Exploring Amsterdam aboard a canal boat is an iconic way to see the sights, with myriad tours and cruises plying the 65 miles of waterways that lattice the city. From many spots you can join simple, hour-long cruises with narrators describing points of interest, as well as “hop on, hop off” cruises that make for a fun alternative to bikes or public transport. And in the evenings, a dinner or cocktail cruise can be a romantic way to take in the scenery.
By Travis Marshall, AFAR Local Expert
Dutch Canals and Windmill
Fifteen minutes from downtown Amsterdam we spotted our first windmill. Pulling over I saw the boats coming up the canal and got this shot. If i had waited for weeks I do not think i would have had a better composition.
By uncle Louie
Amsterdam by canal
It goes without saying that a visit to Amsterdam is not complete without a cruise on the the Canals.
Canal Cruise in Amsterdam
The canals and bridges of Amsterdam are such an iconic thing, and getting to see them up close and personal was wonderful! The homes along the canals, the houseboats, the bridges, the little cafes that sat right on the edge, the bicycles...they all added to that distinct Amsterdam image.
This year’s Grachtenfestival, an annual 10-day celebration of classical music on Amsterdam’s famous canals, takes place from August 16 through 25. Guides lead architecture tours (in Dutch), and musicians perform on barges and docks. Don’t miss the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which will play from a pontoon near the Hotel Pulitzer.
By David Farley, AFAR Contributor
Walking Through Reflections of Light in Amsterdam
Amsterdam at any time of day is breathtaking--but something magical happens in early morning and late night, when the city is sleeping and the lights are aglow, casting their shadows in the river's reflection. Take an evening stroll anywhere the Amstel river flows and enjoy the views.
By Ashley Castle Pittman, AFAR Contributor
I love the lighting and dignity of this cat, just standing near the Rijksmuseum.
By uncle Louie
On my very first trip to Europe I was 25 and on the 'eat every other day' budget. I landed in Amsterdam with the intention of moving on fairly quickly, but Amsterdam was very enjoyable all by itself. I was busy finding my 'backpacker' legs before I set out, Eurail pass in hand. In the 'Tanker youth hostel I'd befriended a group of Aussies and we had been sightseeing together for a few days when a new Australian, Timothy, walked in the door. He was small, perhaps 5'2", wearing a leather vest and a beat up old cowboy hat. The other Aussies looked askance and immediately apologized for him. He was, "a real jackaroo" (American's can read "redneck", Brits, read "chav") and they had no idea how he had gotten out of the country. Despite or because of his outback upbringing, Timothy was an interesting character. When I mentioned I wanted to see the Vermeers at the Rijksmuseum, he volunteered that Vermeer was, "a nice little painter" (score one for the Australian school system). Then in the next breath he explained his life goal was "to remain pissed for the rest of my life." We compromised. Museum first, then drinking. 4 hours in the museum, 12 hours in various bars. To this day, I can picture him on the stool to my left, roaring drunk, as he hauls back a pint over his head, tipping farther back to get the last drop - in an instant, he crashes to the floor flat on his back, looking confused. He looks up at me and says, "I don't like this bar. Let's find another."
While on a trip to Europe, I became enthralled in photographing Graffiti or wall art of any medium. My friend John stepped into the frame, unintentionally, but at the perfect moment.
Canal view with the Westerkerk Tower in the background....
By Jorge Garcia
View of canal, within the Red Light District.
By Jorge Garcia
Beautiful day for a canal cruise
Morning Stroll Through Amsterdam
On my third visit to the great city of Amsterdam I did something I had never done before... I got up early and set out with my camera on a morning stroll! It was an unbelievable experience to walk around Amsterdam's deserted streets early in the morning with only remnants of the many exploits of the previous evening. To see the red light district and the plazas. It was quiet, the streets were almost empty, and the canals were so calm (no boat traffic) that there were crystal clear reflections of the landscape that defines Amsterdam. It is still easy to get coffee and a pastry and even the brown bars are serving herb and hash early in the morning (yes, you could say that I "waked and baked"). I will never forget this experience and the amazing photographs I captured on my last day in the Dutch city I love so much for so many reasons, so if you can manage it, I would recommend waking up early to stroll the streets of Amsterdam. I'll leave the getting baked part up to you.
By Rey Madolora, AFAR Local Expert
How to Disappoint Your Friends When You Get Back From Amsterdam
When my friends heard that I was going to Amsterdam, they were excited. Possibly more excited than I was. Confident that I would finally become a devotee to the herb they had grown familiar with in our somewhat stereotypical art school days, they watched me pack my bags and waved me off, giggling behind their hands, shrouded in a suspicious-smelling perfume. Once there, my fellow traveler and I had trouble finding enough time to eat dinner before passing out for the night, let alone frequent any establishments that served alcohol or, perhaps more importantly to some, marijuana. The result of this was: upon our return, they demanded I tell all, winking slyly when I said I didn't have any juicy stories involving the red light district or any of those famous coffee houses. "So what did you do?" "Well...I had a lot of really good cake." And let's be honest. Why waste money when you can skip the undignified bits and go straight for the sweets?
light and shadow
The weather in Amsterdam can be quite changeable. One afternoon after visitng several museums we took a boat trip on the canals. As we were coming to a particular spot where you can see the full panoply of roof lines they use in the local architecture the sky darkend to a dramatic shade of blue and the lights on the arches of the bridge - which one wouldn't have noticed before the sky went dark - popped into view. And while it did rain - our touring boat was well prepared for the eventuality with a glass roof. While There: tour the canals and do the museums - stay at the lovely Ambassade (a group of canalside houses turned into a small hotel) and eat south asian food at a Rijsttafel.
Colorful Clogs in Amsterdam
I love the vivid colors of these clogs in Amsterdam.
By AFAR Traveler
Random House in Amsterdam
A "worldly" scene.
By Neill Kramer
This early morning shot of a canal side tram captures the incredible tranquility that exists throughout the Old City.
We say, home is where the heart is. I left my heart in this city and I keep going back there to find it safe and happy.. This city has SO much more to offer than the (in)famous 'Red light district' and 'Space cakes'. For starters, the XXX which can be spotted all over the city has nothing to do with 'sex'. Rather the triple x's on the coat of arms symbolises floods, fire, and the Black Death- Three chief perils that the city had to overcome. And it proudly stands today with its beautiful lit up dams, cape Dutch architecture, very very warm people and of course tulips! The city has its fair share of artists and museums like any other European city, its Dutch pottery and traditional artwork. But the museum I like the best is the Anne Frank house for no other reason but the young girl's diary as it did to me, what it has to people all over the world. I am a church goer and I attended a Sunday morning service at De Oude Kerk.. It was in Dutch, I understood very little or none but it blew my mind! I love the Dutch people and their warmth Eat! Eat! Eat!For Dutch -Traditional pickled herring is a must try! I love an Ethopian restaurant - Addis Ababa which is located in Overtoom. Albert Cuyp Market is also quite interesting to visit. I love an English waffle maker there and his waffles! Everyone knows about the coffee shops selling cannabis and hash cakes and vaporisers, I love going to Abraxus and Cafe Bluebird- Cool places to hang out and try cakes "Coz you're in Amsterdam baby!"
It was supposed to be seafood soup but it tasted like a package of instant noodle soup based in hot water with a few tiny shrimps, mussels and scallops. I was 6.50 Euro lighter when I left the restaurant in Nine Streets!
By AFAR Traveler
Amsterdam channel reflection
On a trip to Amsterdam, I stopped by this channel near the Red Light district. I loved the reflection on the water, the color contrasts, and old-world architecture that my ancestor's lived among and that people still live with today. The hooks on the top of the buildings are still used to hoist furniture to the top level of the tall row-houses--an amazing innovation! People live so vivaciously in the 17th century buildings with enduring style. Leave it to the Dutch!
By Aimee H
I had never been in Amsterdam during the winter before. As always, Amsterdam offers a stimulating and awesome experience that is absolutely amazing and amusing all at once. And the shopping is great, if you have the cash. :-)
Sultry street art
Amsterdam is a thriving, colorful metropolis with a unique subculture of artists and creative folk who leave their mark all over the city. During a night of innocent ambling, I stumbled upon several alleys splashed with vibrant graffiti. Warmed by the hue of a soft street lamp, this piece particularly stood out.
Lovely City with lots to do
When in Amsterdam, do as the locals do, or you will find out the hard way, stay off the bicycle paths or you will end up flat on the sidewalk. Amsterdam has probably more bicycles per capita than any other country in the world; they use them every day, no matter what season and that is part of the charm. While in Amsterdam do take your time to walk around, it is a walker friendly city, stroll thru the many streets and admire the laid back culture, cafes, architecture, and of course , the canals, take a boat tour thru the canals and just relax, enjoy, take many pictures or not, if you just want to relax and take it all in. if you are a fan of Van Gogh , you must go to the Van Gogh Museum, nestled in a nice neighborhood , close to upscale shops and of course, the home of Heineken beer, where you must go even if you are not a beer drinker.
Amsterdam with a Sibling: It Happened.
Traveling to Amsterdam comes with its own connotations – and I’ll bet that none of them were intended for two adult siblings on a trip together. But that’s what happened when I was living in London, and I asked my brother if he would like to see another city during his visit. Without question, he chose the Dutch capital, and I, with many questions, booked it as his college graduation gift. (This will go down as the nicest thing I will ever do for my little brother.) As it turns out, traveling to Amsterdam with your sibling is nothing to worry about. In fact, any awkwardness that may be expected – the Red Light District, the coffee shops, the general openness of the city – will, hopefully, turn into a running punch line. Both of us were seeing the city for the first time, and because we weren’t afraid to be honest with each other, we made for a great team. Museums? Check. River cruise? Check. Red Light District? Well, I left that to him and another guy friend after dark.
By Kelly Dawson
While you woke up early to enjoy a good ol wake and bake adventure, I had the pleasure of meeting Amsterdam in the early morning after a night out (honestly the most picturesque views during my "walk of shame" - sans the shame). Seeing such a lively city at it's calmest was absolutely perfect, especially with the looming hangover.
When the Tulips aren’t in Bloom
This past Fall I visited the cultural capital of the Netherlands, a place that is famous for its artists, musicians, and past; Amsterdam. Traveling here was like none of the other places I have been to in my 8 weeks of exploring Europe and here are some reasons why: 1. It is very family oriented, everyone travels together and you see big groups of people walking around everywhere. 2. Bikers here are absolutely insane! I think there may be more bikers on the streets than there are vehicles. 3. There are more canals than I can count! So many means of transportation here and it reminded me a little of Venice with the boats floating around. 4. Even though it is a very family oriented city, there is the red light district… Two very complete opposites (if I do say so myself). One street you will see a cathedral and the next, you see half naked women in windows. 5. Coffee shops are not actually coffee shops (a concept you won’t see in America that’s for sure). 6. The weather was consistent the entire weekend I was traveling; very gray, cold, and rainy 7. Even though the weather was not up to par, it was still one of the most beautiful cities I have traveled to so far, a concept you wouldn’t quite agree with all the time. From the culture, to the people, and the atmosphere, Amsterdam was quite a fun and interesting weekend. We started off our trip by renting an AirBnB in the center of the city (which I would highly recommend when traveling, for you get to experience more of the culture and people when staying in a residential area as opposed to a tourist site). After getting settled, we took on the very famous Van Gogh museum, Heineken Factory, I Amsterdam sign, local restaurants, Red Light district, shopping and much more. There is so much to do here in the Netherlands that I would highly recommend you make a travel itinerary and buy your museum ticket(s) beforehand to ensure seeing everything you want (we were not able to visit the Anne Frank house since it was sold out). The second day of our trip was spent with relaxing and walking around the gorgeous canals, eating and taking in the everyday Amsterdam life. That evening, my friends and I attended the Amsterdam Music Festival, an electric music concert featuring some of the most famous DJ’s in the world, and danced our butts off from 8pm to 3am. It was one of the best concerts I have attended in my 20 years of existence. Everything from the DJ’s, lights, special guests, and confetti shows, made this night very memorable. We ended this great weekend get-away with our last yummy meal and some shopping around the city. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering through this beautiful place and hope to return again in the future. that being said, I look forward to the many other trips I will be taking these next few months and hope that they live up to the Amsterdam standards that have been set on this very fun and exciting weekend!
The Netherlands’ capital brings to mind canals and bicyclists peddling past tulip-filled flower-boxes. Dating from the 17th century, these waterways are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and flow around the roughly 900 islands that make up the city. This unique urban planning lends Amsterdam the sense of being a living, breathing work of art—and you’ll get to soak up the scenery on a canal cruise organized by Avalon. You’ll also have time to explore the city’s leading cultural institutions. The Rijksmuseum has a peerless collection of classical Dutch art; the Van Gogh Museum holds the world’s largest collection of the master’s art; and the Stedelijk is the city’s foremost modern art museum.
Sponsored by Avalon Waterways
Amsterdam Has Something For Every Taste
Historic canals, state-of-art cafes, art at every street corner and hundred of chic bicycles: Amsterdam in a few words. In this fascinating capital, I spent one my most entertaining holidays. I arrived in Holland on a sunny day and had a chance to admire the colorful building facades along the way and the retro bicycles of the citizens with a quirky, but the admirable sense of fashion. The apartment I rented was in Oostelijke Eilanden (Eastern Docklands), where buildings are surrounded by water on both sides. My room was dark and cool and I spent late evenings with my door open, sipping a glass of wine, resting on the comfortable mattress and admiring the reflection of the starry sky into the surface of the water. In Oostelijke Eilanden, repurposed buildings of the old harbor mix with futuristic buildings. Here I took a two- hour guided tour of the area to discover local works of renowned architects like Soeters, Coenen, and Kolhoff and the same day I visited National Maritime Museum. Also, I tasted some local beer(delicious!) at the lovely brewery Brouwerij 't IJ, next to the De Gooyer windmill. Such a laid-back and lovely atmosphere! On my first morning in Amsterdam, I had a serving of poffertjes (which is a plate of fluffy mini pancakes) on my way to the city center, where I planned to have a coffee in the bustling canal bistros and then rent a bike. But I changed my mind and had my coffee on a boat, enjoying a refreshing cruise. It was a great introduction to the history of the city! I later took a bike to explore Jordaan, a quarter filled with art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, quaint houses and intimate courtyard gardens. The outdoors Amsterdam is so picturesque, so I hardly convinced myself to enter museums. I chose the renowned Van Gogh Museum and then opted for the less popular Tropenmuseum - Museum of World Culture, where you can find out about habits and rituals of the populations around the globe. This might be one of the most complex museums I have ever seen. I was impressed by the beauty of the Zaanse Schans, a place dedicated to the 18th and 19th-century Dutch countryside. The wooden houses, the windmills, the cheese factory, and bakery museum made this place a restful getaway from the fuss of Amsterdam. Back in the city, I visited Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market and got dizzy from its sweet smells. I ended the day in Westergasbafriek, a thriving cultural hub. Here I socialized with locals and enjoyed Dutch food: delicious thick fries, meatballs, smelly cheeses and crunchy waffles. For one day, I wandered around some of the city's neighborhoods: the green and elegant De Plantage, the Latin Quarter De Pijp, the diverse Oost. I ended my Amsterdam trip with a day in the North, where I caught a tan, had a swim and then relaxed with cocktails and seafood in a beach hangout listening to some jazz and watching the waves. Amsterdam is the paradise of the passionate traveler. There is so much to explore, from the hidden gardens of the city center and the lively neighborhoods to the North Sea unspoiled coastline and the dreamy landscapes of the Dutch countryside.
By AFAR Traveler
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