Welcome to the world-famous canals of Amsterdam. This historic district is the heart of the city of Amsterdam and has many canals, canal houses, hotels, shops, restaurants, museums and attractions. The picturesque ring of canals is one of Amsterdam’s main tourist attractions and has been a World Heritage Site since 2010.
Visit the Canals in Amsterdam
A visit to Holland is not complete without a visit to the canals of Amsterdam. The canals form the heart of Amsterdam and many museums, attractions and hotels are located along them. Of course, a canal cruise through Amsterdam is not to be missed during your visit. From the Canal District it is also easy to visit other areas and cities in Holland. There are many sightseeing tours that depart from the Canal District.
The story of the canals
Amsterdam is world-famous for its historic canal district. Walking through the city centre, you will see water everywhere. With more than 165 canals and a total length of 75 km, the canal district is an indispensable element of Amsterdam’s charm.
The oldest canal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, dates from 1385, and the Singelgracht is the longest, at 6.3 kilometres. The best-known canals are the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. These canals were dug in the 17th century, during the Golden Age. The Singel lies within this ring of canals and was already constructed in the 15th century.
The first canals were initially dug as city defences but later gave way to a role that eventually made Amsterdam rich. The canals remained perfect for transporting merchandise and Amsterdam became one of the most important trading cities during the Golden Age.
Want to know more about the history of the Amsterdam Canals? Visit the interactive Amsterdam Canal Museum
Travelling around Amsterdam’s canal district
The Amsterdam canals area is relatively small and many distances can be walked. A nice city walk along the canals is therefore highly recommended. However, if you want to see and do a lot and don’t want to end up with blisters at the end of your visit to Amsterdam, we advise you to use efficient means of transport. If you want to see the canals, we recommend a cruise on the Amsterdam canals.
Explore the canals by (rented) bike
Rent a bike and enjoy Amsterdam like a local. Bicycles are the most popular means of transport and very convenient for travelling within the canal district. You’ll see a lot of the city by bike. You can also book a guided bike tour whit a local guide who will show you all highlights.
Explore the canals by public transport
Isn’t cycling really your thing? Or would you like to get from A to B even faster? Amsterdam has an extensive public transport network. You can travel by metro, tram or bus and there are several ferry services between Amsterdam and Amsterdam North.
With the I Amsterdam City Card you can travel with public transport within Amsterdam for free and you will get one day bike rental for free. This tourist card offers many advantages during a visit to Amsterdam. Visit the best museums, attractions, activities and a canal cruise for free. Learn more about the I Amsterdam City Card.
Events in the Amsterdam canal district
The canal district is a popular location for events. There are events on the canals, along the canals and on larger squares such as Museumplein, Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square. Here are the best events in the Canal District of Amsterdam.
|21 January 2023||National Tulip Day|
|1 – 30 April 2023||Tulp Festival Amsterdam|
|27 April 2023||King’s Day|
|5 August 2023||Amsterdam Canal Parade|
|25 – 27 August 2023||Uitmarkt Amsterdam|
|27 August 2023||Amsterdam City Swim|
|16 October 2022||Amsterdam Marathon|
|19 – 23 October 2022||Amsterdam Dance Event|
|12 November 2022 – 5 February 2023||Winter Festival Amsterdam|
|13 November 2022||Sinterklaas Welcome Parade|
|1 December 2022 – 23 January 2023||Light Festival Amsterdam|
|25 – 26 December 2022||Christmas in Amsterdam|
|31 December – 1 January 2023||New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam|
|20 – 24 August 2025||Sail 2025|
FAQ’s Canals of Amsterdam
The canals have an average depth of 2.40 metres and a width of about 27 metres. Construction of the ring of canals began in 1613.
Canal houses are often old; most of them are from the Golden Age (17th century). They are often narrow, high and richly decorated. Canal houses can be found in many old cities in the Netherlands. The canal houses of Amsterdam are well known, but also cities like Leiden, Haarlem, Delft and Gouda have many canal houses.
Many people agree that the most beautiful canal in Amsterdam is the Brouwersgracht!
Bridges are a necessary speciality of Amsterdam. At the last count there were 1281 – the oldest dating from 1648. There are many bridges that have a romantic feel, especially at night when the lights are on.
The canals of Amsterdam are clean enough to swim in. Yet this is not recommended. There are many boats on the canals and you are difficult to see in the water.
Map of the canal district in Amsterdam
You will never be bored in the canal district of Amsterdam. The many shops, restaurants, hotels, attractions and museums ensure that both young and old are entertained. There are also many activities to undertake on or along the canals. Use the map below to explore the canal area. What are you going to do in Amsterdam?