The canal system (the grachtengordel) of Amsterdam is a unique part of the Netherlands that showcases the country’s history, art and economic prosperity. The perfect way to learn all about it is undoubtedly with an Amsterdam canal cruise. Uncover the fascinating history of the Dutch canals, and take in the stunning sights!

The history of Amsterdam’s canals

For 400 years, the canals of Amsterdam have been the city’s lifeblood. In the 16th and 17th centuries Amsterdam was the trade hub of the world. The Singel – the network’s oldest canal – was the major route for all trade vessels coming and going from Amsterdam. The city experienced an unprecedented level of growth, both in residents and in commerce. To accommodate this growth, early urban planners devised what is now the series of canals you’ll witness on an Amsterdam canal cruise. Many of the stately canal houses, which used to belong to the early merchants of the city, had lower levels that were often used as coach house. Amsterdam’s intricate network of canals stretches for over 14 kilometers, and has over 80 bridges. Running in a concentric half-moon shape along the west side of the city, the famous canal district is formed by four main canals. In addition to the Singel, the others are: The Keizersgracht (the Emperor's canal), The Prinsengracht (the Prince’s canal) and The Herengracht (the Man’s canal). Keeping in line with the others, the Singel was initially named the Koningsgracht (which translates to the King’s canal). Fun fact: in 2010, UNESCO added Amsterdam’s 17th-century canal ring to its World Heritage List.

Cruising the canals

You’ll learn all this and more on an Amsterdam canal cruise, for which you can book a day trip. This special offer includes train tickets to and from Amsterdam as well as an audio headset, so you can learn as you cruise. Another option for exploring Amsterdam from the water is to dine aboard a restaurant boat that operates along the canals. There’s the local’s favorite G’s Brunch Boat, which serves brunch (complete with bloody marys) from Friday to Sunday. For something a little more refined, make a reservation on the Vinkeles; the Michelin-starred cruiser of the boutique Dylan Hotel. If you’ve already taken an Amsterdam canal cruise, continue to enjoy the city’s waterways and consider hiring your own boat. It’s the perfect way to spend a rare sunny afternoon in the country’s capital. However you choose to do it, an Amsterdam canal cruise is a must if you want to appreciate the wonder that is Amsterdam’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed canal system.