Amsterdam Canal History Tour by Boat

Explore the history and culture of Amsterdam from a different perspective - on the water!
From US$989 privately
Book a Tour
Tour Details
2 hours
Product Type
Amsterdam Canal Belt
Photos & Highlights
  • Cruise in a historical saloon boat as you sail through Amsterdam's dense history catered to your interests
  • Led by a local scholar
Select a date
Tour Description
On this Amsterdam Canal Tour, we’ll join a local historian for a 90-minute cruise in a historical saloon boat and see Amsterdam from a unique vantage point. Our route will carry us through the world-famous canal belt (itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site), giving the best possible view of 17th-century architecture and quaint bridges. The small size of our group and the boat will allow us to wind easily through Amsterdam's network of waterways and avoid the worst of the traffic. Together with our expert guide, we’ll dig deeper into the history of economic prosperity, strategic water management, and urban planning that defines the canal belt.
  • Amsterdam's Canal Belt
  • 1.5 hours with a Ph.D. or MA-level guide
  • Historical saloon boat
As Amsterdam grew and thrived in the 16th century, prospering from its location on important trade routes, an influx of immigration left city officials searching for solutions. The Dutch are known for innovation when it comes to managing natural resources and dealing with environmental challenges, and this was no exception. Three major canals—Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht—were dug in 1613, marking a new era in the expansion of Amsterdam. Today, the canal belt is perhaps the single most defining and recognizable feature of Amsterdam, ingenious and endlessly charming.

Our tour begins on land, as we meet our guide and make our way to a small dock to be picked up by our captain. Setting out on the water, we’ll find our perspective of Amsterdam’s topography expanded. Architectural details not visible from the sidewalk are suddenly easy to spot; above us at street level, the usual rush of traffic whizzes by. Meanwhile, we can move at a luxurious pace, appreciating the brightly colored shutters and curved shapes of the gables—both serving as clues about the people who once lived there. As we sail past the historical buildings of this neighborhood, we’ll learn more about the residents of these grand canal houses and the role they played in Amsterdam’s prosperity. We’ll take the discussion beyond superficial information and try to understand how fundamental the construction of the canal belt has been for the city of Amsterdam over the past 400 years. We’ll consider the economic and industrial circumstances that laid the groundwork for developing this area. But we’ll also look at how it signaled a new era of wealth and success for the city, cementing its status as a major port not only in the Netherlands but in Western Europe. 

As we wrap up our time together, we’ll return to the dock from which the boat collected us and get our bearings in the city again. But we’ll now have a deeper understanding of this picturesque area and be able to interpret our surroundings, whether a certain gable style or the arch of a bridge. Our time on the water will have shown us another side of the city. Amsterdam, with all its quirks and picture-perfect angles, has never looked better.

Feeling queasy? Our Dutch Golden Age Tour covers the same history from the security of dry land.
What is a private tour?
Our private tours are limited exclusively to travelers in your party. They are designed to provide a learning experience that is completely tailored to you and your traveling companions. Private tours give you more flexibility with scheduling (you decide when the walk best fits in your trip), the ability to tailor your itinerary (we'll work to match the itinerary to the interests and dynamics of your group), and more personalized time with your guide.

What is a small group tour?
Our small group tours cover many of the same itineraries as our private tours, but they place you with other travelers in groups of 6 or fewer. They operate on a pre-scheduled calendar and are designed to provide an opportunity to engage with and learn from other travelers. 

Can we request a different pick-up location? 
Yes, when booked privately, this tour can begin from other locations. Please contact us for specific requests.

Is it safe to take children on board?
Yes, although the boat is partially open. Parents should keep close watch over their children while boarding/disembarking and during the cruise.

Is the boat wheelchair accessible?
 The boats are unfortunately not fully wheelchair accessible. If you use a folding wheelchair and are able to walk with assistance onto the boat and sit on the couch of the boat, rather than in the wheelchair, the boat will be suitable for you. If you have any mobility concerns, please feel free to contact us before booking; we can help you decide if this tour will suit you.
Where You'll Start
(4.79) 69 Reviews

Reviews can only be left by Context customers after they have completed a tour. For more information about our reviews, please see our FAQ.

Our tour was just the best. The boat was so nice, the wine and drinks were such a nice touch. Our captain took us down so many beautiful little canals. The tour guide was so knowledgeable about Amsterdam and its history. It was such an upscale experience. I cannot imagine a better way to see the canals. Highly recommend the tour and our guide!
Very good
Marcko did a great jog in helping understand the the why and the want to the Canal building . He did an excellent joh