Whether you visit Amsterdam for the first time or are on a repeat visit, chances are that you will want to go on a water venture. You might take a regular tourist boat, rent a water bicycle, charter a smaller boat, or you could even book a table in a floating restaurant.
The very first tour of Amsterdam’s canals was completed by none other than Queen Elisabeth Stuart of Bohemia in 1621, who was floated around on specially decorated barge boats propelled by oarsmen, whilst the population of Amsterdam lined up along the canals and the many bridges, waving flags to the royal lady who would enter the annals of the history books as the winter queen.
Queen Elisabeth set a trend; up until this day, important visitors see the sites of Amsterdam in much the same fashion, with Winston Churchill, the Beatles and Nelson Mandela receiving the honour. Very recently the writer Donna Tart had an inverse experience, because when she visited Amsterdam, she had her picture taken on the banks of the canal and people on a boat cheered at her. So it goes.
Boat trips on the canals of Amsterdam have, unsurprisingly, evolved into the most popular tourist attraction and with many boating companies vying for your business, you can be afford to be almost as picky as royalty would be. Annually, about 3 million people come from far away to marvel at Amsterdam’s architecture from the deck of a serenely moving boat.
Modern day technology facilitates true comfort and luxury, which is what the boating companies compete on amongst each other. For a comprehensive list of what boating trips are on offer click here.
Currently, only around 25 per cent of the boats are so-called whisper boats, which run on electricity. This is a noteworthy fact for people who wish to film their trip, as fuel propelled boats can be noisy. If you opt to book a ticket on Salonboat Lieve from Rederij Lieve, you will not only choose for an entirely electric boat, but you’ll sponsor that company’s participation in a wind turbine.
Many of the boats offer dinner options. Enjoy a lovely four-course meal or sip cocktails; the choice is yours. Treat your loved one to a night out or gobble up a pizza so that you are at liberty to take in the sights. Want absolute privacy? Then you need to contact the folk at Amsterdam Jewel Cruises (also listed here), which own the only classical salon boat in Amsterdam, where you can reserve a private table. At night time, Amsterdam’s canal houses are truly marvellous and whatever your choice of activity, you are bound to be mesmerised by the decor.
If you have children of school age, you might consider renting a canal bike. There are so many of them that there is never a queue. The bike boats allow you to discover Amsterdam the fun way, at your own pace. Companies renting out these boats will provide you with a map of the canals and you can pick pre-marked routes to suit you or go your own way.
In case you wish to stop off at some places to see the sights, you should board a Canal Bus. These allow you to compile your own trip entirely, and you can leave the boats when and wherever you want, depending on the ticket you’ve got. Some even do multiple-day tickets.