There’s a famous Dutch saying that goes, “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands”. Large parts of the country used to be below sea level and thus uninhabitable. However, that didn’t stop the Dutchies.

Canals were dug, formed, designed, and re-designed and dykes were erected to make the country what it is today—a distinct land characterized by an impressive water infrastructure. So canal cruises abound and it’s one of the best ways to experience Holland.

5 Reasons Why a Canal Cruise is One of the Best Ways to Explore Holland

#1 See top attractions from a different perspective. Canal cruises offer a unique way to see many of a city’s attractions in a different light.

For instance, there are plenty of points of interest in Amsterdam but it’s only on the water where you can truly appreciate its row of lop-sided canal houses and their centuries-old hijsbalken (lifting beams). At Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk, it’s great to be able to enter and explore its various historic windmills but a canal cruise enables you to view them in a row in all their glory.

#2 Avoid lines and crowds. Top attractions mean long queues, long waits, and busy crowds. Canal cruises are easy to book in advance and can only take a certain number of people at a time.

#3 Time and weather don’t matter. Didn’t have time to visit an attraction but want to pass by it anyway? Most canal cruise operators offer day and night tours.

Were you planning to go to an outdoor point of interest but it’s raining? Canal boats are covered so you can still take a cruise regardless of the weather!

#4 Chillax and absorb. Going from one place to another can be pretty tiring. A canal cruise lets you see top sights while leisurely sitting down. You can even have koffie en gebak (coffee and cake) or a full three-course meal depending on the canal cruise you choose.

#5 See more attractions in less time. One of the most beautiful things about the Netherlands is that there’s so much to see. If you’re pressed for time, a canal cruise is a great and fast way to see many points of interest in a short period of time.

5 Best Places to Take a Canal Cruise

#1 Amsterdam

Amsterdam canals are part of the UNESCO world heritage and a canal tour will give you a great view of this capital’s various historic canal houses, many of which are old merchant houses with excellent architecture and beautiful facades. TripAdvisor even lists them as “one of the best overall experiences in the world”!

Our Tip: Prepare for your Amsterdam canal tour by reading our Amsterdam Canal Cruise – All You Need to Know article.

#2 Rotterdam

Rotterdam is one of the best and biggest seaports in Europe. Experience its ultra-modern harbor, the shipyard, its industrial port, and the beautiful Rotterdam skyline during your canal cruise. There’s also a boat tour that takes you through the reclaimed land area (polder) near Kinderdijk (another UNESCO site).

#3 Utrecht

Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the country with a unique history and a wonderful maze of canals. A canal cruise in Utrecht usually provides views of its historic center, a look at old canal houses, bridges, and the popular Domtoren (Dom Tower).

#4 Giethoorn

Giethoorn is considered the “Venice of the Netherlands”. Although the manual punt boats (flat-bottomed boats) have been replaced by electric boats, it is still possible to experience this traditional, gondola-style, way of sailing a boat.

Boat tours through the village show the small canals and beautiful old houses. Longer tours take you across the lake and through beautiful natural areas.

Our Tip: If you’re staying in Amsterdam and want to take a Giethoorn canal cruise, you’re in luck. Click here for a special Giethoorn Tour: Luxury Small-Group Tour from Amsterdam cruise.

#5 Leiden

Leiden may be known as a university or student city, but it also offers a magnificent cityscape, with plenty of canals and historical houses to see.

There are not many countries in the world that can claim to have ‘mastered’ water. See how the Dutchies have done it AND get exceptional views of their many centuries-old architecture, charming canal houses, and monuments through their canal cruises.

About Kitty & Yogesh

Hoi! We’re Kitty and Yogesh, expats in the Netherlands. HollandDreams is a blog dedicated to traveling and living in the Netherlands. Together with our beagle dog Pépa, we travel across the country to explore exciting destinations and gather useful tips for travelers and expats.

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