A cruise on the canals of Amsterdam

With almost 100 kilometres of canals and around 1,300 bridges, Amsterdam fully deserves its nickname of Venice of the North. The arms of the Amstel, which cross the city, are one of the symbols of Amsterdam, and discovering them from the water during a boat trip is an absolute must for any visit to the Dutch capital.

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The history of Amsterdam's canals

Before it became a major port and capital, Amsterdam was a small fishing village. It was not until the 13th century that the city was created, thanks to a new dike - dam in Dutch - on the River Amstel, Amsterdam literally meaning 'dike on the Amstel'. Gradually the city and its port became a centre of international trade, attracting visitors and refugees from all over the world.

At the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), in response to the influx of people, the canals were built to facilitate maritime traffic and to defend the city. It was at this time that Amsterdam took on the face we know today. In 2010 they were even declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

© Dennis van de Water / Shutterstock

Why take an Amsterdam canal cruise?

Four large canals surround the centre of Amsterdam (Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel) and many smaller canals (Leliegracht, Bloemgracht, etc.) criss-cross the city long, wide and across, giving it an undeniable charm. A cruise on the water allows you to discover the historic centre, its monuments, its alleys and its bridges from a new perspective. Along the way you will pass the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House and the Heineken Experience Museum. Thanks to the commentary of the guides, often in French, we will learn more about the history and culture of the Venice of the North.

Our favourite Amsterdam cruise! Amsterdam

Our favourite Amsterdam cruise!

The Blue Boat cruises take you to Amsterdam's main points of interest with an audio guide available in 21 languages, all at a very reasonable price!

You can of course walk or cycle along the canals, but the best way to explore the city centre is by boat, and there are a thousand and one ways to discover Amsterdam's canals. The most classic one, offered by almost all the companies, is a trip of about an hour and a half, accompanied by a guide or an audio guide, who will tell you more about the little treasures that we come across along the water.

The Hop-on hop-off boats are also very popular with tourists: these riverboats, equipped with audio guides, stop at the city's main attractions, making them the perfect way to alternate between cruising and sightseeing. Those looking for more unusual excursions will also find them: in addition to the traditional dinner or cocktail cruises, some companies introduce us to Dutch gastronomy by offering cheese or pancake tastings on board their boats. It is also possible to rent your own boat and sail the canals of Amsterdam at your own pace. A boat licence is not usually required and you can even take your aperitif on board!

Une barque sur les canaux d’Amsterdam.

- © Olena Znak / Shutterstock

Access and timetables for Amsterdam canal cruises

Of course, schedules vary according to the season, the type of cruise and the company operating it, but for classic cruises you can expect a departure every 20 to 30 minutes or so. There are several departure points scattered along the canals (all easily accessible on foot, by bike or by public transport). The best way to find out is to contact the operator directly, either online or on site.

A boat passing under a bridge in Amsterdam.

- © Dennis van de Water / Shutterstock

Amsterdam canal cruise price

The price of a classic cruise varies between 15 and 20 euros, depending on the company, and includes a commentary by a guide or an audio guide. For special services, it is also advisable to contact the company directly. Some cruises are included in the [I amsterdam City Card] (https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/tickets/i-amsterdam-city-card?utm_source=easyvoyage).

Our favourite Amsterdam hotel with canal views

't Hotel 3* - Amsterdam Amsterdam

't Hotel 3* - Amsterdam

Each room in this 3-star hotel is uniquely decorated. You'll be charmed from the first glance!
£218 / night

A boat on the Amsterdam canals.

- © Andrew Mayovskyy / Shutterstock

A few tips for your visit

  • Amsterdam canal cruises are a very popular activity, so choose an early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
  • Most cruises are accessible to people with reduced mobility, so check with your chosen company.
by Editorial Team
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Further reading
Visit Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam
Visit Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam
To visit the Anne Frank House is to fulfil your duty to remember. In this house, where Anne and her family hid for several years, we learn about the daily life of Jews in the Netherlands...
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