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Should I bother with a 75-min canal cruise?

We'll be in Amsterdam for 3 nights and this is our first visit. I have already signed us up for a walking tour of the city and am wondering if we should bother with a canal cruise? I've read that getting on one involves some waiting and I would absolutely hate to do something and be underwhelmed by the end of it. It seems like the touristy thing to do in Amsterdam but don't know if it would add value to our experience there. What has your experiences with canal cruises in Amsterdam been like?

It's a very different city seen from the canals. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the full circuit of the hop-on, hop-off tourist canal boats. Fascinating glimpse of what's unique about Amsterdam. In fact I'd prioritise a canal trip over a walking tour.

Posted by
2487 posts

I'm with Jane: from the water the city is totally different. And why joining some walking tour which you can do by yourself with a guidebook and a map?

Posted by
985 posts

Mia - I've been on two canal cruises in Amsterdam - one with the RS tour on a big boat with audio tour and then a special Christmas Canal Lights tour with ThoseDamBoat Guys on a much smaller boat. Both were decent but we really didn't get much from the audio tour except a pretty ride not really knowing much about what we saw. The smaller more personal tour was much better but be forewarned that they do allow drinking and smoking (whatever) on the boat, although they put smokers at the back of the boat. They also offer private tours. If I had my choice I would go with a small boat tour hands down.
I also enjoy walking tours and we did one in Amsterdam. There is so much that we would have overlooked doing it on our own. It also served as a great orientation to the city for first timers and we felt much more comfortable going about on our own afterward.
Whatever you decide to do, have a fantastic time doing it!

Posted by
7564 posts

As an alternate "on the canal" experience, consider renting a water bike and do a little exploring on your own.

Posted by
2393 posts

We are planning to to one with Those Dam Boat Guys - sounds like fun!

Posted by
4535 posts

First, if you don't want to do something, don't feel pressured to do it because it is some kind of "must do."

I personally enjoyed a canal boat tour, if not for the commentary but really just to relax on a boat and explore the city by its famous canals. We took an early evening "dusk" tour so there was still plenty of light to see things but by the end it was dark and all the bridges were lit up.

I forget the name of our company but they advertise quite a bit - all their boats are historic (which also appealed to me). They leave from just inside the Red-Light District. There wasn't any "waiting," you just buy a ticket, get on the boat and when it's full they leave. There are enough customers that time of day that it goes pretty quickly. They serve a drink which is nice but really it was about seeing the canals and views from the boat.

Posted by
2158 posts

Was in Amsterdam last year and we did a private canal cruise. Was a little pricey, but split 4 ways, had appetizers, fruit, wine, beer, and champagne. Was a little more than 2 hours and was fabulous. A relaxing gorgeous sunny day, seeing the town from the water with our pilot describing places of interest cruising through the canals.
Going again in September and doing another cruise, maybe with those dam guys.
Everyone's opinion is different, I just don't wanna say coulda shoulda woulda. It's a water city, couple hours out of your stay. Enjoy the scenery, have a great time, and we are tourists. Saw lots of locals on boats, probably winding down after working. It's your decision.

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks everyone! Do any of the canal boats leave from or near the De Negen Straatjes?

Posted by
985 posts

"Thanks everyone! Do any of the canal boats leave from or near the De Negen Straatjes?"

Sorta kinda. ThoseDamBoatGuys have the Cafe Wester on the Prinsengracht as the meeting point for the cruise and although we had to walk a block for the winter canal cruise I think their regular point of departure may be even closer. You can check out their website to see the specifics.

Posted by
20 posts

Both walking and seeing the city from the water have their own unique perspectives and since it's your 1st time and you're just here a short time a small boat tour is a nice treat. I agree with the person saying a small boat tour is the way to go if you decide to boat. A water bike is an interesting alternative though.

I'd also agree to prioritize seeing it by tour on the water and then walking around yourself if you can only do 1 kind of tour-there are many good guidebooks and info online so on your own legs or rental bike you can be self directed and focus on what you choose.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi There,
I am an American expat and I have lived in Amsterdam for 10 years. The canal cruises are indeed touristy but in spite of this I highly recommend doing it. Most of them are actually only an hour and you can buy your tix in advance. The perspective on the city is totally different from the water and quite authentic, and pretty fun. You'll get a crash course on the history of some of the buildings through the pre-recorded information. The best one in my opinion to go with is


Posted by
767 posts

Check the public ferries. There are six that cross the IJ. One serves the EYE Museum and one departs from Java Island, an interesting place in itself as a result of recent redevelopment and Contemporary Architecture. If you've not researched the many trams in Amsterdam, you should do so. You can see a lot of the city be riding the trams, and if you see something that particularly interests you, you can get off and get back on (if you have an IAmsterdam Card). You may want to get this Card (1, 2 or 3 days) good for many Museums and public transport ( not only the Trams but Busses and Ferries). On our first visit we took a canal boat at dusk; "touristy" but pleasant nonetheless and we're glad we did. By the way, if you've not pre-arranged a time to visit the Anne Frank House and the major museums, you should do so several weeks in advance. I'm not big on organized tours as it usually turns out that what I'm interested in is "glossed over" on the tour. Consider getting a RS book, or Rough Guide, etc. read a little and plan your own walking tours. Enjoy Amsterdam.