Canals iconically trace their way through the City of Amsterdam. A fixture of the city's aesthetic recognizable by many. Exploring them is part of the wonder of visiting this deeply fascinating city.Hence, its namesake, Amsterdam was built in 1250 around the dam that was constructed as a barrier separating the River Amstel and the Southern Sea. The Canals branched out from the dam area as means to defend the city in medieval times. But, the city has since expanded beyond the borders of the canals and the purpose transitioned to commerce and tourism.Tours of Amsterdam’s canals are popular with visitors to the city and there is much to learn from them as well as many ways to be entertained while exploring them. Whether you choose to simply enjoy them on foot or to explore them more from the water itself, the canals are an intimate part of Amsterdam’s charm.


The Canals Of Amsterdam

With numerous canals inside Amsterdam, there are three primary ones that constitute the majority of the water traffic of the city. They are the Gentleman's Canal, The Emperor's Canal, and the Prince's Canal.

Herengracht - Gentlemen's Canal

Known as the Gentlemen’s Canal, Herengracht is probably the most important Canal in Amsterdam’s History. This canal was once the home of many of the affluent people in the city. During the 17th century, rich merchants and influential individuals lived along its waterways. The offices of the Dutch West India Company were also located along this canal. To this day, the official residence of the city’s mayor is located at house number 502 along the Herengracht.

Keizersgracht - Emperor's canal

At the center of the three main canals of the city, the Emperor’s Canal is named after the emperor of Austria, Maximilian. Digging for this canal began in 1612 and at 31 meters wide this is the widest canal in Amsterdam. The Emperor’s Canal was not even initially supposed to be a canal, but instead a large boulevard. However, local residents petitioned, and the plans were changed resulting in the Keizersgracht.

Prinsengracht - Prince's canal

The Prince’s canal is the furthest out of Amsterdam’s three primary canals. Construction of the Prince’s canal begin in 1612 with the others as part of a project called the “Fourth Outlay.” The goal of this project was to expand the city and the result was a four times increase in the city’s size. This expansion led to an explosion in population as the city became the third-largest in Europe behind London and Paris.

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Amsterdam Boats For Rent

With tourism being such a major aspect of this city, there are a few companies that offer boat tours for those visiting the city. Here is a list of four that you should consider when planning your trip to Amsterdam.

Bota Fogo

You can rent a classic barge from Bota Fogo. The barge dates back to the early 20th century and has been refurbished for all the comfort you would expect from a modern boat. It has a saloon and has the space to be perfect for a dinner cruise. You can also enjoy beverages from its fully stocked bar as you sail through the center of Amsterdam.


Ondine offers an authentic saloon boat that was built in 1909 at Kromhout, Amsterdam's famous wharf. The saloon boat is a beautiful Javanese teal build and makes for a stunning picture. It has a unique aesthetic that is both charming and warm. They offer both simple canal cruises, luxurious haute cuisine dinners, and business dining events and celebrations. The boat is heated to provide comfort during winter days making this an excellent year-round option.

Anna Maria

Dating back to 1910, this beautiful boat is originally from Friesland and possesses a wondrous history. This craft is unique from the other available options as the hull has a special design that allows for it to pass through the canals with grace and ease. This boat can fit up to 60 individuals and comes complete with a bar, toilet, adjustable lighting, and even the modern adaption of a smartphone connection allowing you to customize your listening experience. This boat is also heated and has an adjustable roof giving it the ability to adjust to multiple weather conditions.

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This is a smaller craft that is great for smaller groups and more intimate excursions. This boat has been in service since 1950 and offers an open and luxurious experience. She has a high-gloss lacquered gunwale, sides, and thwarts. With accessible front and rear decks, finished in copper and well maintained, there is little this craft doesn't offer. Whether you are looking for a smaller scale gathering for business or pleasure, this is an excellent craft to explore the canals.