Everyone from Winston Churchill to Nelson Mandela has taken a canal cruise in Amsterdam, joining some three million passengers a year who now enjoy the experience.
Amsterdam – Been There

When Amsterdam beer had real body

Photo by Robert van Waarden

Amsterdam – Been There When Amsterdam beer had real body

On a canal tour, I see the extent of the canals built during the Golden Age.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

Starting opposite the Rijksmuseum, the Blue Boat Company vessels sail down the Singelgracht and into the Prinsengracht. The audio commentary features a couple, “Ron and Nel”, who mix labored banter with some interesting facts. I learn that the Herengracht and Keizersgracht were residential canals but the outer Prinsengracht was a working one, hence its sides are much lower to allow for unloading of cargo.

We pass the Jordaan, whose name is perhaps a corruption of the word “jardin” given it by French settlers for its vegetable gardens. Its streets are still named after trees and flowers. Then comes the Anne Frank house with its endless line of visitors in the shadow of the Westertoren. The church beside it is where painter Rembrandt van Rijn was buried in 1669.

The commentary points out how much the canals have changed since then. When first built they were a dumping ground for everything from sewage to dead animals, which didn’t stop the breweries using the water to make beer – as I learn as we sail along the Brouwersgracht. “Our beer had real body!” quips Ron. The water, while still muddy, has been cleaned up to the point that it is now used for an annual swimming race. I’ve even swum in it myself.

From our boat we can look directly into some of the 750 or so houseboats that line the canals of the center. Originally a cheap solution to the 1970s housing crisis, they are now desirable properties. They vary from modern designer homes to rotting wooden shacks that look at real risk of sinking, but no one wants to give up one of the highly sought-after berths.

Friends who live on them love the freedom and privacy of a boat but complain that the maintenance is non-stop. Still, on a summer day it looks like an enviable life.

People having a barbecue on their boat, Amsterdam, Holland.

It is perhaps surprising that living on a boat is not more popular, given that most of Amsterdam lies only about two meters above sea level. Photo by Yadid Levy

Yadid Levy

Yadid Levy

Canon EOS 5D

Aperture
ƒ/9/1
Exposure
1/160
ISO
400
Focal
28/1 mm

It is perhaps surprising that living on a boat is not more popular, given that most of Amsterdam lies only about two meters above sea level.

Other stories about Amsterdam

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?