US President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Amsterdam this morning, when he became the first American president in office to visit the city.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Mayor Eberhard van der Laan received President Obama in the underpass of the Rijksmuseum, along with the museum’s director, Wim Pijbes. After their visit of an hour and a half, President Obama departed by helicopter at around 11:00 from Museumplein. Mayor Van der Laan declared the visit a success: “The visit of President Obama to our city is a real honour. The morning went exceptionally well; Amsterdam, with the Rijksmuseum at centre stage, showed its best side. We are proud of everyone who contributed to this and of course of Amsterdam.”

President Obama arrived at 09:30 by helicopter. Sixty students from the nearby Sweelinck College, aged between 13 and 17, were among the welcoming committee. Obama took plenty of time to talk with the students in the passageway under the Rijksmuseum, which was decorated with some 34,000 red, white and blue tulips for the occasion.

Inside the museum, Obama signed the guest book of the city of Amsterdam and viewed the Act of Abjuration (in Dutch, Plakkaat van Verlatinghe), which declared the Netherlands’ independence from Spain in 1581. This text served as inspiration for the United States’ own Declaration of Independence some 200 years later. With Amsterdam’s most famous masterpiece ‘The Night Watch’ forming the backdrop, Prime Minister Rutte and President Obama provided a brief statement to the press and the President expressed a heightened admiration for the art he had once studied in school.  

Obama was also shown a scale model of a 3D printed canal house by Amsterdam firm Dus Architects. The intention was to illustrate how innovative approaches can provide low-cost housing in densely populated areas – for example, in refugee camps and slums.

A demonstration by several dozen protesters on the Beursplein concluded without incident, while Amnesty International cancelled a planned demonstration on the Concertgebouwplein. Traffic measures were set in place in the vicinity of the Museumplein but there were no notable incidents to report.