The canal district of Amsterdam - I

The canal district of Amsterdam

I was on a short visit to the Netherlands, and was never less to explore the cities of Netherlands. Amsterdam being the most Bike Friendly City in the World, and with its UNESCO world heritage canals and the Traditional Dutch buildings around these, along with its colorful nightlife makes it an ideal destination for tourists.

The famed view of the Amsterdam, and the best place to start your journey and the starting point for Canal cruise.
In my experience I would term Amsterdam as Bicycles, Canals, traditional Dutch buildings, and nightlife.

Bicycles, Canals, traditional Dutch buildings, and nightlife:


Amsterdam is perhaps more popular for its bike friendly ways. The city hosts a dedicated bike racks and tracks and also huge parking space in the central station. The city is quite small compared to other big cities in the World, with a population of just about 1.5 million in its metro limits. Because of the ease with which people can go around using bicycles, Amsterdam has more bicycles than people. There are much bike friendly traffic rules compared to motor vehicles, and the locals believe using bicycles helps in reducing the pollution and enables everyday workout. People of all ages and irrespective of their classes use bicycles. It is very safe to drive them on the roads even for the kids. What came to my surprise is most of these bicycles run without a hand brake.
Bicycles and Canals


With more than hundred kilometers of canals and over 1200 bridges, Amsterdam is also called as “The Venice of the North”. The three main canals, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht form concentric belts around the city, known as the grachtengordel. In conjunction with the main canals are the monumental buildings built in a traditional Dutch Architecture. Many of the bridges over these canals are lit up in the evening to give the canals a romantic ambiance. With a perfect blend of these ingredients it makes it Worlds second most popular canal city after Venice.
At the intersection of Herengracht and Reguliersgracht you get to see a panoramic view of 12 bridges.

A typical view of the canal with cruise sailing through and tram passing over the bridge.

Traditional Dutch buildings:

The typical Dutch buildings are built in rows attached to each other elevated to about 3-5 floors and are canal faced with multi-color exteriors, they are usually very narrow and have ornamented facades. The most beautiful of them can be found in Damrak Street, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, and the buildings surrounding the three main canals Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.

Ornate façade of a traditional Dutch building

Due its narrow structure, at the top of these buildings they have hooks, which hosts a pulley and rope, to lift outsized and bulky objects in and out of the building, rather trying them over the more narrow staircases, to accommodate this they have a wider window doors also.

Traditional Dutch houses with hooks at the top


Amsterdam is famous for its Nightlife, especially during weekends with cafes, bars, discotheques, pubs, restaurants, and Coffeeshops open up to 3-4am. To add to this are the night cruise which runs thgough the canals of the city, with the bridges lit up. Walking down the streets surrounding the canals during evening hours should be a very romantic experience. If you are planning to have a night out here, then do check out the transportation, since the metro and tram don’t run late nights. One needs to rely on the bus, intercity trains with limited stopovers or the taxi.

Streets lighted up to welcome the night


Apart from Bicycles, Canals, traditional Dutch buildings, and nightlife, Amsterdam is also popular for a variety of Museums like the Rijksmuseum for the Dutch History and Art, the Van Gogh Museum for the paintings, Het Scheepvaartmuseum – the National Maritime museum with art and artifacts, NEMO a Science center, Foam dedicated to photography, Madame Tussauds, Stedelijk Museum for the modern and contemporary art and design.
While Rotterdam is famous for its modern architecture, Amsterdam is popular for its traditional Dutch Architecture. Popular structures are listed below in their order of prominence.

Top five buildings with Dutch Architectural importance in Amsterdam:

1.The Royal Palace – built in 17th century
2.Oude Kerk – 800 year old parish church
3.Central Station - designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and opened in 1889
4.Rijksmuseum - designed by Pierre Cuypers and completed in 1885
5.De Nieuwe Kerk- a 15th-century church next to the Royal Palace.

      Other structures include the St. Nicolaaskerk – designed by architect Adrianus Bleijs and built in the second half of the 19th century, Stads Schouwburg- built in the neo-Renaissance style dating back to 1894, and the towers of Westerkerk, Munttoren, Zuiderkerk and Montelbaanstoren.

While the most popular Excursions from Amsterdam are the beautiful tulip gardens of Keukenhof, the fishermen's village of Volendam, the traditional old wooden houses of Marken, the picturesque windmills of Zaanse Schans and the beautiful city of Haarlem.
With so many things to do and without any ample time, I choose the most prominent ones of my choice. If you are planning for more than 5 attractions then you can definitely consider buying a grand Holland Pass sold at the Amsterdam Central Station.
Best way to discover the city is walking through the streets or the Hop-on Hop Off buses and canal boats or the bicycles. The first thing I started with was the canal cruise and an evening walk around these canals.

Canal Cruise:

At the Damrak street, just in front of the Amsterdam Centraal is the damrak canal from where all the canal cruises starts from, Most of them are for about 60min duration and costs around 15€. The canal ride took around the highlights of the city, starting from the St. Nicolaaskerk church, and then takes you around the picturesque canal ride along the Dutch buildings passing by famous tower of Montelbaanstoren, Prinsengracht, Anne Frank House, Brouwersgracht, Singel and then backside of the Amsterdam central, EYE film institute, Conservatorium van Amsterdam and the Public Library (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam), built by the architect Jo Coenen, the Chinese Sea Palace Restaurant, and back to Damrak through the Victoria Hotel. The best time to go on cruise ride is on a clear day without any rains, as rain can spoil the view from these glass body of the cruise.
The pictures says it all,

St. Nicolaaskerk church as seen from cruise
view of the Dutch houses overlooking the canals while during cruise time

view of Montelbaanstoren from canal
You could find many types of these canal boat houses.
Boat House
Boat House
view from the canal cruise
Another typical Dutch street
view from the canal cruise
backside view of central station and the free GVB ferry carrying the passengers to Amsterdam Noord
Lovers Cruise sailing to the left and the long Viking ship towards right
another luxury ship Felicity sailing through the IJ canal
OBA public library and Conservatorium van Amsterdam as seen from the cruise
sea palace Chinese restaurant
double tree hotel
beautiful view of the Victoria hotel from the cruise