Amsterdam canals are a point of pride for the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages, Amsterdam was already a city of canals. During the 17th to 18th centuries, its series of canals was extended outwards as the city and its economic power grew. In 2010, the Amsterdam Canal Ring, the 17th century district surrounding the Old Centre of Amsterdam, was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Undoubtedly, an Amsterdam canal cruise is a must-do for any visitor to Amsterdam, especially first-timers. There’s simply so much you can learn about this Dutch city capital from its waterways.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise – What You Need to Consider

There’s so much to do in Amsterdam but a canal cruise gives your trip a different perspective because, to be honest, some of the best views you can get of this city are from its canals such as the Seven Bridges (seven Amsterdam canal bridges lined up in perfect order), the picturesque old houses with centuries-old gables, and you can even take a peek inside houseboats as you cruise along the water.

How Much Time Do you Have?

Are you in Amsterdam for a short or long stay? If it’s the former, you don’t need to miss out because many canal tours are only an hour in duration so it’s easy to squeeze one into your itinerary.

Guided Tour or Rent a Private Boat?

Guided tours are more cost-effective. However, there will be many other people on board so be prepared for that. Private boat tours are pricier, but they are often longer (at least 2 hours) and will have a smaller amount of people on board. Either way, you’ll have access to a knowledgeable skipper and staff who’re able to tell you many things about the landmarks you’ll come across during your cruise.

Our tip: Feeling fit? For a unique experience, book a Pedal Boat Tour and cycle your way around Amsterdam’s waterways.

Food- and Drink-Related Canal Cruises

One of the best things you can take is a food-related Amsterdam canal cruise. It’s fun, educational, and of course, filling! There are plenty of themes to choose from, so one’s bound to suit your fancy. But then again, who says you only need to book one cruise?

Here are just some of the food- and drink-centric tours you can take: Early Morning Breakfast Tour, Dutch Cheese Cruise, Wine and Dine Tour, BBQ Cruise, Dutch Beer Tour, New York Pizza Cruise, Booze Cruise, Dutch Pancake Tour, and more.

Seasonal Canal Cruises

You can take a canal cruise day or night. Many opt for day cruises but night tours are great too! Apart from the romantic ambiance factor, note that many of the landmarks are properly illuminated at night so don’t worry that you’ll miss them.

Also, Amsterdam waterway tours are ALL-YEAR ROUND. In fact, one of the cruises we took was a dinner cruise during the Amsterdam Light Festival in December. During this time, light artworks or sculptures decorate the canals giving them a magical and very Christmas-y feel. Themes vary each year so please do check what’s on offer if you decide to opt for this.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise – Frequently Asked Questions

What does a canal tour cost?

As of this writing, the average 1-hour boat tours are €12 to €25 per person.

Does it matter which canal I tour in Amsterdam?

Not really. Most canal cruise operators will take you past famous landmarks such as the Anne Frank House, the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), the Seven Bridges, etc.

How do I book an Amsterdam canal cruise?

Do you like any of the options below? Then all you need to do is click on one to book any number of tickets for a specific date and timeslot. You will get a ticket instantly after you’re booking and all you need to do is present it (printed or just show the e-ticket you received on your smartphone) to the staff waiting at canal cruise boarding points.

The advantage here is that you don’t need to queue in line which during peak season can literally take hours!

You can also check out the respective websites of Amsterdam canal tour operators and book your ticket(s) there, or fall in line during their various boarding points and secure your ticket(s) there.

Your ticket will give instructions on where to go to board your cruise. Often, these will be around Amsterdam Central Station or known landmarks such as the Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum.

When is the BEST TIME to take a cruise?

The summer months (June-September) are undoubtedly the busiest times for Amsterdam canal tours. Sure, the canals may be a bit crowded, but this is also the time when you can either be on an open deck or when boats have their roofs open so this is also when you can get the best views.

Our tip: Check out the local vacation days and if possible, book your canal tour just a week before (or after) everyone else is on holiday. If you’re in Amsterdam during peak season, book your cruise in the morning or late in the afternoon. The sunsets very late during summer, often not before 9 PM, so you’ll still have enough light to take those IG-worthy pics minus the very big crowds.

Should I leave a tip?

Some tours may ask for tips at the end of the tour but no, you’re not obligated to leave a tip. (Most locals don’t.) But of course, if you had an excellent time and believe that the skipper and/or staff provided excellent service then tips are usually 5-10% of your bill.

Does my I amsterdam City Card include a free canal cruise?

You bet it does! Please check the I amsterdam site or the website of the canal cruise company you’re interested to book with for up to date information.

An Amsterdam canal cruise is a unique experience and a great way to see, admire and learn about this Dutch city capital. So do give one a try!

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