Suppose you've already visited Venice and loved the way the city wraps itself around the water. In that case, you might want to take a closer look at another city's gorgeous canals. Amsterdam's 'grachten' or canals don't just offer travelers and passersby a great photo-op; they are essential to transportation and integral to the city's makeup, structure, and history. So before you decide on the typical Venice vacation with tons of gondola rides, you might want to tread off the beaten path and explore Amsterdam first. It won't disappoint.
You'll Need Your Hiking Boots To Walk These Canals.
If you choose to walk the length of all the canals in Amsterdam (not impossible but a feat), you better bring great hiking boots- you'll be walking about 62 miles. Amsterdam has a fascinating layout, with its streets that curl around its center in concentric belts around the city, also known as Grachtengordel.
The inner canal ring, which circles Dam Square and is part of one of the three main canals, Prinsengracht, was labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The other two main canals are Herengracht and Keizersgracht, but other minor ones are called Zwanenburgwal and Brouwergracht. There are 1,500 bridges to connect different parts of land in the city, offering some of the best photos.
The canals are one of the most impressive human-made structures in the world. Unlike most of Venice, they are not naturally formed, but they showcase the geniuses of engineering in the 17th century. They were dug in the Dutch Golden Age, between 1585 and 1665, and are a perfect example of excellent urban planning. They inspired many other city ports.
Despite being human-made, there's nothing artificial about the canal district. The canals have come to bear historical and cultural significance throughout the centuries, which is why they are now protected. They have become such an essential part of Amsterdam's identity that it seems like they've always been there. It's as if the first settlers happened upon a perfect mercantile port like London or Paris.
After withstanding four hundred years, the canals have been integrated into both old and new traditions. It hosts Pride celebrations every year along with other, older festivals like de Grachtenfestival. They also offer travelers a means of easy transportation to the 1,550 monuments, landmarks, and museums scattered along the many miles. Among the important sites are Westerkerk, Anne Frank Huis, and Museum van Loon.
In recent decades, Amsterdam's municipality has taken great pains to keep the waters of the canals safe and clean enough for swimmers to participate in the annual Amsterdam City Swim. They fish 15,000 bikes out of the waters every year, have cleaned all the pollution out, and got rid of that horrible smell the "Venice of the North" had a reputation of having for centuries.
It's evident that Amsterdam is a remarkable city, but you don't have to view it through a Monet. You can travel there and experience it for yourself. Just let us know when you want to go, and we'll take it from there.