Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, is one of Europe’s most celebrated cities and together with the surrounding locales is home to well over two million people. Like Venice in Italy, Amsterdam is famous for its canals which stretch all over the city. More than 100km of canals cross the city and an additional 90 islands and 1,500 bridges help give the city its distinctive look and feels. What once started off as a project with primarily commercial and defensive purposes have today become one of the city’s greatest treasures. Today Amsterdam’s three main canals draw millions of visitors from around the world every year.
Probably the best way to explore Amsterdam’s three major canals – the Herengracht, the Prinsengracht and the Keizersgracht is by bicycle. Amsterdam is a wonderfully flat city with no significant hills and cycling around is a breeze. This is helped greatly by the city officials’ very benevolent attitude to cyclists, with many of the canals bordered by dedicated pedestrianised areas for walkers and those on bikes. Bicycle rental is cheap in the city and is a great way to get in touch with the local lifestyle. For those keen to get on the water, several barge tours traverse the network of canals but don’t offer the same freedom to explore.
The Herengracht Canal, which variously translates to English as the Lord’s Canal, Patrician’s Canal or even Gentleman’s Canal is named after the city’s rulers during the 16th and 17th century, when construction on the canals began. The area bordering the canal has traditionally been associated with the city’s wealthiest citizens and remains one of the most exclusive areas in the city. The banks are home to numerous stately canal houses and a multitude of trees which help to create a leafy, peaceful atmosphere.
The Keizersgracht, meaning Emperor’s Canal, is the widest of the city’s canals and was named after Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire. The area around the Keizersgracht is home to some of the city’s most prominent landmarks including the Anne Frank House and the fabulous 17th century building that houses Amsterdam’s Van Loon Museum. Winter visitors should make a beeline for the Keizersgracht as it frequently freezes over during the coldest months of the year and is put to good use by the capital’s ice skater.
The Prinsengracht or Prince’s Canal is named after Prince William of Orange and is the longest canal in the city. It was constructed during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century and is home to some of the most splendid buildings in the city as well as the beautiful Noorderkerk Church and Noordermarkt market. The Anne Frank House is also easily accessible from the Prinsengracht as well as the Keizersgracht.
Amsterdam is home to several other notable canals including the Singel which served as the city’s moat during the Late Medieval period and the famous Zwanenburgwal which is a major aquatic street where the painter Rembrandt once lived. The best plan is to book yourself into a city hotel in Amsterdam, which are dotted around the banks of the canals, offering wonderfully relaxing settings for weary travellers.
Isla Campbell writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.
Isla Campbell writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.