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Discovering Amsterdam's Unique Houseboat Lifestyle: Floating Gems on the Canals

Amsterdam Houseboat Canal

In Amsterdam, the canals aren’t just for boats—they’re home to stunning and colorful houseboats.

For lots of tourists, staying on these houseboats is a way to dive into the Dutch lifestyle right on the water.

Back in the 60s and 70s, old cargo boats got revamped into houseboats (known as woonschepen). But now, there are houseboats made specifically for this unique water life. They used to be for artists or folks with less money, but that’s changed. Nowadays, houseboats can cost as much as a regular house on land.

Amsterdam Houseboat Barge

A woonark isn’t powered and is built on a floating platform (pontoon). Some of these house arks are beautiful, with terraces and gardens attached. They’re just like traditional houses, with a fixed address tied to where they’re moored. To be there, they need a ligplaats permit, approved by the city. Swapping spots with a neighbor or friend along the canal needs the city’s okay through their aesthetic committee.

If you’re curious about this lifestyle but haven’t tried it, check out the Houseboat Museum on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht. It’s worth a visit! They’ve got a boat from 1914 on display, lived in by a Dutch family for over 20 years. It gives you a great peek into their way of life.

Amsterdam Houseboat Barge Waterway

Long back, houseboats used to toss waste into the canals, but those days are gone. Now, it’s the law to link up with sewerage systems. This helps keep the canals’ water in pretty good shape.

There’s a cap on houseboats now—they’re limited to 2,500. This helps avoid overcrowding on the canals.

Amsterdam Houseboat

Living on a houseboat means lots of chores! These boats need upkeep pretty much all the time, so having DIY skills really helps when you’re on the canals.

If you want more info about Amsterdam’s houseboats, check out

The IJburg neighborhood in Amsterdam covers a series of artificial islands. The islands have steel houses built on buoyant concrete foundations, anchored and connected by various jetties, serving as floating walkways.


Book your Stay on a Houseboat in Amsterdam

Travel Tip(s)

How to dodge the big crowds in Amsterdam

Visit in January, February, or March, but expect chilly, rainy days. June brings nicer weather but more people, though it’s not as crowded as later in summer because schools are still open (until about mid-June) in many European countries.

If you want Dutch culture without the Amsterdam crowds, try nearby places. The Hague, Utrecht, and Rotterdam are great city options. There are also cute towns with a laid-back vibe and typical Dutch charm. About an hour southwest of Amsterdam is Delft, often called a “mini Amsterdam” because of its canals and Dutch-style buildings. It gets tourists but without the loud, rowdy crowds.

Plan your trip to Amsterdam

Amsterdam flights & airport transfers

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (IATA: AMS, ICAO: EHAM), known informally as Schiphol Airport (Dutch: Luchthaven Schiphol, pronounced [ˌlʏxtɦaːvə(n) ˈsxɪp(ɦ)ɔl]), is the main international airport of the Netherlands.

Things to do in Amsterdam

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