(Last Updated On: August 1, 2021)

A visit to the capital city of the Netherlands can’t be complete without taking an open boat cruise in Amsterdam. It’s no secret that Amsterdam’s UNESCO World Heritage Listed canal belt is one of the city’s most charming sights and what better way to experience it than on an open boat tour?

I have done a few different boat tours on my many trips to Amsterdam and I firmly believe the smaller, open tours as opposed to the enclosed larger boats are the right way to go – it’s just far more intimate and you’re able to go places the larger vessels aren’t able to go.

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How much is an open boat cruise in Amsterdam?

Canal cruises in Amsterdam vary in cost from around 15 euros up. However, if you’re visiting Amsterdam for a few days and also planning to visit a few museums and use public transport in the city, you may want to consider buying an I amsterdam city pass which provides an included canal cruise with entry to many Amsterdam attractions.

Leaning Dutch houses lining one of Amsterdam's canals.

Finding an open boat cruise in Amsterdam in the colder months

I wander towards the Rijksmuseum to find an open boat company to take me on a canal cruise. In October, these are harder to find than you might think, mainly because it’s so darn cold. I know that I want to make my way around the canals with a small group.

I really don’t want to go on those huge covered boats because they can only get around wider canals. I ask at a few boating docks and am told the same answer – no open boats because it’s too cold.

About to give up, I see a little white boat pull in just outside the museum. The white-blond captain ducks inside a shop on the bank. I rush to the store and stumble upon the only open boat tours running at this time of year. I am ecstatic and book for the next cruise, heading out in an hours’ time.

A small white boat is docked at a wooden boarding point on one of Amsterdam's famous canals

Visiting Vondelpark while I wait to board

I am as pleased as punch with myself for not having to compromise my dreams of sailing the Dutch canal rings of Amsterdam. While I wait, I find myself back in Museumplein at the iAmsterdam sign admiring the Rijksmuseum and the surrounding gardens.

I wander further afield to quickly experience the fairy-tale like Vondelpark. In the midst of Autumn, the park is afire with leaves of orange, brown and red. It’s impossible to walk the garden paths without enjoying the crunch of leaves under my boots.

I spend my time meandering the paths and avoiding cyclists as they whizz past on their lunch breaks.

An iron gate marking the entrance to Vondelpark. The park's name is written on the gate in gold lettering.

Finally… time for the open boat cruise in Amsterdam

An hour and a half of freezing, up close and personal time with Amsterdam’s canals in an open boat. This is what I’d been waiting for. I board with three other people and we’re handed woolly blankets and warned that this will be cold but oh so worth it. 

My captain was the man I’d followed into the shop to track down and he was full of knowledge. He talked about old Amsterdam and the creation of the canals and how the canal rings work logistically.

I see traditional Dutch houses, leaning forward to the water. I’m told this is in order to make the loading of cargo from ships in the canals easier. The houses have big hooks on the gabled roofs to form a pulley system.

I see Amsterdam’s oldest house, a skinny black brick building standing against the water.

I sail past the maritime museum, and at one point have a stellar view at a vantage point where I can see through seven bridges lined up in a row.

A grey sky over the murky waters of one of Amsterdam's canals. An arched bridge runs across the canal in the background.

Before the ride I stocked up on two Heinekens and proceed to crack these open as we sail although at this point I am so cold that holding the beer can is next to excruciating.

The woollen blankets on the boat are now in full use. Between myself and two German tourists sharing the ride with me we have acquired around 3 blankets each and we’re still shivering.

It’s worth it though because the feeling of sailing past Dutch houseboats, under bridges and past the streets of cyclists is truly magical.

A run down houseboat with peeling paint floats in an Amsterdam canal

Where to stay in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has no shortage of accommodation options available from backpacker style hostel dorms to luxury apartments. I’ve stayed at both ends of the spectrum and enjoyed them all – though my hostelling days are behind me now!

To stay right in the centre of the action and make the most of the party vibes, staying around Dam Square near the Red Light District will ensure that the celebrations are never far away. 

For a more peaceful, leafy and quiet accommodation, look around the lovely Vondelpark area.

Getting to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a major capital in Western Europe, so it is really easy to get to the city. The city is serviced by the Schipol International Airport and Amsterdam Centraal Station receives plenty of domestic and international train arrivals and departures each day. 

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The Ultimate Guide To Taking An Open Boat Cruise In Amsterdam - Emma Jane Explores
The Ultimate Guide To Taking An Open Boat Cruise In Amsterdam - Emma Jane Explores



  1. 5 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Netherlands • Dream Plan Experience - […] the most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Netherlands is the famous Amsterdam canal ring. This maze of waterways…

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