The Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal was named after Emperor Maximilian of Austria and is the widest in the inner city. On winters when it freezes over, a rare event, it is the venue for the Keizersrace (Emperor’s race), an ice-skating sprint.
Amsterdam – Been There

Why does Amsterdam have so many canals?

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Amsterdam – Been There Why does Amsterdam have so many canals?

The riches flooding in from overseas funded a massive expansion in Amsterdam during its so-called “Golden Age”.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

By 1650, Amsterdam had exploded in both size and ambition. The wealthy merchants built themselves new houses along the canal zone, while the poor people were put as far away as possible in the Jordaan district.

Opposite the Maritime Museum, a line of warehouses spreads out to the east and west, many now a mix of social housing, expensive apartments and business start-ups in the way of so many ports since containers have taken over the shipping trade. A sturdy Seaman’s Hostel stands on the corner, near the entrance to the Entrepot-Dok that stands next to another still-working cast-iron bascule bridge, dated 1906, over the Nieuwe Herengracht. It’s one of many man-made canals that worm their way into the very center of the city and beyond.

“In the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, the port of Amsterdam was full of sand,” says Peter. “The big ships could not reach the port; they had to anchor two kilometers or more offshore. You had to reload your cargo onto lighters or barges to take it off. The canals allowed merchants to take their cargo directly to their own warehouses anywhere in the city without having to handle it again. In economics, transport is everything.

"The cheaper the transport, the more money you make. From Amsterdam, it can be carried again by barge to places such as Hamburg, Lubeck, Copenhagen or London. We are at the center of a vast trading web.”

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Amsterdam’s canals were not built from the center out but from west to east and this “Venice of the North” now has about 165, spanned by 1,281 bridges. The area inside the three main 17th century canals is now on the Unesco World Heritage list. Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

NIKON D3

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Amsterdam’s canals were not built from the center out but from west to east and this “Venice of the North” now has about 165, spanned by 1,281 bridges. The area inside the three main 17th century canals is now on the Unesco World Heritage list.

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Wolvenstraat, part of the 9Streets with trendy shops and cafés in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam.

7 cliché activities in Amsterdam you will actually enjoy

Amsterdam is one of those cities that is drenched in clichés. I’ve overheard people saying that they thought Amsterdam was itself a country (Holland clearly isn’t interesting enough to benefit from word of mouth publicity), that the Dutch  all wear wooden shoes (imagine the pain!), that Amsterdam is  covered in tulips, and that literally everyone   smokes weed. All. Day. Long. I’m not here to smash your dreams into a thousand tiny pieces, but that’s plain bullcheese. On the other hand, some Amsterdam clichés are true and are definitely worth giving a try. They aren’t clichés for nothing, am I right?