Posted by: travelrat | April 14, 2010

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

Amsterdam: 17th March 2010

If you do nothing else in Amsterdam, you must do the canal cruise. The more clichéd guide books describe Amsterdam as ‘The Venice of the North’ … trouble is, just about any Northern European city with canals gets so described. But, it is a good way to see the city, and you’re far less likely to get mown down by a car, a tram or, more likely, one of the myriad bicycles that every second citizen seems to ride.

Most of the canal cruise boats are long, low, wide vessels. They have to be, to negotiate some of the bridges. Most are equipped with either electric or ‘clean’ diesel/electric engines, and offer a multi-lingual commentary; on our cruise, the guide asked each passenger which language they would like to hear the commentary in. So, our 75-minute trip was conducted in English and Italian.

Now, as it happened, one boat company, Holland International, operated from just outside our hotel. We chose the other one, Blue Boat Cruises, for which we had to walk some distance … but, we had time to kill, for neither company started until 10 am.

If you look at a map of central Amsterdam, you’ll see the canals in a sort of horseshoe arrangement, each one interlinked in several places. We wove our way through these, under the bridges, past the houseboats, and past the imposing 16th and 17th Century canal-side houses. Most of them are multi-storied, for canal-side property was a premium price, and you paid according to the frontage of your land. And, on the top storey was usually a crane. If you needed to get furniture or other bulky objects to an upper floor, it was easier to winch them up, and swing them in through the window than wrestle them up several flights of stairs.

Now, if you want to combine your cruise with other sightseeing, you can use the Canal Bus … which is really a boat, similar to the others. It’s a little bit more expensive, but your ticket is good for 24 hours, not just one cruise. You can hop on and hop off as you wish; there are four routes, taking in most of the major attractions around the city.

If you bought the Iamsterdam Card, ( it will entitle you to a free cruise with EITHER Blue Boat Cruises ( ) OR Holland International. ( )


  1. Back in the earliest of the ’90s I took a break from my job in Antibes, France, to visit Amsterdam. The first morning I was there I took one of the shortest canal tours offered. (Having been the captain of a sight-seeing boat in Chicago for two summers I do enjoy the genre.) The cruise provided an excellent perspective of the city and what I learned in the couple of hours of the ride made the rest of my stay that much more enjoyable.

    From that experience I recommend to people that when they go to a new place they book a short tour as soon as possible to find out what a city has to offer.

  2. Yes, I will agree whole-heartedly. The boat tour is, I think, the best if there are waterways but the ‘hop on/hop off’ open-top bus tours that operate in many cities are just as good if there aren’t.

    But, sometimes, ‘following the man with the flag’ is the only option …

  3. It’s the same advice I always give to first time visitors of New Amsterdam (NYC) 🙂

  4. […] city, for we’ve done a canal cruise before, and I haven’t anything really to add to the post at I made about our cruise in […]

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