Tips for your Canal tour in Amsterdam 🛥️

Amsterdam, oh Amsterdam! The adorable narrow and leaning townhouses, streets full of carefully decorated shops, and the impatient chimes of hurrying cyclists make this city unforgettable. Daydreaming, we see the countless canals that give Amsterdam its familiar face.

The magical feeling of cruising the canals is unmatched. Some might even say that those who haven’t seen Amsterdam from a boat haven’t seen Amsterdam at all. 

Amsterdam canal tour: a bridge filled with bicycles in Amsterdam
Experience Amsterdam’s charm with its iconic bridges and countless bikes, all set against the picturesque canals

Join us on a canal tour and discover Amsterdam from the water

Keep reading to embark on this unforgettable journey!👇🛥️👇

The Venice of the North 🌉 

People romantically call Amsterdam “The Venice of the North, with its 165 canals (or “grachten”) and 1,281 bridges. We start our trip at the Westerdok, just north of the main train station, at Canal Motorboats. We get acquainted with our steady aluminum motorboat in the harbor. Good maneuvering skills will prove valuable in the narrow canals. Remember, smaller boats give way to bigger ones.  

Exploring the Outer Canal Belt 🚤 

Our journey begins with the outer canal belt of Amsterdam, the Prinsengracht. This belt consists of four canals encircling the inner city core, known for its Red Light District and coffeeshops. The waterways are straight, so it’s impossible to get lost. Along the way, we admire lovely houseboats on either side. There are about 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam, ranging from dilapidated pirate ships to designer pieces. 

Don’t forget to capture your canal cruise memories! Check out our guide on the Most Instagrammable places in Amsterdam to discover the best spots for stunning photos. 

Amsterdam canal tour: a canal view, green water and a boat
Stunning canal views from Amsterdam’s bridges, adorned with vibrant flowers and charming boats cruising by

Discovering the Negen Straatjes 🏘️ 

We continue along the Prinsengracht, which crosses the Negen Straatjes, an area with nine streets full of hip second-hand shops, nice cafés, and the colorful lifestyle of Amsterdam. We park our boat and disembark at the Elandsgracht in one of the more stylish neighborhoods. Here, we treat ourselves to ice cream at Yscuypje, which offers nearly forty different flavors—so go ahead and make it a big one. 

The Narrow and Leaning Houses of Amsterdam 🏡 

As we sail on, the narrow and leaning houses amaze us. These houses are long and slim because, in earlier times, taxes were based on the width of the houses, yet people needed a lot of storage space. Their leaning postures are due to the moist and sandy ground. It takes us about an hour of sailing before we cross the Amstel River in the southern part of the city and turn back. If you have time and love antiques, plan a stop at the Waterlooplein flea market on a Monday or Saturday. 

Amsterdam canal tour: Amsterdam's tall houses on the canal
Discover Amsterdam’s iconic charm with its tall, narrow houses lining the picturesque canals

A Glimpse of Herengracht’s Grandeur 🏰 

The return journey takes us along the Herengracht, a parallel canal to the Prinsengracht. This street is historically home to the city’s wealthy bankers and boasts some of the most magnificent and expensive canal houses in Amsterdam. The grandeur is astonishing, with chandeliers as far as the eye can see. For more opulence, take a detour to the Singel canal, passing the floating flower market at the Koningsplein, and see Die goldene Biegung (“The Golden Bend”). This area is known for its stunning houses and brings us back to our starting point. 

Secret Tip: Boatside Pizza 🍕 

Feeling hungry? The Pizzeria San Marco in the southern part of the city delivers pizza directly to your boat through a window in the cellar. Delicious! 

For a complete Amsterdam experience, make sure to also check out our guide on Eating in Amsterdam on a budget to find the best affordable dining options in the city! 

Facts and Tips 📝 

  • Rental Rates: At Canal Motorboats, the first hour costs €50, the second hour €40, and the third only €30. 
  • Boat Specs: The boat is almost six meters long, nearly two meters wide, and has enough room for seven persons. Renting a boat is easy, and the strong material makes it almost impossible for anything to go wrong. 

Amsterdam canal tour 🛥️ FAQs

How can I discover Amsterdam through a canal tour?

Embark on a magical journey through Amsterdam's canals. Start at Westerdok near the main train station, rent a motorboat from Canal Motorboats, and navigate the city's picturesque waterways, houseboats, historic houses, and vibrant neighborhoods like the Negen Straatjes.

What makes Amsterdam's canals special?

Amsterdam’s canals, totaling 165, make the city "The Venice of the North." These waterways showcase houseboats, historic buildings, and charming neighborhoods, offering a unique perspective of the city's beauty and history.

Where should I start my canal tour in Amsterdam?

Begin at Westerdok, north of the main train station. Rent a motorboat from Canal Motorboats to explore the city’s canals. The harbor provides ample space to get comfortable with the boat before heading into narrower canals.

What can I see on Amsterdam's outer canal belt?

The outer canal belt, especially Prinsengracht, features houseboats and the Negen Straatjes district, known for trendy shops and cafés. You'll also see historic narrow houses along the way.

What are the Negen Straatjes in Amsterdam?

Negen Straatjes, or "Nine Streets," is a trendy area crossing the Prinsengracht, filled with shops, cafés, and vibrant street life. Park your boat and explore on foot, perhaps stopping for ice cream at Yscuypje.

Why are Amsterdam’s houses so narrow and leaning?

Amsterdam's houses are narrow due to historic property taxes based on width. They lean because of the moist, sandy ground.

What is special about the Herengracht canal?

Herengracht features historical grandeur, with magnificent and expensive canal houses once home to wealthy bankers. The canal showcases luxurious interiors and chandeliers.

Are there any unique dining experiences on an Amsterdam canal tour?

Enjoy boatside pizza delivery from Pizzeria San Marco, which delivers directly to your boat through a cellar window.

How much does it cost to rent a boat for a canal tour in Amsterdam?

At Canal Motorboats, it’s €50 for the first hour, €40 for the second, and €30 for the third. Boats are spacious and easy to maneuver, accommodating up to seven people.

What other activities should I do while in Amsterdam?

Explore flea markets like Waterlooplein, visit the floating flower market on Singel canal, and check out guides on the Most Instagrammable places in Amsterdam and Eating in Amsterdam on a budget.

🛎️ Where can you stay during a magical Amsterdam canal tour?

Book your stay at one of the MEININGER Hotels in Amsterdam and get ready for an unforgettable canal tour!


MEININGER Hotel Amsterdam Amstel: Julianaplein 6, 1097 DN Amsterdam
MEININGER Hotel Amsterdam City West: Orlyplein 1 – 67, 1043 DR Amsterdam

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