Why a canal cruise is the best introduction to Amsterdam
This city built on water is known for its fascinating history, iconic architecture and sights that date back to its 17th-century beginnings. We tried out four of the best ways to experience Amsterdam from the canals and can confirm that there’s a boat tour to suit every traveller.
Amsterdam’s network of waterways is a national treasure, an intrinsic part of the city’s past and an attraction that draws in visitors from all around the world. The Canal Ring (or Grachtengordel) carries more than 400 years of history and was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2010. Most of the city’s impressive attractions are clustered around the canals and the best way to admire them is from a prime spot on board a boat.
A snapshot of Amsterdam’s sights and history
If you want to see a little of everything but don’t have time to spare, Stromma’s 100 Highlights Tour is a fantastic introduction to Amsterdam’s big-hitting sights. It’s hard to believe that 100 points of interest (and necessary photo ops) can be seen in less than an hour, but this compact city allows it. Upon boarding the boat, you’ll receive an audio set with a recording available in 19 different languages. The journey follows a complete loop of the city, pointing out iconic highlights such as the Anne Frank House, the A’DAM Tower, the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), the centuries-old canal houses on the Herengracht and the historic Jordaan neighbourhood. The audio tour even lets you in on interesting facts and memorable details as you pass them.
Your personal guide to Amsterdam
Not only does an Open Boat Tour afford you the best views of Amsterdam’s idyllic scenery and Golden Age architecture, it also allows you to customise the experience to suit your group’s interests. With a skipper that doubles as your tour guide, your group will be led through Amsterdam’s undiscovered gems and lesser-known sights. As you wind your way through the canals (these smaller boats can navigate the narrowest waterways) you’ll hear a personal retelling of the city’s history, receive recommendations of things to see and do and get to ask questions along the way.
Choose your own adventure
When you’re ready to go off and see the city at your own pace and on your own schedule, pedal boats give you the freedom to do so. Amsterdammers are no strangers to pedalling, and you’ll have the chance to keep up with the best of them from the stunning viewpoint of the water. Particularly suitable for families, pedal boats can carry up to four people and are easy to manoeuvre through the canals. They’re a great way to get active, take in the major sights and make your experience of Amsterdam extra memorable.