A dreamy stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam

A dreamy stay on a houseboat in AmsterdamThis article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info

Have you ever dreamed of staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam? I always wanted to wake up on the canals when I visited the city and just recently we did it! I broke every rule of building up expectations.  I was extremely excited about this experience.  And I was not let down. It was a beautiful way to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam.

 The romance of Amsterdam’s canals

Amsterdam houseboat rental - easier than you think

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

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.

boat accommodation Amsterdam | stay on the canals

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.

Our Amsterdam houseboat

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 which is fitted out with everything you could possibly need for your 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.

Inside an Amsterdam housboat

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 in 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 4 other Amsterdam neighbourhoods

Amsterdam houseboat - views from our houseboat in Amsterdam

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.

Amsterdam house boat rental

Would you like to stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam? No problem!

A quick search of AirBnB or Booking.com will give you some amazing options for renting a houseboat on Amsterdam’s canals.

If you are interested in the houseboat we stayed in, you will find it on Booking.com. You can read more reviews of the houseboat on TripAdvisor.


Amsterdam houseboat: what it is like to stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam

Some boats are quite particular about the age of children staying on their boats and their ability to swim. Make sure you check the fine print if travelling with small children.

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!

Amsterdam houseboat rental - citybreak in Amsterdam

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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  1. 21st April 2016 / 2:18 PM

    What a brilliant idea! I love the more quirky places to stay and this feels like one of those quintessential Amsterdam experiences. I’ve got to do it.

    • 21st April 2016 / 8:53 PM

      Thanks Clare. It was such a fantastic experience. I want to go again!

  2. 22nd April 2016 / 8:18 PM

    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!

    • 28th April 2016 / 9:56 AM

      Maybe next time Claire? It was such a great thing to do and I would definitely stay on one again.

  3. 23rd April 2016 / 7:39 PM

    What a fun opportunity! It’s great you were close to so many things in Amsterdam. Thanks for the heads up on AirBnB, it’s great to know how you can make this possible.

    • 23rd April 2016 / 7:49 PM

      thanks Brooke! Glad you found it useful. I was so excited to find this houseboat x

  4. 24th April 2016 / 11:40 AM

    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!

    • 24th April 2016 / 1:23 PM

      Damn it Corinne, so sorry to force your hand on this one! I promise you will it regret it.

  5. 24th April 2016 / 4:40 PM

    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. 🙂

    • 25th April 2016 / 3:49 PM

      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

  6. 26th April 2016 / 8:28 PM

    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!

    • 26th April 2016 / 9:34 PM

      thank Eileen, it is really a wonderful experience

    • 27th April 2016 / 8:42 AM

      Thanks for stopping by Eileen!

  7. 29th April 2016 / 6:06 PM

    We’ve stayed in a house boat for a night only and it was a very simple one, but it was stunning. We will definitively do it again! #wkendtravelinspiration

  8. 2nd May 2016 / 3:17 AM

    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

    • 2nd May 2016 / 8:12 AM

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment Ria. It was an amazing trip

  9. 14th May 2016 / 3:52 PM

    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

    • 14th May 2016 / 4:25 PM

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

  10. 14th May 2016 / 9:36 PM

    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.

    • 15th May 2016 / 12:38 PM

      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

  11. 15th May 2016 / 5:31 AM

    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.

    • 15th May 2016 / 12:35 PM

      Love it – I think I have a 1000 photos of houseboats! Not a bad obsession to have though

  12. 15th May 2016 / 12:46 PM

    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.

    • 15th May 2016 / 2:04 PM

      The deck is definitely the best place for people watching! Thanks for stopping by!

  13. 15th May 2016 / 8:03 PM

    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.

    • 16th May 2016 / 2:54 PM

      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

  14. 2nd August 2016 / 8:21 AM

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

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:02 AM

      Do it! So much fun ?

  15. 2nd August 2016 / 9:22 AM

    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.

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:03 AM

      I loved this experience Ahila. We really felt like part of the city

  16. 2nd August 2016 / 9:27 AM

    I’d love to be able to go on a houseboat. I haven’t done so since I was quite young. Amsterdam seems like the perfect destination for it too #citytripping

  17. 2nd August 2016 / 9:42 AM

    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 🙂

    • 3rd August 2016 / 8:57 AM

      Fake’s record collection was so cool. I’d go back in a heart beat!

  18. 2nd August 2016 / 11:30 AM

    I am SO doing this the next time I go to Amsterdam!! This is an awesome way to experience the town! Too bad it’s docked! #CityTripping

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:06 AM

      So much fun. Even better when sunny I expect. I can see myself lounging on the deck with a lovely glass of wine

  19. aandj8804
    2nd August 2016 / 12:03 PM

    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! 🙂

    • 3rd August 2016 / 8:56 AM

      It was an amazing experience. Thanks for your kind words ?

  20. 2nd August 2016 / 1:29 PM

    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!

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:07 AM

      I loved the design too. It was really cosy and stylish plus all the little touches like vases of tulips were perfect

  21. 2nd August 2016 / 2:16 PM

    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

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:21 AM

      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

      • 8th December 2016 / 9:18 AM

        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!

  22. Global Locavore
    2nd August 2016 / 2:35 PM

    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.

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:19 AM

      Thanks Lauren. It was such a lovely trip. Amsterdam holds such strong memories for us now

  23. 2nd August 2016 / 10:56 PM

    I would LOVE to do this! What an amazing way to stay in a city! Thanks for sharing such a great idea #mondayescapes

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:21 AM

      Hope you do Megan. Your family will remember the trip forever ?

  24. 3rd August 2016 / 1:32 AM

    This has been on my bucket list for a while! Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities, but when I went I was young and traveling alone so I stayed in a hostel. Next time I go I’ll stay in a houseboat!

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:13 AM

      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

  25. 3rd August 2016 / 2:49 AM

    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!

    • 3rd August 2016 / 9:09 AM

      Thanks so much. Let me know if you need any help to build your case. It’s so worth it.

  26. 3rd August 2016 / 5:48 PM

    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

    • 3rd August 2016 / 8:17 PM

      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

  27. Steph
    3rd August 2016 / 7:10 PM

    Great idea – if I go to Amsterdam again I am looking for a houseboat to stay on for sure! 🙂

  28. 3rd August 2016 / 9:41 PM

    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

    • 4th August 2016 / 2:24 PM

      Great minds think alike Elizabeth! 🙂

  29. 3rd August 2016 / 10:00 PM

    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

    • 8th December 2016 / 2:44 PM

      Loved rereading this for #farawayfiles Still on my list!

  30. 4th August 2016 / 2:40 AM

    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

  31. 4th August 2016 / 7:37 AM

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

  32. 4th August 2016 / 1:54 PM

    I think this sounds like an absolutely fantastic experience. My husband has never been to Amsterdam before, but I have. We do want to go together at some stage and staying on a houseboat sounds like a great idea.

  33. 6th August 2016 / 5:52 AM

    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 😀

    • 7th August 2016 / 10:19 AM

      You will love staying on a houseboat Vlad. So much fun ?

  34. 11th September 2016 / 9:26 AM

    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.

    • 11th September 2016 / 4:50 PM

      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!

  35. 8th December 2016 / 8:48 AM

    I still hope to do this one day if we make it back to Amsterdam! Wish we had done it last time! #FarawayFiles

  36. 8th December 2016 / 8:59 AM

    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

    • 8th December 2016 / 8:40 PM

      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!

  37. 8th December 2016 / 9:38 AM

    this seems like a perfect way to truly experience Amsterdam:)

  38. 8th December 2016 / 10:03 AM

    I’m definitely doing this next time in Amsterdam, I can’t believe I haven’t thought about it before! It makes staying in a hotel seem very ordinary.

  39. 8th December 2016 / 10:10 AM

    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

  40. 8th December 2016 / 10:29 AM

    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

  41. 8th December 2016 / 11:10 AM

    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

    • 8th December 2016 / 8:38 PM

      So awesome, I want to do it again!

  42. 8th December 2016 / 1:09 PM

    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

  43. 8th December 2016 / 1:10 PM

    So cool! And now I want to stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam. One more thing to add to my bucket list. #FarawayFiles

  44. 8th December 2016 / 2:19 PM

    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

  45. 8th December 2016 / 3:19 PM

    Wow, what a unique way to experience the city. I had no idea you could stay in a houseboat in Amsterdam (this is why I LOVE link-ups). Adds even bigger charm to the visit to this beautiful city. Hope to make it there one day 🙂 xoxo, nano | http://www.travelwithnanob.com

  46. 8th December 2016 / 4:00 PM

    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.

  47. 8th December 2016 / 6:05 PM

    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

  48. 8th December 2016 / 7:44 PM

    We stayed on a boat in Seattle once but this looks amazing, may have to follow in your footsteps! #FarawayFiles

  49. 9th December 2016 / 3:33 AM

    Love this post! It was nice to reread it and dream about renting my own boat in a canal. #FarawayFiles

  50. 9th December 2016 / 4:13 AM

    I remember this post well! Such a unique experience I hope to do some day. #farawayfiles

  51. 9th December 2016 / 7:32 AM

    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

  52. 9th December 2016 / 9:48 AM

    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 🙂

  53. 9th December 2016 / 2:59 PM

    How fun! We may have to seriously consider this as a possibility when traveling to Amsterdam Christmas 2017. Thank you for the great tips! 🙂

  54. 9th December 2016 / 7:09 PM

    What a great post. I had never thought about staying on a houseboat before but it looks so much fun. Who would have thought they would have WIFI!

    • 11th December 2016 / 3:43 PM

      And it was super fast too. Cant do without the wifi these days can we! Eek.

  55. 10th December 2016 / 8:59 AM

    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! 🙂

  56. Clare Thomson
    11th December 2016 / 11:28 AM

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

  57. 12th December 2016 / 9:30 PM

    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

    • 13th December 2016 / 7:44 PM

      Thanks Jonny. I think it was one of my better ideas this year. We had a great time

  58. 15th December 2016 / 7:18 PM

    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

    • 15th December 2016 / 8:26 PM

      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

  59. 6th February 2017 / 4:55 PM

    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)!

    • 7th February 2017 / 9:24 AM

      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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