|A great way to tour the city of Amsterdam is via canal boat. Explore the architecture, the monuments and life in this enchanting city. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
After we awoke in Amsterdam on an historic day for Viking River Cruises, we were invited to embark on Amsterdam’s renowned glass-topped canal boats for a guided tour through the city’s legendary canals from its historic architecture and fabled gables to its quaint neighborhoods and charming houseboats. And you can actually rent one of these quaint and charming houseboats when you're considering options for Europe vacation rentals. How cool would that be? Then it was onto a walk through the heart of the Jewish quarter including visits to the nearly 350-year-old Portuguese synagogue and the Jewish Historical Museum—both poignant reminders of the persecution suffered by the Amsterdam Jews during WWII. Topping off our morning tour was a scrumptious lunch at De Kas (The Greenhouse), whose fully-operational greenhouse determines the menu of the day based on only the freshest ingredients! I must say, it was the best lunch I had ever eaten! But for now, let’s embark on our journey through this quintessential “Venice of the North”…your glass-topped boat is standing by. We’ll come back to our tour of the Jewish quarter in a later post.
|One of the glass-topped canal boats making its way through the Amsterdam waterways. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is world renowned for its enchanting canals, storied architecture, famous artists, Anne Frank, and of course, the infamous “Red Light District” and coffee houses. Combine all of that with 900 years of history and you will see that Amsterdam is a living museum with many of its centuries-old sites still intact! Founded in the early 13th century, Amsterdam was just a small fishing village that achieved tremendous commercial wealth and power in the 16th and 17th centuries while it endured the ravages of the 80-Year War that eventually led to its independence. While prosperity continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Amsterdam suffered greatly once again through the onslaught of the Nazi occupation that nearly devastated the Jewish population. Through a history of great wealth and tragic loss, Amsterdam survives today as a cosmopolitan, as well as a progressive metropolis full of character, charm and an extremely benevolent culture. You can see much of Amsterdam's history via a canal-boat tour through the heart of the city.
|Charming house boats line the Herengracht or Gentlemen's Canal as well as most of the waterways throughout Amsterdam and are often dressed to the hilt with flowers and greenery. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Seen from a bird’s eye view, Amsterdam’s network of canals forms a series of concentric semicircles that begin at the Ij Bay in the north and fan out to the southwest. Dating back to the early 17th century, the original plan called for the development of four major canals bisected by a series of intersecting canals. Actual construction began in 1613. Throughout the city, there are more than 500 bridges with the oldest dating back to 1648 and 16 locks that raise and lower the canal boats to the varying heights of the waterways. After having walked the quaint streets and cruised through its picturesque canals, I can certainly understand why Amsterdam is known as the "the Venice of the north."
|If you look closely, this view provides a direct route across the four major canals in Amsterdam. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Aboard our “green-certified” canal boat powered by natural gas, we cruised through three of four main canals:
- Herengracht or Gentlemen’s Canal is lined with homes that once belonged to wealthy merchants and governors of the city.
- Keizergracht or King’s Canal is the second widest of the canals and named after Maximilian I [we’ll see more of him at the Westerkerk below].
- Prinsengracht or Prince’s Canal is actually the longest and named after William I or the Prince of Orange who led the 80-year revolt I mentioned above.
|More merchants' homes along the Gentlemen's Canal in Amsterdam. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Now that you’re armed with a few lessons in local lore, we’ll explore the picturesque sights of Amsterdam from its fabled rooftops and elegant canal homes to the charming houseboats lining its waterways. I hope you enjoy this guided canal-boat tour through Amsterdam!
Architecture—a lesson in Amsterdam's fabled gabled architecture
|Fabled gables of Amsterdam and the Netherlands. To the left, the ordinary Triangle Gable and next to it is an example of the Step Gable. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
You can see the evolution in gabled architecture from its humble beginnings of simplified "triangle" gables and "step" gables to the more ornamental "bell" and "neck" gabled rooftops—some adorned with imported marble statuary.
As merchants’ prosperity grew during the 17th century, so did the size of their homes along the canal—the Gentlemen’s Canal predominantly. You can distinguish these from the earlier homes because the houses are wider and feature elaborately decorated gables, some with imported stone statuary. If you look closely at the peak of the gables, you’ll see a cantilevered beam extending outward. Because most of these homes have very narrow staircases, the only way to move in furniture and appliances was to use these hoist beams to lift the fixtures up to the windows above. Also you’ll see that most of them have two front doors—the top for the merchant’s family and the lower for the servants.
Anne Frank Huis
|The Anne Frank Huis Museum can be seen from the Prince's Canal in Amsterdam. There is small plaque on the right side of the doorway marking the location. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
For 25 months beginning in 1942, Anne Frank and her family along with the Van Pels family hid inside this house that can be seen from the Prince's Canal in Amsterdam. In August of 1944, she and two families were betrayed and later deported. Of the two families, it was only Otto Frank, Anne's father, who survived the war. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March the following year and her diary became her legacy.
|Westerkerk or West Church boasts Amsterdam's tallest tower. It the burial place of Rembrandt however his precise location remains unknown. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Close-up view of the Westerkerk or West Church bell tower showing the colorfully painted ornamentation decorating its four sides. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Westerkerk or West Church was the only church that Anne Frank could see from the windows in her house. Rembrandt is buried there although his precise location remains unknown. Topping off the city’s tallest tower is the imperial crown of Maximilian I of Austria.
|The charming little house belongs to the drawbridge keeper. All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
- Canal boats’ addresses are “Opposite – the address across the street from their position in the canal.”
- At least one car ends up in the canal every week.
- Amsterdam ranks #13 in top places to live around the world.
- Thousands of bicycles make their way in and around the city. Be warned as they have the right of way along their routes and will stop at nothing that gets in their way. Just kidding, but they don’t take kindly to ignorant walkers, namely me, who was almost run over a number of times despite the ringing of their little bells.
- More than 300 bicycles change ownership every day.
This was just the first excursion aboard the Viking Odin and with Viking River Cruises, and we haven’t even left port yet! Many more adventures from the Netherlands coming your way on EuroTravelogue.
- Impressions of Amsterdam via Cheryl at CherylHoward.com
- Viking River Cruise Christens four new longships in Amsterdam
- Your video-guided tour through the Viking Odin
- Viking River Cruises sails 19 ships throughout Europe, Russia, China, Ukraine, Southeast Asia and Egypt. Find our more when you visit VikingRiverCruises.com.
- Find EuroTravelogue on YouTube for more videos of my journey with Viking River Cruises.