Boating Tour of Amsterdam


By Andy Baker


Last spring, my friend Butch and two of his friends came to visit Amsterdam from New York City.  They toured around on foot for a few days, which in my opinion is the best way to see this particular city.   I would have suggested riding bicycles, but Butch had just learned to ride a bicycle (at 58) and his friends (also New Yorkers) hadn’t ridden bikes in years, so it would have been more about figuring out how to navigate the bike than seeing the sites at a quicker pace.

One of the touristy treats that I decided to spring for was a boat ride in the canals.  I had been on a boat tour of the canals precisely twice.  Once was when I was on my first trip here a tourist, and once was two years later, when I had moved here and I was enrolled in the intensive Dutch classes offered every August at the University of Amsterdam.  Both tours were exactly the same.  Big boats that go through the canals and under bridges, and recorded voice pointing out this famous houses and that incredible vantage point for the best photo.  Then it was out to the harbor for a quick trip around “het IJ” and back to the starting point.  I recommend a boat trip for anyone visiting our fair city.

The boat trip I wanted for Butch and his friends, however, was different.  I wanted a smaller boat and a more personalized tour.  Rod, a guy had I met in my Dutch class had mentioned during class that he did boat tours with the boats from Boom Chicago because he was, at the time, somehow affiliated with Boom Chicago.  So I called Rod and we arranged a time, where to meet and a price.  With my partner, the group was six and there was plenty of room for two or three more.

Being on the water in a small boat, closer to the water, was a very different feeling than being on the big tour boat.  It’s more exposed, but there’s also more possibility and there’s the option of saying, “What’s that over there?  Can we look at that?”  Rod was game for going almost anywhere.  His only requirement was that one of us sit with him in the back and talk to him while he steered.  He even let us steer, which was good for the nine-year-old in me.

Rod explained the lock system, pointed out sights that we wouldn’t have normally recognized, answered questions to the best of his ability and put up with quite a few innuendoes from Butch and his friends.  As it was early spring, it was chilly on the water, especially when the sun started going down; fortunately, we had jackets.  After about an hour and a half, we had seen enough of the canals and the locks and the harbor.  Rod dropped us off and we had a nice dinner.  The whole experience was a very nice package, a great plan for an evening with friends from out of town or an affordable possibility even if you are the tourist group. 

Boom Chicago itself doesn’t actually do the tours apparently, but they have references, and some entertaining shows in English if you like that sort of thing.  Taking the time and effort to do a personalized boat tour can make all the difference to your Amsterdam experience and take you out of the normal touristy rut.  This is such a great city.  You should see it all, from every vantage point.


Andy Baker grew up in Texas and moved to Amsterdam after living in New York City for fourteen years.  Having relocating here four years 

ago, he teaches English, writes and enjoys the beauty of the city.  

He also keeps a blog at