Amsterdam, Netherlands
City Break Travel Ideas Europe The Netherlands Unesco World Heritage Sites

The Netherlands: Amsterdam on the water

Amsterdam is one of the most visited capitals in Europe, and rightly so. It has some of the world’s best art museums, beautiful architecture, the solemn legacy of Anne Frank, and of course the famous De Wallen red light district and certain coffee shops.

Amsterdam is a very accessible city break in Europe and most of the Dutch capital’s charms are to be found on and around the water. I have visited the Netherlands in all four seasons now and Springtime is my favourite, when the trees lining the canals are lush with bright green new leaves.

Whether viewed from a bicycle, from a boat, on foot or from the doorway of a Brown Café, watching the sun sparkling on the water and the curve of a stone bridge out of the corner of your eye will be an enduring memory of the Dutch capital.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The network of 17th century canals that form the heart of Amsterdam are a Unesco World Heritage Site and, along with the tall and distinctive buildings that line them, were a hubbub of trade and commerce during the Dutch Golden Age.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The four concentric half-circles of canals were originally used for defence, transport and water management but nowadays people (and pets) take to the water for pleasure.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

And a whole community of people live right on the water in houseboats. Apparently thousands of them! Some in old, converted cargo ships and some in made-for-purpose houseboats.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Shining wood and gleaming brasswork give these old ships a very romantic image that is probably far from their original workhorse life.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Many have put a lot of effort into maintaining elaborate gardens, with plants growing in profusion along the canalside and on board.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Trees, flowers, temples; you don’t want for much living on a houseboat. This style of living was particularly in vogue in the 60s and it shows.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

One thing you’ll see fluttering from many boats is the three black St Andrew’s crosses of the Amsterdam flag. The design has its origins in the city’s coat of arms and the black stripe apparently represents the River Amstel. (You’ll also see the flag worn as an armband by the captain of Amsterdam football giants Ajax FC.)

Staying on a houseboat – many are used as hotels or B&Bs – is a unique way of experiencing Amsterdam on the water.

By Natasha von Geldern

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  1. Amsterdam is a great city to visit, but I haven’t yet tried to stay on a houseboat there. Must include it on my bucket list:)

  2. Amsterdam is such a quaint and gorgeous city, isn’t it? I’ve never thought to stay om a houseboat there. Don’t know why not, it’s so obvious. Next time… Also, love the photo of the dog 🙂

  3. I love the canals – the houseboat living would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

  4. We’re heading to Amsterdam tomorrow and at first we considered staying on a houseboat – but they’re so expensive! They were also mostly booked up, as right now is the high season for tourists. Oh well… maybe next time!

  5. On my next visit to Amsterdam I need o make time to get on a boat and see the city from the water. A very nice selection of photos.

  6. What a cool community of boat-dwellers!

  7. I’ve always looked at the houseboats in London with a sort of envy – it looks to be the perfect option.. if you don’t like your surroundings you can just move along to somewhere else. Of course, the reality is a bit different.. most of these are permanently moored and never move.. but the idea is still nice!

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I think the ‘boaties’ in London have great community spirit – there were lots on the Lea near us in Walthamstow. It does look charming doesn’t it, and I loved the narrow boat holiday I did one year. In fact we half considered buying one once but could be a bit grim in the winter!

  8. We’d love to stay on a houseboat! What a fantastic “unique” tourist experience.

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