“Have you noticed that Amsterdam’s concentric canals resemble the circles of hell? The middle-class hell, of course, peopled with bad dreams. When one comes from the outside, as one gradually goes through those circles, life — and hence its crimes — becomes denser, darker. Here, we are in the last circle.”
— from “The Fall,” 1956 by Albert Camus (1913-1960)
BIRD’S EYE VIEW Along 62 miles of canals, 1,500 bridges connect 90 islands in Amsterdam’s center. When seen from above, or on a map, the city’s canals clearly resemble not so much concentric circles but concentric semicircles.
Camus’s cynicism did not influence our enjoyment of Amsterdam’s charming waterways and bridges. The city is the farthest thing from hell. With such friendly inhabitants, a very relaxed atmosphere, charming architecture and interesting sights, if Amsterdam is hell, count me in. The canals are delightful; they keep the city damp. It is always cool in town.
Canals, harbors and rivers fill 25% of Amsterdam’s surface area, making it the most watery city in the world. These waterways have been its heart and soul since its founding in 1250. That was year that saw the building of the Dam that gave the city its name. Aeme Stelle Redamme comes from Medieval Dutch; it means Dam in a Watery Area. The canals have also been the source of the city’s wealth.
The Herengracht (Gentleman's Canal) is is the first and the most elegant of the three major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam. The most fashionable part is called the Golden Bend, with many double wide mansions, inner gardens and coach houses on the Keizersgracht
Amsterdam is called Venice of the north because of its many canals. The most beautiful canals are Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Herengracht. Along these canals you can find the most beautiful houses once belonging to doctors, lawyers, bankers and shipowners. The canals are lined by many trees, giving it a lovely touch.
Did you know that the names of these canals refer to important political people of that time.
Keizersgracht = German Emperor Maximilian I
Prinsengracht = Prince of Orange
Herengracht = noblemen
Part of what makes Amsterdam such a charming city are the many canals. While touring the city you will come across at least 4 or 5 of them.
Along these canals you will find some of the most beautiful homes lined with trees making it very picturesque.
The more than one hundred kilometers of canals in Amsterdam, about 90 islands and 1500 bridges have led the city to being termed the "Venice of the North The three main canals Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age, form a concentric belt around the city, known as the grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings.
Amsterdam is a walking city. If you are physically capable of walking, there is little that you will be unable to see in Amsterdam. It is a city of 200 canals and 1200 bridges. Most of the city is below sea level (don't ask me how, it is very complicated and I think that God is involved in some way). Anyway, the city is very flat; no hills to worry about. It is a very peaceful existence living along one of the canals. The views from the front of the houses and apartments are wonderful in any kind of weather. The canals are mostly tree-lined and very serene. I could live there.
Dude!!! The whole city is full of canals! How cool is that? It's really cool, but it can be a little confusing at first. While you're walking around it's a good idea to have a map with you, otherwise those canals and streets are bound to leave you scratching your head. On the other hand, you could just accept the fact that you'll get temporarily displaced and enjoy the views while you're trying to get yourself back on track.
Each time Ive visited Amsterdam Ive enjoyed the sights as Ive walked about to get where Ive been wanting to go - theres always so much to look at along the way, any way..... the canals and the interesting or stunning architecture along them, the boats and houseboats, the bridges and interesting cast iron decorations, the bicycles.... even the fellow pedestrians are great for people watching!
The canal system in Amsterdam goes for miles - amazing - and its much too enjoyable to miss by heading for the public transport to take you around Amsterdam!
Amsterdam is a haven for houseboats. When houseboat living came into being, it was to avoid taxes. It is still cheaper to live on a houseboat, but the taxes are pretty steep. The boats come in all sizes and shapes. They were mostly commercial boats at one time and when they had outlived their commercial usefulness, they were sold and converted to houseboats. There are houseboat rentals available for visitors who want to experience houseboat living.
The houseboat owners frequently have gardens on the roof and lounge areas both fore and aft. The cabins are like small apartments complete with small kitchens, toilets, and showers. Waste water is in holding tanks and pumped out to a sanitation truck periodically. Those who live on houseboats love it. It certainly looks like it could be a very tranquil lifestyle.
Just walking around the city you will see the different canals and bridges, while they are great to admire during the day, some are even better to view at night. Don't walk around the city just looking up, make sure you look down and admire all the city has to offer.
The ring of canals within the centre of Amsterdam is unique in the world. Here it was that the small river “Amstel” ran into the appendix of the Southern sea, called “IJ”. A dam was created and a harbour was built. Slowly but steadily the “Amstel”-water was redirected through canals, the “grachten”belt was born. With the growth, both economical as in population, one half circle was overgrown by the next, and the next, and the next. Water was more important in Amsterdam then ground, as the warehouses main connection with the harbour were these canals. Now-a-days Amsterdam – as seen from the air (see transporttips) is a truly amazing sight. The pattern of canals that is running in wider and wider half circles is no-where else to be seen. The history behind it, especially the glory days in the 17th century tell the story of the town.
The city's most famous sight are the 17th-century canals of Amsterdam (in Dutch: 'Grachtengordel'), located in the heart of Amsterdam, they are added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Amsterdam took its name from the river. The city developed out of a small fishing village called "Amstelredam", built in the 13th century alongside a dam at the mouth of the river. The town was granted city rights around 1300. The hamlet developed into the small town "Amsteldam", which later became "Amsterdam".
Amsterdam is situated 2 metres above sea level. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders. Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea through the long North Sea Canal.
Amsterdam has been called the "Venice of the North" for its more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings.
You can watch my 2 min 50 sec Video Amsterdam Amstel and Channels part 2 out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
Amsterdam is full of canals, which offer some of the city's best scenery. We spent hours strolling along the canals through the city's neighborhoods. Our favorite canals were the ones west of the center city, between it and the Jordaan neighborhood. Most of the canals are lined with traditional canal houses, which are tall and narrow and feature decorative gables on top with cranes for lifting heavy items into the upper floors.
The city center of Amsterdam is characterisized by its small streets, canals and canal houses. These usually small, but tall houses with very special gable tops that can have many different shapes: bell, funnel, stepped and neck among others. Here you'll find an excellent site about historic houses and gable types.
Amsterdam is world famous for its many canals (grachten) which have led it to being called the "Venice of the North".
There are many tour operators that have sightseeing cruises along these canals taking in attractions such as the well preserved 17th century merchant homes and also the famous red-light district.