Amsterdam’s canals are one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the canals are an important part of Dutch trading history and culture, but today they mainly function as a tourist attraction.
In this blog, we will explore the history, architecture and culture of Amsterdam’s canals. We will also discuss some of the popular sights, hidden gems and activities you can find along the canals. Whether you are a local resident or a first-time visitor to Amsterdam, this blog will help you better understand and appreciate the canals. Moreover, we will share some tips on how to get the most out of your visit to Amsterdam’s canals. Read on and find out what makes Amsterdam’s canals so special.
The history of Amsterdam’s canals
The rich history of Amsterdam’s canals goes back to the 17th century. At that time, Amsterdam became one of the world’s most important trading cities and the city’s population grew rapidly. To facilitate the growing population and increasing trade, the city began excavating canals. These canals were then turned into canals that were mainly used for transport, waste disposal and even as a line of defence.
The canals were built according to a plan known as the ‘ring of canals’, an impressive network of waterways that played an important role in Amsterdam’s economic development and growth. The canals were surrounded by imposing mansions and warehouses built by the wealthy merchants who lived in the city. The wealthiest Amsterdammers of the time settled on the most prestigious part of the Herengracht, the Golden Bend.
During the Golden Age, Amsterdam was the most important trading centre in the world and the canals were used to transport goods to and from the city. From all over the world, ships came to Amsterdam’s port to trade their goods on the canals. In the 19th century, Amsterdam lost its position as the main trading city, but the canals remained an important part for the city’s residents.
Modern canals and their role in city life
Besides being historic, Amsterdam’s canals are still an important part of city life today. The water attracts many people to it, making the canals a popular place to live, work and relax. From houseboats to hotels and restaurants to office buildings, Amsterdam’s canals are home to all sorts of things.
One of the most striking aspects of the canals are the houseboats. These boats have been converted into comfortable, stylish homes, equipped with all conveniences. Since 2018, all houseboats are compulsorily connected to the city water supply and have their own wastewater treatment system. This used to be different, as everything from the sewage system was still discharged into the canals back then, bah!
Besides the houseboats, there are also many hotels and restaurants that have established themselves along the canals. Enjoy a drink on one of the waterside terraces, or opt for a unique dinner on a saloon boat while cruising through the canals. In short, Amsterdam’s canals are a vibrant place, playing an important role in today’s modern city life. They provide a home for many residents and attract millions of visitors every year. Enjoy the beautiful views, have a bite to eat by the water, or take part in one of the events that take place annually, Amsterdam’s canals offer something for everyone.
Hidden gems along Amsterdam’s canals
Amsterdam is a city full of hidden gems and we would like to give you some tips to discover it. From small alleys and courtyards to special museums and shops, there is plenty to discover along the canals.
Are you familiar with Amsterdam’s hofjes? These small courtyards were originally intended as housing for the poor and sick, but today they are an oasis of peace in the busy city. Some of the most beautiful hofjes can be found along the canals, such as the Begijnhof and the Hoftuin Hofje. The canals are also home to many quaint shops and restaurants. For the best apple pie, head to Winkel 43 and at café ‘t Smalle, on Lindengracht, enjoy a delicious ‘bakkie pleur’.
Did you know you can learn even more about Amsterdam and its canals on a canal cruise? Book your canal cruise at Flagship Amsterdam and enjoy an interactive canal cruise.