Canals of Amsterdam

Canals of Amsterdam often captured in the pictures and postcards depict all the beauty of this magnificent city. The canals have been part of the city’s landscape since the early 14th century. However most of the current canals were built during the 17th century. At that time the city government decided to build a series of three concentric semi-circular canals around the old city center. As time passed, hundreds of narrow streets and smaller canals fanned out from the center, crossing the semicircles and creating 90 islands and 1,280 bridges, all within the city limits.

The canals are not only attractive, but also they’re a good way to get around the city. A municipal canal-bus system travels three different routes throughout the city, allowing locals an easy way to get to and from work and enabling visitors to travel from one attraction to the other on the water. The canals are also a thriving part of the tourist infrastructure of Amsterdam as there are many boat tours and excursions on the water.

They also provide a popular place for recreational activities, from boating to parades. Many of the city’s special events are held upon the waters of the canals. In the winter, locals ice skate on the frozen waters.

Notable Canals


Herengracht (Patricians’ Canal or Lord’s Canal) is the first of the three major canals in the center of Amsterdam. Looks especially attractive and romantic in the evening.


Keizersgracht (literal English translation: Emperor’s Canal) is the second and widest of the three major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam, in between Herengracht and Prinsengracht. It is named after Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor.


Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal) is the fourth and the longest of the main canals in Amsterdam. It is named after the Prince of Orange. Most of the canal houses along it were built during the Dutch Golden Age of the United Provinces. The bridges over this canal don’t connect with the streets in the Jordaan.

Interesting sights along Prinsengracht include the Noorderkerk (Northern Church), the Noordermarkt (Northern Market), Anne Frank House, the Westerkerk (Western Church, Amsterdam’s tallest church) with the Homomonument (Gay Monument), which actually faces Keizersgracht.

To maintain sanitary conditions, the canals are flushed three times a week when the locks are open and water flows in from the North Sea. But always remember it’s never a good idea to go swimming in the canals of Amsterdam.


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