De Amsterdamse Grachtengordel (The Canal Belt of Amsterdam) is one of the most prestigious parts of Amsterdam. The Canal Belt consists of four main canals: Singel, Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal), Keizersgracht (Emperors’ Canal) and Prinsengracht (Princes’ Canal) and has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2010. Together they form concentric belts – hence the name – around the centre of Amsterdam: Dam Square, and around the 13th century old parts of town. The Canal Belt was built during the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Golden Age.
De Grachtengordel truly is unique in the world. The concept, the set up, the façades, gables and atmosphere are what make them so interesting and attractive. The charm of the area is not just created by the four main canals though. The little streets connecting these canals – such as De 9 Straatjes and the Herenstraat and Prinsenstraat – and the many connecting side canals all add to the attractiveness of the area. The best examples of the beauty of these side canals are the Brouwersgracht, Leliegracht, Leidsegracht and Lauriergracht. All with their own unique character. The neighbourhood consists of residential housing, offices, shops, museums, hotels, restaurants and….you name it and it’s there.
A little side step – but a nice to know side step – is that Amsterdam has 165 canals in total, with a total length of 100 km.
Highlights in the Amsterdam Canal Belt
There are really too many highlights in this area to name them all. But okay, I will do my best to name a few. You will find the rest that are worth mentioning, somewhere else on Conscious Travel Guide.
A highlight, or better said a must-do, is to drive or ride on a boat through the canals. Experiencing Amsterdam from the water is a totally different experience than from the road. You get a better view on the canal houses, the atmosphere is different, even though the road is only five metres away and it is a very relaxed way to explore Amsterdam. You can either hop on one of the canal cruise boats and enjoy a guided tour, or you can rent a private boat and drive the boat yourself.
Other highlights include: Anne Frank House, Westerkerk and Westertoren (Western Church and Western Tower), Museum van Loon, Museum Willet-Holthuysen, Foam Photography Museum, The Canal House Museum, Biblical Museum and I am sure that I forget many other highlights. Maybe I can conclude that the Amsterdam Canal Belt is one big highlight by itself?
Worth mentioning as highlights are a few events that return every year and that concentrate around the Canal Belt. Events that are worth a visit when in Amsterdam at the right time: King’s Day on 27 April, Open Garden Days in June, Gay Pride Parade and Prinsengracht Concert – both on Prinsengracht and in August – and Open Monuments Day in September (even though this is a National event and not specific for the Canal Belt).