The waterways of Amsterdam

In August 2010, the canal ring area of Amsterdam, with its concentric arc-shaped waterways and numerous historic bridges dating back to the Dutch Golden Age of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was added to the official list of World Heritage monuments by UNESCO.

The canals of Amsterdam are as typical a symbol of the Netherlands as are tulips, windmills and wooden clogs, and have earned the Dutch capital the nickname the 'Venice of the North'. The waterway network was conceived as a huge town planning project in the early seventeenth century, which encompassed residential, trade and defense elements. This was the Golden Age for the country, when economic prosperity was at its height and Amsterdam was the world's commercial centre and focus of scientific and philosophical thought. Dutch art, military and science led the field and the city – whose name literally means 'dam on the Rive Amstel' – was one of the world's most important ports.

Today, the capital of the Netherlands is open and tolerant and combines modernity with a solid historical culture. The Rijksmuseum,  with its fine collection of paintings Vermeer and Rembrandt and other masters, and the Van Gogh Museum, are both world famous. And the beautiful sixteenth- and seventeenth-century architecture of the old town makes the city a delightful and romantic location for a short break.

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Amsterdam canal network
Amsterdam is laid out like a giant spider's web of canals and bridges / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Jaren Cafe, Amsterdam
The Jaren Cafe is just one of numerous cafes that have terraces overlooking the canals / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Amsterdam canal boat
Tourist boats ply their trade on the numerous canals that criss-cross the historical centre of Amsterdam / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Herengracht, Amsterdam
Nocturnal view of the Herengracht canal, one of the three main city-centre canals / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Herengracht, Amsterdam
Herengracht canal flows through one of the most exclusive areas of the city / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Singel and Brouwersgracht canals, Amsterdam
The point at which the Singel – the oldest and innermost of the arc-shaped canals – connects with the Brouwersgracht / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Magere Brug, Amsterdam
Magere Brug – 'thin bridge' – across the River Amstel; the city's name, Amsterdam, means dam on the Amstel / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Melkmeisjesbrug, Amsterdam
Melkmeisjesbrug – 'milkmaids bridge' – by night / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Amsterdam, by bike or boat
Boats and bikes are the best options for getting around Amsterdam / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Canal boat, Amsterdam
Tourist boat painted with the blocks of colour typical of Mondrian, one of the Netherlands' great artists / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Montelbaanstoren tower, Amsterdam
The sixteenth century Montelbaanstoren tower is located between Oude Waal and Oudeschans streets / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board 

Canal skating, Amsterdam
In winter, the frozen canals are a geat attraction for skaters / © Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board