Alternative ways of exploring the waters of Amsterdam

Alternative ways of exploring the waters of Amsterdam

There are plenty of ways to explore Amsterdam, many people take to the bike and cycle around the city, but you can also explore the waters of Amsterdam. Many will immediately think of the most obvious choice to get around the Dutch waters of Amsterdam, which is, of course, a canal cruise; however, there are other options.

Canal cruise

The most obvious choice for exploring the canals and waters of Amsterdam is a canal cruise. There are plenty of companies registered and offering cruises the whole year round.

Some cruises will offer all-inclusive drinks and you could even go on a dinner cruise through the canals - for that extra romantic touch.

For those who also want to go sightseeing in Amsterdam, there are companies that offer hop-on hop-off boats. On these particular boats, you can hop-off to visit an attraction and then hop back on the next boat to journey onto your next stop.

Check out some of the most popular canal cruises in Amsterdam!

Rent a boat

You could also rent a boat yourself and cruise through Amsterdam. There are several options when it comes to renting a boat. You could rent a small boat and sail yourself, rent with a skipper or rent a larger boat with a skipper.

Sailing yourself could cost less than buying a ticket for a canal tour, but this depends on how many people you sail with and, of course, you will often have to pay a deposit when renting a boat. You will get the deposit back, but you do have to have the funds to put it down first.

In the Netherlands, you can operate a boat that is less than 15 metres in length without a sailing license. For larger boats or boats which can travel faster than 20 km / hour however, you will either need a boating license or to hire a skipper.

Stand-Up-Paddle (SUP)

You could take a more sporty approach to exploring the waters of Amsterdam and go supping (stand-up-paddling). This involves getting on a surfboard and pushing yourself forwards with a sup-paddle.

Supping not only allows you to explore Amsterdam from the water, it is also a great workout. A win-win! There are plenty of companies which allow you to go supping through the canals and rivers of Amsterdam. You can even do SUP yoga if you so wish. Prices vary per SUP club, so we advise looking up SUP clubs on the Internet to see which one suits you best.


If you’re planning on staying a while, you could also join a rowing club and explore the waters that way. There are rowing clubs all over the Netherlands, so it doesn't matter which Dutch city or town you live in.

Many clubs hold open days, so you can get a feel of the vibe there and the opportunities for rowing. Some are only accessible for student, so be sure to check whether you can join before you visit.


Another sporty way to marvel at the canals and rivers in Amsterdam is canoeing. You can also canoe in the Amsterdam Forest (Amsterdamse Bos).

Canoeing in the Amsterdam Forest is a perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, but still be in Amsterdam. The forest makes it seem as though you are paddling through the Amazon.

If you prefer, you can also book a ticket for a canoe tour. Canoe tours tend to take a couple of hours, but you do get the chance to stop for a break and some tours may even include a picnic. 

Water bike / pedal boat

If you’re on a budget, renting a pedal boat in Amsterdam may be a good option. So, get those legs working and take to a water bike.

By doing so, you can create your own intimate sightseeing tour at your own pace. Stop whenever you like, wherever you like and take in all that Amsterdam has to offer from the water.

Water bikes are not that big, therefore you will be able to get into all the nooks and crannies of the Amsterdam waterway. Even the rain can’t stop you, as some pedal boats have hoods to keep you dry - be sure to check whether this is offered by the company you choose.

How will you be exploring the waters of Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments!

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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