Amsterdam Canals – History and Facts You Should Know About

Anyone who has ever visited Amsterdam can attest to the fact that the Amsterdam Canals are the most beautiful part of the city. The intricate network of serenity is spread throughout the city. It’s amazing how every main area of the city provides a breathtaking view of such tranquility.

But there is more to that. The Canals in Amsterdam are packed full of history and some really interesting facts.

In this post, we are going to tell you all about the Canals in Amsterdam.

So let’s get started.

Amsterdam Canals

Thanks to these astounding canals Amsterdam, the city is the most watery and one of the most beautiful cities in the entire world. A quarter of the city is occupied by these canals and no one can say that it’s a bad this. That’s because they hold such importance in Amsterdam’s history, and also, as an essence and source of its wealth.

In 2011, The 17th century Canal Belt got a place in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage. The city owns the achievement with big hearts and warm smiles.

Amsterdam Canals History

Canals Amsterdam is an asset of the country, along with the other favorites like tulips, windmills and other historic buildings.

The city built in 1250 around the dam. That is the reason it was first called “Aeme Stelle Redamme” which means “Dam in a watery area”. The reason for digging the canals in the 17th century was the water management became very essential due to the city expansion.

There were four main canals which later expanded into this network of smaller canals that can literally take you almost everywhere in the city. These main canals are Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht.


 Singelgracht amsterdam canals

The Singelgracht is the oldest canal in Amsterdam, dug in 1872 as an outer boundary for water management and defense purposes. The city only started expanding beyond this canal in the late 19th century.


Herengracht at Amsterdam canals

The Herengracht is also known as the Gentlemen’s Canal. The canal got its name because, in the 17th century, the most influential people were its residents. These people included rich merchants, the mayor, important businessmen etc. Even today, the mayor of Amsterdam lives there.


 Keizersgracht view from canal

Keizersgracht is also known as the Emperor’s Canal. Digging of this canal started in 1612 and was named after the emperor Maximillian of Austria.

It was originally a wide boulevard which later turned into a canal because the future residents of the area wanted a canal. This was so they could reach their house by boat.



Prinsengracht or Prince’s Canal is the outermost of all these canals. This project also started in 1612 and completed after 50 years.

After it’s completion, the city of Amsterdam became four times than it was before it.

Amsterdam Canals Facts

As such a basic and historic part of the city, canals Amsterdam have a lot of interesting facts attached to it. We have compiled a list of the most fascinating facts about Amsterdam Canals.

There are a total of 165 Canals Amsterdam

That sounds like a huge number, doesn’t it? If you haven’t visited the city, this might come as a shock to you. But once you have been there, you will realize just how delicate and expanded the whole canal network in Amsterdam is. All these canals combined becomes a total of a 100 kilometers.

Dancing Houses alongside the canals

As the city was a hub for merchants, bankers, and businessmen, there were many houses built alongside the river and canals. Due to a lot of water, the soil became swampy and hence the houses started to tilt. That might sound like a worrying thing but the houses are doing just fine even after all these years. Not just that, they look very cute and funky giving a dancing effect which adds into the beautiful view.

The number of bridges in the city is shocking

Venice is known for the 409 bridges that connect its canals. But did you know that Amsterdam has a bridge count more than three times as that of Venice? The number is a shocking 1281 and is enough to startle anyone who hears it.

Magere Brug – The most famous bridge

Magere Brug - The most famous bridge

Of all the 1281 bridges on the Amsterdam Canals, the Magere Brug is the most famous one. It is also called the Skinny Bridge. It draws every twenty minutes throughout the day to let ships pass.

A huge number of houseboats in Amsterdam Canals

Another one of interesting Amsterdam canals facts is that there almost 2500 houseboats floating there. Yes, a fricking two thousand and five hundred houseboats. And many of those have been in the canals, floating for over a century. Different types of houseboats include concrete ones, wooden etc. While the wooden boats need to get repaired every three years, the concrete ones do not need many repairs for a long time.

These houseboats are mostly owned by people who live there. But they are also available for rent. There is even a houseboat museum that depicts the Amsterdam canals history related to them.

Boating and Cruising at Amsterdam Canals

All the Amsterdam Canals are open for boating and cruising. There is almost no place in the city where a boat can’t take you. Locals and tourists love boating and cruising in the Amsterdam canals as it can be one of the most amazing experiences. The reasons being the breathtaking views, the historic sightings and the overall culture of the city.

City divided into 90 islands

Another one of interesting Amsterdam Canals facts that not many people know is that the Amsterdam Canals divide the city into 90 islands. The network of these canals is so complex yet so well defined. It is very easy to move between the canals which is why not many people notice this division.

Dutch Golden Age

Dutch Golden Age

As the name suggests, the most development in the Netherlands happened during this age. It was the 17th century and most of canals Amsterdam were built during this era.

Approximately 10,000 bikes fished out from the canals

People of Amsterdam are known all around the world for their love for bicycles. In fact, the whole city is considered almost car-free. There are more than 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam and when people get a bit reckless, some might end up in the canals. Almost 10,000 bicycles are taken out from the Amsterdam canals every year which shows the intensity of this matter.

Amsterdam City Swim

City Swim at Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam city swim is a festival that takes place at the canals Amsterdam. Usually, there is no swimming allowed in the canals due to dangers and risks. But once a year Amsterdammers jump into the murky waters and swim for fundraising.

Queen Máxima at the Amsterdam City Swim

Even though she was a princess at that time, Queen Maxima once participated in the annual swim festival. This happened in the year 2012.

Some other interesting Amsterdam canals facts include:

  • The prettiest canal of Amsterdam is the Prinsengracht or Prince’s Canal.
  • The canals are intentionally laid out in the shape of concentric half circles
  • At the corner of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht, there is a bridge which has a view of 15 bridges at a time. Make sure you don’t miss it when on your visit to Amsterdam.
  • There are only a few canal-side terraces due to strict regulations. But these few give the most beautiful experience of the canals and water.

Canals in Amsterdam are a must-visit for anyone in Amsterdam, be it a local or tourist. They will give you an insight into the city like nothing else. The history and culture related to them are fascinating and the beauty, breathtaking. Make sure you don’t miss a cruise in Canals Amsterdam on your next visit.

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