A dreamy stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam

amsterdam houseboat rental

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Have you dreamed of staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam?

I always wanted to wake up on the canals, so when we visited the Dutch capital I made sure we did.

And even though I broke every rule of building up expectations and was beyond excited about the experience – our Amsterdam house boat stay was exactly how I imagined.

It was a beautiful way to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam

This is our guide to finding and booking your Amsterdam houseboat stay.

 Amsterdam’s beautiful canals

canal boat amsterdam rental

Amsterdam has its fans for many reasons but for me it is all about those gorgeous canals, art, flowers and coffee. But mostly the canals.

There is something so magical about a city built on or around water that attracts people no matter where they are from.

A few years ago I read  Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist set in and around 17th century Amsterdam’s bustling canals and I’ve been plotting a way to enjoy canal living ever since.


Houseboats of Amsterdam

airbnb amsterdam houseboat

Moored along the canals you will find many beautiful houseboats. It seems like there are thousands of the unique dwellings. Actually, there are actually only 2,400 houseboats allowed in Amsterdam.

This is policed via a permit system. In the central canal system, you find only 750 houseboats. So it really is quite a special experience.

There are two types of houseboat in the city. The first type are older wooden ships converted into dwellings and the second are called house arks and are built on concrete pontoons.

The first type are incredibly romantic however require a lot of maintenance so the house arks are understandably popular.

Tips for finding a house boat rental in Amsterdam

houseboat hotel amsterdam

Would you like to stay on the canals in Amsterdam? No problem!

These days there are many listed on popular booking sites like AirBnB or Booking.com.  But that poses another challenge, which one to choose?

Click here to view the houseboat we stayed in on Booking.com

Location, location, location

Amsterdam is a compact city and the central canals are narrow. As a result, many boats listed on sites like AirBnB and Booking.com are moored in the canals outside of the city centre.

So while you might find a lot of boats listed they may not be in the best area for your stay. Try and book as close to the centre as possible so you can make the most of this beautiful city. 

The best places to stay are on the Prinsengracht canal or the Amstel River. 

If you are staying longer than a few days and are happy to hire bikes and use public transport then the outer canals may suit you better.

best canal amsterdam

Discover quirky amsterdam - click here

Space and facilities

As you will be staying on a narrow boat, do not expect the space and facilities of a luxury 5 star hotel. There is unlikely to be a concierge,  bath or bathrobes.

But what the houseboats lack in amenities, they make up for in charm. Our boat had a lovely terrace and was covered in vases of fresh tulips!

You can expect a small galley style kitchen,  a compact bathroom and cosy sleeping quarters. Although this luxury houseboat looks quite spacious - click here to view

Many of the houseboat listings have floor plans. Make sure to check these out to check if the boat is suitable for your visit.

Staying on a boat with children

We are good swimmers so were not nervous about being on the boat with our children.

If you supervise your kids, the houseboat is very safe and comes with the best live entertainment - local ducks and passing boats to wave at.

However, make sure you check the fine print if travelling with small children.

Some boats are quite particular about the age of children staying on their boats and their ability to swim.

Read more tips on finding the best vacation rentals

Alternative boat accommodation in Amsterdam

If vacation rentals are not your style you can choose a more traditional hotel boat to stay on.

Botel Amsterdam

Three star Botel (boat hotel) Amsterdam is on the IJ river and has a  free 10-minute ferry service to Amsterdam Central Station that runs twice an hour. There is bar on site and breakfast is served daily - click for more information and prices 

Kapitein Anna

The historic 100 year old paddle steamer Kapitein Anna hosts guests in comfortable cabins. You can reach the boat via a short direct ferry ride from the city centre - click for more information and prices

Our house boat on the canals

houseboat stay amsterdam

I say OUR houseboat but of course, it was merely on loan to us for a short while.

We were extremely comfortable on the boat. It was fitted out with everything you could possibly need for a three day stay.

We enjoyed a full-size bed, space for our travel cots and a comfy couch to relax and watch the passing boat and duck traffic.

Our boat also had a sparkling kitchen and bathroom and all the modern conveniences you expect these days such as wifi.

Best of all were all the vases of tulips around the boat and on the deck. I love flowers and these were the perfect homey touch.

houseboat rental amsterdam

My favourite part of the houseboat was the deck. Here we could sit and watch the passing boats and bikes.

Our children loved waving at the tourists on the passing canal boat tours and feeding the ducks.

Amsterdam houseboat rental

The boat actually belongs to a lovely guy called Fake (pronounced Fah-keh) who was an incredible help with our car, kids and luggage.

He has an amazing music collection on vinyl and we spent the afternoons reminiscing to 70s and 80s classics.

Where to find our houseboat rental in Amsterdam

boat accommodation amsterdam

Really we were so lucky. The location of the houseboat was amazing. We were just a few steps from the Anne Frank House and right on the edge of the Jordaan neighbourhood.

Famous for its cafes, galleries and weekly Noordermarkt organic farmers' market, the Jordaan was the perfect neighbourhood for us.

We loved the buzz of the cafes and locals going about their daily lives but it was quiet enough in the evening to enjoy a good night's rest. As it was Easter we woke to the sounds of the bells of the nearby Westerkerk.

We could not have wished for a more atmospheric stay.

Planning a trip to Amsterdam? Learn more about staying in the Jordaan and read this guide to the De Pijp neighbourhood

airbnb amsterdam boat

Recently I wrote about how we like to vary our accommodation choices when we travel.

We have stayed in many unique places over the years. But the experience of staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam was a dream come true.

I will remember our quiet afternoons watching the world go by from the deck and lounge of that houseboat for many years to come.

If you don't manage to stay on a houseboat you can learn more about them at Amsterdam's houseboat museum. Or simply enjoy looking at these unique city dwellings.

Don't forget to wave at the kids on the boats!

This post contains affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. 

As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own based on personal experience.

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97 thoughts on “A dreamy stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam

  1. Claire says:

    I didn’t know there was a houseboat museum! I really wanted to stay on one of these when I was in Amsterdam, couldn’t get one for the time we were there but they look amazing. I’m a sucker for any kind of alternative accomodation!

  2. Corinne says:

    I’ve read about this time and time again, and now this is the final straw….I am going to have to book a trip and a houseboat in Amsterdam. LOL. No, I really, really want to do this and you make it sound so fun. My kind of thing!

  3. Pinay Flying High says:

    That is so lovely! I’ve never expected for the house boats to be that modern inside! I thought it would be like a shack or something. So cute of your children sitting by the porch but I also felt a bit scared for them as there were no railings. Lol. I’m definitely going to consider this next time we go to Amsterdam, I hope we get one with a good location as well. 🙂

    • Katy says:

      I think you can also get really fancy houseboats. We liked this one as it was so cosy. Our kids are good listeners but I was still ready to jump into the canal if I had to fish them out! c

  4. eileen g says:

    What a cool and fun experience. I can understand why some boat owners don’t want small kids. I would definitely be worried about them falling off in the picture above! Thanks for the idea. I would totally try it!

  5. Ria says:

    I have been in Amsterdam couple times but never stayed in boathouse? But be honest was intrested and curious how looks the houses inside? I would love to stay in such house on my next trip, like seems you had really good time ? and pictures looks so inspiring? #WeekendWanderlust

  6. Amanda - EatWorkTravel says:

    We were only in Amsterdam for a quick layover and we really want to return and staying in a houseboat there is a “must do” for us. Looks like you had an awesome time and your location was perfect! The tulips were a nice touch as well. Thanks for linking up with #weekendwanderlust

    • Katy says:

      It really was the perfect Amsterdam experience Amanda and I’d do it all again! Hope to see your houseboat post soon 🙂

  7. Erin Klema | The Epicurean Traveler says:

    What a dream European-vacation wish come true! I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple times, and it is one of my favorite cities. The canals are so charming, and I’ve definitely been that tourist on a canal boat tour. Next time I’d like to stay on a houseboat for totally different and unique experience. Since you were so close to the Anne Frank House, I imagine you visited it. I found it to be a very worthwhile activity both times I was in the city. Oh, and the art! I thoroughly enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum, but I still need to check out the Rijksmuseum.

    • Katy says:

      Hi Erin – thanks for your lovely comment. Unfortunately we didn’t go inside the Anne Frank house. I would have liked to but I didn’t think it was appropriate for my kids – they are a bit little. We did got to the Rijksmuseum though (fabulous!) – so next time I’ll be sure to visit the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank house. So much to do and see. I loved Amsterdam

  8. Ruth says:

    Oh yes! I would love to stay in a houseboat. When I visited Amsterdam, I took so many picture of the houseboats. They were one of my obsessions there.

  9. annette @afrenchcollection says:

    I haven’t been to Amsterdam but when I visited Brugge I loved the many canal boats moored along the inner town canals. My children all immediately said they would be very happy to live on a canal boat. They look so romantic, especially when you walk along the canals in the dark.

    • Katy says:

      Ooh Annette, Brugge is another place I’d love to stay on a houseboat! You have got me thinking now… thanks for the idea and dropping by

  10. Katie says:

    I am a big fan of Amsterdam, but I haven’t yet tried a houseboat. I think my favorite part would also be the deck. How nice to stay on the water for a few nights. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Sam | North East Family Fun says:

    I would LOVE to stay in a houseboat some day – especially in Amsterdam. What a unique way to get a feel for a city 😀

  12. Ahila says:

    Sounds like such a wonderful experience, Katy. I love being on water so would definitely enjoy being on a houseboat in Amsterdam. Have bookmarked this for my next visit to Amsterdam.

  13. Smidge says:

    I’ve been to Amsterdam many times, but have never stayed on a boat. I love the sound of the records, Ill be checking this boat out 🙂

  14. aandj8804 says:

    That looks like such a fun and unique experience. I didn’t know houseboating was a thing in Amsterdam. Plus that sunset shot over the water! Swoon! 🙂

  15. Trish @ Mum's Gone To says:

    What a find – it’s gorgeous! I didn’t expect it to look so bright and modern inside. Will need to return to Amsterdam to try this out – and to think we just had a boring hotel!

  16. WanderMum says:

    An amazing experience! It looks lovely inside too, not how I’d expect a houseboat to look. Very good location too. Glad you all had fun. How old were your boys? Was it a good age to do it do you think? #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      It was just fantastic. I like to choose quirky accommodation. Makes the trips we do a little more special. The children were 2.5 and were brilliant. They are you’d listeners and my hubby was on standby to jump in after them if needed. Oh me too of course haha

      • WanderMum says:

        Haha, thanks goodness you didn’t need to. Great to re-read this for #farawayfiles. I’d like to stay on a houseboat one day. I think it would be really fun!

  17. Global Locavore says:

    I loved seeing your family having a good time and hearing about the kids waving & feeding the ducks! So charming. I’ve never been to Amsterdam (gasp!) but I can definitely see myself wanting to stay in a houseboat when I do.

    • Katy says:

      I hope you find a lovely houseboat to stay on Kit. Backpacking was fun but I like that I can do this type of trip with my family

  18. mmlittlee says:

    This must be my favourite post while #citytripping! Thank you so much for sharing this because I will so convince my husband to do this should we travel to Amsterdam! While I read I kept wondering if you loaned it from a friend or can this be booked like a regular hotel. Ah! AirBnB! I will surely surely keep this in mind!

  19. oregongirlaroundtheworld says:

    I don’t want to pin this because I don’t want anymore competition for this amazing stay! How cool is that. I could completely get behind a houseboat stay. Looks awesome. Thanks for the idea. Cheers from Copenhagen! Erin #CityTripping

    • Katy says:

      Ha ha. It was indeed an awesome experience. There are quite a few houseboats for rent but I do think we hit the jackpot with this one

  20. Elizabeth says:

    We also stayed in a houseboat in Amsterdam and I thought it really added to the experience. We live in the Netherlands but wanted to have time to do all the fun stuff in Amsterdam without worrying about getting home. I now reccomend it to everyone who is headed to Amsterdam. My boys loved feeding a group of Swans that would come to the boat in the morning! #CityTripping

  21. MummyTravels says:

    I would absolutely love to do this – I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple of times, and have always fancied this but haven’t managed to yet. On our last visit, I did actually eye a couple up but as my daughter was two (albeit almost three), I decided I’d probably spend the whole trip in terror of her falling overboard. But next time, I think this is a must – and Amsterdam is such a great city, I never tire of going back. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  22. Bumble Bee Mum says:

    What a unique experience!! This will definitely be on my to-do list if I visit Amsterdam!! #CityTripping

  23. fifi + hop says:

    This is sooo great! Sounds (and looks) absolutely fabulous! I’m sure the kids had a hay day. Love the part about listening to the old vinyls in the afternoons – sounds like perfection to me. #citytripping

  24. Vlad says:

    It would be hard not to be excited, my favorite part about Amsterdam was also the canals so I would LOVE it if I stayed in a houseboat. I’m actually considering going again so thanks for the tip, I’ll look into houseboats 😀

  25. Mandy says:

    This sounds like so much fun! This is why I love reading blogs – I would never have though of staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam and would certainty never have expected them to be quite stylish and lovely. This must be a great way to get to the museums super early and beat queues.

    • Katy says:

      Actually Mandy I did get this idea from another blog I read ages ago. It stuck in my mind for a long time. I do think this boat was a bit special. Fake, the owner, was so lovely and friendly. And of course the position was unbeatable!

  26. Tracy McConnachie Collins says:

    Love the idea of staying on a houseboat! It looks like fun and its something different! Amsterdam is one of those cities that is always a good idea! I never need an excuse to keep visiting! #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      I have to admit I didn’t have the best experience the first time I went but this time was brilliant and I would love to go again soon. I keep thinking about that houseboat!

  27. feetdotravel says:

    I read this post with a big happy smile on my face because I was able to imagine how lovely it was to stay on a quaint houseboat in Amsterdam – the King of Canals (in my opinion!). We have been to Amsterdam 9 times and stayed all over but never on a houseboat, I neeeeeed to do that!! We stayed on the Botel which is an ex-cruise ship turned into a hotel and that was a lovely experience, but this is so much more personal! We have stayed twice in the Anne Frank region and it’s so lovely and within walking distance of Dam Square which is always nice. I’m pinning this for future reference as I want to return to Amsterdam for a 10th time as there are STILL things we haven’t done yet!! #FarawayFiles

  28. Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me) says:

    The Jordaan’s such a beautiful area of Amsterdam. I love the fact that it’s relatively quiet, but very central. Staying on a houseboat would be a fantastic experience, but I’m going to wait till the kids are a bit older and can swim! #FarawayFiles

  29. Topsy Turvy Tribe says:

    What a fabulous and quirky place to stay. The houseboat looks so comfortable and just fantastic for people watching. I think we’ll wait until the boys are a little older. I’d be a bit concerned for their safety but looks as though yours had a great time! #farawayflies

  30. Wandermust Mummy says:

    How fun – I hadn’t thought about doing this with kids but looks like you had a great time. #farawayfiles

    Ps If you have done a city break with a baby and would like to be involved in a collab post let me know

  31. Amanda Afield says:

    What a unique place to stay! I had no idea that you could stay on the house boats in Amsterdam, if we go back I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for sharing. #farawayfiles

  32. Hilary says:

    We recently stayed in the Jordaan neighborhood and loved it! Amsterdam was such a wonderful city I hope to go back someday and I’ll definitely be considering a houseboat next time! Lovely photos!! #Farawayfiles

  33. afamilydayout says:

    I think this sounds like a perfect place to stay! Very in keeping with the locals. We visited Amsterdam with the kids a couple of years back and were pleasantly surprised how family friendly it was. The place that stood out for me was Artis Zoo – we wouldn’t normally rush to visit a zoo on a city trip but the kids wanted to and it was a great choice.

  34. Danielle says:

    Love this!!! We stayed on a houseboat in Amsterdam in April and had an awesome time! Thank you so much for sharing this (now I want to go back ?)! #farawayfiles

  35. Ali May says:

    A fantastic #FarawayFiles addition! What an amazing experience. I love that your host provided tulips on the boat, just in case you weren’t experiencing enough Dutch culture in one trip! And what a location too. I’m pinning this one for later 🙂

  36. Kat says:

    I never knew that tourists could rent a houseboat – have always assumed that only locals could stay in houseboats. But I guess it works the same as renting an apartment from a local thru AirBnB. Love the pics and yeah, it’s a dream come true! 🙂

  37. Clare Thomson says:

    Visiting again from #FarawayFiles. Just finished reading The Miniaturist – yet another reason to put Amsterdam back at the top of my travel wishlist.

  38. daisythebus says:

    Excellent. I do love travel inspiration based on a good book (or books). And, of course, Amsterdam is an utterly unique place, and what better way to experience it than from a rather unique form of accommodation. Great inspiration – thanks! #farawayfiles

  39. Wave to Mummy says:

    This looks absolutely incredible! I have always wanted to stay on a houseboat, and doing that in Amsterdam would be just so beautiful… I am a bit scared of taking my child on one though – she is a bit nutty… So I’ve never properly even considered it. #farawayfiles

    • Katy says:

      When we went it was still quite cold so we didn’t spend too much time outside. Instead we stayed snuggly warm and safe inside the boat and watched the passing traffic. It’s a great experience. Thanks for stopping by

  40. Harry says:

    What a beautiful place! I can’t wait to go to Amsterdam in the half term. Just saying, you take amazing photos-any tips(I’m awful)!

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Harry for your lovely compliment about my photos. After taking several 1000 each trip I hope I am getting better. The main thing is to focus on the light – finding as much natural light as possible. Then I like to frame my shots. You can google – rule of thirds too which is a key photography technique. Have fun in Amsterdam!

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