Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, has been called the “Venice of the North” for its more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. There is no better way to explore Amsterdam’s canals then with boat tours around the canals – if you don’t like to go on tours, you can also tour the canals in a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) way – read on to find out more.
Amsterdam is at its best from the water and famous for its bikes. Combine the two and you have Canal Bike! The DIY approach to touring Amsterdam’s canals is via the Canal Bike Ride with Canal Company. Here you can rent a Canal Bike and tour Amsterdam’s canals in anyway you want. You decide the route and how long you want to spend at certain places. There are 3 suggested routes, depending on where you collect your Canal Bike.
- Rijksmuseum to Keizersgracht
- Westerkerk (Anne Frank House) to Leidseplein
- Westerkerk (Anne Frank House) to Rijksmuseum
Canal Bike rents out more than 100 stable 4-seater pedal boats from moorings located in the heart of Amsterdam`s city centre. These pedal boats can be rented from one mooring and returned to another. A brochure with a map and several route descriptions is available to make your tour even more fun and interesting. In case of rain, free rain shields are provided but I wouldn’t recommend pedalling your Canal Bike in the rain as the canal waters can get quite choppy.
There are a few nautical rules you do have to take note of when riding a Canal Bike. Most of them are quite common-sense so there is no need to memorise them but it is important to take note for safety reasons. When riding the Canal Bike in the canals, always keep to the right; always take the right-hand arch when going under a bridge. All other traffic on the canals has right of way (you wouldn’t want to go up against the relatively bigger canal cruise boats). Keep noise to a minimum and keep your distance from the houseboats and respect the residents’ privacy.
The steering is easy – you need 2 persons – one on the left and the other on the right to pedal. The pedalling should be at the same speed or your Canal Bike will steer towards one direction and worse case go one round on its axis (unless that’s what you want).
There is a map pasted right in front of you so you can navigate the canals easily. There ain’t canal names under the bridges or along the canals so you do need to navigate quite carefully and be aware of your surroundings e.g. look out for landmarks and pedal towards them and you can’t go wrong.
Canal Biking is not exactly a ride in the park – there are real dangers e.g. bigger canal cruise boats that cruise by a faster speed. So know how long you need to completely steer clear of them so as to avoid a collision and worse case an overturn of your Bike. Just remember – Keep Right at all times. When in doubt, just let the bigger boat pass by first – safety is most important.
Once you get the hang of it, the canal biking is quite easy and you can relax with a leisurely ride and take pictures from a different angle that you can’t get when you are walking along the sidewalks!
For a quick look at what the Canal Bike experience is like – check out the video below:
For more information on Canal Bikes, see http://www.canal.nl/bike/en/. You can get your Canal Bikes from these moorings: Rijksmuseum, Leidseplein, Anne Frank House/Wester Church and Keizersgracht/Leidsestraat. Just look out for the Canal Bus/Bike/Company huts. You can rent your canal bikes from 10am til 6pm daily and in summertime til 10pm.
Each Canal Bike can seat up to 4 persons and the prices for Canal Bike rentals (with a deposit of €20 per pedal boat) start at €8 per person for 1-2 persons for the 1st hour. If you have more than 3 or more persons, the rate drops to €7 per person. The rates are slightly cheaper for longer rentals.
Canal Boat Cruises
If you just want to catch quick highlights of Amsterdam’s canals and its history without the excitement of self-pedalling along the canals, you can consider the 100 Highlights Cruise. This is slightly cheaper at €14 and last for 1 hour and departs every 15 minutes from 9am to 6pm and every 30 minutes after that til 10pm. Departure point for this cruise is at Prins Hendrikkade opposite Central Station. You can’t miss this because most cruises depart from here and you will see tour groups, boats and almost everyone here!
For Iamsterdam Card holders -> Good news! This cruise is free for you as one of the perks of an Iamsterdam Card holder on top of other benefits e.g. free admission to 43 museums including the famous Van Gogh museum. You can get your Iamsterdam card online at Viator and collect the card and free guidebook upon arrival at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport or in the city center. I recommend the former as the Iamsterdam card comes with free transportation around the city and you can start using it after you arrive in Amsterdam city centre.
Canal Bus’s Ultimate Cruise is an enjoyable and relaxed way of getting around the canals and takes you past all Amsterdam’s top sights. These boats cruise along the most famous canals providing guests with views of Amsterdam’s major museums, shopping districts and tourist attractions. It is no wonder that it is voted the best cruise in town. An English speaking guide will be on board to provide interesting information about the 17th century mansions, humpbacked bridges, houseboats and stunning architecture, ranging from medieval to cutting-edge.
What differentiates the Ultimate Cruise from other cruises is that it sails through the Eastern Docklands, providing you with an overview of some of the most beautiful houseboats as well as modern architecture – so if you are a big fan of interesting architecture and house designs, the Ultimate Cruise is good for you to get some inspirations of Dutch designs. This cruise takes about 1.5 hours and cost about €17.50 and is available twice daily at 1pm and 3pm.
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