Fun facts about the Amsterdam canals
5 April 2022
The Amsterdam canals are our home and we love to share it with you, show it to you and tell you all about it. The canals make the Dutch capital unique and there are plenty of fun facts that any visitor should know about them.
The Amsterdam canals date back to the very origins of the city and have been expending ever since. The oldest canals were once defensive moats, as the city grew the moats became part of the city instead of surrounding it. Today, Amsterdam has over 100 kilometres (or 62 miles) of canals and as the city continues to grow, new waterways become part of the city as well.
The city has over 160 canals, which separate Amsterdam into 90 individual islands. The islands are connected by over 1,700 bridges (that is 1,300 more than Venice). About 80 of the bridges are in the city centre and cross the UNESCO World Heritage listed seventeenth-century canal ring.
Facts about the city centre canal ring
The canal ring in the city centre consists of a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town. The most famous canals of the canal ring are the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Singel. Because space for housing in the city centre is limited a lot of people live in houseboats on the canals, in fact there are around 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam.
The canals themselves are monumental but the islands they surround are home to over 1,550 other monuments. Several of them are must-see sights, including the Westerkerk, the Anne Frank House, the Gay Monument and Museum van Loon. And then of course there are the picturesque and unique, 17th-century townhouses build during the Dutch Golden Age.
Though the quality of the water in the Amsterdam canals has improved immensely in the last decades, swimming the canals is not recommended. You’ll actually risk a fine of € 140 if you do it outside of permitted locations. There is one yearly exception, when you can legally swim in the Amsterdam canals: the Amsterdam City Swim.
The Amsterdam City Swim is an annual fundraising event for the Dutch ALS foundation, to raise funds for research into treatment of this debilitating disease. The event consists of a 2 kilometre swim through the canals, from the Keizersgracht to the Marineterrein near the National Maritime Museum.
Getting around the city and the canals
If there is one way locals love to make their way around the city it is by bike. That however does not mean that everyone takes very good care of their bike, in fact between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are removed from the Amsterdam canals every year.
The best way to make your way around the city, at least we believe so, is by boat. Seeing Amsterdam from the water is a must for everyone at least once in their life. Whether you choose a 1 hour canal cruise, combine your journey through the canals with a drink and something to eat or use the Hop On Hop Off boat, it’ll be an experience you won’t soon forget.