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Canal Ring (Grachtengordel), life on Amsterdam's waterways

Amsterdam Canal Ring  (Grachtengordel)

Life in Amsterdam has always been inextricably linked with its waterways. Once the city’s commercial arteries and lifeblood of its prosperity, today the canals are the venue of major festivals, celebrations, sporting and cultural events. Staying in accommodation on or nearby a canal street does not simply guarantee you breathtaking views, it also allows you to experience all that Amsterdam has to offer in terms of entertainment and activities. 


Festivals and Sports Events

Almost all important celebrations in Amsterdam take place on the waters of the canals. On Kings day, the national holiday celebrated on the 27th of April, people dress and decorate everything in orange and sail in beautifully adorned boats. The Gay Pride in summer is a bohemian feast of colours and wild partying that also takes place on richly decorated boats. During the Canal Festival in August bands, orchestras, choirs and solo performers sing and play on vessels and ashore along the canalside streets. 


Although swimming in the canals is forbidden and not particularly healthy, the city’s waterways are the arena of impressive open-air swimming races. The Royal Amsterdam Swim that covers 2.5 kilometres throughout the city is the oldest swim marathon founded in 1841. Two more swim races are organised in September, while on chilly winter days when the water freezes (not very often) people go out on ice-skating sprints. 


In 2013 Amsterdam marked the 400th anniversary of the creation of the historic canal ring. Numerous exciting new events have been scheduled throughout the year to celebrate the rich heritage of this historic city.


Historic and Cultural Attractions

The Amsterdam Canal ring was declared a UNESCO world heritage site only a few years ago. Although canals were built as early as the middle ages, today’s intricate network was created in the 17th century by draining the marshland and reclaiming land from the sea in order to expand the city. Many of today’s canals and the historic buildings lining them date back to the 17th and 18th centuries or the so called Golden Age – a time of religious tolerance, commercial and cultural prosperity. This impressive architectural and engineering work turned Amsterdam into a model for planning and designing other cities throughout Europe. 


Splendid palaces and mansions, museums, administrative buildings, hotels and ancient gardens line the canals. If you want to learn more about their construction and the role they played in the life of people, visit the Museum of the Canals. Also, on Open Garden Days and Amsterdam Heritage Days many historic canal buildings open to the public. 



Boat cruises and Houseboats

You cannot claim that you have seen Amsterdam until you have seen it from the water. A cruise or a boat trip offers a unique vantage point for witnessing life in this eclectic city. Dozens of companies offer a huge range of tours on several hundred vessels. You can hire a simple pedal boat and navigate the journey yourself or opt for a guided cruise with audio commentary that will take you back in history, revealing the past and the secrets of the communities who thrived here. There is a hop-on hop-off canal bus service that allows you to stop and explore whatever captures your fancy and then continue your journey. Also, lots of companies offer elegant romantic dinners and fine business lunches to those who prefer something a tad more sophisticated.


The Canal ring encompasses a vast area of the city. So that you can find something to suit your unique lifestyle and interests we offer a wide range of accommodation throughout neighbourhoods as diverse as the Red light district and the Museumplein.


{top}Grachtengordel Amsterdam{top}

{bottom}Amsterdam's famous Canal Ring{bottom}