Discover the Most Beautiful Canals in Amsterdam

In the historic old town of Amsterdam you will find many picturesque canals. Houseboats, small bridges and magnificent elms - on this page you will learn everything about Amsterdam's famous canal belt.

Amsterdam Canals

The Eegelantiers Canal in the centre of Amsterdam

Because of the characteristic canals (in Dutch "Grachten"), Amsterdam is often called the Venice of the North. This is not so wrong at all – Amsterdam even got more canals than Venice (almost 80 km).

Tip - Discover the historic old town during a canal cruise

With our partner Get Your Guide you can easily book your canal tour online. The cool thing about it: You save some time and can choose between different tours. Here you will find an overview with special offers.

The half-moon shaped canal system is supplied with fresh water from the Ijsselmeer. The canal belt consists of three main canals: The Herrengracht, the Keiszersgracht and the Prinsengracht.

The famous canal belt is formed by three main canals

The canal belt of Amsterdam from above - Photo: BMZ Amsterdam

The main canals are connected with each other through acrosscanals. All together, there are respected 160 canals in Amsterdam – however nobody has exactly counted them. Around 1,300 bridges lead you over the water.

The architectural combination of historical canal houses and canals is unique in the entire world. The canal belt of Amsterdam belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage since 2010. The Canal Belt stands for the unprecedented rise of a small city to one of the worldwide leading commercial powers during the Golden Age.

The work on the canals started in 1612

To build canals in addition to roads is super complex, but also extremely practical. The canals in Amsterdam were built for the following reasons:

  • The movement of goods in the town should be improved
    Therefore, department stores were built along the canals, so the goods could be transported on the canals.
  • Moreover, there were military reasons
    Due to the fact that you could reach every point in the town through the canals, the town could be better defended.
  • In the past, the canals were used as sewage system
    Quite terrible! Luckily, Amsterdam has a normal sewage system today and the canals are cleaned regularly.

That was the basics. In the next part we reveal some very interesting details about Amsterdam's extraordinary canals.

Your Tour Recommendations

Interesting Facts About the Canals of Amsterdam

If you visit Amsterdam, a canal walk is definitely a must. With our insider knowledge, you're guaranteed to make your companions look surprised.

Facts - Amsterdam Canals

In autumn the colourful leaves of the elms are reflected on the canals

Did you know, for example, that every year around 15,000 bicycles are fished out of the canals?

Tip - Visit the Museum of the Canals

In the beautiful building of the "Museum of the Canals" (Het Grachtenhuis) you can experience the exciting history of the canals up close. Holograms, paintings, models - after the visit you will understand why the canals are such an important part of Amsterdam. We recommend that you book your ticket in advance.

It must be a huge effort to keep the canal system in good shape. Also, the following is interesting:

  • Around the Koningsplein is the "golden bend"
    (respectfully called „Gouden Bocht“ from the inhabitants of Amsterdam) – The most splendid historical houses and town palaces are located along the Keizersgracht, between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat.
  • The canals are cleaned every night
    In the evening the locks are closed. If you pay close attention, you will see the lockkeepers turning large wooden wheels. Overnight a pumping station pumps a lot of water from the Ijsselmeer into the canals. A complete flush takes about three days.
  • Only elms are allowed to be planted at the canals
    since the roots of elms grow only in depth. Aside growing roots of other trees could break through the walls of the canals.
  • Originally Amsterdam had much more Canals
    During the last 200 years, more than 70 canals were filled up. When the canals became more and more of a tourist attraction and they became a trademark of the town, it was planed to open the filled up canals. Unfortunately, this has not worked out till this day.
  • Astronomical real estate prices
    Directly living in the Canal Belt always was – and is still today – incredibly expensive. The houses often belong to companies (e.g. banks or assurances).
  • Facts and figures
    The three main canals are about 10 kilometres long and have an average depth of 2.40 metres (94,4 inches). The drivable canals in Amsterdam are together over 80 kilometres long (source - Wikipedia).
  • Are there fish in Amsterdam canals?
    Even if you don't believe it, they actually exist. Look closely: Pike, zander, perch and small roach - more than 20 different aquatic animals live in the canals. In recent years, the water quality has greatly improved and the canal district is now an excellent fishing spot.

List of important canals in Amsterdam (source - Wikipedia: Achtergracht, Admiralengracht, Amstelkanal, Anjeliersgracht, Blauburgwal, Bloemgracht, Brouwersgracht, Burgemeester Cramergracht, Burgemeester van Tienhovengracht, Egelantiersgracht, Elandsgracht, Entrepotdok, Erasmusgracht, Geldersekade, Gouden Bocht, Grimburgwal, Groenburgwal, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Kloveniersburgwal, Lijnbaansgracht, Martelaarsgracht, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, Van Noordtgracht, Onbekendegracht, Oudeschans, Oudezijds Achterburgwal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Plantage Muidergracht, Postjeswetering, Prinsengracht, Rechtboomsloot, Rozengracht, Singelgracht, Spiegelgracht, Vijzelgracht, Zieseniskade

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