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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
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
Alternative boat accommodation in Amsterdam
If vacation rentals are not your style you can choose a more traditional hotel boat to stay on.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own based on personal experience.
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The creator, writer and photographer behind Untold Morsels, Katy has been travelling and tasting the world since she was a teenager.
Now the proud mum of twins, she hopes they grow up to share her passions of great food, wine and travel. Favourite destination: Italy