There’s no better way to get a grip on the architectural marvels of Amsterdam than by taking a canal tour; you’ll get to see many of the city’s best-loved sights, including the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), the majestic 17th-century townhouses around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Canal Ring and the neo-Gothic façade of Centraal Station. Known collectively as Grachtengordel, Amsterdam's three main canals encircle the city and include dozens of additional smaller canals. Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht each serve the city's residents, while the 15th-century Singel canal protected medieval Amsterdam as a moat.
Rightly so for a city so dependent on its waterways, Amsterdam has many different options for exploring these canals. Family-oriented choices include cruises in glass-topped boats to keep out the elements or the chance to keep hunger at bay on a cruise that includes pizza and ice cream as you float down the canals.
For couples looking for a little romance, what could be better than taking a moonlit turn around the canals while sampling a couple of cocktails or enjoying the chance to relax à deux as a three-course dinner is prepared for you? Party animals might prefer a canal jaunt that includes entry into one of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions, the Heineken Experience, where a few pints of ice-cold lager can be downed. Another option for youngsters is a canal trip incorporating entrance into the Xtracold Icebar for the opportunity to knock back some fruity vodka amid temperatures well below freezing point.
To see the sleek modern architecture of the IJ waterway at close quarters, choose a canal tour combined with a harbor cruise. Another ideal way to see all the sights of Amsterdam is to board a hop-on, hop-off canal bus; with four routes covering the city’s waterways, you can access all the major sights, including the trio of museums on Museumplein.