AMSTERDAM CANAL CRUISE

The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam

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What is the Best Time for an Amsterdam Canal Cruise?

What is the Best Time for an Amsterdam Canal Cruise

An Amsterdam canal cruise offers a unique perspective of the city's iconic canals and architecture. Determining the best time to cruise depends on your weather preferences and crowd tolerance. This guide breaks down the pros and cons of visiting in high and low tourist seasons.

An Amsterdam canal cruise is a must-do activity when visiting this charming Dutch city. Gliding along the UNESCO-listed canals aboard a boat offers a unique perspective of Amsterdam’s iconic architecture, bridges, and houseboats.

Determining the best time for a canal cruise depends on your preferences and schedule. The high season from April to October sees the most crowds and highest prices. The low season from November to March brings fewer tourists, lower prices, and potential weather challenges. Understanding the pros and cons of each season will help you decide when to embark on your Amsterdam canal adventure. Let’s get started:

High Season: April to October

April through October brings Amsterdam’s pleasant spring and summer weather. Daytime highs range from 60°F to 75°F. Sunny skies and blooming flowers provide idyllic scenery for canal cruises. As Amsterdam’s peak tourist season, these months also draw the most crowds and highest prices.

Pros

  • Warm and sunny weather perfect for outdoor sightseeing
  • Amsterdam at its most beautiful with blooming tulips and trees
  • All attractions and activities open and operating on full schedule
  • Long daylight hours with sunsets after 9 pm in summer
  • Lively atmosphere with lots of energy and events in the city

Cons

  • Peak crowds from April to September means long lines and packed attractions
  • Accommodation prices are highest from April to August
  • Popular cruise times sell out fast so book well in advance
  • Summer’s late sunsets can make nights noisy with late-night partying

Prices

Canal cruise prices rise 20% to 30% during peak season compared to winter. Expect to pay:

  • Daytime Cruise: €16 to €22
  • Evening/Night Cruise: €20 to €25
  • Small Boat Cruise: €100 to €120 per hour
  • Private Boat Charter: €150 to €200 per hour

Low Season: November to March

Amsterdam’s low tourist season from November to March sees fewer visitors, lower prices, and chilly weather. Daytime temperatures range from 40°F to 55°F. With less daylight and more rain, sightseeing requires some flexibility. For budget-focused travelers not bothered by cold and clouds, this offers a more affordable time to cruise Amsterdam’s waterways.

Pros

  • Smaller crowds at attractions, shops, and restaurants
  • Hotels and flights up to 50% cheaper than in summer
  • Canal cruise tickets can be 20% to 30% less expensive
  • November to January holiday atmosphere with lights and markets
  • Potential to see canals frozen over in very cold winters

Cons

  • Cold and damp weather less ideal for outdoor activities
  • Some attractions close or operate on reduced hours
  • Evening darkness falls before 5 pm in winter months
  • Potential for disruption from winter weather like high winds

Prices

Bundled deals and discounts make winter canal cruise prices a bargain:

  • Daytime Cruise: €12 to €16
  • Evening/Night Cruise: €15 to €20
  • Small Boat Cruise: €80 to €100 per hour
  • Private Boat Charter: €120 to €150 per hour
Season Pros Cons
April – October Best weather, scenery, hours Biggest crowds, highest prices
November – March Fewer tourists, discounts Cold, rainy weather

Cruise Types

There are several types of Amsterdam canal cruises to choose from:

Daytime Open Boat Tours

  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Style: Hop-on-hop-off open seating aboard large boats holding 50+ people
  • Highlights: Pass by top sights like Anne Frank House, Skinny Bridge, and Amsterdam Canal Houses
  • Departures: Every 15 to 30 minutes from 9 am to 5 pm
  • Prices: €16 to €22

Evening/Night Cruises

  • Duration: 1 to 1.5 hours
  • Style: Small, covered boats with bar seating holding 20 to 40 people
  • Highlights: Illuminated canal views, cocktail in hand, romantic ambiance
  • Departures: One to three per evening beginning after 7 pm
  • Prices: €20 to €25

Small Private Boats

  • Duration: 1 to 2 hours
  • Style: Exclusive use of intimate salon boat holding 2 to 12 people
  • Highlights: Custom route and pace, premium food/drinks, professional guide
  • Departures: Scheduled based on availability
  • Prices: €100 to €120 per hour

Private Boat Charters

  • Duration: 1 to 3 hours
  • Style: Exclusive large boat for special occasions holding 20+ people
  • Highlights: 100% private, catering/entertainment options, flexible timing
  • Departures: Scheduled based on availability
  • Prices: €150 to €200+ per hour
Cruise Company Price Highlights
Blue Boat Company €16 to €22 Large open boats, live commentary, hop-on-hop-off
Wetlands Safari €22 to €25 Nature-focused cruises to rural wetlands
Love Boat Amsterdam €20 to €25 Intimate evening cruises with drinks

Tickets and Booking

It’s highly advisable to book canal cruise tickets online in advance. Walkup tickets are subject to availability. Booking direct through the cruise operator’s website offers the best fares. Some top booking sites include:

Many Amsterdam travel sites also offer canal cruise tickets, sometimes with discounts, such as:

Booking 3 to 6 months ahead ensures the best selection. Last minute tickets can still be found but sell out quickly on peak cruise times.

Where to Buy Tickets

If you prefer to purchase tickets in person, several docks along the canals sell them directly:

  • Blue Boat Dock at Stadhouderskade 30
  • Rederij Kooij Dock at Rokin 78-80
  • Canal Bus Dock at Prins Hendrikkade 33a
  • Wetlands Safari Dock at Passeerdersgracht 33
  • Those Dam Boat Guys Dock at Damrak 26

Tourist information centers and most hotels also sell tickets to the major canal cruise operators.

Top Providers

Amsterdam offers dozens of canal cruise companies. These top-rated operators provide a quality experience:

  • Blue Boat Company – Large open boats, live commentary, dockside bar, family friendly
  • Those Dam Boat Guys – Entertaining small group tours on open canal boats
  • Wetlands Safari – Nature-focused excursions into rural wetlands
  • Rederij Kooij – Traditional enclosed salon boats and hearty pirate-themed cruises
  • Love Boat Amsterdam – Laid back evening cruises on small open boats with drinks
  • Private Charters – Exclusive custom cruises for special occasions or groups

Operating Hours

  • Daytime Cruises – Daily 9 am to 5 pm
  • Evening Cruises – Daily 7 pm to 11 pm
  • Small Boat Cruises – Daily 10 am to 10 pm
  • Private Charters – Daily 10 am to midnight

Most cruises run more frequently from April through October. November to March sees more limited schedules. Always check individual company timetables online for up-to-date hours.

Cruise Duration

  • Daytime Open Boat Tours: 1 hour
  • Evening Cruises: 1 to 1.5 hours
  • Small Boat Cruises: 1 to 2 hours
  • Private Charters: 1 to 3+ hours

Longer small group and private cruises allow you to explore further reaches of the canal network. Standard open boat tours take a loop through central Amsterdam in about an hour.

Discounts and Tips

  • Look for deals like combo canal cruise and museum tickets
  • Time evening cruises to catch discounted happy hour pricing before 7 pm
  • Book cruise + dining packages to save on dinner afterwards
  • Check for online coupons and mobile app promotions
  • Consider the I amsterdam City Card for free canal cruise and other discounts
  • Pre-order drinks before boarding to avoid bar lines
  • Dress warmly for cruises in low season months
  • Sit on the back of the boat for best open air views and photo opportunities
  • Bring binoculars to zoom in on details of buildings and houseboats

User Reviews

Canal cruises consistently earn outstanding reviews, making them a can’t miss Amsterdam activity. Here’s what real travelers love about their experiences:

“The perfect introduction to Amsterdam! Cruising the canals was the highlight of our trip.”

“Our guide made the city’s history come alive with fun stories and facts.”

“Views of the charming bridges and beautiful canal houses were phenomenal.”

“Relaxing and scenic way to enjoy a unique perspective of Amsterdam.”

“Day cruises let you see so many iconic sights effortlessly in just an hour.”

“We did an evening cruise and seeing the lights reflecting on the water was magical!”

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to take a canal cruise?

The best time depends on your priorities. April-October offers the best weather, scenery, and long hours but also more crowds and higher prices. November-March brings fewer tourists, discounts, and potential wintry sights but also cold weather and shorter days.

What is the difference between a day and evening cruise?

Day cruises focus on sightseeing with commentary on landmarks. Evening cruises emphasize romantic ambiance with drinks and twinkling lights.

How far do the boats go on a canal cruise?

The standard route sticks to the city center loops. Longer small boat and private cruises can reach outer areas like Amsterdam Noord and the Amstel River.

Can you cruise the Amsterdam canals on your own boat?

Yes, you can rent private boats without a captain if you are an experienced boater. Most tourists opt for guided cruise tours for ease and commentary.

Do canal cruises operate year round?

Yes, cruises run 12 months a year but often on reduced schedules in winter. Some smaller companies close from January to March.

Do you need to book canal cruises in advance?

Booking ahead is highly recommended to ensure your preferred date, time, and cruise type. Last minute walkup tickets are limited.

The Pros and Cons of an Amsterdam Canal Cruise

The Pros

  • Unique vantage point to see Amsterdam’s iconic canals and architecture
  • Informative and entertaining live commentary from guides
  • Easy way to orient yourself and get an overview of the city layout
  • Relaxing ambiance to enjoy the scenery and sights
  • Ability to access the canal system not possible on foot
  • Built-in sightseeing without needing to visit individual attractions
  • Fun activity for families, couples, and groups of all ages
  • Photo opportunities galore!

The Cons

  • Less immersive than exploring specific neighborhoods on foot
  • Potential crowds and tight quarters at peak times
  • Motion sickness possible for those sensitive to boat movement
  • Limited vantage points based on seat location
  • Commentary not always available in non-English languages
  • Winter weather can disrupt cruises or reduce visibility
  • Routing is limited to the main inner city canals

The Verdict on Amsterdam Canal Cruises

Gliding through Amsterdam atop the serene green waters of its UNESCO-honored canal network is an iconic experience. Canal cruises offer a joyful perspective of the city’s beautiful bridges, distinctive gabled buildings, and houseboats not possible on land. An Amsterdam canal cruise should be on every traveler’s itinerary – the memories will last long after your Dutch holiday has ended.

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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