eye Museum. Although this panel used to be in the Eye Museum, it was very controversial and was removed by decree in December 2019.

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Nowadays, many tourists who come to Amsterdam are confused and wonder what happened to the famous IAmsterdam sign, an icon of the city that is now known all over the world. What some of them don’t know is that the sign is still alive, but in a different place. Nor do they know why they needed such a tourist site. Here’s why:

The sign of Amsterdam

The “I Amsterdam” sign was placed in the museum complex in 2004. It was a project, a campaign, set up by Kesselkramer, responsible for the promotion of Amsterdam, communication and representation of the city in the world.

This company has been charged with making public decisions for the city and its prestige for many years: in 2004, among other things, it came up with the idea of giving the city some kind of identity by including a place that people identify with, that can be seen in photos and then selfies, etc.

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I Amsterdam is the brand of the city of Amsterdam, a company that represents all official events and a place where tourists can find souvenirs, information about the city and much more.

The “I am Amsterdam” sign is both a billboard and a personality sign. It is already a controversial measure, not supported by all political parties in Amsterdam.

This all changed in 2019, when traffic on one of the left sides of Amsterdam was approved: the sign had to be removed there to avoid crowds of tourists at the museum plenum, among other things.

Remove the “I am Amsterdam” sign.

There are many reasons why a party may choose to make this motion and sign a motion to withdraw. Below is a list of reasons:

  • In 2018, the party GroenLinks was elected, hence the idea of removing the sign. It was this party that, together with the city council, decided to ask Amsterdammers to go to the gallery to vote for the removal of the sign.
  • Amsterdammers voted unanimously to remove the sign, some because of the accumulation of tourists and the limited mobility of cyclists. In effect, this meant too many people in a very limited time frame.
  • “Disneyification of Amsterdam”: some people, and apparently most Amsterdammers, think the sign turns the Northern European capital of culture and history into another version of Disney with signs and sticks of selfies around the world.
  • Sense of individualism: according to the Green Left Party, this sign only brings a sense of individualism to a country that is striving for a more socialist approach and greater equality. This is debatable, but it is part of the argument. Read more about the socialist approach in the Netherlands.
  • The city’s message must change: no longer just tourism and platitudes, but more history, solidarity and identity.

Where the sign says “I am Amsterdam”.

At the end of 2019, the plaque was removed and two were placed in different locations in Amsterdam, so that tourists could enjoy the plaque and continue to take pictures, but in less public and less prestigious places :

In the early days of its creation, this sign was taken on tour at various events, celebrations and festivals to promote the city. About a year later, the sign was installed in the center of the museum complex.

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The next two places were:

  • Schiphol Airport: this is the regular place in the neighborhood where most tourists usually stay: at Schiphol Airport, just outside the door, and at Schiphol Square, outside the Arrivals Hall 1. These are definitely the new favorites of both, because they are so easy to find and easily accessible to literally everyone, almost a must!
  • Sloterplass. This is the second location, Sloterplass Lake to the west. This sign was not specifically designed for tourists, but to advertise the city, mostly in motion, for events : These letters are difficult to photograph and are meant for any activity in motion. Moreover, this place is far from the city center and therefore from most tourists. And, as original as it is, it is not the same.
  • Amsterdam Eye Museum – You must take the ferry from Central Station to Amsterdam North. I Amsterdam Sign is located next to the Tower and Eye Museum in Amsterdam. This is the closest I Amsterdam Sign is to Central Station.

Facts about the “I am Amsterdam” sign

If you want to know more about this sign that has evolved from a simple advertisement to a sophisticated symbol of an entire nation, not just Amsterdam, you will find it here:

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  • High (quite high): the panel at Museumplein was 2 meters high and 24 meters long. These are now the same measurements as at Schiphol Airport. People could climb to the top and go inside to take pictures and make more original thank-you notes by just standing.
  • Weight: Each letter weighs about 250 kg, which explains why many people can climb it and why it does not land on the ground, is not damaged and does not stay in the same place for more than 15 years.
  • Missing letter: According to Dutch Amsterdam, two letters “disappeared” in February 2010.
  • Climbing is prohibited: I have already mentioned that the letter is mainly for climbing and taking pictures, not for climbing around the statues like stickers. It is clear that tourists are not aware of this and the law is not enforced.
  • Strangely enough, more than 5,000 selfies were taken every day. Can you imagine how many tourists that is? Anyway, even though the place has changed now, it is still very popular.
  • Private property (so to speak): the trademark is owned by the company, which means that all rights belong to it, and if there is a benefit or anything related to it, it must be paid for. On the other hand, you can tag your photo on IG #iamsterdam and you will appear on their account.
  • Plagiarism or inspiration: many cities in the world have copied Amsterdam: I know this tiny sign in Jerusalem, but it is often copied. Don’t you think this sign could be inspired by the Hollywood sign?
  • IAmsterdam Card: The same company that designed the IAmsterdam sign has developed the “I amsterdam City Card” with interesting offers if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam.

To summarize…

Inevitably, the sign became a part of the city and a way to introduce the country to the world. However, there are many ways to get in touch with it, both on the tourist and local side. I talked to many of my friends in Amsterdam and asked them what they thought and what the real reasons were for voting against the sign on Museumplein. There are two points of view:

Sign the sign.

Most of the people who favored placement in Museum Square were generally tourists or vacationers. In fact, if you ask the people who work in tourism, it is true that they get nothing but an accumulation of people from the board.

Amsterdam has enough beauty, enough events and activities for everyone to keep everyone entertained throughout the year (if you’re short on ideas, read our blog to find thousands!

However, tourists have the expectation and bias to find it, and they feel cheated and disappointed when it is not in its emblematic place in front of the Rijksmuseum.

Perhaps there should be some movement or more information to tell tourists in advance where they can find it and why it has been removed to avoid confusion.

Against the mark.

The majority of Amsterdammers who voted YES to the removal of the sign were opposed to the sign remaining on Museumplein. As I said, there are many reasons for this:

  • Too many tourists in public places
  • Too many people think Amsterdam is just that.
  • Too many people on the bike path next to the sign that drives Dutch cyclists crazy every day of the year.

But think about it: What if your hometown or country became famous because of an advertisement for Coca-Cola that has been in the same place for over a decade?

I think they have every right to want their city to be represented by museums, architecture and places more than by a prop invented by a company. It’s more pop culture than Dutch culture.

Frequently asked questions

Where is the sign for Greater Amsterdam?

The biggest attraction in the region is the famous giant panel I AMSTERDAM, opposite the Rijksmuseum.

Where are the letters “I Amsterdam” now?

On the road – Letters from Amsterdam The original letters from Museum Square are now on the road. After touring the country, they are back in the neighborhood.

Is the sign of Amsterdam gone?

The iconic “I am Amsterdam” sign has been removed because it was “too individualistic” The iconic “I am Amsterdam” sign has been removed from the facade of the Rijksmuseum in the Dutch capital. About 6,000 selfies were taken with the sign every day.

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