Canals of Amsterdam

About Canals of Amsterdam

The capital of the Netherlands and the largest city in the country, Amsterdam is a monetary, resourceful, and cultural hub. But the Canals of Amsterdam are the one thing that makes the city shine out. The city is home to 165 canals, but only a few canals, set in the medieval center, are preferred by the tourists in the contemporary world. The history of Amsterdam Canals dates back to the early 17th century forming a curve around the town, most commonly known as the Grachtengordel- "The Belt of Canals", where grachten is the Dutch for canals.

History of Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam was founded in 1250 AD with the construction of the dam, giving it a unique name- "Aeme Stelle Redamme", which translates to Dam in a Watery Area. The history of Amsterdam Canals states that the canals were constructed mainly for defense and water control. With the expansion of the city in the Middle Ages, sequential defense moats became encased within the walls and were no longer useful.

The dam is still present in the city, but is one of the fewer locations in the town center where you can't sail. In 1922, the final stretch of the river that flows into the dam was destroyed by land traffic. Damrak, which translates to "Last portion of the river, going to the Dam" in Dutch, is still the name of the street that replaced it.

Canals of Amsterdam

Herengracht (Gentlemen's Canal)

One of the most significant canals in Amsterdam is thought to be the Gentlemen's Canal. The wealthiest traders, governors, and most powerful royal families of the city lived on this canal, as per the illustrious history of Amsterdam canals. This canal has also been the location of the Dutch West India Company's headquarters. The official residence of the mayor of Amsterdam is a home at number 502 along this canal. Today, the Herengracht is home to a number of intriguing museums and more than 400 houses that are designated as national monuments.

Keizersgracht (Emperor's canal)

This canal, the second and broadest of Amsterdam's three main canals, located between Herengracht and Prinsengracht, is one of the best to gawk at if you intend to visit the city. The canal, which bears the name of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, is well-known for its medieval structures, including the Keizersgracht Cathedral and the Museum Van Loon. It eventually became a canal lined with various old structures. The Embassy of the Free Mind, a historic art museum concealed behind the exterior of a grand trader mansion on No. 123, is one of the area's distinctive attractions.

Prinsengracht (Prince's canal)

The Prinsengracht extends over 3 kilometers along the Amstel river and begins at the Westerdok in the north. This canal made Amsterdam one of the biggest cities in the world in the early 1600s. Iconic locations around the canal include the Anne Frank House, the Houseboat Museum, and the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. If your bike or walking excursion whets your appetite, stop by Papeneiland, a charming bar that was founded in 1641. It's a wonderful location to eat delectable Dutch food while taking in vistas of the canal and the bustling throng.


According to the history of Amsterdam canals, the Brouwersgracht (Brewers' Canal) was constructed during the Dutch Golden Age. The canal, one of Amsterdam's most beautiful waterways, is home to gorgeous bridges and merchant homes. Visiting Amsterdam's artisan distillery A Van Wees - de Ooievaar is a really local experience. It's ideal for strolls because there is little motorized traffic and lots of lovely oak trees cross the river. The canal also provides excursions and tastings of its unique spirits, gins, and liqueurs, created using time-honored techniques and brewed in actual copper teapots.


Singel is the first canal that came in the Grachtengordel (Canal District). It was built in the 15th century and linked the IJ bay with the inner Amstel River. The canal is surrounded by charming merchant homes and a few noteworthy structures. One of these is the impressive Munttoren, a tower from the 17th century that is located where the Singel River empties into the Amstel river. Currently, this canal is a popular destination for party goers as it is home to a distinct area of the infamous Amsterdam Red-Light District.


The Singelgracht used to be the perimeter of Amsterdam and a line of defense. At present, the canal is one of the must-see canals in Amsterdam as it travels through numerous neighborhoods and past famous monuments. The Rijksmuseum, for instance, hosts exhibits featuring the art of Dutch Masters like Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh. You can access Vondelpark immediately from the Singelgracht shoreline, view the Muiderpoort defense tower, or go to the extremely magnificent Tropenmuseum with its anthropological exhibits. The Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo is a short stroll away from the museum.

Oudezijds Voorburgwal

The Oudezijds Voorburgwal is only 750 meters long, but it is chock-full of spectacular structures and important historical sites. The moment you step in the street, you'll be mesmerized by the charm of the route. A must-see is Het Wapen van Riga, a unique trader's residence built in 1605 with a perfectly executed stepped gable. At the Our Lord in the Attic Museum, a clandestine Catholic church constructed during a time when religious services and gatherings were forbidden, you may learn about a little-known period in Amsterdam's history. If you visit the Oudezijds Voorburgwal in the evening, it appears romantic and dreamlike.


The Kloveniersburgwal is the narrowest canal in the heart of Amsterdam, at only 550 meters. The Trippenhuis, which resembles a palace, is located at number 29, and the "Narrow House," which is located at number 26, is on the opposite side and towers over the cobblestone streets. The majestic Bushuis and the Oudemanhuispoort, two historical structures along the Kloveniersburgwal, have been converted into university campuses. A delightful respite is available at one of the many cafés, cosmopolitan eateries, or gelato stores in the Kloveniersburgwal.


The Entrepotdok's foundations might not be as profound, but it still qualifies as one of the most noteworthy canals in Amsterdam, particularly from the standpoint of tourists. It is the greatest residential complex of merchant mansions in Amsterdam, with rows of merchant homes extending down the canal's whole northern side. You may reach the Resistance Museum by crossing the Nijlpaardenbrug (Hippos' Bridge) to the southern side. This museum portrays the tale of resistance, Jew persecution, and everyday life in Amsterdam from 1940 to 1945.

Facts about Canals of Amsterdam

  • There are more than160 canals in Amsterdam, spread over 100 kilometers when combined.

  • The capital city of the Netherlands is divided into 90 distinct islands by these canals.

  • There are over 3000 houseboats and some locals still reside in the houseboats on the canals in Amsterdam.

  • During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, the majority of the canals in Amsterdam were constructed.

  • Queen Maxima, who was the Princess of the Netherlands at the time, took part in the 2012 Amsterdam City Swim.

  • One of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites is the ancient canal belt, or "Grachtengordel" in Dutch.


How deep is the water in Amsterdam canals?

The canals generally have a depth of two to three meters. Since the canals are not coastal, the water level often remains constant. Waternet controls the water level, which is approximately 40 cm below NAP, a national standard for gauging water levels.

What is unique about the Amsterdam canal bridge?

The most unique fact about the Amsterdam Canal Bridge is that the city is home to more bridges than Venice. There are 409 bridges linking Venice's canals, where Amsterdam has 1281 bridges.

What sights are covered in the Herengracht Cruise?

The Herengracht Cruise covers iconic sights like The Three Hills, Herenmarkt, Bartolotti House, Love Story House, Oldest House, The Hoxton Hotel, Cromhout Houses, Cat’s Cabinet, Restaurant Zuid Zeeland, the Seven bridges of Reguliersgracht, Mayor’s Residence, Museum Willet Holthuysen, and Italian Consulate.

Can you swim in the Amsterdam canals?

No, swimming is not permitted in the Canals of Amsterdam as the water is not deemed to be clean enough. The canals are designed for boating ways only (vaarwegen), which makes it difficult for the boats/ships to notice swimmers. This causes hazards and this is why swimmers are not allowed in the canals. However, there are several open water locations in Amsterdam where you can swim.

Why are Canals famous in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is quite famous for its 17th century canals. Amsterdam's circular canal system draws millions of tourists each year. Although these picturesque rivers are undoubtedly attractive, they were constructed to serve a number of civic purposes and have been important throughout Amsterdam's history.


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