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Best water views in the Amsterdam Area

The Dutch have always had a special relationship with water. Most of the Netherlands was ‘reclaimed’ from the sea, and this history is in evidence everywhere. The Amsterdam Area (and the country as a whole) is crisscrossed with networks of canals, polders, dykes and rivers - all designed to manage the water in a country that’s largely below sea level. It’s no surprise then that there are plenty of gorgeous water views to enjoy, from beaches and lakes to canal-side dining.

Hit the beach

The closest beaches to Amsterdam are directly west of the city. The train from Amsterdam Central Station to Zandvoort aan Zee takes 30 minutes, after which it’s a short walk to the beach, and the journey is even quicker by car. When you get there, you’ll find plenty of pavilions along the sand from which to watch the waves. You can also enjoy great water views from the Dutch dunes, stretching behind the long sandy expanse that runs down the coast from IJmuiden to The Hague. Here is a round-up of some of the best beach bars in the area for tips on where to kick back and relax on the sand.

Relax by the river

A couple sitting near the river bank of the Amstel in the village of Oudekerk aan de Amstel.
Image from Koen Smilde

From Amsterdam, the most accessible river is the Amstel – after which the city is named. Rent a boat and head south towards Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, where you can moor up and enjoy waterfront views at one of the cafés and restaurants along the river. For more active types, you can rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard – we like Kano & SUP, but there are other options too. If the weather is scorching, you can even swim in the river. Be sure to look for designated swimming spots and watch out for any passing boats. Read this guide to the best outdoor sports to try in Amsterdam for more inspiration.

Swim in a lake

Het Twiske is a recreation and nature area and a typical Noord-Holland peat lake area in the Zaan region.
Image from koen smilde

If you’d rather not swim in the sea or the river, a lake might be the answer. There are plenty in the Amsterdam Area, including the lovely urban beach at Sloterplas (west of the city centre), the recreational park at Het Twiske (to the north), the nature reserve at Gaasperplas (to the southeast) and around the tiny islands of the Westeinderplassen (to the southwest). For more swim-spiration, read our guide to the Amsterdam Area’s best outdoor swimming spots.

Dine on a polder

People outside cafe Polder
Image from Amsterdam Science Park

The Dutch polder is so important that they’ve even turned it into a verb. Polderen loosely translates as discussing a particular issue with various stakeholders until a consensus is reached. And the famous polder model takes its name from the tracts of land enclosed by dikes. Café-Restaurant Polder in Amsterdam’s Science Park is of course named after the piece of land on which it’s built. And although it’s nestled among the modern Science Park buildings, it used to be an old warehouse that’s since been converted into a dining and events space. Polder is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a terrace in summer and a wood-burning stove in winter. Either way, look over the dikes and know you’re on a true Dutch polder.

Savour fine-dining at the waterside

Aan de Poel restaurant interior
Image from Aan de Poel

Overlooking De Poel – a small lake in Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) – you can treat yourself to the gastronomic experience of a lifetime at Aan de Poel. If you tire of the waterside views, turn 90 degrees to see the chefs at work in the kitchen. With two Michelin stars, you can be assured of top-level, creative cuisine and perfect wines to match. Lunch is a little lighter and more affordable than dinner and gives you time to wander around the lake and the forest afterwards to aid digestion.

Find a secluded spot to sunbathe

Hortus urban district in Almere is a new residential area on the site of the Floriade 2022 and is happy to inherit the greenery of the expo.
Image from koen smilde

If you want to escape the crowds at Zandvoort and Bloemendaal, did you know that Almere boasts over 42 kilometres of coastline? Or that it has the largest catamaran beach in all of Europe? The lengthy coastline is sprinkled with beautiful beaches, such as Almeerdestrand and Strandbad Duin, where you can relax or swim to your heart’s content. For the more adventurous, Batavia Beach (Lelystad) is ideal for flyboarding and surfing. Many of Almere’s beaches feature restaurants and cafés serving refreshments, and most of them have public toilet facilities and showers.

Set sail on the leisure lakes

Image from

Connected by rivers, canals and small channels, the picturesque leisure lakes just south of Amsterdam make for a fantastic getaway. Rent a sailing boat, motorboat or even a canoe to explore the lakes – experienced boaters will love the opportunity to navigate the network of narrow channels between the islands of the Westeinderplassen. At the same time, the open water of the Loosdrechtse Plassen is great for speedboats and waterskiing. Read our complete guide to boating around Amsterdam for more inspiration.

Settle down on a riverside terrace

People sitting on benches enjoying their view at the Spaarne river in Haarlem. On the other side of the water, you see the Molen De Adriaan windmill.
Image from Koen Smilde

Intersected by a river and brought to life by culture, Haarlem’s weave of cobblestone streets is alive with charm and history. Just 20-minutes by train from Amsterdam, this picturesque city is nicknamed the ‘Spaarnestad’ after the river that runs through it, a body of water that has long helped define Haarlem as a centre of commerce and culture. Take in views of the monuments that line its banks, such as the historic Molen de Adriaan and the monumental Teylers Museum before sitting down on a terrace at on of the city's top restaurants and bars.