The Quirky Charms of Amsterdam

Most people know about the seedier side of Amsterdam, but if you think that’s all there is to know about this city, you’re missing out. Yes, the oldest, most historic part of the city is the red light district, but the beautiful canals, and quirky architecture give it a captivating charm.

Endless Canals

The more than 100 kilometers of canals and 1,500 arched bridges lend a enchanting feel to the city and testify to its maritime past. Mainly built during the Dutch golden age in the 17th century, the canals were used not only as an original sewer system, but also like highways to transport goods by boat throughout the city.

One way to see the canals is to take a boat tour. We took an hour-long sunset tour around the canals of the city, which despite the cheesy commentary gave us a different perspective from down near the water line.

Houseboats are Cool

A colorful and traditional feature of the canals are the many houseboats. We got the chance to spend a few nights on one, and it was the coolest place we’ve stayed in all year. It would occasionally rock back and forth when tour boats would zip past, but was otherwise quite comfortable.

The houseboat we stayed on.

Houseboats were first used during the housing shortage after the second world war. The city had a lack of houses, and a surplus of old cargo boats, so a few pioneers converted the boats into places to stay. Now, the city has limited the number of mooring permits, so no new houseboats are allowed. The limited supply of houseboats have driven up prices, so we were lucky to find one for rent for less than 200 euro a night. We also saw that most of the boats had a three night minimum stay. 

Crooked Teeth Houses

A can’t miss beauty of Amsterdam is the wonderful houses. The adorable stepped gables with hoists, almost gingerbread decoration, and their svelte narrow figures give Amsterdam a quirky charm. The city has more that 8,000 buildings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. So it’s not that odd to spot a building around town from the 1600s. 

With narrow layouts, and thusly narrow stairwells, many of the buildings sport hoists from their gables to lift goods up to the top floors. The top floors were the best places to safely store goods in areas that would often flood. To help with this, many of the building fronts lean out over the street, to keep things from bumping into the house on the way up. Some of the buildings also lean side to side due to settling foundations. The narrow layouts, and tilting buildings make Amsterdam’s streets look like a set of crooked teeth in need of braces. 

A house with a sloped front.

Gable with hoist.

The combination of the canals, houseboats, quirky houses, and relaxed culture make Amsterdam a fantastic place to visit, and one of our favorites. Where else will you find a beautiful vibrant city like Amsterdam that not only has a Mayor, but a Night Mayor as well.