Located in the country's capital and most populated city, Amsterdam has a population of 872,680 people inside the city limits, 1,558,755 people in the urban area, and 2,480,394 people in the greater metropolitan region. Amsterdam, which is located within the province of North Holland, is often referred to as the "Venice of the North" because of the vast number of canals that constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the city.
The city of Amsterdam was built on the banks of the Amstel, which had been dammed to prevent floods; the name of the city comes from the Amstel dam. Amsterdam began as a tiny fishing town in the late 12th century, but during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, it grew into one of the world's most significant ports, and it became the world's leading centre for banking and commerce. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the city grew, and numerous new neighbourhoods and suburbs were planned and constructed as a result. The canals of Amsterdam, built in the 17th century, and the Amsterdam Defence Line, built in the 19th and 20th centuries, are both included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Sloten, which was acquired by the city of Amsterdam in 1921, is the oldest section of the city, with origins going back to the 9th century.