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Most European countries tend to make people walk. This is mainly because there’s so much history to learn and cultural heritage to admire. If you’re visiting Amsterdam, the most watery city in the world, then simply walking to explore just won’t cut it. Why? The capital city of the Netherlands boasts more canals than Venice (which is dubbed the City of Canals). That’s why finding the best canal tour in Amsterdam should be on top of every tourist’s to-do list. 

Canal view from a private boat in Amsterdam

But why should anyone spend money on something they can do by themselves or (better yet) enjoy tours for free? As the adage goes: you get what you pay for. It’s not every day you get to enjoy a relaxing cruise on the famous canals of Amsterdam.

Even with the rising popularity of free walking tours and DIY travels, there’s no beating a classic canal cruise. If you’re already in Amsterdam, after spending so much money on plane tickets, then why waste the opportunity?

Still not convinced? Then stay on board and read on to find what you’re missing out on.

Walking tour vs. the best canal tour in Amsterdam

Did you know that Amsterdam has over 1,200 bridges, according to the city’s official website? Once you start exploring the city in earnest, though, you’ll see that there are 500 more bridges to cross to discover it in its entirety.

If you have less than a week of exploration, spending 90% of your time navigating a maze of bridges on foot is not the best way to go. Aside from that, there’s also the dozen buses and subways you have to take to get to point B from point A.

How walking tours are carried out

Walking tours, especially free walking tours, typically operate in groups. Whenever you book a join-in tour, the group must reach the minimum number of participants. Failure to meet the minimum group size requirement means the tour will not run for that specific time slot or day. Now, that’s just a waste, isn’t it? 

It can be frustrating to deal with join-in tours especially if the group size is around 30-50. There will be too many people crowding in one place. That peace and serenity you’re expecting to find along the streets of Amsterdam will be non-existent.

How it’s like on walking tours

Complete strangers will be buzzing around you all day, chatting, and shooting selfies per stop. You also have a fixed itinerary that you absolutely have to follow, otherwise, you lose your local insight to places you don’t know a thing about.

Another frustrating feeling to feel during a walking tour or exploration on foot is the fatigue. The efforts of planning your itinerary for months can all be wasted if the people you’re with get tired easily. Friends or family members can either leave you behind and enjoy the rest of the day or stay by your side and waste it away.

Wouldn’t that sour a potentially perfect vacation?

Why a boat tour is the best option

It’s not a bad thing to get fatigued, but you have to know your limits. This is especially important when traveling especially with an elderly family member, a person prone to physical illnesses, and a person with disabilities. This group of people requires extra care and special attention when traveling from place to place.

When planning your itinerary to Amsterdam, a boat tour is a better option to keep your traveling party together in a comfortable setting. You can also avoid the quick hands of pickpockets loitering in the streets.

What’s included in the best canal tour in Amsterdam?

Aside from avoiding fatigue, boat tours provide a luxurious ambiance. A personal tour guide will be present to accompany you throughout the tour as you sail across the 100km stretch of canals.

Additionally, you customize your itinerary and enjoy scenic views on an open deck. There are also various refreshments available depending on which tour package you choose. Views from the canals are also different from street level. 

Opening a beer bottle for passengers on a private boat tour in Amsterdam

Boat tours give you a different perspective of the city, enhancing it with convenient amenities. How else can you experience a canal cruise along the historic waterways of Amsterdam?

Where to find the best canal tour in Amsterdam

There are many ways to tweak your itinerary and maximize your visits to Amsterdam’s top attractions through one boat tour. For example, this tour package provides tourists and locals the chance to tour the city in 90-180 minutes aboard a classic saloon boat.

Each package includes a welcome drink served upon boarding. Boats can also accommodate up to 12 passengers, perfect for large traveling groups. And the best thing? It offers privacy.

Private canal tour

During walking tours, you’ll find unwanted restrictions on places just begging to be explored. Meanwhile, on a boat tour, you’re free to sail across Amsterdam’s iconic canals with an itinerary of your choice. You have the freedom to stay on board and admire monuments from afar or disembark and capture lasting memories.

Compared to the usually crowded join-in tours, you’ll get more space to take in the stunning landscape of the city. You can focus on everything – from the small details to the tall canal houses lining up the waterway.

Instead of wearing yourself out for tomorrow’s adventure, you can just sit down, relax, and talk to your friends. All these factors make the best canal tour in Amsterdam worth it.

Sights to see on the water

Flower market and museums

Enjoying the best canal tour in Amsterdam is enough to fire one’s passion for romanticism. But aside from candle-lit dinners and sunset viewing, there are many sights to fall in love with while on a boat tour.

First, there’s Bloemenmarkt which is the world’s sole existing floating flower market. You can buy various kinds of flowers here such as tulips. The Willet-Holthuysen Museum, Houseboat Museum, and the Museum of the Canals are also very accessible to visit while on a boat tour. 


The Jordaan district is not very far to enjoy either. This beloved neighborhood is full of trendy shops, cafés, and local restaurants to satisfy your appetite. Its collection of museums include the Jordaan Museum, Electric Ladyland (Museum of Fluorescent Art), and the famous Anne Frank House. 

About east of Jordaan, you can find the Heineken Experience. It’s a historic landmark that brought significant industrial heritage to Europe and is labeled as such. Nearby, just a 12-minute walk away is the Van Gogh Museum. This museum has the largest collection of works by Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh.

Before you embark on your next stop, make sure to drop by and check out these two must-visit attractions.

Skinny Bridge

But of course, having the best boat tour in Amsterdam would not be complete without passing under Magere Brug or Skinny Bridge. It’s considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the city. At night, the bridge lights up attracting couples who partake in an age-old legend.

According to locals, lovers who kiss under the bridge as they cross by will forever be in love. Believe it or not, you don’t have to kiss somebody to enjoy this attraction.

Amsterdam Light Festival

Around late November to early January, the Amsterdam Light Festival is also a wonder to behold while on a cruise. The annual festival enchants with illuminating light art and exhibitions crafted by select artists from all over the world. The event is held around the canal ring where private boat tours are often hired to provide fantastic views.

Out in the water, it’s a different world. There’s a sense of contentment in being isolated in the middle of Amsterdam’s canals, free to indulge in its local marvels.

See hundreds of bikes parked along bridges and admire houseboats floating by the edge. Pass by lush trees lining the canal and stare at brightly-lit shops as it casts its warm light on the water. Wherever you go in Amsterdam, it’s always a magical time above water.