Arts and Culture

Explore Amsterdam’s canals – and beyond

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When it comes to gorgeous waterways and canals, many people think of Venice. However, Amsterdam is another beautiful European city that offers some truly stunning canals for you to explore.

Here's a guide to how you can get around and see the city from the water and beyond. 

All about Amsterdam's canals

A quarter of Amsterdam's surface is made up of canals and harbours, making its waterways one of its biggest attractions. In the past, the canals were used for defense, trade and transport. 

As time went on, some canals were filled in to make streets, however a significant number of old canals remain. Three main canals, the Herengracht (Gentlemen's Canal), Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal) and Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal) are World Heritage listed. 

How to get around the waterways

Many residents and visitors to the city navigate the canals by boat as a leisure activity. When you visit, you can hire a boat yourself, or join a canal cruise tour. If you hire a vessel, you can choose from a pedal-boat or a quiet electric sailboat. 

There are many tours on offer, ranging from short scenic jaunts down the canal to twilight tours that feature candlelit dinners and silver service. There are all sorts of themed operations too, with theatre, dances, and cruises featuring live music and more. 

Staying on a houseboat is another option. While most are only operated as private homes for locals, there are some opportunities to stay in a houseboat for your accommodation.

Sights to enjoy from the water

From your vantage point travelling along Amsterdam's canals you will see a number of the city's highlights. 

As your route twists and turns, you'll look upon gorgeous old canal homes as pedestrians wander by. There are many more examples of beautiful architecture along the way, such as the bridges you'll pass beneath, and churches along the banks. There's the Westerkerk, or the Western Church, with its beautiful twinkling blue tower, not to mention the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk. 

You'll also happen upon lovely shopping and dining districts such as the '9 Streets', where cafes, restaurants, souvenir and antique shops are just some of the attractions you can enjoy. 

Other attractions in Amsterdam

There are some attractions in Amsterdam you'll need to step off your boat to enjoy.

The Royal Palace of the Dam, located in the centre of the city in Dam Square, is a beautiful building of diplomatic importance. Take in its awe-inspiring design from the outside, and enjoy a guided tour of the interior's highlights for more in-depth insight.

Then, of course, there's Anne Frank's house, where this famous young woman wrote in her diary and hid from occupying Germans during World War II. You can see where Anne and her family lived in the small space of this home, see original excerpts of her diary as well as other collections and exhibitions that delve into the tragic history of the time. 

Amsterdam has museums and galleries galore. Art and history enthusiasts can visit the Hermitage Amsterdam for a look into the city's Russian heritage and the Van Gogh Museum, which delves into the artwork and letters of the intriguing artist. Then there's the Rijksmuseum, which features a huge collection of artistic masterpieces. 

If you are eager to venture out of the central city, you could visit a nearby beach, such as the Bubbling Beach, a natural beauty that also features plenty of cafes and restaurants. Or, take a drive to the Flower Strip during spring, where you can see row upon row of bright flowers in blossom. 

Amsterdam is a fascinating city to visit, with great features both on and off the water, so don't miss this great destination. 

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