The Magnificent Canals in Amsterdam

Amsterdam: the most watery city in the world!

One of the most unique aspects of the city of Amsterdam that it is most proud of is its rich history. Nowhere can this be more seen than in the city’s hundreds of ringed canals.


In the middle ages, the first canals were built for water management purposes, defense mechanisms and as transportation routes. The size of Amsterdam quadrupled in the 17th century during Amsterdam’s Golden age, when trade suddenly boomed. All along the existing canals, floating markets sprung up to tend to the needs of an ever-increasing population. Amsterdam became an economic and social hub. In the 20th century, with the introduction of cars, many canals were lost due to the need for land traffic space.

Despite this, Amsterdam remains the most water-logged city in the world. Many art enthusiasts will be glad to know that many of the historic canals in Amsterdam housed famous Dutch artists and writers (such as the Rozengracht, which was home to Rembrandt). In 2010, the canal ring of Amsterdam was officially added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. For people who would like to learn more about the fascinating history of canals in Amsterdam, Het Grachtenhuis (the museum of canals in Amsterdam) is definitely worth a visit!

Amsterdam in 1662 (southwest up)

The Best Ways to Experience Amsterdam’s Remarkable Canals

  1. Gay Pride
    Running from the end of July through to the beginning of August, the Gay Pride parade is one of Amsterdam’s biggest canal carnivals, attracting LGBT activists from all over the Netherlands, as well as internationally.
  2. King’s Day
    This wonderfully Dutch holiday (formerly Queen’s day) sees the canals crowded with orange-clad party-goers on rented boats, soaking up the beautiful Amsterdam sunshine and jovial atmosphere. Learn more about King’s day here.
  3. The Grachtenfestival
    The festival of canals in Amsterdam also brings much color and celebration to the city’s waterways. Visit its official website here.
  4. Amsterdam light festival
    Held in the winter, this event brings stunning displays of light that daze and inspire.
  5. Houseboats on the canals
    Something that always intrigues visitors about the canals in Amsterdam are the houseboats, and those who dwell within. It is always particularly endearing to see the pets of these homes delicately balanced on the boat ledges, well-adapted to life on the water.
  6. Canal cruises
    One can learn much more about the houseboats, as well as experience the wonderful views from the water, on one of Amsterdam’s many canal cruises that are available. With tickets selling from ten Euros, you have every reason to give it a try.
  7. Private boat rent
    You also have the option of renting a private boat, giving you the freedom to select your own route, your own music, and your fellow boat mates! This option is great in the summer, when the atmosphere in Amsterdam is one of leisure and tranquility. It is also a fantastic way to enjoy the stunning architecture that the city has to offer.

    The picturesque views need not only be admired from the water. There are many terraces and charming cafes that are situated along the canal edges where one can enjoy a drink, and simply soak up the atmosphere.

    No matter what your primary reason for your visit is, the iconic canals in Amsterdam will certainly provide you with one of your fondest memories of this beautiful city.

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