As you walk or sail along the canals of Amsterdam you’ll see the famous canal houses which give the city’s historic centre its distinctive architectural style. These ‘dancing houses’ (known as such due to the fact that they are now so wonky) were once homes for wealthy merchants but now are mostly offices or hotels. As you admire these incredibly beautiful and iconic buildings, one can easily begin to wonder what they’re like inside.
Since 2010, the city’s picturesque canal district was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, ensuring the preservation of these wonderful houses for future generations. If you’re wanting to get inside one of the buildings to learn more about their history or simply to enjoy the fantastic views which their residents are lucky enough to enjoy there are a number which are open throughout the year.
Canal House Museums
There are a number of museums which have been created inside Amsterdam canal houses. The Grachtenmuseum (Canal House Museum) which is on the famous Herengracht is one of the best. There, you can learn about the history of the canal ring’s expansion through the decades and enjoy. Another option is the Museum Van Loon, which is in the canal house which was once home to one of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC)’s co-founders. This incredible building retains its original coach house and is well worth a look for those interested in Imperial history in particular.
If you’d like to take a step back in history and experience what life was like for the original owners of these incredible houses, Willet-Holthuysen Museum is hard to beat. In the 19th century, the owner bequeathed this canal house (dating from 1687) to the city, and people, of Amsterdam on the condition that it would be opened to the city’s residents as a museum and preserved carefully for future generations to enjoy. This beautiful museum is the perfect place to get an idea of how life was in times gone past for the Amsterdam elite.
From its stunningly opulent and luxurious dining and ball rooms, manicured garden (in a classical French style) and art collection to the scullery and servants’ rooms in the basement, this canal house offers visitors a unique insight into the lives of those who lived here.
Canal House Hotels
If you want to go one step further than visiting an Amsterdam canal house, staying in one of the many hotels housed in these beautiful buildings may be a great idea. The Canal House Hotel is situated on the Keizersgracht, right in the middle of the beautiful Jordaan district. This luxury hotel is formed from three merchant’s homes from the 1600s and offers absolute comfort in the most grandiose setting imaginable. You can find out more from their website here. A great option for those wishing to stay in a canal house hotel but with a limited budget is the StayOkay Stadsdoelen. Although none of the original features remain inside, the building is still beautiful, with its big, old-fashioned windows looking out across the hostel’s historic, canal-side location.
The Amsterdam Canals are one of the best loved UNESCO Heritage Sites in the world. Want to learn more about the famous Amsterdam canals? Join the best private boat tour amsterdam has to offer and find out about this unique and beautiful part of the city.