Alongside wooden clogs, windmills, and tulips, the Amsterdam Canals spring to mind when anyone mentions Holland. A canal cruise along the Amsterdam Canals is undoubtedly the number one attraction and for first time visitors like me, a canal cruise is a great introduction to the city. The Amsterdam Canals also celebrate their 400th birthday in 2013 and many special events and festivals are helping the city celebrate. The Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam is no exception and is offering canal cruises on their authentic salon boat all this year. We got a personalized and very interesting canal cruise and here are 8 fun facts we learned from the captain as we cruised the Amsterdam canals:
Amsterdam got its name from the Amstel River.
As we set out from the Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam, which is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam and located on the Amstel River, the captain explained that Amsterdam was originally founded in the 12th century as a fishing village. The village derived its name from the Amstel River and the dam that was built in 1220 to avoid the floods from the ZuiderZee (South Sea) entering the inlands. Over time Amstellodamus evolved into Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has 165 canals.
There are 165 Amsterdam canals that combine for a length of over 100 kilometers (about 60 miles). The Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
Monet painted the South Church during a visit to The Netherlands.
The Zuiderkerk, or South Church, was the first church built in the city for Protestant services and was built between 1603 and 1611. French impressionist Claude Monet painted the church 13 times during his visit to the Netherlands and the captain stopped for us to admire the exact angle as the Monet painting with the Groenburgwal canal leading up to it.
The tilted houses are called Dancing Houses.
The houses were built for the wealthy bankers and merchants and did double-duty as both houses and work spaces. The soil was so swampy that they had to built on stilts and that caused them to wobble and sink into the river, so now they are each a little off kilter!
Amsterdam has more bridges than Venice.
It’s almost hard for us to believe as we’ve trekked over Venice’s bridges countless times during our time living outside the Italian city, and it sure feels like there are thousands. There are only in fact 409 bridges connecting Venice’s canals. Amsterdam actually has 1281 bridges. That’s three times as many as Venice!
Magere Brug is the most famous bridge.
Of the 1281 bridges in Amsterdam, the Magere Brug (also known as the Skinny Bridge) is the most famous. Approximately every 20 minutes, the Dutch draw bridge opens to let boats pass through.
There are 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam.
2500 houseboats line Amsterdam canals and many have been afloat for more than a century. There are different types of houseboats and the concrete kind are the most desirable as they don’t need to be taken to the shipyard for repairs. Amsterdam has laws about the houseboats and the wooden ones need to be repainted every three years. Most are residential, but visitors can find houseboat hotels, rentals and even a Houseboat Museum if you just want to see what it’s like on one.
Amsterdam was once surrounded by defensive walls.
Built in the Middle Ages, the walls of Amsterdam were meant to defend the city against an attack. The walls were torn down in the 19th century, but remains can be seen when cruising the canals.
Know Before You Go
- The Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam offers canal cruises on their authentic salon boat at 10:30am on Saturdays and Sundays for €35 per person. Book with the concierge.
- You can also book at canal sightseeing cruise that departs every 20 minutes daily or specialty canal cruises like a pizza canal cruise or romantic dinner canal cruise with various companies. Prices range from $20 – $100 per person.
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