The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam


Top 10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

Top 10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

From gliding through postcard-perfect canals to world-class museums and serene urban parks, Amsterdam captivates with quintessential Dutch vibes. Here are the top 10 highlights you can't miss when visiting this vibrant capital.

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most enchanting and diverse capital cities. Built around a network of serene canals ringing with the bells of cyclists and lined with narrow, gabled canal houses from Amsterdam’s 17th-century Golden Age, the Dutch capital is renowned for its rich history as a major port city during that transformative time period. Yet the legacies of Amsterdam’s days as a shipping hub live on even today, as visitors continue finding themselves enchanted by meandering walks along picturesque waterfronts that grant glimpses into a heritage inextricably tied to the sea.

Beyond the canals, Amsterdam also astonishes with world-class art museums highlighting Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, as well as the tragic life of Vincent van Gogh. Additionally, the Anne Frank House provides chilling insights into WWII and the Holocaust by exhibiting the Secret Annex where Anne wrote her famous diary. From these historic sights to vibrant, trendsetting neighborhoods like the Jordaan and pastel-shaded De Pijp, Amsterdam continues representing the pinnacle of European urbanity paired with the down-to-earth charm of the Dutch people known for their friendliness and welcoming vibes.

Take an Amsterdam Canal Cruise

One of the top things to do in Amsterdam is taking an Amsterdam canal cruise. These cruises offer an iconic way to take in Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed canal district constructed during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. Back then, Amsterdam was the hub of international trade and its ingenious network of canals functioned to transport goods effectively throughout the city.

Centuries later, those same winding waterways provide a quaint atmosphere for laid-back tours drifting through central Amsterdam. Canal cruises typically last around an hour and journey through the interior corridors of the canal belt, sailing undercharming bridges while a guide narrates interesting facts and history.

You’ll get to appreciate how the merchants and wealthy inhabitants of Amsterdam purposefully built their residences along the canals to display their prosperity. Narrow brick townhouses rise up on either side of the canals, leaning forward with their ornate gabled facades. This distinctive Dutch architectural style includes decorations like spiraling stepped gables and refined facades that the elite commissioned to flaunt their wealth.

Gliding peacefully through these corridors offers a vintage lens into Amsterdam’s past as you witness many historic sites like Anne Frank’s House, the Skinny Bridge, and charming neighborhoods lining the lengthy passageways traveled by canal boats. Whether during the day or when they’re romantically illuminated at night, an Amsterdam canal cruise lets you soak in the vintage atmosphere that earned Amsterdam the affectionate nickname “the Venice of the North” thanks to their striking similarities.

Visit the Van Gogh Museum

One of Amsterdam’s most celebrated attractions is the Van Gogh Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of works by the famous Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Opened in 1973, the museum contains over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 750 personal letters by Van Gogh, offering an unparalleled opportunity to study the evolution of his artistry during his decade-long career as a painter.

The collections are arranged chronologically over four levels of the airy, modern museum building. In the early works, you can observe Van Gogh’s foray into darker, more somber tones influenced by his experience living in a mining community in Belgium. Then you’ll see the incorporation of more vivid hues as he adopted the lively palette associated with Impressionism during his period living in Paris and befriending contemporary painters.

Finally, the most iconic works from his final years represent a pinnacle in Post-Impressionist style with their vibrant, emotive brushstrokes rendering country landscapes around Arles and Saint-Rémy in the south of France. Standouts include legendary paintings like The Bedroom, Sunflowers, and Almond Blossoms. Additionally, you’ll find an entire room dedicated to his famous Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat – depicting himself with his penetrating stare in the year before his early death by suicide.

Beyond the permanent collections, the Van Gogh Museum continually has special exhibitions focusing on his influences and legacy that make it worth coming back again and again. A visit here vividly brings to life one of history’s most moving artistic talents.

Explore the Anne Frank House

An unmissable experience while in Amsterdam is a visit to the Anne Frank House – the poignant landmark preserving the hidden apartment where the young Jewish diarist Anne Frank spent over two years hiding from the Nazis with her family during World War II. Walking through the historic Secret Annex rooms lined with photographs and diary excerpts provides a haunting glimpse into the hardship and constant fear endured by eight Jews in hiding.

The Franks arrived from Germany in 1934 when the Nazi party rose to power and persecution of Jewish people intensified. They settled in Amsterdam, running a business until 1942 when Anne’s sister Margot received notice to report to a Nazi work camp, forcing the family into hiding. Along with another family and a dentist friend, they secretly lived in a secluded upper-level apartment Anne’s father Otto prepared behind a pivoting bookcase in the building where his business was headquartered.

It was in this confined space that 13-year-old Anne poured her hopes, anxieties and powerful insight into her iconic diary gifted to her before going into hiding. She wrote faithfully during her two years concealed here until someone – potentially neighbors or workers in the building – reported them, resulting in their tragic deportation to concentration camps.

Walking through the melancholy emptiness of their four sparsely furnished rooms, visitors can envision the extreme conditions and ever-present fear endured by eight people relying on each other silently for survival. The Anne Frank House powerfully connects people to the human resilience behind one of history’s most discussed documents.

Wander the Jordaan District

For a taste of quintessential Amsterdam charm, one of the top areas to explore is the Jordaan – an endearing residential neighborhood with a village-like ambience despite being in the city center. Originally home to workers and artisans in the 1600s, the enclave evolved into a full-fledged district by the mid 20th century. Today, this welcoming part of Amsterdam entices visitors with its quiet tree-lined canals, eclectic specialty boutiques, intimate eateries, and classic Dutch brown cafés where locals host lively discussions or musical sing-alongs fueled by drinks.

Unlike the bustling souvenir shops of Dam Square or tourist crowds snapping selfies along the main canal rings, the Jordaan feels like a small community. As you lose yourself strolling the pretty streets past historic churches and classic stepped-gable houses adorned with flowers, you’ll stumble upon charming surprises around every corner. Ducks float by tiny garden plots while houseboats line the sleepy Brouwersgracht canal. Locals breeze through on bicycles, chiming their bells to warn wandering pedestrians. And depending when you visit, you might hear bands busking along narrow lanes or smell cinnamon-dusted stroopwafels baking in a corner bakery.

For quintessential Dutch bites, stop at authentic eateries known for regional dishes like uitsmijter (open-faced sandwiches piled with fried eggs, meat, and cheese) or poffertjes (fluffy mini pancakes with powdered sugar and syrup). Between the laid-back atmosphere, bohemian style cafés and galleries, and old-world rowhouses reflected in rippling canals – the Jordaan district lets visitors savor Amsterdam’s vintage atmosphere away from the largest crowds. It’s the perfect place to experience local living and make yourself feel at home.

See the Works of Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without visiting the phenomenal Rijksmuseum – the national museum of the Netherlands and one of the city’s ultimate highlights. Housed in a stunning 19th-century building designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, the Rijksmuseum holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of traditional Dutch art showcasing beloved master painters from the country’s 17th-century Golden Age.

Most notably, an entire gallery is devoted to the prolific career of Rembrandt van Rijn – considered the leading artist of the Dutch Golden Age for his mastery of light, emotion, and realistic portrayals. Here you’ll be able to study prized paintings like The Night Watch and Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild up close, observing Rembrandt’s exhibitions and shadows created with thick layers of paint and glazes. His iconic self-portraits also line the walls, documenting himself aging from a ambitious young artist to a wise old master.

Yet Rembrandt is far from the Rijksmuseum’s only showstopper. Vermeer’s renowned Milkmaid painting hangs nearby along with important works from Frans Hals, Jan Steen and other famed Dutch painters from the 1600s. Sprawling across two floors, the museum also exhibits beautiful dolls’ houses, antique silverworks, sculptures, and centuries of applied arts showing the highest level of craftmanship. Plan to spend at least half a day here to make it through the vast, world-renowned collections that encapsulate the peak of creativity fostered by Amsterdam and the Netherlands through history. From Rembrandt to Vermeer and beyond, the Rijksmuseum thoroughly immerses you within Dutch artistry.

Relax in Vondelpark

For a break from Amsterdam’s busy streets, one of the best places to relax in the city center is the sprawling green space of Vondelpark. Opened in 1865, Vondelpark comprises over 120 acres in a long rectangle shape stretching from Leidseplein to Museumplein. Originally created as a romantic 19th-century English-style landscape for leisure, today locals and visitors from all walks of life flock here to bike, stroll, picnic, read in the grass, or laze away sunny afternoons with friends.

As you enter through one of the grand gates flanked by twin pavilions, you’ll feel instant serenity amid Vondelpark’s lawns, bridges over glistening ponds, food kiosks, winding footpaths, and abundant trees providing shade in summer. It’s common to see groups barbecuing as music emanates from portable speakers. Couples pedal by on tandem bicycles while children excitedly feed squawking ducks along the waterways.

For culture, stop inside the park’s 1929 Open Air Theatre hosting free concerts and events from May to September. There’s also a Picasso sculpture garden, quaint café situated in a restored bandstand, and a playground named after Dutch celebrity Pipi Longstocking. Especially on weekends when the weather is nice, Vondelpark offers an endless stream of activity whether you come to get moving on a bike ride or simply find a patch of grass to blissfully unwind with a book for hours under the clouds drifting by. Despite being surrounded by the bustling city, a stroll through Vondelpark makes you feel worlds away in Amsterdam’s backyard paradise beloved by residents and visitors alike.

Eat fries with mayonnaise at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx

When in Amsterdam, one of the top foodie experiences is sampling authentic Belgian-style fries at local establishments called friteshuis. And one tiny hole-in-the-wall shop stands out as a longtime mecca for the city’s crispiest, most indulgent frite fix – Flemish Fries House Vleminckx. Tucked away on Voetboogstreet near the flower market, this no-frills joint has been cranking out perfect cones of fries fried to order since 1950.

Using fresh Belgian potatoes, their time-perfected technique yields hot, crispy fries with fluffy insides that locals deem Amsterdam’s best. The standard way to enjoy Vleminckx’s frites is with a generous drizzle of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of chopped onions. The rich, creamy mayo paired with the hot, salty fries makes for a beloved flavor combo in the Netherlands. While waiting in the typically long order line that moves quickly, you can watch the staff frying batch after batch in the large vats behind the counters. The constant frying ensures every paper cone receives fries at their peak temperature.

Besides mayo, you can also opt for other dipping sauces like spicy peanut satay, curry ketchup, or their special “Joppie” sauce – a sweet and sour mixture with hints of onion and curry. There’s a scattering of stools along the wall if you want to stand and snack immediately. Otherwise, join locals by grabbing your frites in a cone for ambling blissfully along pretty Amsterdam canals and streets while indulging in this iconic Dutch street food. At Vleminckx, the traditional preparation and quality ingredients shine through in every hot, crispy bite.

Stroll the Nine Little Streets

For quintessential Dutch charm away from the biggest tourist crowds, one of Amsterdam’s most delightful areas to explore is the Nine Little Streets (De Negen Straatjes) – a picturesque enclave in the central canal ring located between the major thoroughfares of Dam Square and Leidseplein. These nine intersecting alleyways and passages boast a concentrated dose of Amsterdam’s character with charming boutiques, cozy cafés, creative galleries, hidden courtyard gardens, and eye-catching architecture crammed into a small, winding area.

As you meander under the decorative hoisting beams dangling over the narrow lanes, you’ll discover a new surprise around every turn. The diverse shops cover everything from vintage fashions and handmade jewelry to quirky homewares and full-sensory chocolate stores. Many specialized concept stores also tempt you to discover their latest artsy or sustainable finds. When you need a break from browsing, duck into one of the neighborhood’s abundant cafes to relax canal-side under vines of ivy, with locals and dogs passing by the windows.

Spanning just a half mile square area between Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, the Nine Little Streets’ intimacy and creativity harken back to Amsterdam’s historic roots as a hub for craftsmen and traders. But there’s also an eclectic, fashion-forward vibe permeating the lively boutiques and modern coffee shops scattered amongst 17th century buildings. For the perfect combination of classic Dutch charm and contemporary cool, no area beats getting lost amid the Nine Little Streets.

Check out the A’DAM Lookout

One of Amsterdam’s newest and most iconic attractions is the A’DAM Lookout – an observation tower on the north bank of the IJ River offering a unique vista from its rooftop perches 20 stories high. Located just a quick free ferry across the harbor, this playful tower beckons visitors to not only take in panoramas from the top, but also enjoy food, drinks, music and more at its trendsetting hangouts spread across various levels – aptly dubbed Amsterdam’s newest urban playground.

After zooming up in Europe’s highest swing lift, the Lookout’s top floor Over the Edge deck offers stunning 360-views of Amsterdam’s skyline spanning from Centraal Station to the Eastern Docklands and beyond. Gaze over the city’s sea of spires and gables. Enjoy a bird’s-eye perspective of the historic center and winding canal rings slice through the urban layout. The open-air deck has information panels detailing top sights along with special telescopes to get better close-up views of certain landmarks.

Once you’ve admired Amsterdam from all angles above, head to one of A’DAM’s restaurants or bars like the posh Loft, the vibrant Club Canvas, or laid-back Adam’s View for dancing and socializing with a vista. Periodic music and cultural events also happen on outdoor decks in summer. And every visitor passes the ultra-quirky Selfie Lab -a creative museum of vivid settings like a yellow Taxi to snap funny shares for social media. With amazing rooftop overlooks by day plus vibrant nightlife fueled by that proper Amsterdam vibe, a visit to the A’DAM Lookout makes your Amsterdam experience soar to new heights.

Explore the Begijnhof

Providing a portal into Amsterdam’s past, one of the city’s most enchanting historic hideaways is the Begijnhof – a peaceful 14th-century enclosed courtyard in the city center that was originally home to a community of pious Catholic women called Beguines. Today, this secluded oasis still contains charming houses and clandestine churches lining a tranquil green square and garden, offering a glimpse into a modest way of medieval life.

Once serving as a sanctuary where groups of unmarried or widowed women could devote themselves to prayer and good works in the Middle Ages, the Begijnhof dates back to 1346 when the original wood homes were built around two hidden churches. Over its almost 700 year history, fires and unrest required partial rebuilds. But walking these grounds lined with the simple one-room homes occupied by Beguines until the 1900s retains immense quaintness and spiritual gravity.

Duck under an unassuming medieval archway off the Spui square to enter this surprising pocket of peace where you can contemplate the hermetic existence of the Beguines. Find a bench in the tiny central garden to hear songbirds chirping around you, or step inside one of the sequestered churches like the “Our Lord in Distress” chapel camouflaged behind a plain front door. As the rest of Amsterdam bustles around it, the Begijnhof allows us to envision what daily life looked like within these sanctified walls hundreds of years ago when over 100 women resided cloistered together in the hidden courtyard.

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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