The Grand Boat Tour offered by the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand, is a private cruise on a classic saloon boat in or around Amsterdam. It was for me the perfect introduction to the city of Amsterdam. Leaving the Grand Hotel at 10:30 a.m., we sailed over the narrowest canals of the old Amsterdam area 'de Jordaan' and through the heart of the red-light district with its canal-side houses. The cruise lasted for one and a half hour and I paid Euro 38 for the trip. There were only four more guests onboard with me. The concierge had advised me to book the tour in advance since it often got filled up quickly. Here is a brief overview of the tour.
1. But coffee first
I strongly believe that all good things start and end with coffee, and during the Grand Boat Tour, even before we had started the cruise, the Captain served us coffee and macarons!
2. The Bulldog No. 90
As soon as we started cruising, we passed The Bulldog No. 90, the first coffeeshop in Amsterdam's Red Light District area, which also laid the benchmark for the contemporary coffeeshop.
3. Venice of the North
Amsterdam with its canals, houses built on water and use of boats as an extended means of transportation is also sometimes referred to as Venice of the North, much to the disappointment of Amsterdammers I guess!
4. Dancing houses
The houses along the canals were built for the wealthy merchants and served as both homes and offices. Since the soil was so soggy, they had to be built on stilts, causing them to wobble and sink into the river, so that they now appear leaning forwards or sidewards, and are often referred to as dancing houses of Amsterdam.
5. 165 Canals
Amsterdam has 165 canals that combined together run over 100 kilometers. The Canal Ring became part of the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
6. The first wall of Amsterdam
In the Middle Ages, Amsterdam was surrounded by walls to defend the city against attacks. The walls were eventually demolished in the 19th century, but remains can still be seen while cruising the canals.
7. Parking at Fietsflat, near Centraal Station
Fietsflat is the floating building for parking bicycles that can be seen from a boat tour of the canals. In order to deal with the massive numbers of bicycles that are parked around the Central Station, the city had to make special bicycle parking facilities like this building.
8. The Zuiderkerk
The Zuiderkerk was the first Protestant Church to be built in Amsterdam between 1603 to 16011 and was painted by Claude Monet 13 times during his visits to the Netherlands.
9. St. Nicolaaskerk
St. Nicolaaskerk, also called the the Church of Saint Nicolas, is a unique amalgamation of Neo- Baroque, neo-Renaissance and traditional Dutch architecture, and is one of the most splendid structures in Amsterdam. It was built in the late 19th century.
There are about 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam and some of them are more than a century old. They are mostly residential but houseboat hotels and rentals are also available for tourists. You can even visit a Houseboat Museum to see how life is on a houseboat.
11. The Skinny Bridge or the Magere Brug
The Captain told us the following story about the Skinny Bridge. It was built by two wealthy sisters who lived on opposite sides of the Amstel river and wanted to be able to visit one another every day (and were presumably too busy, or not in good enough health, to go the long way round via another bridge). In one variant of the story the sisters, although wealthy, were not quite wealthy enough to afford a bridge of adequate width for general use and so built a very narrow bridge, hence its name.
12. The Hermitage
The Hermitage Amsterdam is a branch museum of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia, located on the banks of the Amstel river in Amsterdam. The museum is located in the former Amstelhof, a classical style building from 1681. The structure opened in 1682 as a retirement home for elderly women.
13. The Bag Museum or the Tassen Museum
The Bag Museum is a museum devoted to historic handbags, purses and suitcases. The museum's collection includes 4,000 items dating back to the 16th century.
14. The Dutch National Opera & Ballet
The Dutch National Opera & Ballet is a modern, custom-built stage for traditional & innovatively staged opera & ballet performances.
15. Hoofdstad Brasserie
At the end of the tour we reached the Hoofdstad Brasserie, a bright, cosmopolitan and elegant restaurant that serves sumptuous breakfast in the morning and light international cuisine for lunch and dinner. Overlooking the Amstel River and the historic city centre of Amsterdam, you can enjoy eating here while taking in spectacular views of Amsterdam.
Read my post on 10 things to do in Amsterdam.