How to arrange your own Amsterdam canal cruise
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, taking a boat ride on the Amsterdam canals is the BEST way to see the city! Sure you can take a canal tour on one of those big tourist boats at Central Station to get a hop-on-hop-off tour. But why would you do that when you can captain your own Amsterdam canal cruise? AND you can bring food and drinks (read: booze). If you’re with a group of friends, renting a boat on your own and doing your own canal tour in Amsterdam is very likely cheaper (and more fun) than going on one of those tours. Renting a canal boat in Amsterdam is very easy and will be one of the highlights of your trip to Amsterdam.
You don’t need a license to rent a boat, and best of all, the boats are really easy to manoeuvre – they typically never go very fast, so you’ll probably never be in any precarious situations! All the boat rental companies also provide easy to read maps so you have an easy to follow tour of Amsterdam to follow, and you won’t get lost. A self guided Amsterdam canal tour is the best canal tour!
Taking a canal boat tour on the Dutch canals is my favorite thing to do in Amsterdam in the summer – it never gets old. After in Holland for almost 7 years, I’ve tried most of the boat rental companies. While they are all (honestly) pretty much the same, you should look out for where to rent based on your location and what you might want to visit before and after your boat tour, not necessarily by tour company, since you’ll probably follow the same route with most rental companies. Renting a boat in Amsterdam is easily one of the best things to do in the summer time. If you’re looking for even more tips, check out this post on what to do in Amsterdam in summer.
Looking for more tips in Amsterdam? Check out these posts:
- 10 Amsterdam Museums Not to Miss
- The best day trips from Amsterdam
- How to see tulips in Holland
- Get muddy with Dutch mudflat walking: wadlopen in the Netherlands
- Things to do in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- Visit the magnificent Kasteel de Haar on an Amsterdam day trip
Where to rent a boat by neighborhood for your boat tour of the Amsterdam canals
If you’re staying in… the Center/Jordaan
Book your canal cruise through Mokum Boat
Fun fact, Mokum is the OG name for Amsterdam. Anyway, Mokum Boat is a great company to tour with, especially if you are staying in the city center. You can reach their Nassaukade location either by foot (reaching it by walking through the Jordaan or Leidseplein), or you can reach it by trams 7 or 17.
Pro tip: if you’re still looking for more fun after your canal cruise, head down Kinkerstraat to the Foodhallen where you can choose between a dozen delicious food stalls.
Planning your Amsterdam trip? Check my 2 day Amsterdam itinerary
If you’re staying in… De Pijp, Rivierenbuurt, Zuid
You have two options if you’re staying in the southern area of the city.
The first, and my favorite option is Boaty, handily located just off the Ferdinand Bolstraat in de Pijp, on the canal in front of Hotel Okura. Boaty is actually my favorite rental company in Amsterdam – probably because it is the first company we rented from.. and maybe because the name is cute. Boaty is also a bit cheaper than Mokum Boat. As of 2017 it costs €89 for a 3 hour rental on Saturday evenings – while Mokum Boat will set you back €110
Pro tip #1: If you’re hungry (and you will be) make sure to pick up a pizza BY BOAT from Pizzeria San Marco, located a short distance (200m) from where you’ll pick up your Boaty boat. Seriously, how “Amsterdam” is that?! Make sure to order 15 minutes ahead of when you’ll pick up your boat so your pizza will be ready when you swing by at the beginning of your tour. Call 020 673 0884 to order, and make sure you have cash.
Pro tip #2: If you’re thirsty before or after your tour, Brouwerij Troost (Troost Brewery) is just a short walk from Boaty. Indulge in some local Amsterdam beer at their original location on Cornelis Trooststraat.
Your second option, is yet another Mokum Boat location. I only recommend this location if you are staying east of Van Woustraat in de Pijp/Rivierenbuurt. This Mokum Boat location is just around the corner from Cafe Hesp and Weesper which are good options to have a drink or bite to eat before or after your tour. This option is technically in Oost (East) Amsterdam, but is quite close to some neighborhoods in Zuid. If you’re staying nearby the Amstel River, this is a good option for you.
If you’re staying in… West/the Jordaan
Check out Boats4Rent located at the Westergasfabriek (Westerpark). The first bridge you’ll have to pass by here is super low, so get ready to duck and cover in your boat as you go under. Boats4Rent has a location that is certainly the closest to the most beautiful areas of Amsterdam, but you’ll reach them easily with the other boat tour companies as well.
Pro tip: check out the Westergasfabriek before or after your canal boat ride to get a taste of where the locals hang out.
If you’re staying in… Oost (East) near the Zoo
Once again, Mokum Boat is a winner here with a location on Mauritskade where you can arrange your own Amsterdam canal ride.
Pro tip: head over to Brouwerij ‘t Ij, a brewery in a windmill, before or after your canal cruise to taste some of Amsterdam’s best beer!
In short, the best Amsterdam canal cruise is YOUR Amsterdam canal cruise!
Where to stay in Amsterdam
There are countless great places to stay in Amsterdam. Here are a few picks for each budget:
What to pack for Amsterdam
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Looking for more Amsterdam tips? Check out these posts:
Did this post help you plan your canal tour in Amsterdam? Let me know in the comments below!
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.