The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam


Is it worth doing a canal cruise in Amsterdam?

Is it worth doing a canal cruise in Amsterdam

With tickets costing upwards of €15, Amsterdam's popular canal cruises let you relax and take in the sights, but are they worth the price? This article examines the pros and cons to help you decide if a canal tour is a worthy investment for your Dutch holiday.

With its iconic network of canals and beautiful historic architecture, Amsterdam is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. A canal cruise is a hugely popular activity for visitors, allowing you to relax and take in the sights while floating by the city’s scenic waterways. 

But is paying the often steep price for a cruise actually worth it? With tickets costing upwards of €20 per person for an hour-long trip, it’s valid to question if the experience justifies the cost. 

This article will examine the pros and cons of Amsterdam’s canal cruises to help you decide if embarking on one is a worthy investment for your Dutch holiday. We’ll look at what you can expect to see during a typical cruise, whether it’s better to go at night or during the day, if hop on hop off passes are a good option, which parts of the city the boats traverse, and compare the prices and quality of the various cruise companies operating in Amsterdam. 

Using this information, you can determine if a canal tour will enhance your time in Amsterdam or if you’d be better served enjoying the atmospheric city streets on foot. So let’s get started.

Types of Canal Cruises in Amsterdam

There are several types of canal cruise experiences to choose from in Amsterdam. The most basic option is an open boat canal cruise. These boats have open tops and rows of benches, and operate as a hop-on-hop-off service, allowing you to get on and off at various stops around the city. The boats run frequently and provide a quick overview of the main canals and sights. The boats have commentary available through headphones in multiple languages.

For a more premium experience, you can book a glass-top boat. These boats have climate-controlled glass domes to allow for optimal sightseeing regardless of the weather. Glass-top boats also tend to have more comfortable seating. There are even candlelight cruise options on glass-top boats for a romantic atmosphere.

Private boat rentals are another alternative. These allow you to explore the canals on your own terms without other passengers. Some companies also offer the ability to have food and drinks catered on request. Private boats can be more expensive but provide an exclusive, customized experience.

Beyond regular canal cruises, combination cruises are available that include visits to attractions. For example, canal cruises that stop at the Heineken Experience or the Diamond Museum allow you to sightsee as well as tour Amsterdam’s landmarks. There are many possibilities to craft your ideal Amsterdam canal experience.

Top Canal Cruise Providers

There are a variety of companies offering canal cruises in Amsterdam. Some of the most popular providers include Blue Boat, Lovers, Rederij P. Kooij, Those Dam Boat Guys, and Canal Company.

Blue Boat is one of the largest providers and offers standard open-top canal cruises along withHop On Hop Off combination tickets. Their boats depart from multiple locations around the city. Blue Boat provides live commentary in 19 languages.

Lovers is a mid-sized operator specializing in small boats that can access the narrow inner canals most boats can’t navigate. Their cruises give a more intimate, off the beaten path canal experience.

Rederij P. Kooij focuses on classic glass-top boats and offers themed cruises like candlelit dinner, jazz music, and wine tasting options in addition to regular sightseeing tours.

Those Dam Boat Guys differentiate themselves by keeping group sizes small with a maximum of 10 people per boat. They emphasize guiding expertise and frequently get top reviews.

Canal Company is known for having knowledgeable local captains and offers private rentals where you steer your own boat. They have a wide selection of boats fitting 2 to 12 people.

With all of the choices available, it’s helpful to read reviews, compare prices and routes to find the perfect canal cruise for your needs. The multitude of operators means Amsterdam has options suiting every style and budget.

Company Highlight
Blue Boat One of the largest providers, with frequent departures and live commentary in 19 languages.
Lovers Specializes in small boats accessing narrow inner canals off the beaten path.
Rederij P. Kooij Focuses on glass-top boats with themed cruises like candlelit dinners.
Those Dam Boat Guys Emphasizes small groups and expert guiding with top reviews.
Canal Company Known for knowledgeable local captains and private boat rentals.

Pros of taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam

One major advantage of a canal cruise is that it allows you to see and learn about many of Amsterdam’s top attractions in an efficient, convenient way. Without the hassle of walking or figuring out public transport between sights, you can relax onboard while floating by famous landmarks like the Anne Frank House, the Skinny Bridge, and the historic merchant houses lining the canal rings.

Canal cruises also provide wonderful scenic views of Amsterdam that you can’t get on foot from the ground. Gliding slowly through the water gives you a unique vantage point to admire the picturesque architecture and charming canal-side scenery. It’s an idyllic way to take in Amsterdam’s beauty.

The boats give you a smooth ride and stable platform to get great photographs capturing the essence of Amsterdam from its famous canals. You’ll get postcard-worthy shots of the quintessential tree-lined canals and gabled buildings.

Many canal cruises offer entertaining and educational live or recorded commentary to enhance the experience by teaching you about Dutch history, architecture, and culture as you travel through the waterways.

Canal cruises are also suitable for just about any traveler, as they require minimal physical exertion and are universally accessible. Regardless of age and mobility, anyone can enjoy the cruises. They provide a leisurely sightseeing option appropriate for all.

Pros of Canal Cruises
Allows you to see top attractions efficiently in one trip
Provides scenic views of Amsterdam from the water
Gives great photographic opportunities
Live/recorded commentary educates about history and culture
Accessible activity suitable for all ages and physical abilities

Cons of taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam

The most common downside is the relatively high prices, especially for families or budget travelers. Canal cruise tickets can end up costing over €100 for a family of 4. With tickets around €20 per adult, the cost adds up quickly. For the price, some feel you don’t get great value for a short 1-hour tour.

The boats also often feel very crowded and packed with a mix of languages being spoken. With up to 20+ people crammed on a small boat, you lose out on a peaceful, intimate canal experience. Additionally, the live commentary can be hard to properly hear over the noise.

Because the canal cruises follow set circular routes, you miss out on exploring the smaller inner residential canals and waterways. The standard tours only show you a small fraction of Amsterdam’s vast canal network.

Canal cruises are very touristy, so you don’t really experience the canals like a local resident might. Most locals wouldn’t opt for a packed sightseeing cruise with recording commentary blaring. The experience is catered heavily toward short-term visitors.

Finally, several visitors report that canal cruises didn’t quite live up to their high expectations, as riding a boat turns out to feel slower and less exciting than imagined. The novelty might wear off quickly.

Cons of Canal Cruises
Relatively high ticket prices, especially for families
Boats can feel overly crowded and noisy
Tours only cover main canals, not smaller inner waterways
Very touristy experience, not how locals experience the canals
Riding a slow boat can feel underwhelming

Practical considerations to think about before taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam

Weather is an important factor when planning a boat tour. With their open tops, canal cruises on basic open boats will leave you exposed to the elements. Rainy, windy weather can make an open cruise quite unpleasant. Checking the forecast and aiming for dry, calm conditions is ideal. Opting for a glass-top boat provides more protection.

Time of day influences sights and experience. Early morning and late afternoon cruises let you enjoy pretty golden light reflecting off the canal houses, while evening cruises may showcase glittering city lights. Midday cruises can be too harshly bright.

Boat crowding varies based on time and season. High season in summer plus peak times mid-day and mid-afternoon tend to be most congested. Opting for an early morning, late afternoon, or winter cruise generally means fewer fellow passengers.

Ticket options range from single use to day passes. Hop on hop off day tickets allow you to break up the cruise and get on and off at stops. But this can add significant time to your day. Single use tickets provide just one ride.

Seating space and comfort differs between basic open boats versus premium glass-top boats. Open boats have tightly packed rows while glass-top boats have more generous seating with panoramic views.

Assessing your interests and tour focus can help choose the right cruise company and route for history, architecture, food, romance, or other themes. Read the cruise details to make sure it aligns with your priorities.

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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