The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam


Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruises – This is what you need to know!

Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruises

Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise is a magical event and one of the best things you can do in Amsterdam in the winter. This guide covers everything you need to know to experience this wondrous seasonal event by boat.

Each winter, Amsterdam sparkles even brighter as colorful light art installations illuminate the city during the Amsterdam Light Festival. Cruising the scenic canals at night during this seasonal event offers a magical perspective and memories that will last long after the lights go out. Read on for everything you need to know about these special Amsterdam Light Festival canal tours.

About Amsterdam Light Festival

The Amsterdam Light Festival runs from late November through early January each year. It showcases illuminated artworks, sculptures, and light projections throughout the city and its waterways.

Cruising by the brilliant light displays floating or shining along the canals creates an immersive, one-of-a-kind experience. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy this popular wintertime event.

Popular Light Festival Cruise Types

The most common Light Festival cruise is the standard illuminated evening tour. These tours use boats with indoor heated seating and large panoramic windows to comfortably view light artworks from the canals.

Guides provide commentary about the displays. Open boat tours require bundling up under provided blankets but offer unobstructed sight lines. For a more indulgent experience, dinner cruises pair multi-course meals with cruising by the seasonal light installations. Holiday and Christmas themed tours enhance the festive winter vibe.

Private charters allow customizing your own exclusive evening boat. Specialty cruises like mulled wine tours incorporate drinks and cheer. Companies offer a range of options to cater to different interests and budgets while showcasing the Amsterdam Light Festival from the idyllic perspective of the canals.

CompanyLight Festival Cruise Types
Blue Boat CompanyHoliday Lights Cruise
Wetlands SafariWeekend Illuminated Cruises
Lovers Canal CruisesMulled Wine Light Cruise


Where & When to See the Lights?

The Amsterdam Light Festival takes place across the city, but the majority of light installations and artwork are concentrated in the central city center area. Popular zones where cruises glide by light displays include the Central Canal Ring, the Amstel River, Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, and Museumplein. Within each broader area, the boats pass through scenic canals and waterways closest to the illuminated artworks.

The festival occurs from mid-November through mid-January each winter. Light displays are switched on from 5pm to 11pm daily during the event, so evening cruises any time after sunset offer the best light viewing. Cruise durations usually run 90 minutes to 2 hours, taking advantage of Amsterdam’s long winter nights. Holiday weekends tend to be the busiest due to increased local and tourist crowds. To beat the rush, opt for midweek evenings in December outside of peak New Year’s weeks.

Tickets and Price

It’s highly recommended to book Amsterdam Light Festival cruise tickets well in advance, as these tours sell out weeks or even months in advance due to high demand. The best rates and availability come from reserving directly through the cruise operator’s website. Look for tour categories like “Light Festival Cruise” when browsing dates.

Pricing can range quite a bit depending on the company, specifics of the tour, and demand. Expect to pay approximately €20-40 per person for standard 1-2 hour illuminated sightseeing cruises. Specialty cruises like dinner tours or private charters cost more, €50-150+ per person. Booking early ensures lower pricing, while last-minute tickets will be limited and expensive.

Opting for weeknight cruises in December can mean smaller crowds and potentially discounted fares outside of peak New Year’s weeks. For substantial savings on public tours, look for discount codes and early booking promotions from operators. Tickets purchased through third-party resellers also tend to have inflated costs. Carefully comparing options will help find the best value for experiencing the canal lights.

Booking Tips & Tricks

  • Reserve tickets early, as these cruises sell out months in advance.
  • Book directly through operator sites for best fares and availability.
  • Search for “Light Festival Cruise” when browsing tour options.
  • Opt for midweek evenings to avoid weekend holiday crowds.
  • Check embarkation and disembarkation details to coordinate travel.

What to Expect During an Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise?

These special evening cruises allow you to see the city in a whole new light. Beyond the normally illuminated city landmarks, you’ll view art installations, sculptures, projections, and displays placed along the canals and in public spaces specifically for the winter light festival. Guides provide interesting commentary about the works – the artists behind them, the meanings and creative visions, and how they were designed. Especially on holiday and Christmas themed cruises, festive music helps set the mood.

The boats have indoor heated cabin seating with panoramic windows so you can comfortably view the lights from inside or step out on deck for an unobstructed outdoor vantage point. Warm non-alcoholic beverages like hot chocolate are often served as well. Whether gliding by giant glowing sculptures, art projected onto bridges, or creative light displays along the water, you’ll be surrounded by awe-inspiring views of Amsterdam shining brighter than ever. It’s an utterly enchanting experience that captures the magic of the Amsterdam Light Festival.

Top Departure Points for Light Festival Cruises

Most light festival cruises embark from docks clustered around Amsterdam’s city center. This provides easy access on foot for those staying in central neighborhoods and proximity to the bulk of the light installations.

Popular departure docks include across from Amsterdam Central Station, alongside the Anne Frank House museum, behind the Floating Flower Market, next to the Hermitage Museum, and near the iconic Magere Brug bridge.

Companies like Blue Boat, Wetlands Safari, and Lovers depart from one or more of these prime locations. Being centrally situated allows travelers to simply walk from nearby restaurants, attractions, hotels, and public transportation directly to the cruise boarding area.

The lights become denser and more concentrated as you get towards the Canal Ring, so docks there offer quick access right into the illuminated display hot spots. Docks further outskirts see fewer installations and require longer cruising time to reach the light festival activity centers.

When booking, closely check embarkation and disembarkation locations to coordinate your transportation plans. But departing right from the festive city heart makes for a smooth, stress-free evening.

Insider Tips for an Amazing Light Festival Cruise

  • Check online for the year’s light installation themes and featured artists so you know what to look out for.
  • Bring a camera and tripod to capture unique long-exposure nighttime canal shots.
  • To avoid crowds, opt for Sunday-Thursday instead of busy weekends.
  • Dress very warmly in winter layers to comfortably enjoy the outdoor light displays.
  • Purchase a drink onboard to hold as you soak in the mesmerizing views.
  • Look for holiday markets at disembarkation points to extend the festive fun on land.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cruises still run if it’s raining or snowing?

Yes, tours operate rain or shine. Boats have indoor seating and blankets for weather protection.

Are any areas of the festival wheelchair accessible?

Some installations are wheelchair friendly, though most boats have limited accessibility. Check with the operator.

Is there commentary about the light works and artists?

Yes, guides normally provide background details on the installations and creative vision behind them.

Can you experience the festival completely from the boat?

While boats showcase many works, some displays are scattered only on land throughout the city.

Are food and drinks available on the cruises?

Some serve snacks and drinks onboard, but most allow bringing your own food and non-alcoholic beverages.

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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