The city of Amsterdam is surrounded on the north, east, and west sides by the town of Amsterdam. The Mohawk River runs through the city. The majority of the city lies on the north bank, but the Port Jackson area on the south side is also part of the city.
The city is within the original, now defunct town of Caughnawaga (meaning "at the rapids"), formed in northern Montgomery County in 1788.
The first Europeans to settle here were Dutch immigrants about 1710. They called the community Veeders Mills and Veedersburgh after Albert Veeder, an early mill owner, but residents changed the name to Amsterdam in 1803. In 1773, Guy Johnson built Guy Park, a stone Georgian mansion, but as a Loyalist, he fled to Canada during the Revolution.
It was incorporated as a village on April 20, 1830 from a section of the town of Amsterdam. New charters in 1854, 1865, and 1875 increased the size of the village. In 1885, Amsterdam became a city, which subsequently increased in size by annexation of the former village of Port Jackson, which became the fifth ward of the city.
The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was an economic boon to the city, and a dam on the Chuctanunda Creek, finished in 1875, allowed the city to become an important manufacturing area, primarily of carpets. In 1865, the population of Amsterdam was 5,135. By 1920, it was 33,524.
Amsterdam experienced serious flooding damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in late August 2011.
The Amsterdam (46th Separate Company) Armory, Amsterdam City Hall, Gray-Jewett House, Green Hill Cemetery, Greene Mansion, Guy Park, Guy Park Avenue School, Samuel and Johanna Jones Farm, Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church Complex, Samuel Sweet Canal Store, Temple of Israel, United States Post Office, and Vrooman Avenue School are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Chalmers Knitting Mills was added in 2010.