Amsterdam, the "Venice of the North", has been known for its canals since the 14th century. They are not only one of its major and noticeable attractions; they are also the most enthralling way to travel through this extravagant city. Moreover, unlike the less than fragrant experience of Venice, you’re guaranteed a smell-free trip through Amsterdam Canals.
UNESCO declared the Amsterdam Canal Ring a World Heritage Site on August 1, 2010.
Amsterdam canals are often used for recreational activities, from parades to especial events organized throughout the year. The incredible sceneries they provide form iced paths during winter, where the citizens take a skating tour that usually concludes in an infamous cup of “snert” (pea soup) in their favorite café.
The canals are the perfect spot to rent a houseboat during your stay in the city. Their enthralling backgrounds will make for an unforgettable experience. Since 2005, all legal houseboats are connected to the sewage system of the city butswimming in the waters is still not an option.
Ever since the canals were created, they worked as a natural and effective draining system; as time progressed and Amsterdam developed into the metropolis it is today, keeping the waters cleaned and sanitary has been an ever-present worry. The canals are flushed at least three times per week when the locks that keep it from the North Sea are open and water flows in.
If you're not up for a stay in a houseboat, you can take a boat tour through the most interesting sights of Amsterdam. You'll be able to learn the history behind the canals and its houseboats.
History has it that the shortage in houses of Amsterdam prompted the citizens to move into houseboats, the majority of which, are now legal. Illegal boathouses tend to lack services such as electricity, gas and water, unlike the legal ones.
The history of the canals goes back to the history of the most "watery city of the world." Amsterdam, receivedits name after the Dam of the Amstel River around 1270. The Dam protected the city from the threat of floods and formed a division between the southern Sea and the Amstel River. Since 1922, this part of the city is known as the “Damrak” street. Back in the day, the canals were the only permitted medium of transport, and vehicles remained parked in the outskirts of the city. However, the 20th century has changed that, and many canals were lost in favor of the current land traffic, the “Damrak” included.
The canals were built to manage the water and serve as medium of transportation. As the city developed, they served as a medium of defense as moats were built in the borders. These moats would eventually turn into warehouses used for the growing trading market, when the city expanded and they were no longer bordering the city. This developing economy prompted yet another expansion, this time extending the territory to four times its size through the most complex and efficient navigable systemof canals in the world.
The most prominent canals were built during the golden era of the city, on the 17th century. Among these we find:
- Four main city center canals:
- The numerous canals in the district of Jordaan, which will give you a sight of the true Amsterdam spirit, its peculiar-architecture, brown cafés, art galleries, etc. Among these we feel obliged to name:
- The Brouwersgracht
- The Bloemgracht
- The Leliegracht