Everything you always wanted to know about the Amsterdam canals
but were too afraid to ask!
Based in the ‘Venice of the North’, we at Pure Boats are of course well accustomed to a whole range of questions pondered and posited by our guests about Amsterdam’s canals! Did you know that in 2010 the canal ring, or the ‘grachtengordel’, was officially recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site?
To honour the magnificent canals which keep us afloat (and just in case there were a couple of questions you were too afraid to ask!) we’ve compiled our favourite myth-busting canal-themed FAQs...
How many canals does Amsterdam have?
There are 165 canals in Amsterdam. The total length combines comes to 75km! There are 1281 bridges that cross the canals in the city…but our favourite has to be what locals refer to as the ‘skinny bridge’, officially the Magere Brug.
How old are the canals in Amsterdam?
The oldest canal is Oudezijds Voorburgwal, which was constructed in 1385!
Do bikes and cars ever fall into the canals?
The dredging of the canals is a common sight in the centre of Amsterdam. On average there are around 10,000 bicycles fished from the canals each year! Unfortunately, some car parking spots are a little close to the edge…so a foot on the wrong pedal or forgetting to leave on your handbrake might land you in a slightly soggy situation!
Is the canal water seawater or freshwater?
The canals of Amsterdam in contain both saltwater and freshwater: the saltwater enters the cities canals via the Noordzeekanaal, which connect Amsterdam with IJmuiden. The fresh water flows from the river Rhine, via the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal.
Do the Amsterdammers swim in the canals?
The canal waters are not the most hygienic of swimming pools! You will see the odd splash in the hotter summer months, but in general, people tend to stick to one of the many cleaner and beautiful swimming spots in the city! However, there is an annual swimming event which takes place throughout the canals of the centre, called Amsterdam City Swim.
How deep are the Amsterdam canals?
The average depth of the canals is 2.6m with a lowest point at 4.5m below sea level. Also, 11 million poles are used to support the city!
Do the canals freeze over every year?
Although it certainly gets very chilly in the winter months here in Amsterdam, the canals completely freezing over each year is a thing of the past. The last time this happened was in 2021, and before that in 2012. From ice skating to ice hockey, the Dutch sure do take advantage of this! People were even spotted with a set of turntables on the ice spinning some records!
What has been found in the canals in Amsterdam?
Although the catch of the day is most certainly bicycles, all sorts — from iPhones to stone blades dating back to between 4200BC and 2000BC — have been found in the depths of the canals. In 2003, two large canals were excavated for the construction of its new metro line. The project Below the Surface (https://belowthesurface.amsterdam/) has catalogued around 700,000 objects that span the 800 years of accidental (or purposeful!) droppings into the canals! Check out their website for more…
How many houseboats are there in Amsterdam?
There are around 2500 houseboats running along the canals of Amsterdam. Check out the Houseboat Museum if you’re curious about their history!
Do cats also enjoy the canals?
Of course! There is a boat just for cats on the Singel canal. The only floating cat sanctuary we can think of, the Poezenboot looks after more than 50 cats! Feel free to stop by and visit them for a quirkier Amsterdam canal-side attraction.