Amsterdam’s 165 canals were created in the 17th century to improve the city’s transportation system and to stimulate trade relations. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site defines Amsterdam’s landscape. Taking a boat ride is one of the best ways to appreciate this urban canal ring and the city’s other waterways.
Amsterdam Canal Bus
Hop on and off as you explore Amsterdam
The Amsterdam Canal Bus is an ideal way for visitors to discover Amsterdam. The bus travels through Amsterdam’s canals, stopping at key attractions, such as Rembrandt Square and Albert Cuyp. The central audio guide system provides commentary so you can better appreciate your surroundings.
If you prefer, download the app for audio commentary in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. When something piques your interests, simply step off and investigate. When you’re done, board the bus and continue your journey. The Amsterdam Canal Bus has three lines and 16 stops, so it’s a great way to see a great deal of the city.
It’s €23 for a day ticket, €25 for a 24-hour ticket, and €35 for a 48-hour ticket. Children ages 4 to 12 pay half this price, and children younger than 4 are free. Discounted tickets are also available when you buy them online.
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Day canal cruise
The Lovers Canal Cruises Amsterdam tour
Lovers Canal Cruises takes visitors by some of Amsterdam’s key sites on its day canal cruise. Despite its name, the cruise lasts for one hour and not a whole day. Despite its relatively short duration, you’ll see plenty, including the Skinny Bridge, the VOC ship, the Zevenbogenbruggengracht, and the docks. The Lovers Canal Cruises special audio system transmits commentary in 16 languages, so passengers of all nationalities can learn more about the Amsterdam attractions as the sights pass by.
The Lovers Canal Cruises day canal cruise departs every 20 to 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Its boats leave from three locations: the jetty on the west side of the Central Station, Leidseplein, and the Prins Hendrikkade. Tickets cost €16 for adults and €8 for children ages 4 to 12.
Rijksmuseum Canal Cruise
Blue Boat Company’s historic tour
Blue Boat Company’s Rijksmuseum Canal Cruise is the ideal boat tour for history and art lovers. The tour operator has teamed up with the Rijksmuseum to create this distinct cruise that takes in locations that inspired the museum’s art collection. You’ll see Rembrandt’s home, the place he painted “The Nightwatch” and much more.
The boat’s personal audio system delivers commentary in Dutch and English, and German speakers can get their commentary through the Blue Boat Company’s free guide app. The deluxe package also includes a souvenir booklet featuring the artworks mentioned on the tour, so you can admire the works along with the sites themselves. Then, when the boat docks, you can see them up close at the Rijksmuseum.
The 75-minute tour costs €33.50 for adults and €8.50 for children between ages 4 and 18. This price includes the boat tour and entrance to the Rijksmuseum.
The deluxe package costs €46 for adults and €12.50 for children. This package includes the booklet and entrance to the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt Huis, a Rembrandt museum in the artist’s former home. The tour leaves from Stadhouderskade 30 and docks on Museum Square, a five-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum. Tours leave every half-hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer and every hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during winter.
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Cruise the Red Light District
Champagne cruise with friendship
For many years, Amsterdam’s boat tours wouldn’t dare cruise down the canals around the city’s scandalous Red Light district. But the new Friendship cruise company broke the mold with its Champagne Canal Cruises. As well as the Red Light District, you’ll pass Hortus Botanicus, the Amstel, the Skinny Bridge, the maritime museum, and other key attractions.
The Champagne Canal Cruise costs €15 with a complimentary soft drink or €25 with a glass of Moët & Chandon. Additional beer, wine, and soft drinks can be purchased on board. Children ages 3 to 10 pay €7.50, and children younger than 3 are free of charge if seated on a parent’s lap. Friendship’s modern boats leave from the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 230 jetty.
Candlelight dinner cruise
Romantic tour With Amsterdam Jewel Cruises
Couples willing to splurge should check out the Amsterdam Jewel Cruises dinner cruises. You’re sure to feel magic in the air as you step on the beautiful wooden boat, which dates back to 1898. Each boat takes a maximum of 20 passengers, so it’s one of the most intimate tours you can take without booking a private boat. While you won’t have narration like most boat tours, the captain points out highlights along the way. The real attraction is the three-course feast, which you’ll enjoy over the leisurely tour, lasting about two hours and 45 minutes.
The dinner cruise schedule varies from week to week, but usually tours run from 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays. The tours cost between €110 and €130, depending on your inclusions. There is a welcome drink, but added wine costs extra. The boat departs from Singel 250, close to the Dam Square and within easy walking distance of many hotels in Amsterdam.
Pannenkoekenboot’s 75-minute cruise
Unlimited pancakes on family-friendly tour
The family will have a ball on Pannenkoekenboot, which translates to Pancake Boat. Grownups will appreciate admiring the landscape along the IJ River. The scenery’s not as striking as the landscape around the canals, but this tour will give you a different perspective of Amsterdam. For children, the real drawcard is those pancakes. Passengers can eat as many plain, apple, or ham pancakes as they like, piled with treats from the toppings bar.
Pannenkoekenboot’s 75-minute cruise runs at various times on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The tour costs €18.50 for adults and €12.50 for children ages 3 to 12. Pannenkoekenboot also operates family cruises, children’s party cruises, and extended pancake cruises. The boat leaves from Ms. van Riemsdijkweg in North Amsterdam.
Regardless of how long you have to spend in Amsterdam, a boat ride down its beautiful canals deserves to be on your itinerary.