Rent a Boat in Amsterdam and Explore the Canals
Boat rental in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s attractive boat-filled canals twist beneath stone bridges and past gabled townhouses, hiding cobbled lanes filled with fashionable boutiques, galleries and a thriving restaurant scene. Rent a private boat from Amsterdam Noord, Centrum or Oost to fully explore the watery veins of the city by sloop, private canal boat rental, or an eco-friendly electric motorboat.
Serious boaters can arrive (or depart) Amsterdam’s canal-laced centre without ever leaving the water, sailing the River Vecht from Utrecht or the lengthy scenery of the North Sea Canal as trade ships worldwide would once have done during Amsterdam’s Golden Age.
Hiring a boat in Amsterdam
Booking a boat trip in Amsterdam is easy enough for anyone, as most small canal rental boats and electric boats can be hired without a license, so you can be the captain. For those wanting to sit back and enjoy the ride, you can hire a professional skipper across any Amsterdam canal boat rental: restaurant boats for 50 people, motor yachts for 20, sightseeing cruises with beer, and romantic evening trips with a sparkling drink in hand.
Once the anchor is up, your rental boat can be steered along the UNESCO-listed, beautiful canals stretching across much of the city centre, taking in the parks of Westerpark, the ornate City Hall, The Westerkerk church, and the stunning Prinsengracht from the water.
There are plenty of anchorages, mooring options, and overnight marinas at iconic locations like the Maritime Museum and the Central Station. And boats rented by the hour are typically available in most central locations, making pick up and drop off uncommonly convenient wherever you’re staying in Amsterdam.
Explore Amsterdam by renting a boat
When you think of Amsterdam, you probably think of the canals. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, they absolutely cannot be missed for viewing during your boat trip in Amsterdam. Cruising along the Prinsengracht, you will pass the Anne Frank House, the world-famous building where Anne was hidden in the secret annex during World War II.
There is also plenty to see on the Amstel, think the Hermitage, Carré and the Amstel hotel. The Red Light District, known as the ‘red light district’, cannot be missing from your cruise. Cruise past Hotel De L’Europe over Rokin and Grimburgwal to Oudezijds Voorburgwal to see the Red Light District from the water.
You have a perfect view of the A’DAM tower and the EYE film museum from the IJ. You can also see the cruise ships coming to Amsterdam from here. Even if you can only come for a weekend, a trip on the water is a must, as you can see hundreds of city sights in relatively little time.
A “float and dine” experience is perhaps one of the most romantic ways to see the city by night, sipping champagne and eating deliciously prepared food. At the same time, the atmospherically lit mansions provide a backdrop. A rawer option is to jump aboard a party boat for oysters, unlimited drinks and a silent disco under the sun.
Kings Day is particularly busy for Amsterdam boat rentals, with flotillas of orange t-shirts and balloons filling every inch of the canals. It seems like the whole of North Holland is taking a canal cruise that day – with everyone in orange – a beautiful sight.
And while the canals are busier than usual during Amsterdam Pride, the boats are decorated with colourful rainbow garlands. Many tours adjust their route to include historical and cultural facts about the local LGBTQ+ community, making it a wonderfully inspiring time to discover Amsterdam at its most inclusive.
Best areas to hire a boat in Amsterdam
Whether you’re on a weekend break to see Amsterdam central station and the city’s main sights or a weeklong journey to see every little detail of the city, boat hire is prevalent.
Amsterdam Centrum is characterised by breathtaking architecture, many of the city’s best restaurants and its most charming streets. Plenty of hotels and Airbnb options in towering townhouses are available here, too, making Amsterdam Centrum an ideal spot for full-day boat rentals.
Renting a boat in Amsterdam Oost comes with the pleasure of some of Amsterdam’s best-known cultural sights, like the Tropenmuseum and The Hermitage Museum. But if your feet are missing dry land, a picnic in Amsterdam’s first public park – Oosterpark – would make a perfect end to the day.
Westerpark is one of Amsterdam’s greenest boroughs, with the eponymous Westerpark taking up a huge chunk of the area. Still, it’s also an ideal option for boaters searching for Amsterdam’s iconic architecture, as many of those iconic red brick buildings line Westerpark’s streets.
De Wallen (Red Light District)
Renting a boat in the red light district allows exploration of one of Amsterdam’s oldest and perhaps most iconic neighbourhoods from the water.
De Wallen’s streets and canals are particularly interesting to architecture and culture lovers, as it’s full of beautifully preserved churches such as De Oude Kerk – the oldest building in Amsterdam- and quirky cultural institutions and excellent bars, breweries and cafes.
Types of boats to hire
Boat rentals on an Amsterdam canal revolve around small pleasure crafts fit for navigating the tight coil of canals that crisscross the city’s centre. You won’t find many speedboats or larger boat types as, for preserving the UNESCO-listed canals and the comfort of houseboats, boat owners and barges, speed limits are tightly controlled, and larger crafts are generally restricted to the bay.
Classic Salon boats
These luxurious classics are perfect for groups searching for a way to see the vintage beauty of Amsterdam from an equally vintage vessel. They can be booked with smaller groups for sit-down dinners and lunches, making them perfect for work outings, receptions and group tours.
Most saloon boat classics have been overhauled with an electric boat engine, but one or two have working 19th-century steam engines perfect for a classically-themed day on the canals.
Several unique offerings for smaller groups, many dating to the early 20th century, with covetable wood-panelled designs drawing eyes as you sail along with the sights.
Amsterdam has a small collection of former lifeboats, repurposed into pleasure crafts with electric engines and knowledgeable tour guides, that are perfect for tours of the major attractions. Many have onboard bars for anyone desiring a Dutch beer or two.
These charming old Tugs have been converted into party boats for group travel. They generally come with a chatty skipper and helpful crew and unlike many smaller boats, they are licensed to sail on the IJ: Amsterdam’s busy waterfront.
Do you need a licence to hire a boat in Amsterdam
You do not need a boating license for electric boats and small rental boats in Amsterdam. You’ll only need a boating license if you plan on renting a boat that is longer than 15m and can exceed a speed of 20 kilometres an hour.
But a licensed boat is unnecessary as all of central Amsterdam’s speed limits clock in at under 10km an hour.
For larger and faster vessels, you’ll need a small watercraft licence (Klein Vaarbewijs). At the same time, residents of the EU, the UK and other non-EU countries will require an ICC (International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft).
Best times to hire
The summer, particularly July and August, is the busiest time to hire a boat in Amsterdam, with long, warm days making the scenic waterways busy throughout the season. Like much of northwest Europe, the shoulder seasons are marred by bouts of rain but interspersed with languid, summery days extending well into October.
But this makes the best time for sightseeing as the canals are less busy, freeing up valuable space to explore the sights.
Boat hire is available year-round, even in winter, with covered and heated options available when the weather gets chilly, allowing you to sail in comfort even when a thin, beautiful lacquer of snow colours Amsterdam’s cobbles and gables.
How much does it cost to hire a boat?
Most Amsterdam boat hire comes with an hourly fee of around €50/ hour, with dynamic fees for longer rentals. Eco-boats and simple canal boats are the cheapest, while some city-wide rentals are as small as €79 for three hours.
Larger canal motorboats and sloops typically have longer minimum rental times and range from €135 to €480 for a two-hour rental.
Large luxury and classic salon boats tend to be the most expensive as prices are often around €760 for two hours, but they come with seats enough for 20+, making them an economical option if your group is big enough.
Boating rules in Amsterdam
If you want to cruise in Amsterdam, consider local boating regulations.
The maximum sailing speed is six kilometres per hour except for the Kostverlorenvaart, the Oosterdok, the Nieuwe Herengracht and the Amstel (in the direction of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel). A maximum speed of 7.5 kilometres per hour applies here.
- Always sail starboard (right).
- Is your boat smaller than 20 metres? Always give way to longer boats.
- Never tie your boat to trees, bridge railings, lampposts or bicycle racks.
- You are not allowed to moor in places where it is forbidden to do so.
- Make sure you do not moor near stairs or a lifeboat rope. These are meant for people to get out of the water.
- Make sure you do not cause a nuisance to residents. This includes not playing amplified music on the boat and not shouting.
- As on the road, boat drivers are not allowed to drink alcohol or use drugs.
The municipality may decide to close the canals to boats between 00:00 and 07:00 so that residents can get a normal night’s sleep.