Thursday, November 10, 2022

Amsterdam's canals offer relaxing time with beauty, intriguing history

In Amsterdam, your canal tour boat will slow down so that you can actually see seven bridges
lined up.  Bruce Keller took this photo at just the right moment, on a recent, beautiful clear day.



Amsterdam tourists and locals alike enjoy an outing
on the city's famous canals, here on a mostly sunny day.



Amsterdam's buildings range from historic and
quaint to contemporary, such as Bimhuis, a music
and concert venue with a docket featuring jazz.

AMSTERDAM'S CANALS are as much a part of its culture as its famous tulips, cheeses, smoke houses, clogs and red light district.

These intricate passages may even trump all those other familiar components of Dutch culture.

To visit Amsterdam and not take a canal ride is unthinkable.

So get yourself down to the water, for an afternoon canal cruise, then perhaps a dinner cruise to enjoy the city's lovely lights. One cannot have too many canal rides. It's just not possible. And if the weather's right -- warm but not too sunny -- there's no better eye candy in Europe then along Amsterdam's picturesque canals.
THE BUSTLING capital of the Netherlands has more than 100 kilometers of grachten or canals within the city. These are part of an intricate network of 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals were dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age.  They form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. We enjoyed the views alongside the main canals, which number more than 1,550 monumental edifices. Among these is the city's Bimhuis, a striking dark box-like music venue which features jazz and a wide-ranging docket of folk music and  classical cello and string quartet concerts -- with much in between those art forms.
Cookie and Keller on the
canals of Amsterdam.

WE FIND the canals so interesting that we took several boat trips during our recent four-day return.  Not only are canal rides relaxing and informative, but being on the water really slows one down. And there's so much to see on the canals of Amsterdam.
Bruce Keller enjoys the sun and views passing
in a boat under one of the city's 1,500 bridges.

Lively city's highlights, click here

On land, we'd tried to see the city's famous "Seven Bridges," which a guide told us could be viewed from one vantage point.  This is true, but that viewing "window" is on water -- not land.  That's why tour boats all slow down there.  Keller was able to capture all seven bridges lined up (see top main photo). A wondrous sight and we were lucky to finally get the shot on a clear, sunny day. On other attempts, the weather was cloudy and it was difficult to see the expanse to the further bridges. We returned for an evening cruise to see the bridges illuminated. That is truly a magical, romantic sight.   
WE ALWAYS enjoy tour commentary. Here we learned:
A canal ride points out sights and offers
an opportunity to relax and enjoy sunshine.

city was founded around 1250 with the building of the "Aeme Stelle Redamme." That's Medieval Dutch for "Dam in a Watery Area," an understatement.

Remembering John, Yoko's visit

The Dam is still the city's heart. But today this former barrier between the River Amstel and the “Southern Sea” is one of the few places in the center of town that you cannot sail a boat to. The last part of the river leading to the dam fell victim to land-traffic in 1922. The street that replaced it called "Damrak," meaning “Last section of the river, leading to the Dam.” Today, a subway line is being built in the old riverbed.
Amsterdam's canals are home to tour boats and house boats.

TO NAVIGATE this beautiful city efficiently and economically, we recommend the "iamsterdam city card" which saved us more than 75 euros at a variety of attractions and on the city's fine public transport system. We didn't begin to touch the range of 70-plus museums, but did enjoy Rembrandt's house, the world class Maritime Museum and Anne Frank family's tiny upstairs apartment where two families bravely hid from the Nazis until they were outed just before the end of World War II. The world famous Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum along with the Frank house which its young Jewish diarist made famous are "must see" stops.
DURING THE Middle Ages, Amsterdam's canals served two purposes.  They were essential to water management, but they were also used for defense. Imposing moats were build inside the walls but eventually lost that function.  Their new purpose was to transport merchandise. The warehouses along the old moats stored huge quantities of trading good.  The enterprising Dutch learned how to move them through those moat-canals to a harbor of ships that sailed all over the world.
Young and old ride bikes in Amsterdam where
that popular transport is a way of life.

Besides seven lined up bridges, Amsterdam's famous
"Seven Sisters" are striking "leaning" buildings on the Amstel.

OUR GUIDES also noted the city's famous coffee shops and smoke houses, with their offerings of cannabis products and pastries. He nodded to many historic buildings and the city's Red Light District.

Something for everyone in Amsterdam 

Canal tours also ground you in the city's neighborhoods, suggesting stopping off points for every taste.  So we returned on foot to explore that famous Red Light District, and shop for the country's fine cheeses and pastries.  Cannabis is legal in Amsterdam, but must be purchased from a certified shop.  We passed this time, but on previous trips sampled wares in cookie form.

THE AMSTERDAM city card offers admission to many attractive locales in the region, including lively Zaanse Schans, with its charming traditional houses and windmills in an open-air museum village setting. We also visited a famous historical maritime museum, Zuiderzee, the Frans Hals Museum and hope to next time visit "New Land," the newest province of the country with fashion outlets.  
Amsterdam is a wonderful city to "cruise" through with the canals bringing an intimate look at life on the water. More information on a canal cruise or to purchase the fine city card:


From left, Omri Schein, Brian Mackey, Angela Chatelain
Avila and John Wells III. Michael Louis Cusimano
rounds out the talented five-person "Baskerville" cast.
BEST BET: Prepare to laugh long and loudly at Lamb's Players Theatre when you book tickets for "Baskerville," just across the bridge from San Diego in Coronado. The fast-paced, 90-minute comedy puts a fresh, funny spin on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Five gifted actors have riotous fun playing 39 characters in this affectionate parody of the intricate plot lines and eccentric characters that mark the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre. It's an inventive, engaging romp for lovers of theater and fans of those engaging Sherlock stories. The quintet of versatile, veteran actors has as much fun as the audience. For tickets: 619 437-6000
The run extends through Nov. 20.

Artist and graphic designer Celeste Barnett
shows off one of her artful creations,
fashioned from an abandoned auto.

UP NEXT: An enterprising Montana woman has created an unusual business that grew from an interest in abandoned cars and other discarded items. "Bonepile Bling" is the creation of Celeste Barnett, who grew up in the Livingston, Montana, area and has followed her father's welding interest and her husband's passion for old cars. Her artful creations are made in her garage shop between  Absarokee and Fishtail, and include jewelry, ornaments, art pieces and a range of other inventive products. We visit her studio and share some of her work and ideas. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on art, music, theater, travel, nature, family and more:
Please share the links and stories with like minded friends, travelers and fellow arts minded people.    


  1. We enjoy your Europe travelogues as we missed being in Rotterdam. Nice piece in the canals and lovely photos.

  2. Fun! The music hall looks lovely, too.