Amsterdam – The City of Canals

AMSTERDAM IS A POPULAR START FOR MANY EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISES:

Amsterdam to Budapest River Cruise – Avalon Waterways – Day 2
Amsterdam canal Follow Me on Pinterest

Amsterdam canal

Day two of our Amsterdam to Budapest River Cruise was a day of sightseeing in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is the City of Canals, so naturally a canal cruise in Amsterdam is one of the popular things to do in the Dutch capital. After breakfast, we were taken by coach to a canal boat mooring for a cruise on Amsterdam’s famous waterways.

A City of Cyclists

During the short coach ride, the most amazing sight I thought was the staggering number of bicycles. We drove past this multi-storied bicycle station and there were thousands of bicycles parked side-by-side. We all knew that cycling is a common means of transport in Amsterdam but weren’t prepared to see that many bicycles. Our guide told us that there were 14 million bikes in the Netherlands to a population of 7 million. Each year some 70,000 bikes were stolen and many ended up in the canals. As such, the canals are dredged for dumped bikes every two years.

Amsterdam Canal Cruises Follow Me on Pinterest

Cruising the canals in Amsterdam

Cruising the Canals

The canals in Amsterdam are called grachten and our canal cruise in a glass-top boat was very pleasant, especially since we had nice warm weather. For anyone keen on photography, and many in the group seemed to be, there are great snapping opportunities on this canal cruise as it sails past beautiful 17th-century homes, charming churches with bell towers and 16th-century merchant houses.

Amsterdam Architecture

Amsterdam has been called a city of "well mannered" architects as the charm of the city’s architecture lies in the intimate details rather than grand or stunning effects. There are lots of

Amsterdam architecture Follow Me on Pinterest

Buildings along the canals


waterside mansions and heritage preserved buildings with elegant facades and ornate gables lining the canals. Most of the best ones are now the expensive offices of commercial organisations. Telling signs of the houses of the rich are the size of the steps at the front of their building and their fancy gables. For architecture buffs, apart from admiring the wonderful architecture of the city, the canal cruise can also be a game of spotting the gable or facade.

Amsterdam canal cruise Follow Me on Pinterest

Buildings along Amsterdam canals

If you notice a certain regularity in the size of building facades, this was due to planning laws in the 15th century. Due to instability of the topsoil, town planning required that facades be built of lightweight brick or sandstone, with large windows to reduce the weight of the structure. Taxes were also levied according to the width of the frontage so the canal houses were often narrow and long. Keep a lookout for Anne Frank’s home near the Westerkirche. For those who were interested, Anne Frank’s Diary was one of the movies shown on the MS Poetry that day.

Overall, the canal cruise was well worth doing as Amsterdam is noted for its canals and waterways.

Alternatives

If you’ve already cruised Amsterdam’s canals previously and don’t want to do the cruise again, you can skip this guided tour and spend time exploring this 700-year old city. It’s enjoyable to just wander along the canals (the Jordaan is the best area, I think) or view works of famous Dutch masters in the Van Gogh, Rembrandt or the Rijksmuseum.

Leidseplein Square, Amsterdam Follow Me on Pinterest

Cafes in Leidseplein Square


Or, you can just chill out and take a break at one of the cafes in Amsterdam’s Leidseplein Square. And then there are those "brown cafes" they really are friendly, although forget non-smoking…

Update 2014

The cruises today offer passengers more sightseeing options. The canal cruise finishes at Gassan Diamons and there is a choice of (i) joining a guided tour of the diamond factory or (ii) taking a scenic walk through the Old Town back to the ship.

Captain’s Gala Welcome Dinner

This evening, as we bade farewell to Amsterdam, we were supposed to have our Captain’s Gala Welcome Dinner, but due to some technicalities(?), it was postponed. The guide on our canal cruise boasted about the Netherlands’ exports of lobsters, oysters and mussels and I was hopeful that we would at least get some oysters or mussels for dinner as we cruised out of Amsterdam, but nada – there was not a trace of the Netherlands’ gastronomic exports. What a missed opportunity to present local foods to guests!

Photos of Amsterdam: Amsterdam Photo Gallery

Next page: Cologne

Anyone else have feelings about this?

Comments

  1. avatarKaty Willard says

    Are the cruise boats truly wheelchair accessible including bathroom and shower. Also on excursions are there places that are also accessible?

    • avatar says

      Hi Katy,
      I presume you are referring to river cruise boats. Unfortunately, most river cruise boats do not have cabins that are suitable for are wheel-chair dependent travellers. You may however wish to check with Shearing Holidays (shearings.co.uk) who have chartered the MS Alegria which has cabins designed with less mobile passengers in mind.
      Shore excursions is difficult because of the cobbled streets in Europe. But again, you may wish to ask Shearings how they handle excursions for disabled passengers.

      All the best with your research.

      Kind regards,
      Helen

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