Seeing Amsterdam from the water should be on everyone’s list when a visit is planned. Even if you have lived here for a while and you haven’t done it yet, you should do it, because the view is quite different, it gives you a new perspective over the city, even when you think know it very well. The most popular way to do it from a tourist point of view, is from a canal boat tour, which certainly is nice if you can catch a good spot on the boat. But the best way by far, in my opinion, is on a canal bike (or pedal boat). The canal bikes can be rented for a reasonable price for few hours and the rental company will provide a map of the canals and a quick training session. Then the discovery can begin! When you rent pedal boats in Amsterdam, a few rules of the water will be explained to you by the guide, and it’s a good idea to pay attention, or you could end up caught in some strange situations on the canals. The guide will then leave you to it, and you’ll only share the boat with the people in your group (up to 4 persons per bike).
So, why do I prefer the canal bike over other ways of seeing the city from the water? It has some unique advantages; it can be done on your own pace, there’s nothing blocking the view, you can stop when you find something interesting that you want to have a better look at or take pictures of. Even Geocaching can be done — if you are a fan of this game. These advantages could be provided by a small boat rental too of course, but I, for one, don’t feel confident enough to drive a boat by myself, so I prefer the ease of a pedal boat.
When I decided to embark on a canal bike trip, I was very excited and I knew it would be good, but it honestly exceeded my expectations. This could be due to to the fact that I was lucky enough to get a beautiful, sunny day; one of the few days of real summer in the Netherlands! But no worries if the day you choose for the trip is a less sunny one, with rain always a potential menace in Amsterdam, the bikes can be also provided with rain shields. You will be protected!
Our tour started from Westerkerk (Wester Church), continued to the beautiful Prinsengracht canal until we reached the Norderkerk (North Church) and then we turned the boat on to Brouwersgracht and took the Herengracht way, until we reached the meeting point (I was part of a very cheerful group tour) at Leidseplein. There we made a stop, chilled out with some cold drinks and then we jumped back in to our canal bikes to enjoy the second part of the tour. On the way back I admired Rijkmuseum, Holland Casino and the splendid view on the widest of the Amsterdam canals, Keizersgracht; I also experienced what a water bike traffic jam feels like under a very narrow bridge, and realised that it’s actually rather fun — a similar experience to the electric cars in an amusement park. For the rest of our journey, although it was a busy day on the water with lots of boats of different sizes — considering the fact that the weather was perfect — I can’t say I felt cramped. There was enough space for everybody to enjoy a beautiful day on the water. I totally recommend you put this on your bucket list for Amsterdam, if you haven’t experienced it already!
There are four places where the bikes can be rented: the moorings from Rijksmuseum, Leidseplein, Wester Church (close to Anne Frank House) and Keizersgracht/Leidsestraat; they can be taken from one spot and parked to another. For info about prices, opening hours and group tours, the Canal Bike website is the best place to look.