Amsterdam’s canals are a world-famous tourist attraction, and canal cruises are a popular way to explore them. But you might have wondered how many there are, when they were built, whether they’re safe for swimming and many other questions. Here are some things about the Amsterdam canals you might not know!

1. Combined, the Amsterdam canals are over 100 kilometers long (that’s 60 miles).

2. Official record says there are 165 canals in Amsterdam.

3. There are more than 1,700 bridges in Amsterdam. For comparison, that’s 1,300 more than there are in Venice! Many of these bridges can open to let tall ships pass. Around 80 of these bridges are located in the historic canal ring.

4. Amsterdam canals separate the city of Amsterdam into 90 different islands.

5. Some locals actually live in houseboats on the canals of Amsterdam! There are around 3,000 houseboats in Amsterdam. A famous one is the Poezenboot, a local non-profit cat shelter with gift shop which you can find on the Singel.

6. Most of the Amsterdam canals were built in the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age.

7. The Dutch love to cycle and there are more than 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. But some people can be a bit reckless with them, so every year, more than 10,000 bicycles are fished out of the canals.

8. Although it’s not recommended because of hidden hazards below the surface of the water (like bikes), people do sometimes swim in the murky Amsterdam canals. In fact, there is an annual fundraising event called Amsterdam City Swim in which people dive into some Amsterdam canals to raise money for charity. In 2012, Queen Máxima (then Princess of the Netherlands) participated in the Amsterdam City Swim.

9. The city of Amsterdam got its name from the river Amstel, which runs through the city and is crossed by the famous Skinny Bridge, and the dam that was built in the river. Today the location of that original dam is the city centre Dam Square. 

10. The historic canal belt (‘Grachtengordel’ in Dutch) is one of twelve UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in the Netherlands.

What to visit in Amsterdam

If you are interested in learning about what to visit in Amsterdam besides the historic canals, you can take a look at our previous blogs covering attractions, museums and day trips. Or you can visit one of our shops in the city to get some in person help. But if you already know what you want to visit and do in Amsterdam, you can find all sorts of cheap tickets on Tours & Tickets!