Canals in Holland

Explore the dutch Canals on your holiday

Sail away to the dutch canals

As children across Europe return to school, it's time for the adults to reclaim the beaches, parks and cities. After all, there can be few things better than halcyon Indian summer days spent strolling along deserted beaches, pottering around sleepy towns and enjoying long, indulgent lunches. Or, for that matter, days mooching along a Dutch canal on a boat or sipping cocktails by one of Amsterdam's iconic canal bridges.

amsterdam canal
Canals in Amsterdam

After a tranquil cross-Channel voyage with Stena Line, you can step ashore in The Netherlands safe in the knowledge that the schools are full and the roads are empty. It's just a short hop to Amsterdam, the 'Venice of the North' with over 100km of canals and 1,500 bridges. The canals are navigated by canal tour boats, water taxis, pedal boats and even canoes, and lined by restaurant boats, houseboats and museum boats.

Amsterdam's 400 year-old canal ring belt was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010, so hiring a boat to meander along the city's watery arteries isn't just great fun but counts as one of your five cultural activities a day too.

dutch canals
Canals in Delft

It's not only Amsterdam that has canals: the Dutch cities of Delft, Utrecht, the Hague and Maastricht all boast beautiful networks of canals, which are best explored in these lazy late summer months. Delft boasts one of the world's oldest canals, the Old Delft line, and was even named after the process of digging a canal ("delven").

If you're not convinced by navigating your own boat (no license or sailing experience is required for boats under 15 metres capable of speeds under 20 kph), hop on a canal tour, where guides will point out historical buildings and explain how Delft locals have built their daily routines around the canals.

utecht canals
Canals in Utrecht

The university city of Utrecht is best viewed from the water to appreciate its grand old wharfside houses and warehouses.

When Utrecht's canals were first dug in the 13th and 14th centuries, the city planners built wharf cellars: spaces beneath the canalside houses and quays alongside the canals. There are still 732 of these ingenious cellars remaining today, many of which have been converted into cosy restaurants and bars as well as artists' studios and boutiques.

maastricht river
River Meuse in Maastricht

Maastricht's most obvious waterway is the river Meuse, and a river cruise is an essential part of a visit to the city, but it also has an impressive network of canals with ancient watermills dotting its banks.

While in The Hague, the best way to get around the river is aboard the Ooievaart, a graceful wooden open boat formerly used by the Dutch King and Queen, which takes you to the Royal Stables and Gardens, the Old Church and former houses of 17th century artists Paulus Potter, Jan Steen and Jan van Goyen.