The Binnenstad is the medieval heart of Amsterdam. It is where most foreign visitors arrive and leave, and has a lot of the city's prime attractions.
Most visitors arrive in Amsterdam at the Centraal Station, and then walk south over the Damrak and Rokin. In medieval times, both roads actually were the final stretch of the Amstel River that used to cut Amsterdam in half. East of the Damrak-Rokin-axis was the Oudezijde ("Old Side") of Amsterdam, the oldest part of the city dating from the 13th century. West of the Damrak-Rokin-axis was the Nieuwezijde ("New Side"), which was constructed later, but still dates from the late Middle Ages. Damrak used to be a busy harbour where loads of ships docked, bringing valuable spices with them from the Dutch East Indies. Nowadays, together with Rokin, it's the glue that holds both sides of the city together, and the endless line of tacky souvenir shops won't give a hint about the street's history as a trading quarter.