Amsterdam is not known as “The Venice of the North” for nothing. It’s labyrinth of canals stretches over one hundred kilometers around the historic city. But Amsterdam would not be the thriving, bustling city that it is today, were it not for the vision of its fore-fathers, who envisaged a city, surrounded and supported by an inter-linking network of waterways, which would expand trade and drive economic growth.
Developed in the Golden Age of the 17th Century, as a result of booming commerce and a rising population, the canal system was envisaged as a system for defense, transportation of goods and commercial development. Today approximately 1500 bridges cover the waterways that link the famous landmarks, and the canals are home to some of Amsterdam’s most beautiful housing estates, providing a quick and enjoyable mode of transport for visitors and residents alike. The waterways also provide a stunning backdrop for many of the City’s cultural and entertainment events, including the famous King’s Day at the end of every April, the largest floating party you are ever likely to encounter.
At the time of its initial development, it was a brave and innovative venture, and thanks to the vision and hard work of subsequent generations, the canal system has been regenerated and tended with care and pride. As a reward for its efforts, the Canal Ring, otherwise known as the Grachtengordel, was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
The Four Main Canals
- Herengracht (Lord’s Canal) is one of three major canals to be found in the city and is home to some of the most beautiful residences in the area.
- Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), is the widest Canal in central Amsterdam and Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal, named after the Price of Orange) is the longest together with the Singel Canal, which encircles the city, these canals form the main Canal Ring in Amsterdam and are easy to explore by boat, or on foot.
Exploring the waterways and their history can be a time-consuming affair but you can treat yourself to a crash-course by visiting the Het Grachtenhuis (Canal Museum), which offers visitors exhibits and information regarding Amsterdam’s remarkable canal history.
Canal Tours and Excusions
Canal tours and excursions are readily available from many points along the waterways and are one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions. Travelling by boat is an excellent way to view some of the more spectacular buildings and, of course, allows you to rest those weary feet and conserve some energy for Amsterdam’s famous nightlife. Boat cruises depart regularly throughout the day and guided excursions are available in most languages.
Many of Amsterdam’s most famous museums are located on the canal edge, including the Museum van Loon, the Huis Marseille Photography Museum and the Willet- Holthuysen Museum.
The following sites offer a wide range of day, and night time, cruises and guided trips, to help you explore the beautiful and fascinating canals of Amsterdam. Whether you fancy a stunning twilight cruise by candlelight, a guided tour of the City’s Museums by boat, or just a canal day-pass to explore the waterways at your leisure, the following sites can help you plan your great canal adventure!
Keep in mind that those XXX symbols you see all over town are not a mark of the city’s triple-X reputation. They’re part of Amsterdam’s official coat of arms – three St. Andrew’s crosses, believed to represent the three dangers that have traditionally plagued the city: flood, fire, and pestilence.
The coat’s motto ‘Valiant, Determined, Compassionate’ was introduced in 1947 by Queen Wilhelmina in remembrance of the 1941 February Strike in Amsterdam – the first time in Europe that non-Jewish people protested against the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime.
Amsterdam Canal and Boat Cruises
- Amsterdam Canal Cruises
- Blue Boat Company
- Amsterdam Jewel Cruises
- Holland International Canal Cruises
- Rederij Lovers
- Rederij Kooij
- City Sightseeing Amsterdam
- Gray Line Amsterdam Canal Cruises
- Boot Huren Amsterdam
- Private Boat Tours – Klassieke Salonboten
- Rederij Aemstelland
- Rederij Plas
- Dutch Barge Cruises
- Boaty Rent a Boat Amsterdam
- Classic Boat Tours
- Omy Amsterdam Tours
- Joy Ride Tours
- De Pannenkoekenboot