The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam


Amsterdam in 2 Days – The Best Itinerary!

Amsterdam in 2 Days - The Best Itinerary!

Amsterdam is a vibrant city packed with history, culture, and natural beauty that can keep visitors occupied for weeks. However, even with just 48 hours to spare, travelers can still get a good taste of what this charming Dutch capital has to offer.

From quaint canal-rim cafés to winding medieval alleys, Amsterdam entices visitors with old-world charm around every turn. Yet flashes of local color, eccentricity and pointedly liberal attitudes consistently shatter its otherwise European quaintness. This delightful Dutch capital beautifully blends heritage and progressiveness unlike any other global city. And with just 48 hours, you can revel in Amsterdam’s dual charms of postcard pretty scenery and edgy counterculture.

Getting your bearings in this compact capital is easily done on foot or by bike. But to maximize time, start with an efficient canal cruise overview interwoven with insider history. Glide under peaked bridges while learning how a once small harbor transformed into the Dutch Golden Age’s wealthy trading empire and naval powerhouse. Hop off to peruse the tragic story of young Anne Frank at the secret annex memorial. Then indulge in the city’s artsy side while getting happily lost inside the embroidery of canals tracing Amsterdam’s core neighborhoods.

Keep your days filled with museums, markets and café stops while dedicating nights to meandering the city’s infamously buzzing historical underbelly. From the seedy Red Light District to quirky craft breweries housed in windmills, Amsterdam always surprises with surreal juxtapositions. So come ready to embrace this wonderfully contradictory city and soak up the best of quintessential Dutch charm.

Day 1

Morning: Canal Cruise and Maritime History

Start off your first morning in Amsterdam by experiencing the city as it was meant to be seen—from its UNESCO-listed canals. Board a 1-hour glass-topped canal cruise that loops you past gabled facades, houseboats, arched bridges and bustling canal-side cafés. Most cruises depart from centrally located docks near Centraal Station. You’ll glide by the city’s iconic landmarks while a guide narrates the rich maritime history of Amsterdam. Learn how a once small harbor town transformed into a naval powerhouse driving Dutch trading expeditions across the globe in the 1600s. The canals also offer a unique vantage point to witness Amsterdam’s clever city planning, done in the form of a concentric canal ring system to efficiently move goods during its mercantile heyday. After your cruise, grab a stroopwafel or chocolate croissant from a canal-side bakery before your next stop.

Late Morning: Anne Frank House

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without visiting the Anne Frank House museum, located in a historic canal house along the Prinsengracht. This poignant museum immerses you into the tragic story of Anne Frank and her family, who went into hiding here during Nazi occupation in WWII. Walk through the Secret Annex rooms where they lived in isolation for two years before being captured. See the famous diary on display along with exhibitions that thoughtfully chronicle Anne’s life against the backdrop of war and escalating anti-Semitism. Due to popularity, purchase tickets online in advance to minimize wait times into the museum. Allow 1-1.5 hours to tour this moving memorial.

Afternoon: Exploring Jordaan District

After a sobering morning at the Anne Frank House, spend your afternoon wandering the colorful Jordaan neighborhood. This charming district teems with shops, galleries, brown cafés and tiny gardens tucked away on quiet side streets. Make your way to the centerpiece Westerkerk church, whose clock tower served as a guide for Anne during her years in hiding. Meander through the Noordermarkt square, lined with a bustling farmers market on Mondays and a flea market on Saturdays. Stop at a brown café like the rustic Eetcafe Papeneiland for an uitsmijter ham and cheese sandwich or bitterballen snack. And don’t miss strolling along the Bloemgracht canal, known as the “flower canal” for its vibrant houseboats overflowing with blooms. The nearby Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market, also offers a fragrant display of tulips and more.

Evening: Red Light District and Dutch Fare

As evening sets in, head over to Amsterdam’s infamously lively Red Light District. Here you’ll find the city’s more provocative side with neon-lit windows, coffeeshops, seedy alleys and legalized prostitution all on display. Yet there’s still much local culture to uncover if you peek behind the seedy veneer. Weave through the narrow streets and canal-side lanes to discover historic churches, trendy bars and some of Amsterdam’s oldest brown cafés abuzz with locals and visitors alike. Stop at a bruin café like the iconic Café Belgique, serving brews since 1928 inside its wood-clad corner tavern.

After taking in the district’s unique sights, sit down for a hearty Dutch meal to end your first day. Moeders Restaurant offers a cozy, mom-and-pop atmosphere with filling Dutch fare like zuurvlees stew, fried fish platters and split pea soup with rye bread and cheese. Try the split pea soup paired with a cold Dutch beer, the perfect meal to sustain you for more adventures tomorrow!

Day 2

Morning: Cycling Through the City Center

Start your second day by renting a bike to tour Amsterdam like a true local. Cycle your way northwest along the Singel canal for quintessential views of sloped canal houses reflected in the calm waters. Cross over any of the radial bridges to access this route close to the city center. Peddle slowly to admire houseboats dotting the canal and peek into shops and cafés spilling out onto terraced walkways.

Make your way over to the iconic “Kissing Bridge”, Magere Brug, a narrow pedestrian drawbridge linking the Amstel river’s two banks. Line up your camera for the perfect snap of its graceful arching shape reflected in the mirror-like water. Then loop back through the Nine Little Streets (De Negen Straatjes) shopping district to peruse Dutch craft stores, galleries and specialty boutiques. Lock up your bike and stop for a cappuccino on a terraced café along these quaint alleyways.

Late Morning: Exploring the Museum District

After refueling on coffee, cycle or take the tram over to Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter (Museumplein) where world-class museums await. Here you’ll brush up on essential Dutch culture through the lens of history’s famed artists. Start by touring the Van Gogh Museum—home to the planet’s largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh paintings. Marvel at an expansive array of his most legendary works like The Potato Eaters and Sunflowers series, capturing intricate details showcasing his masterful impressionist style.

Afterwards, walk over to the grand Rijksmuseum where Rembrandt’s The Night Watch anchors a “best of” tour through the Dutch Golden Age. Wander giant rooms filled with vivid still lifes, church interiors and detailed portraits from Vermeer, Hals and other 17th century luminaries. Outside, relax on the grassy lawns of Museumplein or explore sculptures along the pond of the neighboring Vondelpark.

Afternoon: Exploring De Pijp District

For your final afternoon, ride over to De Pijp, dubbed Amsterdam’s Latin Quarter. Here you’ll soak up vibrant street life and tempting aromas wafting from Surinamese roti shops, Spanish tapas bars and Indonesian eateries. Start along Albert Cuyp street—ablaze in colorful wares like flowers, spices and Dutch sweets at the bustling daytime bazaar. Weave side streets peeking into quirky boutiques and craft brew pubs. Try Amsterdam’s brand of pear cider at the cozy Cafe Krull before browsing galleries and design stores.

As the afternoon winds down, cycle over to Amsterdam’s quirkiest brewery, Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Set inside a towering windmill perched along the IJ river, this local craft beer pioneer offers a tasty selection of Belgian-style ales and lagers. Sip an organic blond next to the copper vats while watching the giant sails spin away. It’s the perfect low-key spot to end your whirlwind weekend discovering Amsterdam’s highlights.

More useful information about Amsterdam Canal Cruises

We are a group of travelers who love to explore and write about Amsterdam. Over the years, we have gained extensive experience with cruising over the Canals in Amsterdam. Here, you could find all the essential information you need to know about Amsterdam Canal Cruises, including the different types of cruise, prices, tickets, operating hours, departure points, and many more.


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