The Canals of Amsterdam: Everything You Need to Know

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The canals of Amsterdam are not the first attractions you think of when visiting Amsterdam, but they are one of the best. You can’t help admiring them.

The canals of Amsterdam were built during the 17th Century. That’s pretty old, but hey, they’re still in great shape. With over 100 km of canals running through Amsterdam, it’s no wonder, they call it the Venice of the North. One of the best things about visiting Amsterdam is strolling along the canals while looking at the majestic structures around it.

The network of canals that form the backbone of the city’s urban design shows integrity to its history and innovation for modernity. Along with the radial canals and roads, survive intact, with their old embankments and historical facades aligned.

Canal in Amsterdam

So just what makes Amsterdam’s canals so special?  These 8 reasons:


One of the famous Amsterdam canals


1) There is over 100 km of canals:

The result is an incredible 90(ish) islands and 1500 (ish) bridges. Just think how long you could spend exploring!

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Town hall and Chinese center seen from a canal in Amsterdam.


2) The inner ring canals are lined with historic buildings:

1550 of which have a monumental building status. No wonder they earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2010. The historical buildings are a popular tourist attraction and now I see why!


Amsterdam canal with houseboats and historic buildings

3)There are locks so there are never ebbs and flows in the canals of Amsterdam.

This is the perfect way to maintain just the right water level. This reduces the risk of flooding and of boats becoming beached. Genius water management!

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Town hall and Chinese center seen from a canal in Amsterdam.

4)The canals might be cleaner than your bathtub

They’re flushed five times a week!  I don’t know about you but that’s more often than I clean my bathroom unless, of course, you would like to come over and clean it.

Houseboat on a canal in Amsterdam.

5)There are a lot of houseboats on the canals of Amsterdam – ~3000 of them

Unfortunately, houseboats are not cheap to live in. But don’t worry, #8 below offers a good alternative. On the bright side, if you visiting you can book accommodation on a houseboat that will is a great way to experience the canals of Amsterdam.

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One of the 1500 bridges over the canals in Amsterdam.

6)You can swim in some parts of the canal

The Amsterdam City Swim is a canal swim for charity held every year, and even Princess Maxima has participated in this race. The event takes place in annually in September. They even have a kid’s event.

Would you be one of the brave 1600 swimmers? I think I would just stick to cheering on the sidelines for this one – that water has to be cold! But diving in the canals in a dry suit?  

Now we’re talking!

Courier boat on a canal in Amsterdam.

7) Walking along the canals at night is a perfect opportunity for people watching

This was a tip given to me by our guide who explained that the Dutch don’t normally close their curtains, so at night when the lights are on you get a glimpse (for better or for worse) into the locals’ lives. Let’s just leave it at that.  

Moving on…

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Boat on a canal in Amsterdam.

8) Some Dutch consider their boats to be their gardens

As explained to me by Sebastian my guide in Amsterdam, My boat is my garden. Some people go to their gardens to relax, I go to my boat.  I relax by inviting a few friends and driving my boat along the canals.  Ummm, can we be friends?  

Tip:  If you can’t afford to live in a houseboat, become friends with someone who at least owns a boat.

Amsterdam canal with bridge and monumental buildings.

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Bonus:  There’s even a cat sanctuary houseboat!  

I’m a huge cat lover. I have 2 adorable black cats named Fuego and Coco (named after places I discovered while traveling – bonus points if you can figure them out) that I adopted from the animal shelter.  I really wanted to see De Poezenboot (The Cat Boat), after reading about it on my friend Cheryl’s blog, but sadly missed it.

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Visitor Info for the Canals of Amsterdam

Amsterdam Houseboats

Canal Boat City Center

This houseboat offers a fully equipped kitchen and a washing machine and is situated in the City Center just 500m away from Anne Frank House. This is the perfect way to experience the canals of Amsterdam like a local.

Boat & Breakfast 

This boat has one of the best location rankings and offers you free Wifi and a great breakfast. This is a great way to experience the canals of Amsterdam with a touch of luxury.

3-Star Hotels

The Bank Hotel

This hotel, which was once a historic bank, offers you modern rooms that are soundproofed. The hotel is situated in a great location in central Amsterdam and is not far from the canals. The Amsterdam Central Railways Station is just a short walk away making it convenient for travelers.

ibis Amsterdam Centre Stopera

This hotel has an excellent location, with all the major buses and trams available just a short distance away. The hotel also has a beautiful courtyard that is perfect for those hot summer days when you just want to sit outdoors and have a relaxing drink. There is also a 24-hour drink and snack service.

4-Star Hotels

Hotel Jakarta Amsterdam

Hotel Jakarta is a sustainable hotel in a perfect location near the canals of Amsterdam. Besides being eco-friendly, the hotel has a unique Indonesian feel to it and even has an excellent spa and gym on the premises. Enjoy a drink at the sky bar that overlooks the best parts of Amsterdam.

Sir Adam Hotel

The hotel is located in the brand new A’DAM Tower in Amsterdam. The hotel has a modern yet retro decor and offers amazing views of Amsterdam. The building includes the A’Dam Lookout and the Hub which is a co-working space perfect for digital nomads.

5-Star Hotel

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam consists of 6 monumental 17th-century canal palaces. This hotel is the epitome of luxury and gives you real royal treatment. The hotel offers 4 iconic fine dining restaurants and a beautiful spa.

Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam

This is the perfect place to relax with its modern yet cozy interior design. The lobby is equipped with yoga mats and a Tea Station with complimentary tea for all guests. Guests also have free access to the VanMoof bikes, perfect for seeing the canals of Amsterdam.

Boat Tours

Amsterdam: 1.5-Hour Evening Canal Cruise

Experience the canals of Amsterdam at night with this short cruise. See the lights of Amsterdams merchant houses in the best way possible.

Amsterdam: Small Open Canal Boat Cruise

This boat cruise takes you through the canals of Amsterdam. The guides offer you information and insights into the history of the canals and Amsterdam.

Touring the canals of Amsterdam was a great experience that gave me so many more reasons to love Amsterdam. What was your favourite reason?

Thank you to Amsterdam Tourism for inviting me to participate in the canal’s 400th birthday celebrations!  As always all opinions expressed are my own and the Tourism board does not promote being a voyager – even if the Dutch don’t close their curtains!

This post has been updated and republished.