I Amsterdam letters removed amid fears over mass tourism

Cathy Adams

The iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ letters in front of the city’s Rijksmuseum have been dismantled amid claims that they were encouraging mass tourism.

The large letters were a popular selfie spot in the Dutch capital, and had been tagged on Instagram 1.3 million times. The two metre high letters, which stretched for 23.5 metres, had stood in front of the art museum since 2006.

According to the city’s tourism bureau, “these letters were removed at the request of the City of Amsterdam because they were drawing too big of a crowd to an already limited space”. A crane removed them earlier this week.

After the slogan was removed, Amsterdam designer Pauline Wiersema erected three more letters spelling ‘HUH’. They were removed immediately.

Awkwardly, the city’s tourism bureau still markets itself as ‘I Amsterdam’. Its website states that ‘I Amsterdam’ is “the motto that creates the brand for the city and people of Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s appeal lies in its rich cultural heritage, diverse and creative culture, commercial dynamism and high quality of life. Ultimately, the city’s strongest asset is its people: the people who live here, the people who work here, the people who study here, and the people who visit here.”

Femke Roosma, group chairman of political party Groenlinks, said in a statement: “The message of ‘I Amsterdam’ is that we are all individuals in the city. We want to show something different: diversity, tolerance, solidarity.” She previously said that Amsterdam was becoming more and more like an “amusement park”, according to local newspaper AT5.

Amsterdam’s deputy mayor Udo Kock told the Daily Mail: “I gladly want to remove them because these letters in Museum Square have become a symbol for mass tourism and the negative effects of it.”

Amsterdam has long been plagued by overtourism. In August, the city’s official ombudsman Arre Zuurmond said that Amsterdam had been “blighted by crime and lawlessness”.

In 2017, the number of tourists in the Netherlands jumped 9 per cent to 42 million, the strongest growth since 2006.

The Rijksmuseum posted a tribute to the letters and asked visitors to post their own.

The letters are now on tour around Amsterdam and the region to put ”lesser-known neighbourhoods, activities and attractions in the spotlight.” They will appear at the Student Hotel in Amsterdam West until 12 December, then from 13 December, at Westerpark near Pacific Parc restaurant.