Take a dip, rent a boat, surf the waves. Whether you want a special spot in the city or an idyllic location on the outskirts, you’ll find more than enough places to pull-up to the shore and chill. What more could you want from a summer’s day?

Rent a boat

Amsterdam canal boats Merijn Roubroeks 

There’s no question about it, one of the best ways to see Amsterdam is by boat. And as you might expect, there are many beautiful boating spots in and around the 17th-century canal ring, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Rent a boat and take in an impressive view of Amsterdam architecture as you cruise along quaint canals. We recommend choosing a small vessel so you can dock at one of the many waterside restaurants in Amsterdam. Hannekes Boom and Waterkant are just a couple of pit stops you could make. For those who’d prefer their food delivered straight to the deck, sail-up to Pizzeria San Marco for mouth-watering pizza.

Lakeside lounging

Gaasperplas Swimming and Playing Koen Smilde Photography

Nieuwe Meer (New Lake) in the south of Amsterdam is an oasis that’s easy to get to from the city centre. Along its shores you’ll find walking areas, a beach and enough greenery to make you feel like you’re in nature. Across the way is Boerderij Meerzicht, a farm dating back to 1857 where you can try a tantalising selection of pancakes. Gaasperplas in Amsterdam ZuidOost is worth the trek where you can sail, sun-bake or wander through the beautiful Gaasperpark.

Sloterplas in Nieuw-West was dug between 1948 and 1956 and is now a favourite spot for locals who want to take a breather. The surrounding park has barbecue spots, sculptures, a beach and swimming pools. Plus, the Van Eesteren Museum celebrates the work of Cornelius van Eesteren, an influential urban planner whose designs can be seen in the district, Buitenveldert and in parts of Amsterdam Noord.

Take a canal cruise

Amsterdam Damrak Merijn Roubroeks

We’ve rounded up five reasons why seeing Amsterdam from the water is a great idea, and a canal cruise offers much more than just a tour of waterways; it is a window into Dutch history. Take in the sights on a standard cruise or try a themed sail: pizza, cheese and wine, and Dutch Gin are popular options. Smaller charter boats offer a more intimate affair where you can savour a meal with someone special. Hop-on hop-off cruises are a great way to balance your sea and land time, and offer opportunities to take in the city’s well-regarded museums and galleries. Feeling sporty? Paddle boats, canoes and paddle boards offer a more physical way to experience life on the water in Amsterdam.

Unwind on the beach

In the Netherlands, beaches are popular year-round, and the ones in and around Amsterdam are no exception. The city boasts a number of urban beaches that each have their own charms, from the industrial surrounds of Pllek in Amsterdam Noord, Het Stenen Hoofd on the opposite side of the IJ River, to the shores of Sloterplas in Amsterdam Nieuw-West where golden sands await. They’re all especially popular when the sun is shining.

If a jaunt to the seaside is more your thing, make a day trip and head to Amsterdam Beach on the North Sea. Take the train from Central Station to Zandvoort aan Zee and you’ll find a stretch of long sandy beach that’s yours for the taking. Join in the fun and take to the water to enjoy a range of water sports, swim or lay back and soak up some rays (don’t forget your sunscreen!) as you recline in a daybed with a good book. You’ll find a startling array of beach bars serving up hot food and cold drinks all day long. Venture away from Zandvoort in either direction to enjoy some unspoilt nature on this spectacular coastline.

Ride the ferries

IJveer Amsterdam Frank Hemminga

Did you know that many of Amsterdam’s ferries are free? Pedestrians and cyclists can jump aboard a ferry and be whisked off to your destination in minutes. That’s a great way to explore the northern part of the city where NDSM, Eye Filmmuseum, stunning parks and much more awaits. Cyclists can loop to the west and come back on the west ferry in Zaandam and take in the harbour area. Or loop to the east and return to the Eastern Docklands. Don’t miss the new Hem ferry (you have to pay for this one) that will take you to Het Hem, a new district with restaurants and a contemporary art gallery. To the south, a (paid, one euro) ferry operates across the Nieuwe Meer from around the middle of April to the middle of October taking you to Amsterdamse Bos.

Dine at a waterfront restaurant

Waterside dining in Amsterdam is heaven. The sheer number of options are staggering, from cafes and bars through to fine dining establishments by the sea, on the lake or on quaint canals with a romantic view to set the mood. Love seafood? Café-restaurant Stork on the IJ River in the city’s north is your port of call where the catch of the day is ready and waiting. MOS offers a knock-out view from their waterfront terrace and a menu that puts the fine in fine dining. If you’re looking for something a little offbeat, head to Pont 13 and dine in an old ferry, climb a former pirate radio tower for a spectacular view from REM Eiland or combine a boat ride with an exclusive meal in a pop-up restaurant on Vuurtoreneiland.

Best surf spots

Now, you’d be forgiven for not associating surfing with Amsterdam — it’s not the first thing that comes to mind. But there are plenty of tasty waves to claim along the coasts. In fact, Wijk aan Zee by IJmuiden is one of the country’s top spots for surfing. At Amsterdam Beach, you can paddle-board, windsurf, blokart or kitesurf. Bear in mind the best time to take part is from spring to autumn. Give winter a miss, when freezing winds from the arctic can put an icy damper on your fun. 

Dip your toes in the water

Dotted around the city you’ll find a number of swimming spots, from the Marineterrein in the centre to the Admiralengracht in the west. Or make a day of it and head north to ’t Twiske by bike where you’ll find a nature park and beaches or take the kids to Monnickendam Beach for a fun day out.

Want an even more active experience on the water? Ride the waves with Amsterdam’s top five water sports.