Amsterdam is famous for its canals. These waterways play a vital role in transportation throughout the city, and their stories are woven into the history of the Netherlands.
When visiting Amsterdam, a canal cruise is a must. You can use boat tours to get around the city, have a unique sightseeing experience, or find hidden gems you can explore on foot later in your trip.
The best canal cruise Amsterdam has to offer really depends on your preferences. There are so many canal city tours to choose from it might be tricky to find the right one for you!
You can select a canal tour with a stop at the Anne Frank House or Rijksmuseum, or take a romantic dinner cruise. You could take a group boat tour featuring Amsterdam’s iconic sights and interesting facts, or an exclusive night tour with a private skipper. The choices are endless!
Canal cruises can be a great way to see the city lights or get a unique view of Amsterdam from the water, and they’re an absolute must for your trip to the city. Here is a closer look at how to choose the best canal cruises in Amsterdam.
Show Table of Contents
- TL;DR Best Canal Cruises in Amsterdam
- A Look at Amsterdam’s Canals
- Best Canal Tours in Amsterdam
- 1. Best Short Cruise: Rijksmuseum Combination 1-Hour Cruise
- 2. Best Adults-Only Cruise: Xtra Cold Ice Bar and 1-Hour Boat Trip
- 3. Most Authentic Food Experience: Pancake Cruise
- 4. Most Flexible Cruise: Hop-on Cruise Ticket
- 5. Best Casual Cruise with Food: Amsterdam Pizza and Drinks Cruise
- 6. Best Cruise for Beer Lovers: Rock the City
- 7. Most Romantic Cruise: Luxury Dinner Cruise
- 8. Best Atmosphere Cruise: Open Boat Tour with Unlimited Drinks
- 9. Best Cruise for a Date: Amsterdam Wine and Cheese Cruise
- 10. Best Cruise for First-Time Visitors: All-Inclusive Captain Jack Canal Cruise
- Choosing the Best Canal Cruise in Amsterdam
- What are the best canal cruises in Amsterdam?
- How can I book a canal cruise in Amsterdam?
- How long does an Amsterdam canal cruise take?
TL;DR Best Canal Cruises in Amsterdam
|Overall Best Cruise in Amsterdam||Open Air Boat|
|Best for Foodies||Luxury Dinner Cruise|
|Best for Couples||Wine and Cheese Cruise|
|Best for Families||The Pancake Boat|
A Look at Amsterdam’s Canals
The Dutch capital has 60 miles (100 km) of canals. These waterways began in the 17th century to provide transport around the city, offer natural defenses, and help lower flood risks.
There are three primary canals: Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht. Each creates a canal ring that circles through the city. Because of their age, many historic attractions sit right next to these canals.
Popular tours often point out these famous landmarks. If you see something particularly interesting, you can get a closer look on your own or with an Amsterdam walking tour.
Beyond the main canals, smaller canals crisscross the city. These include Zwanenburgwal and Brouwersgracht in central Amsterdam. You can also ride on the Amstel River or visit some of the city’s newer canals.
Brantasgracht, Lamonggracht, Majanggracht, and Seranggracht are new canals running through residential areas. These are options if you want to take a canal boat in Amsterdam away from the popular tourist sites.
See Related: Best Time to Visit Amsterdam: When Should You Visit?
Best Canal Tours in Amsterdam
Here are 10 of the most popular and best-reviewed canal tours in Amsterdam.
1. Best Short Cruise: Rijksmuseum Combination 1-Hour Cruise
Browse the collections of centuries-old art at the Rijksmuseum and then go on a one-hour Amsterdam canal cruise with this combination deal. The tour takes cruisers to the home of Anne Frank and the Old Port of Amsterdam. It passes historic canal-side buildings and merchant houses.
One advantage of this tour is that you’ll skip the lines with fast-track entry into the Rijksmuseum. Once inside, wander through the exhibition halls for two hours.
This option is attractive for art aficionados who want to have a casual cruise experience without spending too much time on the water.
2. Best Adults-Only Cruise: Xtra Cold Ice Bar and 1-Hour Boat Trip
This experience starts at the Xtra Cold Ice Bar. Guests get a coat and gloves when they arrive at the venue, which is made from ice. The combination ticket includes two cocktails or beers (in ice glasses, naturally). Only those over 18 can take part in this tour.
The canal portion of this cruise covers some of the most popular canal-side sights in Amsterdam. The merchant buildings and Anne Frank House are on the itinerary. The ticket includes drinks at the bar and the cruise.
See Related: Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Best Parts of Town
3. Most Authentic Food Experience: Pancake Cruise
Also known as “De Pannenkoekenboot,” (literally “the pancake boat”) this culinary cruise takes tourists past some of the local landmarks. On the way, cruisers get to sample a most popular local treat: Dutch pancakes (they’re sooo good).
The experience includes all-you-can-eat pancakes and an ice cream bar. Warm side dishes are also on the all-inclusive menu.
The trip lasts 2.5 hours, and it is one of the most popular boat tours in Amsterdam because of its value and family-friendliness. The cruise itself starts in the city’s historic north and winds its way south.
One of the attractive aspects of the journey is that it passes some of the newer areas of Amsterdam. You can see residential neighborhoods and modern architecture that tourists don’t often experience.
4. Most Flexible Cruise: Hop-on Cruise Ticket
This hop-on, hop-off canal cruise bills itself as the “most flexible and convenient way to get on a canal cruise along the historical Amsterdam waterways.” They’re not wrong! With this ticket, you can travel at your own pace.
The ticket for this cruise is valid for all major cruise operators. Cruises are guaranteed to last for at least one hour.
After you get the ticket, you can access an interactive map to find departure locations. You then simply head to the pickup point and get on, if space is available.
The cruises don’t have any extras like food, but boats are heated and have restrooms onboard. Prices are extremely reasonable as well.
The price is good for a no-frills cruise that hits up the very best of the city’s landmarks. This ticket is ideal for people who want to plan their Amsterdam experience as they go.
5. Best Casual Cruise with Food: Amsterdam Pizza and Drinks Cruise
The Amsterdam Pizza and Drinks Cruise is a good family cruise option. It’s also suitable for anyone wanting a casual evening cruise with food and drinks.
Anyone seeking an evening cruise not focused on romance for couples will appreciate this alternative. Cruisers can select from five types of pizza and unlimited drinks!
This cruise lasts 90 minutes and passes through some of the historic canals in the Singel area. It even goes under the famous Skinny Bridge. Cruises depart in the evening, and many cruisers say the late-day atmosphere is one of the most attractive aspects of the journey.
6. Best Cruise for Beer Lovers: Rock the City
The Rock the City Cruise is a collaboration between two of the more popular Amsterdam attractions: the Heineken Experience and A’DAM Tower. The experience starts at Heineken’s historic brewery. You enjoy a cold beer while learning about the famous brand’s history and brewing process.
The next step is a 45-minute canal cruise through some of the oldest parts of the city. The boat stops at the A’DAM tower, the former Netherlands’s HQ of Shell. The 22-story building is now an entertainment area with bars, restaurants, and a top-floor observatory with amazing views of Amsterdam.
This tour does sell out, because the Heineken Experience is one of Holland’s most popular attractions (and a personal favorite). Also, cruisers must be 18 or older because both stops serve alcohol. Note that drinks are sold separately.
7. Most Romantic Cruise: Luxury Dinner Cruise
Many dinner cruise options are on the menu in Amsterdam. This foodie cruise in Amsterdam is best for couples seeking something romantic and authentic.
The small boat accommodates 16 people, so it is not overcrowded. The cruise company uses chefs from renowned Amsterdam restaurants to ensure quality.
You’ll get a delicious three-course meal, plus drinks. The canal tour passes the historic center of Amsterdam over the course of the three hour journey.
Passengers have left reviews praising the restaurant-like experience and quality food. The cruise is not cheap, costing over $100 per person. However, it provides the exclusivity you would expect for that price point, and it’s something of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
8. Best Atmosphere Cruise: Open Boat Tour with Unlimited Drinks
Open-boat cruises are among the most popular tours in town as they make it easier to actually see Amsterdam. This open boat tour offers unlimited beer, wine, and soft drinks from an open bar on a fully electric boat.
This vessel is not only environmentally friendly, but it’s quieter than a gas or oil-fed motor, providing a better experience. While these open-top boats don’t have any barrier between you and the amazing atmosphere of the historic sections of Amsterdam, note that open boats do not protect you from the weather.
Be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out, and come prepared if it’s going to be chilly, or if there’s a chance of rain. The hour-long journey starts at the popular Hermitage Museum, and the fare includes unlimited drinks.
9. Best Cruise for a Date: Amsterdam Wine and Cheese Cruise
This wine and cheese cruise doesn’t include a full dinner, but it is one of the most romantic cruises in Amsterdam because you get to taste local cheeses and pair them with different varieties of Dutch wines. These cheeses are fabulous, and a few are unique to the Netherlands.
Capacity is limited, creating a more intimate experience. Also, the boat has a roof, so you can enjoy the evening views of Amsterdam regardless of the weather.
This cruise provides good value, including drinks, cheese, and chocolate in the price. The suggested dress code is smart casual. Because of the setting, this cruise is best for couples.
10. Best Cruise for First-Time Visitors: All-Inclusive Captain Jack Canal Cruise
Captain Jack Cruises is known for its entertaining live tour guide. The open boats only have 20 passengers, so you get a personalized experience. The price includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The cruises are family-friendly with no age restrictions. The cruise company points out that they do not provide “booze cruise” experiences despite offering unlimited drinks. Snacks and soft drinks are on the menu, alongside wine and beer.
This cruise is popular and slightly more expensive than comparable cruises. It lasts 90 minutes and passes many of the most popular sights, including the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House.
See Related: Amsterdam Packing List: What to Bring on Your Trip
Choosing the Best Canal Cruise in Amsterdam
When selecting a cruise, you want to consider several different factors.
- Price: Cost depends on duration and amenities. A dinner cruise or wine cruise will cost more than a sightseeing cruise. You can also consider popularity. If there is a high demand for cruises, tickets may be more expensive. You can use the Amsterdam City Card to get a free cruise if you would rather invest in other experiences during your trip.
- Route: Cruises pass different parts of this beautiful city. You can find a tour that passes the sights you want to see. You can find trips passing the red light district, city center, or waterfront.
- Time of day: Evening cruises will offer views of the city lights, while daytime trips are better for seeing the historic sights and architecture of the city.
- Duration: You can take a one-hour canal cruise or a two or three-hour sightseeing cruise. Length can affect price. Also, if you only have a short time in Amsterdam, you will need to decide how much time you want to invest on a cruise. Most dinner or food-themed trips last at least two hours.
- Boat type: You can choose from a small open boat, a larger open boat, or a covered boat. The open boats offer a different experience and are good for experiencing the city. Covered vessels are better for some cruises, such as those serving dinner or drinks.
- Experiences: Some cruises offer unlimited drinks or serve Dutch delicacies during the journey. Full dinner cruises provide a completely different experience than sightseeing boat tours. Different experiences are available, from a Dutch cheese or pizza cruise to a casual evening cruise with two drinks for passengers.
- Group size: Individuals, couples, and small groups are usually better off booking standard cruises. If you have a large group, you can consider a private tour or look into boat rentals. These choices may be more cost-effective. A small group canal cruise is available if you want a specific experience.
With this info, careful planning, and a bit of research, you can find the best canal cruise for your Amsterdam travel experience! But if you’re just not a boat person and still want to tour the canals, there are plenty of other tours in Amsterdam to consider. Walking or bicycle tours may be better for you, and many will feature multiple canals and attractions like the Van Gogh Museum or NEMO Science Musuem.
What are the best canal cruises in Amsterdam?
The best Amsterdam canal cruises depend on your preferences. Evening dinner cruises work best for couples seeking romance. Cruises with stops at museums or historic sites are ideal for sightseeing, while three-hour or longer trips are good for seeing the entire city.
How can I book a canal cruise in Amsterdam?
You can purchase hop-on-hop-off tickets through the official iAmsterdam tourism site or directly from the cruise provider. If you buy a canal ride through a third-party seller, make sure they are reputable and well-reviewed on multiple travel sites.
Prices can range anywhere from less than $10 to $100 for a public cruise. Private cruises can cost anything up to $500+.
How long does an Amsterdam canal cruise take?
One-hour cruises are common, and you can enjoy hop-on-hop-off privileges with tickets from the Amsterdam tourism site. An Amsterdam evening canal cruise with dinner and drinks can last three hours or longer, and you may be able to negotiate the length of private cruises.
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- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.