The Canals

History

The Canals or the Grachten, the waterways of Amsterdam are a marvellous example of excellence in town planning in the early ages. The Canals came into existence in the 17th century when the historic crescent shape of the Amsterdam city centre was designed and implemented that took form of a unique ring of canals. The concentric network of semicircular canals was traversed by a number of narrow streets and canals fanning out from the centre of the crescent.

By the virtue of the number of canals, the city of Amsterdam came to be known as the ‘The Venice of the North’.

There are basically four main city centre canals that include Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. Other smaller canals worth a visit include Brouwersgracht, the Bloemgracht and the Leliegracht.

The Wonder Waterways

Along with being a beautiful sight, these canals solve multiple practical purposes. At a glance:

Initially they were used to drain the land to form homes and farms in place of water. They provide a means of transport for goods from inland regions to the sea. They are home for thousands who live on houseboats. These act as sewers for many houseboats, getting flushed at regular intervals.

If you happen to visit in the extreme winters, the canals freeze and you can actually do some ice-skating on these canals, though global warming has resulted in the canals getting frozen less frequently now. As a matter of fact, the famous Eleven Cities’ Tour in far North Holland has thousands of Dutch men and women visiting, who are adventurous enough to skate 200 kilometres, starting and finishing in Leeuwarden.

Interestingly, this integral part of the Dutch landscape is also regarded by the Dutch as a great conductor of feng shui.

To visit

Such is the popularity of this tourist attraction that some companies actually provide tourists with special services such as the ‘Canal-Bike’ and ‘Canal-Bus’ to explore this beautiful city on water.