An Amsterdam Canal Cruise with ‘Friendship’

Without a doubt one of the best and first things you should do in the Dutch capital, especially if you’ve never been before is an Amsterdam canal cruise. It sounds typically touristy but we stumbled across the one that we did within an hour of arriving and I’m SO glad we just got on and did it there and then. Before you go any further – apologies for some of the wonky photos, I’d had wine and it’s not easy to get good ones from a viewpoint below street level. You get the idea.

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

 

We were staying in central Amsterdam and had walked through Niewmarkt, the old town and the Red Light District before coming to a street called Damstraat, which leads you straight up to Dam Square. On the corner is a big tourist ticket office, advertising all of the different ‘themed cruises’ you can do. Pizza cruise, dinner cruise, 100 highlights of Amsterdam canal cruise in an hour…but within 10 seconds of walking in I turned around and walked back out. It was just a bit too in your face touristy. Not the quaint little sail around Amsterdam’s pretty canals I had in mind.

 

Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

 

Coming out of the ticket office, just off from the main street we found ourselves on Oudezijds Voorburgwal, and were milling around deciding which way to go next when a guy in old jeans and a grey sweatshirt was stood under a flag, and next to an attractive looking boat. He had an American accent and was chatting away to us about our trip before telling us we could take a canal cruise from right there. Usually I’m the first person to tell salespeople to firmly ‘eff off’, but this guy was really nice, he wasn’t in your face and it turned out he was a local.

I think it was this that sold it to us, that and the fact he wasn’t pushy at all, and the boat was rather inviting. With cushioned seats, open air so no view restrictions, and a fully stocked bar on display we climbed in. Once a few others had joined us, again just people passing by enticed in by a more relaxing looking voyage around the canals, the American/local jumped in with a Dutch girl who came from nowhere and we cast off from the edge.

 

Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

 

The guy (can’t for the life of me remember his name – I’d had wine) would be steering the boat and the Dutch girl would basically talk us through the sights as we passed. This was all done so casually, it wasn’t a pre scripted talk through a microphone. She just wandered around the boat passionately telling us about her city, answering questions and engaging in very real conversations with us.

It now makes sense why they’re called Friendship cruises. I have heard that some locals will take you out on the canals in their tiny little family boats, for a small fee, a very authentic way to learn. This wasn’t quite at that level, but it definitely felt a lot less commercial.

 

 

We could order drinks, so we got ourselves a bottle of wine, and we were provided with blankets in case it got cold out on the water.  As we sailed around the intricate canal network the guide rolled out fact after fact, with a real enthusiasm that could only come from a resident of the city. It was also a great way to learn our way around, as we spotted little short cuts and landmarks we hadn’t realised were so close together.

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

PIN IT Amsterdam Canal Cruise

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Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

 

It’s for this reason I would strongly recommend doing a canal cruise early on in your visit. It will save you a LOT of walking or cycling, and with so much to see and do over such a large area it makes navigating your way around a lot easier. Especially if you have a crap sense of direction like me.

It’s also significantly prettier, especially in the red light district and older parts of the city, where the streets are narrow and you might be too distracted by what’s going on around you to notice how beautiful the buildings actually are. You get a real sense of the city when you aren’t rushing around, watching where you’re going or trying to follow google maps.

 

Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

PIN IT Amsterdam Canal Cruise

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Obviously a draw back of an open air boat is when it starts to rain, but they were well prepared and handed out huge umbrellas for us to huddle under, it didn’t dampen the mood at all. By this point we were on to a second bottle of wine, so I wish I could remember more of the interesting details she told us.

What I do remember are things like Amsterdam was the first European city to have an area known as ‘Chinatown’. We saw the original Bulldog cafe, the wonky loch keepers ancient house, now a bustling cafe with outside terrace. We passed the oldest building in Amsterdam, the Oude Kerk in the Red Light District, and heard tales of all the extra marital activities that have gone on over the years!

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

 

I learned that the beams sticking out of the top of nearly every building with a hook attached to the end and are still used today when moving furniture into the tall narrow houses. The furniture can’t fit through the front doors and up all the stairs (…PIVOT!), so instead they winch everything up and it goes in through the windows. Clever!

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

 

As we neared the end of the cruise, they almost apologetically asked us to pay. It was 15 euros per person, a couple of euros more than some of the big canal companies, but worth every bit extra. I can’t imagine the other’s being as relaxed, and it was great to basically be talked with not talked to over a bottle of wine.

A great tip for when you get off back where you started – there’s an amazing little ice cream shop right next to the ticket tourist office. Skip the ‘tourism like a tourist’ and go for the more genuine cruise, then celebrate with some seriously good ice cream after.

 

Amsterdam Canal CruisePIN IT

 

We found Friendship Amsterdam completely by chance, but if you want to plan it in advance then their website has all the extra info you need for a very authentic Amsterdam canal cruise.

If you like it pin it!

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

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15 Comments

  • veronica
    23rd November 2016

    Hi Stephanie, great post I have been to amsterdam before but didn’t get a chance to do a canal cruise, this post definitely made me want to go back and experience the city from a different perspective 🙂 also love the look of your blog. Keep up the good work! x

  • Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel
    24th November 2016

    I love the idea of a “Friendship” cruise! What a wonderful alternative to a commercial organized tour, I love that it is hosted by passionate locals. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos!

  • Christina
    24th November 2016

    Looks like you struck some beautiful weather in Amsterdam with bright blue skies. The canal cruise looks like a perfect way to enjoy the city at a slow place. Love the ice cream too.

  • Tracy Collins
    24th November 2016

    The Friendship Cruise sounds a lot of fun (and I like the idea of enjoying a glass or two of wine on the way around!) I have been to Amsterdam a few times but never on a cruise so will definitely keep this in mind on my next trip there (will be pinning) Thanks

  • Naomi
    24th November 2016

    This looks indeed lovely! I never been, besides once with a schooltrip where we were all cramped into one of the big boats and it rained. This one looks way more relaxed and like good fun!

  • SindhuMurthy
    24th November 2016

    I haven’t been to Amsterdam but it is on my list. I love the idea of hiring local guides instead of the commercial establishments for the canal cruise. Listening to stories of a destination from a local would be an amazing experience. The way the friendship cruise had taken care of all the needs shows how passionate they are about the work they do!

  • Erica
    25th November 2016

    I will have to do this! It seems like a great way to see Amsterdam. And for only 15 Euros?! That is a steal compared to gondola rides is Venice!

    • sfox
      Erica
      30th November 2016

      I’ve never been to Venice but I can well imagine the cost! This was really reasonable 🙂

  • Olga Maria
    25th November 2016

    I did this when I was in Amsterdam. It was such an amazing experience. In my case, I was invited on a press trip to cover a big event of Ketel One Vodka. Their distillery is in Holland and it was celebrating their 325 year anniversary. My Canal cruise was sponsored by Ketel One so we had a private dinner, specialty cocktails etc. For me the highlight was the views. I took so many amazing pictures that day. I truly recommend people to do a canal cruise as well. Great post! You transported me back to this moment back in May 🙂

  • Olga Maria - Dreams in Heels
    25th November 2016

    I did this when I was in Amsterdam. It was such an amazing experience. In my case, I was invited on a press trip to cover a big event of Ketel One Vodka. Their distillery is in Holland and it was celebrating their 325 year anniversary. My Canal cruise was sponsored by Ketel One so we had a private dinner, specialty cocktails etc. For me the highlight was the views. I took so many amazing pictures that day. I truly recommend people to do a canal cruise as well. Great post! You transported me back to this moment back in May 🙂

    • sfox
      Olga Maria – Dreams in Heels
      30th November 2016

      That sounds amazing! A canal cruise has to be the most relaxing way to see the city doesn’t it? Especially if you have cocktails too ha!

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