Celebrating the canals

Denise Mosbach, Thursday, February 21, 2013, 204 Views

Celebrating the canals

They are probably the most famous example of urban expansion in the world and in 2013, they celebrate their 400th anniversary. Denise Mosbach goes on a trip along the Amsterdam canals and shows us how this is celebrated.

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Hitting the town on a Saturday night in Amsterdam is of course very tempting. But trust me when I tell you that you’ll soon forget what you’ve missed when you take out your bike early Sunday morning for a ride along the canals. With the city still sleeping and a watery sun lighting the canal houses, you truly feel the town is all yours.

The history of the canals is closely linked to that of Amsterdam. The city, once nothing but uncultivated marshland, was founded by a handful of farmers and fishermen. However, trade and shipping soon flourished and the population quickly rose. To house the people, to defend the city and to support the lively trade, canals were necessary. This was around 1585 and Amsterdam grew to be the largest port in the world. As a result, more canals were needed and not much later, during the 17th century, the famous canal district became a reality, centred around the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, where wealthy locals built the most beautiful of houses.

All this happened 400 years ago and the canal district, now a named UNESCO World Heritage Site, has some celebrating to do. Expositions worth seeing are ‘Amsterdam on the water’ in the Rembrandthuis and ‘Living on the water’ in the Amsterdam Heritage Museum. June hosts the ‘Open Garden Days’ when people can visit the deep and often beautiful gardens behind the canal houses. And then in August there’s the ‘Composers’ dinner’, the Gay Pride Canal Parade and much, much more...

Want to sleep in style? Then book yourself into one of the beautiful canal hotels like The Grand. Once a monastery this little gem, hidden between the Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Oudezijds Voorburgwal, has been transformed into a stylish design hotel. Alternatively, try the stately Hotel L’Europe, an imposing building on the water where many celebrities preceded you.

The Negen Straatjes are ideal for shopping and lunching and perfectly located for canal hopping. And for the ultimate canal experience why not dine on the only sailing restaurant in town: the Amsterdam Jewel Cruise. Dining in style on an old saloon boat whilst watching the city, with all its remarkable people, go by. The perfect way to celebrate the canals!

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