Amsterdam canal cruise: tickets, fares, timetables

Are you planning a trip to Amsterdam? Head for the canal cruise, one of the capital’s wonders.

It’s the Venice of the Northern Netherlands. Amsterdam’s canals, symbols of the city and its riches, are just as much a part of the travel experience as they are part of the daily lives of the locals. Witnesses to a history, faces of a heritage, they offer a veritable cultural stroll through time. Exploring the city on the water during a cruise promises to discover Amsterdam from another angle, and to enjoy a heritage in its own right.

So what is the history of these canals, to which Amsterdam owes its nickname of Venice of the North? How do you discover them, and above all, how do you make the most of this unique experience? Find out everything you need to know about cruising the Amsterdam canals.

History of the Amsterdam canals

You’d think it was ancient, but it’s not. Contrary to popular belief, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s youngest cities. Born in the Middle Ages, it was created from a new dike(dam in Dutch) on the Amstel: a geographical location that very quickly projected the city into the Dutch Golden Age.

Gradually, Amsterdam was outfitted with a large fleet of ships and became a major trading center (notably with the East and West Indies) and a port of call for migrants and refugees from all over the world, including those from the Catholic Inquisition. To accommodate these arrivals, defend the city and allow ships to dock, maritime traffic to flow and the land to drain, the city began building canals fed by the waters of the Amstel. It was a long process, lasting more than a century (16th/17th) and giving rise to the famous Amsterdam Ring, with its 100 kilometers of canals and more than 1,200 bridges!

Like scouts, these canals follow the path of the sun, naturally illuminating the residences that line them. Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal), Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal), Herengracht (Lords’ Canal) and Singel form the four main canals of the ring, linked by equally charming secondary canals such as Brouwersgracht and Leliegracht. In terms of style, Baroque and Neoclassical rub shoulders with Renaissance and Art Nouveau: a splendid picture of an unusual itinerary which, in 2010, earned the Amsterdam canals UNESCO World Heritage status, thanks in particular to the monuments that surround them, such as Anne Frank’s house.

Today, Amsterdam’s canals bear witness to the city’s finest treasures. From bridges to small perpendicular streets and typical stores, they invite travelers to explore the history of the Venice of the North on a cruise or bike ride.

What to see and do on Amsterdam’s canals?

Que voir et que faire pendant une croisière sur les canaux d'Amsterdam ?

Photo credit: Unsplash – Javier M.

When it comes to visiting Amsterdam’s canals, the possibilities are endless. And with good reason: there’s no shortage of bridges to discover along the way, as well as monuments, residences and other heritage treasures that line or surround the various routes.

Whatever you choose to do, a stroll on or along the canals promises an experience of discovery in its own right, from the history to the culture of the city. To give you a little guidance, here are the most popular canals for a canal cruise in Amsterdam: they can be used as itineraries, stages or passages.

Canal Singel

It’s one of the first canals to be discovered from the city center. When it was built in the Middle Ages, the Singel Canal was chosen to designate the city’s moat; a defender in short, running from the river Ij to the Amstel and spanned by Amsterdam’s oldest bridge, Torensluis. Passing through the Singel Canal, you’ll discover the city’s Flower Market, famous for its tulips.

Canal Herengracht

Just beyond the Singel Canal, Herengracht or Canal des Seigneurs is home to some of the city’s most beautiful residences. It was along this canal that the bourgeoisie of the time lived. Today, the sight is quite breathtaking: the facades are splendid, dressed in mansions that add to its charm. All in all, an architectural discovery that remains a favorite among travelers. Along the water, the Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat bridges and the Botanical Gardens promise to enrich these beautiful discoveries.

Canal Keizersgracht

The widest of all the canals (31 meters), the Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal pays homage to Maximilian of Austria. This is where you’ll find a concentration of dwellings that weren’t originally intended to be accessible by boat! This is also where the city’s warehouses were built in 1620, the famous Greenland warehouses now transformed into luxury apartments.

Rode Hoed (the red hat), Amnesty International headquarters, theHomomonument (a monument to homosexuals who died in concentration camps during the Second World War), the Dylan Hotel and Maison Marseille (the country’s first museum devoted exclusively to photography) are also worth a visit during your cruise.

If you’re visiting Amsterdam in winter, be aware that access to the Keizersgracht canal may be closed in the event of frost. When the ice is thick enough, locals swap boats for ice skates! The « Emperor’s Race » is also organized for this occasion, and is well worth seeing and doing if the weather permits.

Prinsengracht Canal

Like the Emperor’s Canal, which pays tribute to a historical figure, the Prinsengracht Canal owes its name to William I, Prince of Orange. Located furthest out, it is the city’s longest canal, running from the Unicorn Lock to the Amstel. While locals enjoy sailing and rowing here, visitors are not left out in terms of discoveries! TheUnicorn Lock (the famous lock that protected the city from the sea), the Anne Franck House, churches, the Papeneiland café (one of Amsterdam’s oldest cafés), the narrowest house in town, the Barge Museum, the Fles café (famous for its beer), the Walloon Orphanage… you name it!

Places of interest along Amsterdam’s canals

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Photo credit: Unsplash – redcharlie

How to visit Amsterdam’s canals


Amsterdam’s canal cruises are a common sight in the city. You’ll have no trouble finding a place to take a boat. The main departure points for the dozens of companies that share the market are along the Central Station, the Damrak and Rokin, or on the Stadhouderskade . All in all, the location depends on the company you choose to cruise the Amsterdam canals.

To reach these departure points, you can (depending on your location) opt for public transport (bus, metro, streetcar) or get on your bike, the city’s most popular (and most enjoyable) means of transport!

The different cruises

As mentioned above, there are many ways to discover Amsterdam’s canals and the riches that surround them. That said, while cycling and walking may be an additional option for visiting the area from one end to the other, cruising is still the easiest and most enjoyable way to discover Amsterdam’s canals.

  • While most companies offer a simple tour with audioguides included in the ticket, others specialize in dinner cruises or cocktail cruises: an extra service at a higher price.
  • Food lovers can enjoy a wine, cheese or even pancake tasting aboard one of the specialized boats that offer a historical cruise through the city’s culinary culture.
  • To make the most of the canal surroundings during your trip, you can also opt for the  » Hop-On Hop-Off Boat « . which are also equipped with audioguides and make 8 stops: the perfect alternative for enjoying the main museums and places of interest (you can buy tickets for the stops you want once you’re on board).

As you can see, the type of cruise you choose depends first and foremost on what you’re looking for in terms of experience.

Amsterdam canal cruise times and prices

Horaires et tarifs d'une croisière sur les canaux d'Amsterdam


On average, shuttles or bateaux-mouches depart every 20/30 minutes for a 1h to 1h30 cruise. Schedules may vary, of course, depending on the company you choose and the season in which you travel. For this reason, we recommend that you contact the cruise line of your choice directly, and consult the relevant information online or on site.


Prices for a single cruise on the Amsterdam canals range from €10 to €15. The ticket also includes audio guides available in English, Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Turkish, Indonesian, Korean, Hindi, Hebrew and Arabic.

With the I Amsterdam City Card you can use all the city’s public transport services for 24 hours. This pass also entitles you to a free cruise on one of the Canal, Gray Line or Holland International cruise lines.


– Choose late afternoon or early evening to avoid the crowds.

– In summer, opt for a boat with an opening roof to avoid the heat.

– If you feel like it, you can hire your own boat to cruise the Amsterdam canals (no boating license required for small boats).