Amsterdam’s Canal Boats

Amsterdam Canals
Amsterdam Canal Boat

A visit to Amsterdam is not complete without enjoying the beautiful, bike-filled canals and, even if you tried, it is impossible to visit the historical center of this city and never see one. Why? The canals create a crescent moon shape series of rings and are lined with residential canal boats.

So, when I booked a trip to the Capitol city of the Netherlands, I was determined not only to see the canals but to sleep on them! My friend, Lauren, didn’t take much convincing to bunk up with me in a charming, barge that cost $175.00 per night!

Our boat was not only charming and clean but it was perfectly situated – close but not too close to the Red Light  District – on a sleepy street and the perfect starting point for our view days of wandering about the “Venice of the North”.

The Canals

canal boat Amsterdam

There are 165 Amsterdam canals that combine for a length of 60 miles and the historic Canal Ring was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. Once stepping out of the train station, I immediately understood why Amsterdam made the list – they are an engineering wonder!

Crossing over countless bridges (there are over 1280), from island to island, we eventually made our way to our canal boat barge. On the way, we got a great sampling of the types of house boats.

So, why are there canals? Before the 17th century, the area was primarily swampland which was systemically drained to create a city of islands and canals that separated them. The canals were used as a form of defense, transport for goods and people, and water management. In some canals, you can see the remanents of the fortress walls that once guarded the city.

Some of the access areas require the use of very steep stairs and would be a nightmare to navigate if one spent too much time indulging in the Red Light District. When booking, just be sure to know how you have to access the boat!

woman in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Canal boat

The Boats

canal boat Amsterdam

There are over 2,500 houseboats lining the Amsterdam canals, with many of them dating back to the turn of the century. When walking throughout Amsterdam, I saw many styles made in a variety of shapes and materials. Some are made of concrete, others of wood and many flat-top barges made of metal.  Most of the canal boats are residential properties but if booking in advance, you’ll be able to rent one.

To buy a boat, it would cost approximately €290,000 – a steal compared to the canal mansions which go for €1,200,000 – 3,000,000! The canals are not tidal and the speed limit is only 7.5 km which means we didn’t have a concern of sea-sickness while on board.

When booking, our choices were a bit limited due to late requests but we found a beautiful half-barge with one bed, a mini fridge with coffee maker and the bathroom was a bit spartan but clean with a shower above the toilet. It was perfect for two nights! Plus, we were able to sit on the roof of the barge when we had a few friends join us on the boat!

women in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Canals

How to Book a Boat

Amsterdam Canals

Convinced that you need to add “stay on a canal boat”  to your bucket list?  Great! There are a variety of suppliers for this experience but the two platforms I have used and trust are and*

Both platforms are well respected, require profiles to be created by both the boat owner and the renter. They have easy to use, communication platforms and from my experience, it has never been a challenge to connect with a host to gain access to your accommodations.

*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with either of these companies but do receive is a credit if you book with my coupon code with AirBnB.

woman riding a bike in Amsterdam
interior of a canal boat

Can’t Stay on A Canal Boat But Really Want to See Inside One?

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