Being an integral part of their municipalities, canals directly influence their surroundings, giving each city a unique and distinct personality.
For over 1000 years, the Dutch have been digging canals for transportation, irrigation and drainage. In addition, the outer canals around the city served as a defense against the outside. The canals today are still vital for all kinds of local upkeep and transport.
The development of canal cities was closely tied to the digging of valuable streams. The ground that was dug up when creating the canals was often used to raise the bordering streets, where merchants’ houses were built. In the second half of the 19th century, many canals lost their purpose and were filled in to create more space for traffic and for better hygiene.
Part of the canals are often used as living space, with the use of houseboats. Some of these can be rented for overnight stays (usually 3 night minimum). Amsterdam alone has about 2.500 floating homes.
Many, if not all, of the Dutch towns with canals offer boat tours. There is a wide variety of 1 hour highlights cruises with audio guide, small open boats with personal guides, hop-on hop-off cruises (like the busses) and even lunch or dinner cruises. In both Amsterdam and Utrecht you can also find the pedal boats in the canals.
The most beautiful canals you can find in Utrecht, Delft, Leeuwarden, Amsterdam, Leiden, Den Bosch, Groningen, Gouda, Dordrecht and Alkmaar. Though, there are countless other beautiful towns with beautiful canals, too many to mention. You will see a selection of these towns and their canals during your multiple day cycling tour with Holland bike Tours.
The Absolute winner in the Netherlands when it comes to canals is the small town of Giethoorn, "the Venice of the North". This town consist of bike paths, walk paths and canals. Watch a short video about the canals in Giethoorn: