Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is well-worth a visit during spring time. The trees along the canals are bursting with greenery, tulips are coming into bloom and the parks and terraces are filled with people enjoying the first rays of sunshine.
To avoid the masses, however, it’s a good idea to deviate from the well-trodden path by exploring the city from the water. Not with one of the crowded canal cruise boats which all take the same route, but by renting your own boat. In other words, be your own captain. There are some great scenic routes you can take. Some of which lead along the cities highlights and others take you along less well-known (but nonetheless beautiful) spots.
Here are the 4 routes that should motivate you to rent a boat and start exploring the Amsterdam canals by yourself.
Plantageroute – Safari in the city
Length: 6 km
Duration: +/- 1,5 hours
The Plantage Route will lead you through the greenest parts of the city. You’ll be amazed at the variety wildlife in Amsterdam you can spot on this tour, such as city parakeets, grey herons and even common noctule bats. And since this route also takes you past Artis Zoo, you even have the chance to spot a zebra or a few giraffes.
Other great city highlights which you’ll find on this route are:
- the Hortus Botanicus – Amsterdam’s botanical garden
- NEMO – the science museum
- the Tropenmusuem – the museum of world cultures
- the Zuiderkerk – a 17th-century Protestant church which was built in the Renaissance style
- the Maritime museum (and their replicated VOC-ship)
The Berlage route – Modern Dutch architecture
Length: 11 kilometers
Duration: +/- 3 hours
The Berlage route was named after the Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage. He is considered to be Holland’s first Modernist and the founding father of modern Dutch architecture.
The route takes you around Plan Zuid (“South Plan”). This is an urban development plan designed by Berlage. This plan was a response to the urgent demand for housing due to the cities rapidly growing population at the beginning of the 20th century.
Berlage was part of the Amsterdam school movement. This style of architecture is characterised by the use of brick for structure and design, a rounded appearance, decorative masonry, wrought iron accents, spires and ‘ladder’ windows. Along the route, you’ll pass a lot of architecture built according to the Amsterdam school style.
The Wallen route – the Red Light District Route
Length: 4 km
Duration: +/- 1 hour
Starting from januari 2020, guided tours along sex workers’ windows will no longer be allowed in the infamous Red Light District. The good news, though, is that you can still take the Wallen route through the canals.
The Wallen area is located in the oldest part of Amsterdam and is known for the red neon windows that display barely-dressed prostitutes advertising their services. The area is, however, also undergoing some major changes through a project called ‘Project 1012’. Named for the area’s postal code, this project encourages fashion studios, art galleries, cafes and other creative enterprises to set up in this district.
Interesting and ironic detail: this route also takes you past the Oude Kerk. Founded in 1213, this is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church.
The Grachtengordel route – the famous canal tour
Length: 6 km
Duration: +/- 1,5 hours
The Grachtengordel route takes you through the heart of Amsterdam: the canal ring area. This area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. There are plenty of interesting sights, but there are five famous highlights:
- Anne Frank house
- Brouwersgracht (most beautiful canal of Amsterdam, according to the Dutch newspaper ‘Het Parool’)
- Hermitage Museum Amsterdam
- Magere Brug (famous because it’s appearance in movies such as James Bond’s ‘Diamonds are forever’)
Renting your own boat in Amsterdam gives you all the benefits of a city tour, but without having to wade through the masses of tourists. And you don’t even have to have a boating license. There are some rules you need to abide to, though, so it’s always recommended to ask a licensed rental company such as Canal Motorboats to inform you about them.