6 ways to explore the Amsterdam canals this summer

6 ways to explore the Amsterdam canals this summer

Living in the Netherlands, you're likely aware of some of the more typically Dutch ways to explore Amsterdam; you can, of course, hop on a bike, or you could book a ticket for a perhaps more luxurious canal cruise. But there are plenty of other ways to experience the streets and waterways of the Dutch capital.

This summer, why not make the most of the longer days and warmer weather by renting a boat, or hopping on a pedalo or SUP?

Canal cruise

The most obvious (and popular) 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 - and many offer various different packages and experiences.

Canal cruises in Amsterdam

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 onwards to your next stop - making them a great choice for anyone wanting to combine a cruise with some museums or other attractions.

For those looking for perhaps a more romantic cruise, check out the companies that offer cruises with all-inclusive drinks or even dinner - there are, for example, wine and cheese cruises and pizza cruises. Furthermore, some of the cruise operators offer combined tickets for a boat trip and a specific attraction, which is another great option for those wanting to see more of the city.

Rent a boat in Amsterdam

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, 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 licence. For larger boats or boats which can travel faster than 20 kilometres and hour, however, you will either need a boating licence or to hire a skipper.

Boat rental companies 

Do you like the idea of being in control of your own boat and route? Here's a list of some of the boat rental companies operating in the Dutch capital: 

SUP (Stand-Up-Paddle)

You could take a more sporty approach to exploring the waters of Amsterdam and go SUPing (stand-up paddleboarding). This involves getting on a surfboard and pushing yourself forward with a SUP-paddle.

Supping not only allows you to explore Amsterdam from the water, but it is also a great workout. A win-win! Want to take your workout even further? You can even try SUP yoga!

Stand-Up-Paddleboard hire in Amsterdam

There are plenty of companies which allow you to go supping through the canals and rivers of Amsterdam. Here are some of the companies offering SUP rental in the Dutch capital:

Pedalo around Amsterdam

If you’re on a budget, renting a pedal boat in Amsterdam may be a good option - and a good workout, so it really kills two birds with one stone. With a pedalo, 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, so 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.

Pedal boat hire

Like the sound of hopping on a pedalo with your friends or family? Stromma has 100 pedalos for hire across the Dutch capital, which can be picked up at one of their three locations across the city:

  • Rijksmuseum
  • Leidsestraat
  • Anne Frank House


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 students, 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 Amsterdamse Bos.

Canoeing in the Amsterdamse Bos 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. 

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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