Amsterdam Introduction Walking Tour, Amsterdam

Amsterdam Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Amsterdam

“Dancing to its own beat,” the Dutch capital Amsterdam is famous for its unusual life rhythm that is manifested in the air of canals, coffee shops, and the Red Light District, as well as many other things that altogether draw annually over five million visitors to the city.

A place where “hipness meets history”, Amsterdam emerged in the late 12th century as a small fishing village around a dam on the Amstel River; hence its original name “Amstelredamme”.

The Oude Kerk (Old Church) today stands proudly in the medieval heart of the city and is a notable landmark from the 13th century, offering a glimpse into Amsterdam's early architecture. A short stroll from there, Dam Square is a lively historic spot where you will find the Royal Palace, a grand edifice that once served as the town hall, and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), a stunning 14th-century Gothic temple that now hosts exhibitions and public events.

By the 17th century, known as the Golden Age, Amsterdam established itself as a major hub of finance and trade, particularly in spices, diamonds, and textiles, not to mention tulips. Indeed, during this time, the tulip trade made Amsterdam famous as the city "where tulips bloom and dreams come alive." The local Tulip Museum showcases the history and beauty of this iconic flower.

The same Golden Age period also witnessed the flourishing of arts and was largely associated with renowned painters such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer. Art enthusiasts of today will enjoy a delightful visit to the Rembrandt House Museum, a meticulously restored former residence of the master. Another legacy of that era is the elaborate system of canals for which the city is colloquially referred to as the "Venice of the North".

To delve deeper into the history of Amsterdam, you can explore the Amsterdam Museum and the Anne Frank House offering a moving insight into the life of a courageous young girl during WWII and the atrocities of the Holocaust.

In Amsterdam, every street seems like a work of art, where buildings whisper stories of the past. To hear them and experience Amsterdam's magic, wandering through its charming alleys, you may need a knowledgeable guide. Some say that losing yourself in Amsterdam is the best way to find yourself. If that's the case, this self-guided walk powered by GPSmyCity is a good way of losing yourself... without getting lost.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Amsterdam Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Amsterdam Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Amsterdam (See other walking tours in Amsterdam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Centraal Station
  • Oude Kerk (Old Church)
  • Dam Square
  • Madame Tussauds
  • Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace of Amsterdam)
  • Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
  • Magna Plaza
  • Tulip Museum
  • Anne Frank House
  • Kalverstraat
  • Museum Het Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House Museum)
  • Waterlooplein Flea Market
  • Amsterdam Museum
Centraal Station

1) Centraal Station (must see)

During your time in Amsterdam, a visit to the Centraal Station is practically inevitable, as it stands as a pivotal transportation hub that nearly every traveler encounters at least once. With its distinctive high gables, cheerful brickwork, and the arrival of over 1,500 trains, this station ranks among the busiest, catering to nearly 250,000 commuters each day. In essence, it serves as the true heart of Amsterdam!

Centraal Station commenced its service at the close of the 19th century, an architectural testament designed by the skilled hands of P.J.H. Cuypers and A.L. van Gendt. It symbolized the resurgence of the nation's once-struggling economy. Interestingly, it was constructed upon three artificial islands, its current location differing from the initial choice. To anchor such a monumental edifice on the marshy ground, a precise total of 8,687 wooden piles were employed as foundational support. The entire endeavor appeared fraught with challenges and was swiftly criticized by numerous experts. However, the architects persevered, ultimately vindicating themselves and defying skeptics.

Today, this Neo-Renaissance edifice majestically graces the banks of the IJ River, captivating onlookers with its imposing presence and the engineering marvel that brought it to fruition.

Why You Should Visit:
Seamlessly blends historic neo-Renaissance architecture with cutting-edge technology, serving as both a bustling mass transit hub and a symbol of cosmopolitan vibrancy.

Take advantage of the several free ferry trips navigating the canals, departing every 5 or 15 minutes from this location; they offer a rewarding experience. You can even cruise back to the station via boat if you wish, rounding out your visit with a picturesque waterborne journey.
Oude Kerk (Old Church)

2) Oude Kerk (Old Church)

The Oude Kerk, or "Old Church", even by Dutch historical standards, boasts a remarkable antiquity and intriguingly resides within the vibrant precincts of vice – the immensely popular Red Light District of De Wallen. Reconstructed as a modest stone hall church during the 14th century, the structure gradually expanded over time, evolving into a formidable Gothic basilica. Today, it serves as the home of an art institute, a transformation that took place in 2012.

Recognized as the sole structure in Amsterdam to retain its original form since Rembrandt's era, this building serves as the eternal resting place for over 10,000 denizens of Amsterdam. Among them lie illustrious individuals such as Jacob van Heemskerck, a revered naval hero, Frans Banning Cocq, the central character in Rembrandt's iconic painting "The Night Watch," and Jan Sweelinck, renowned for his compositions encompassing all 150 Psalms and achieving international renown as a leading Dutch composer.

Inside, you'll discover a collection of exquisite stained glass, rare ceiling paintings, and a world-renowned organ, crafted by the German Christian Vater in 1724, which is acclaimed as one of the most exceptional Baroque organs across Europe. Additionally, the space frequently serves as a backdrop for art exhibitions and live performances.

Wonderful views from the tower (note the fee payable with credit/debit cards only); coffee and snacks in a charming garden.
Dam Square

3) Dam Square (must see)

Positioned at the very core of the city, Dam Square, commonly referred to as the Dam, holds historical significance as the place that bestowed Amsterdam with its name. In the 13th century, the River Amstel was dammed here, giving rise to the fishing village that eventually earned the name "Amstelredam". Boats traversed Damrak to access the square, unloading goods in the heart of the burgeoning village, which thrived through the exchange of herring for Baltic grain. Subsequently, the construction of Amsterdam's principal church, the Nieuwe Kerk, and later the town hall ("Koninklijk Paleis"), solidified the Dam's status as Amsterdam's focal point.

Today, it stands as an open and spacious area, despite the prominent presence of the primary municipal war memorial. This memorial features a prominent stone obelisk adorned with somber figures and embellished with the coats of arms representing each of the Netherlands' provinces, including the former colony of Indonesia. The square otherwise primarily serves as a venue for large-scale events, such as National Tulip Day, when the entire space blooms with tulips. While it may not demand an extensive visit, it serves as a valuable reference point for navigating the city.

Why You Should Visit:
An ideal setting to immerse oneself in the city's vibrant atmosphere, explore diverse culinary options, peruse shops, revel in music, or simply relax by the fountain.

For those in need of restroom facilities, free and well-maintained toilets are available at the De Buenkork shop on the 5th floor.
Madame Tussauds

4) Madame Tussauds

Why not go beyond exploring the exceptional creations of renowned figures from Dutch history on display in numerous museums in and around Amsterdam and instead treat yourself to the one-of-a-kind opportunity to meet lifelike wax replicas of these iconic personalities? This intriguing experience is precisely what draws visitors from around the world to Madame Tussauds.

The museum's space is teeming with life-sized wax figures, encompassing artists, craftsmen, and renowned personalities from the Dutch Golden Era. Amid the array of past luminaries, the museum's true highlights are the multitude of international figures, spanning contemporary movie stars, politicians, members of royal families, and many others. Exhibits range from the utterly fascinating to the delightfully eccentric. Enhanced by special effects, including animatronics, these displays vividly bring scenes from Holland's past to life.

With each passing year, Madame Tussauds' wax models bear an even more striking resemblance to their real-life counterparts. The museum's primary aim is to offer every visitor the chance to capture a moment with their favorite celebrity, whether from the present or the past. Additionally, family and joint tickets are available in conjunction with the Amsterdam Dungeon.

Don't miss the opportunity to ascend to the top floor, where you'll be treated to a magnificent view of Dam Square!
Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace of Amsterdam)

5) Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace of Amsterdam) (must see)

The Royal Palace, positioned on the western side of Dam Square, stands as the city's most impressive edifice, a commanding sandstone structure erected during a time when Amsterdam held peak prominence and was asserting its municipal strength. Constructed in the mid-17th century, Amsterdam was then a leading Dutch town that had recently thwarted William of Orange's attempts to subdue it. Inevitably, the city council sought a residence that would symbolize Amsterdam's municipal authority and pride, leading them to embrace a remarkably forward-thinking design—a Dutch interpretation of the classical principles revived during the Italian Renaissance.

The interior of the palace mirrors the pride and confidence of the Golden Age, notably in the opulent Citizens' Hall, an exceptionally beautiful, arcaded marble chamber where the enthroned figure of Amsterdam presides over the earthly and celestial realms. Three circular, inlaid marble maps, depicting the eastern and western hemispheres as well as the northern sky, lie at her feet. Other allegorical figures reinforce the municipal message: Wisdom and Strength flank "Amsterdam" on her left and right, while the reliefs on either side of the central group portray the principles of good governance. On the left, the god Amphion plays his lyre, persuading stones to form a wall, and on the right, Mercury seeks to lull Argos to sleep, emphasizing the importance of vigilance.

In many respects, this historical and architectural landmark serves as a microcosm of the Netherlands' evolution as a nation. As a town hall, it underscores the significance of democracy in Dutch life, while its transition into a royal property reflects a period of transformation in Holland's history. Today, the Royal Palace embodies the Netherlands' position in the world: a captivating, culturally rich nation that appeals to many as a destination to explore and call home.

Why You Should Visit:
If you have an appreciation for opulence, extravagant chandeliers, and intricate ceiling adornments, this palace will certainly impress. It offers affordable admission for families, with free entry for those under 18 and discounts available for seniors and students.

Before your visit, be sure to check online for opening hours, as the palace may occasionally close for royal events.
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

6) Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

Contending for eminence alongside the Royal Palace, one finds the neighboring New Church. Despite its name, which may misleadingly suggest novelty, this structure is an exemplar of the 15th-century late Gothic style, adorned with an array of soaring pinnacles and gracefully lofty gables. Since the early 19th century, it has served as the venue for every Dutch monarch's coronation.

Over time, this Gothic-style structure incorporated some early Renaissance elements while remaining without a tower. The intricately adorned stained glass windows portray historical events linked to the church, such as Queen Wilhelmina's coronation. Notable features within the interior encompass an opulent, meticulously crafted mahogany pulpit (the result of fifteen years of painstaking effort), alongside a cunningly wrought copper chancel screen and a flamboyant Baroque organ case.

Although the Nieuwe Kerk is still utilized for recitals, it no longer hosts religious services and has transformed into a popular exhibition space. The exhibitions held here cover diverse themes, including some rather unconventional ones. A museum store within offers postcards, books, and gifts, while an adjacent café named the Nieuwe Café boasts a spacious outdoor terrace.

Why You Should Visit:
A must-see if you have an appreciation for historic architecture and a general interest in history.
While you can enter the lobby to admire the magnificent stained glass windows, don't expect a profoundly religious experience.
Magna Plaza

7) Magna Plaza

Constructed between 1895 and 1899, this splendid edifice, characterized by its striking red-and-white brickwork, and once mockingly referred to as "postal Gothic" by its critics, was masterminded by Cornelis Hendrik Peters (1874–1932) to serve as Amsterdam's central post office. Today, it has been transformed into a shopping complex encompassing four floors, featuring several cafes and a variety of stores.

At the time of its completion in 1899, this establishment stood as Amsterdam's principal postal center. Similar to numerous structures in this waterlogged city, it was built atop a foundation of countless pilings. During its era, it represented the epitome of modernity, symbolizing the economic resurgence of the city after a span of two centuries marked by decline. The opening of the North Sea Canal, the burgeoning industrialization, and the culmination of a World's Fair in 1883 all contributed to this transformative period.

Today, the building could potentially offer a wider array of shopping choices; however, it stands as a masterpiece in its own right, making a visit worthwhile solely for the purpose of admiring its architectural splendor.
Tulip Museum

8) Tulip Museum

Situated in the charming Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam, you'll discover a compact museum devoted to the Netherlands' most infamous flower. This flower has had such a profound impact on the nation's history that it's only fitting to have a museum dedicated entirely to its story – and that's precisely what the Tulip Museum does!

Tulips made their way to the Netherlands and the rest of Europe during the mid-16th century, originating from the Ottoman Empire. This delicate bloom quickly captivated the attention of the aristocracy and was brought to Dutch soil for cultivation. The flowers soared in popularity, particularly among the elite, and became a symbol of high social standing. The scarcer the flower's color, the more valuable its bulb became. Variations in color, petal structure, and other characteristics sent the market soaring to unprecedented heights. In some cases, historical records indicate that individuals were willing to part with up to ten times their annual income for a single tulip bulb. This period, now referred to as "Tulip Mania", reached its zenith in 1637 and inflicted severe damage on the Dutch economy, earning it the moniker of the "world's most dangerous flower".

The Tulip Museum, though small in size, offers a window into the tulip's significance in Dutch history and society. It's an excellent destination for those eager to delve deeper into the role flowers have played in the nation's past.

The cute gift shop at the museum's entrance is stocked with a variety of intriguing souvenirs.
Additionally, it's renowned as one of the select places offering "certified" bulbs suitable for the UK, USA, and Canada.
Anne Frank House

9) Anne Frank House (must see)

The name Anne Frank is well-known throughout the Netherlands, belonging to a 13-year-old Jewish girl who, along with her family, fled their native Germany following the Nazi takeover and sought refuge in the Netherlands. Little did they expect that the Nazi terror would soon extend into neighboring countries as well.

The Anne Frank House, situated on Prinsengracht Canal, served as the hiding place for the Franks and the Van Pel family for over two years. Erected in 1635, the building had functioned as a residence, warehouse, stable, and office over the years. In 1940, Anne's father, Otto Frank, purchased it for his spice business, which soon transformed into a sanctuary from the German forces that were rounding up Jewish families and sending them to concentration camps. A visit to the Anne Frank House is a haunting, poignant, and overwhelming experience that provides insight into how the inhabitants attempted to lead their lives amid the horrors of that time.

Today, the premises have been converted into a museum that draw over a million visitors annually. A typical visit encompasses the primary part of the building, which includes the former Frank business premises, including the ground-floor warehouse and old offices.

Why You Should Visit:
The museum effectively preserves the memory of Anne and her family while also educating visitors about the Holocaust's atrocities.

Plan your visit well in advance, and be mindful that the house has numerous stairs, and photography is not permitted inside.

10) Kalverstraat

Once the backdrop for a medieval marketplace, Kalverstraat now stands as arguably the most bustling shopping thoroughfare within Amsterdam, spanning the entirety of the city center in a North-South direction for approximately 750 meters, from Dam Square to Muntplein Square. It brims with an array of budget-friendly and cheerful shops, interspersed with a selection of higher-end designer boutiques. While Kalverstraat officially commences at Dam Square and extends to Muntplein, the shopping district seamlessly encompasses its continuation across the Dam into Nieuwendijk and the nearby Rokin. Notably, Dam Square hosts several department stores, with Bijenkorf (Amsterdam's premier option), Peek & Cloppenburg, and Maison de Bonneterie among them.

Beyond the multitude of clothing, sports, and shoe stores, this area also features a branch of the Waterstone's bookshop chain, located at #152. At #212, you'll encounter the ever-present and budget-friendly HEMA department store chain, established in 1926 and now a Dutch institution, offering affordable designer goods, practical clothing, stationery, kitchenware, and food items. On Rokin, one of the standout shops is the P.G.C. Hajenius tobacconist at No. 96. If you have a penchant for Havanas from a well-maintained humidor or seek a traditional clay pipe as a souvenir, this establishment is sure to delight.
Museum Het Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House Museum)

11) Museum Het Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House Museum) (must see)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, commonly known as Rembrandt, stands as a prominent 17th-century painter, rightfully acclaimed as one of the foremost artists of the Dutch Golden Age—a period when the Dutch Empire enjoyed the zenith of its power and renown. Among his myriad talents, Rembrandt excelled as a painter, specializing in portraits, self-portraits, battle scenes, and biblical depictions. Over his lifetime, he crafted an extensive body of work, comprising over 300 pieces, including paintings, sketches, etchings, and drawings.

This charming house, its striking red shutters and ornate facade adorned with intricate wooden shutters and an elaborate pediment, has been meticulously restored to its appearance during Rembrandt's era. It served as the artist's residence during the pinnacle of his fame and popularity, a place where he resided for nearly two decades, crafting some of his most iconic masterpieces, including the magnum opus "The Night Watch." However, the lavish expenditure on furnishings ultimately contributed to his financial downfall. An inventory from that time documents the large collection of paintings, sculptures, and art treasures he had amassed, nearly all of which were seized when he declared bankruptcy and was compelled to relocate to a more modest house in the Jordaan in 1658.

Stepping inside the rooms feels akin to entering one of Rembrandt's own paintings, with quintessential Dutch interiors featuring black-and-white tiled floors, traditional box beds, and works by Rembrandt's contemporaries. Two particularly captivating highlights include the recreation of his studio and a permanent exhibition showcasing his etchings, many of which reveal Rembrandt's empathy for ordinary people, such as beggars and street musicians. Furthermore, the frequent live demonstrations, including paint mixing and print-making, enhance the visit, making it both special and educational.

While Rembrandt was not Jewish himself, his paintings frequently mirror his interactions with the Jewish community in the city, portraying scenes from the Old Testament and featuring numerous faces and figures from Amsterdam's Jewish population.

Why You Should Visit:
A visit here offers a glimpse into Rembrandt's multifaceted life, encompassing his residence, studio, a museum, and valuable insights into the various facets of his existence.

Reserve some time to browse the quaint shop located within the museum. You'll discover a selection of delightful, high-quality souvenirs at reasonable prices, making it highly likely that you'll want to acquire something as a keepsake for yourself.
Waterlooplein Flea Market

12) Waterlooplein Flea Market

No visit to a city is truly complete without an exploration of the local bazaar or street market, and Amsterdam's Waterlooplein stands as an unmissable destination in this regard. Among the city's most captivating and historic markets, it offers a diverse array of goods that cater to a wide range of tastes and needs. Whether you're in search of the latest fashion trends, vintage military uniforms, exquisite jewelry, intriguing antiques, or modern electronics, you'll find it all here. Additionally, you can even secure yourself a fantastic deal on a tattoo, as this flea market leaves no stone unturned.

Constructed in the early 19th century, Waterlooplein was once a thriving Jewish market until the Second World War, when the Jewish population was forcibly displaced. Following the war, it was revived and has since become a beloved stopover for both tourists and locals. The market exudes an authentic and rustic bazaar ambiance, offering the opportunity to shop, negotiate prices, or simply peruse the array of merchandise on display.

Please keep in mind that with over 300 stalls to explore, this flea market is not meant for rushed browsing. Given the wide variety of items, making quick decisions can be challenging, so be sure to allocate generous time for your visit.

Why You Should Visit:
Excellent setting for a leisurely afternoon stroll, cultural immersion, and the thrill of discovering hidden treasures, provided you have the inclination and patience.

If you're inclined towards saving money, take a preliminary tour of the market before making any purchases. Many items, such as hats and sunglasses, can be found at multiple stalls, with prices varying from one vendor to another.
Amsterdam Museum

13) Amsterdam Museum

Originally serving as a convent and later as the city orphanage, this edifice has, since 1975, been transformed into an incredibly informative museum dedicated to chronicling the history of Amsterdam. Specifically, it delves into the city's remarkable ascent during the 17th century, a period when it emerged as one of the world's most influential metropolises.

Before you venture into the museum complex, take a moment to observe the archway at the entrance. Resting atop the slightly slanted arch is the city's coat of arms, featuring a red shield adorned with three Xs and a crown. These X-shaped crosses hold dual significance: they represent the crucifixion of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of fishermen, and they also symbolize the virtues of heroism, determination, and mercy. This symbolism was officially adopted by the queen following the Dutch experience in World War II, although prior to that, it is believed to have represented the three major medieval threats: fire, flood, and plague.

The 16th-century structure underwent expansion and renovation in 1634 under the craftsmanship of the acclaimed Dutch "Golden Age" architects, Hendrick and Pieter de Keyser, imparting it with an enduringly classic appearance. Inside, the museum's collection spans three floors and encompasses a wide array of artifacts, clothing, and archaeological discoveries, delving into various facets of the city's existence, including religion, culture, folklore, and even prostitution. Notably, it houses a replica of one of the Netherlands' earliest gay bars, which opened its doors in 1927.

Walking Tours in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Create Your Own Walk in Amsterdam

Create Your Own Walk in Amsterdam

Creating your own self-guided walk in Amsterdam is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Red Light District Walking Tour

Red Light District Walking Tour

Amsterdam's Rosse Buurt (Red Light District) has been the subject of much fascination for centuries. The medieval part of it, also the largest, known as De Wallen (or De Walletjes), is particularly famous for its fantastic juxtaposition of age-old architecture, leaning canal houses, narrow alleys lined with old-school bars, quaint shops and late-night pursuits. Of course, the main draw here...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Southern Canal Belt Walking Tour

Southern Canal Belt Walking Tour

The Canal District, known as Grachtengordel in Dutch, is a globally renowned example of urban planning and architectural excellence within Amsterdam. This area has remained remarkably well-preserved for over four centuries, celebrated for its charming small bridges, canal crossings, and 17th-century residences. Encircling the Old City Centre in a horseshoe shape, the Canal Ring encompasses three...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour

Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour

The history of Amsterdam is deeply intertwined with its religious heritage. The city is home to several historical churches, each with its own unique charm and significance. These religious sites serve as both spiritual centers and architectural treasures that provide insight into the city's past.

Our walk starts in the Central Station area and leads you to visit the eight most prominent...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam's food scene is a delightful fusion of local traditions and global influences. Making your way through the interlocking canals, pretty bridges, and a maze of streets laden with diverse eateries and bars may easily render you hankering for a bite to eat and/or a drink to wash it down with.

The diverse culinary landscape of Amsterdam caters to a wide range of tastes and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

The Jodenbuurt (Jewish Quarter) of Amsterdam had been the center of the Dutch Jewish community from the 16th century up until the Second World War. The neighborhood is best known as the birthplace of Baruch Spinoza, the home of Rembrandt, and the Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Once crowded with open-air stalls, smoking factories and tenement buildings, the Old...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Western Canal Belt Walking Tour

Western Canal Belt Walking Tour

Western Canal Belt is a historic neighborhood in Amsterdam that forms part of the larger Canal Ring, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which comprises a web of concentric canals. The three main canals making up the Western Belt are Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht. They are lined with beautiful and somewhat bizarre gabled houses that were built by prosperous merchants in the 17th century,...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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