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A city built on water

Posted on Apr 5, 2011 by

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There is a well known cliché used in many tourist guides where Amsterdam is called the “Venice of the North“. Because of the great number of canals around and inside the city — more than one hundred kilometres in total — they form indeed the soul of Amsterdam.

Most of the canals were built during the 17th century, when the city was undergoing major development.

That’s when the main canal belt (grachtengordel) was designed, consisting of a series of four concentric semi-circular canals around the old city center. They are the Herengracht (translated as “Gentlemens’ Canal“), the Keizersgracht (“Emperor’s Canal”), the Prinsengracht (“Prince’s canal”) and Singel. The area around has been made part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.

The canals are used for navigation (both for personal and commercial purposes), recreational activities (parades) and even for habitation (floating houseboats). It is usual during sunny days to see people going for a boat ride or even a boat-picnic. It’s also usual, but still somewhat strange and funny for me, to see people doing domestic activities on their houseboat, or the postman bringing correspondence to a boat.

In the summer people are swimming in the canals, claiming the water is clean enough — the waters are cleaned three times a week, after all. The best way to admire the intricate network of water ways, the bridges and the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings is by doing a canal cruise.

Until then, here are a few photos to whet your appetite…

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2 Comments

  1. Your pics are fantastic!! It’s been a very long time since I last saw Amsterdam!! But I am determined to visit this Summer!! Might even bring my Boat!!

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