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Amsterdam Canals

Flying into Amsterdam you could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking down on the film set of a Star Wars movie. The geometric, radiating belts that you see are defined by the 8 main canals that give Amsterdam its nickname of “Venice of the North.” With over a hundred kilometres of canals, spanned by more than 1,500 bridges the label is most fitting. Oh yes, it also contains around 90 islands! One of them, Java Island is man-made and was completed in 1995.
The canals were built in the 17th century, during what is regarded by the Dutch as their “Golden Age.” The first, oldest and innermost, the Singel, however dates back to 1480, when it was actually a defensive moat that protected medieval Amsterdam. Along with the Singel there are seven other major canals in the city of today.
Four of these, the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, were put on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. They also frame the precincts of the city centre. The buildings, mansions and property lining the banks of these four major canals are prime property, exclusive areas and very beautiful. Many of them date from the glory days of the Dutch.
The good burghers of Amsterdam have created some ostentatious homes along these waterways that have lovely inner gardens and old-style coach houses. One of these posh areas is called the Golden Bend. Streets in these areas are frequently recognised for their beauty.
Several of Amsterdam’s better known buildings can be found around these four major canals. They include Anne Frank’s House, Westerkerk (the tallest church in town) and the Homomonument (Gay Monument!) The canals also bear testament to the city’s past activities.
It was a major textile centre and port of destination for the Dutch merchant navy and the Dutch East India Company bringing their cargoes of spice, silks and other exotic products.   Many of those warehouses have become high-priced homes and apartments. Oh yes! It wouldn’t be Amsterdam if there no houseboats. Some of the loveliest and picturesque houseboats on the European continent can be found on these waterways.
With so much history, beauty and attractions lining the canals it is no wonder that cruises and hop-on-hop-off tours along them are popular. Where other countries indulge in street processions and cavalcades for visiting dignitaries, Amsterdam takes them on a cruise. Three million passengers a year attest to the fact that Amsterdam is best seen from the deck of a canal cruiser.

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  1. comment by: Museum Het Grachtenhuis on Aug 02 at 09:57

    Thank you for the article!
    Like to have a 24/7 live view on the Amsterdam Canals?!page/247-live/webcam-en

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