When people think of Amsterdam, its picturesque canals are probably one of the top-five things that come to mind – right after hookers, weed, bikes and tulip bulbs! However, and since there are over 150 of them, pointing out the prettiest canals in Amsterdam can often feel like an impossible mission.
And in part it is! Narrowing down such diversity and beauty is no easy task (and certainly not a unanimous one), but here is my best try on the most charming canals you will find in the Dutch capital.
THE PRETTIEST CANALS IN AMSTERDAM
THE CANAL BELT
If you want your mind to be blown away by this city’s immense beauty, then a short walk through the insanely popular Canal Belt is all you’ll ever going to need. Comprising some of the most popular as well as prettiest canals in Amsterdam, the Belt also encompasses the city’s most charming and distinctive neighbourhoods/districts, such as The Jordaan or De Negen Straatjes. Here are the belt’s 4 unmissable canals:
Seen as the most prestigious and important of all the canals in the Netherlands, the Herengracht is the perfect match to all the expectations visitors usually have before visiting Amsterdam. The narrow buildings, the bike lanes, the quaint bridges – it’s all here folks! In recent years, this canal has also received more attention due to the Hollywood blockbuster “The Fault in Our Stars”, as the movie’s iconic bench scene was filmed at the perfect intersection between the Herengracht and the smaller Leidsegracht.
Located between the Herengracht and the Prinsengracht, the Emperor’s Canal (its translation) is the widest of all the canals in the Belt. If you’re visiting during winter, then this is definitely a place you want to visit, as the water in the canal freezes and is possible to skate over the ice! The Keizersgracht is also popular among the gay community for its Homomonument, one of the few memorials in Europe honouring the homosexual victims of the Nazi regime.
Besides being the last canal on the Belt – and therefore the longest – the Prinsengracht is also the one where you will find the most attractions. Whether you choose to walk or take a boat ride along the Prinsengracht, you may expect to find some of the most famous places in Amsterdam, such as the Anne Frank House, the Noorderkerk or the Westerkerk. Also, in a city notorious for its narrow houses (property taxes were paid according to the width of the buildings in the 17th century), the Prinsengracht is also home to the narrowest of them all. Just keep an eye out for the door number 7!
Since it originally encircled the entire medieval city, long before Amsterdam started expanding beyond its limits, the Singel stands as the element from the Canal Belt that is the closest to the historic centre. Today, this important canal is popular with visitors due to the floating Bloemenmarkt, perhaps the most famous flower market in the city. It’s also a regular stop among party goers, since it houses its very own section of the infamous Amsterdam Red-Light District.
Yes, yes, I know the Amstel is a river but…I couldn’t simply leave it out of this equation! We must not forget where Amsterdam got his name from, right? Besides, the Amstel is yet another body of water that tears through the city and is filled with amazing sights, hence deserving of a spot on my list of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam. Its most popular spots include the Dutch National Opera, the Magere Brug or the Hermitage Amsterdam Museum.
Few people might notice it, but this popular avenue that links Central Station to Dam Square is actually a covered canal! Even if it doesn’t look like most of the other canals in the city, it still boasts one of the most popular images of Amsterdam – the iconic Dancing Houses. As one of the most important streets in the entire city, the Damrak is also constantly busy and is filled with amazing architecture and loads of shops and bars.
One of my personal favourites, the Oudezijds Voorburgwal (what a mouth full) has all the little things that make Amsterdam such a special place. Crossing through the Red Light District, its embankments are lined with illuminated windows, coffee shops and more beautiful traditional narrow buildings. As if that wasn’t enough, this is also where you will find the Oude Kerk (oldest building in Amsterdam) and the Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder, perhaps the most impressive of all the famous “hidden” catholic churches in the city. Few other places in Amsterdam pack so much in such a small area.
What’s your take on the prettiest canals in Amsterdam? Did we miss any major entry? Let us know on the comments below!