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Best Small Canals in Amsterdam

Discover Amsterdam's Most Charming Small Canals

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As you wander around Amsterdam -- whether by bike, boat or foot -- you're bound to lose yourself in the canals. The three main large canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht) carve out the concentric, watery horseshoes in the city and offer hours of sightseeing. But some of my favorite spots in Amsterdam exist along its "small" canals. Here, find my favorite of Amsterdam's small canals -- and the charming bridges, buildings and sights that will make them yours, too.

Reguliersgracht

Why It Makes the List: The seven (or eight, depending on which ones you count) humpbacked, lighted bridges that cross this quiet canal are quintessentially Amsterdam and make for perfect pictures. Largely residential, the Reguliersgracht is home to a few small cafés and restaurants and one of the most charming small hotels in the city, aptly named Seven Bridges Hotel.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Eastern Canal Belt, not far from Rembrandtplein.

Leidsegracht

Why It Makes the List: This canal offers quiet respite from the busy street one block away with a similar name (Leidsestraat). The canal houses on Leidsegracht are among Amsterdam's most beautiful, with their neck gables leaning over tree-lined streets and brick walls. Some of the best vantage points include looking north to see the back side and towering steeples of De Krijtberg church, and looking west at the intersection of big canal Keizersgracht.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Central Canal Belt, not far from Leidseplein.

Brouwersgracht

Why It Makes the List: Not quite as small as some of the other canals on the list (some sections are wide enough for houseboats on either side), the "brewers canal" is home to dozens of excellent examples of 17th-century Dutch architecture, including several former warehouses (now apartments) with huge windows and painted, arched shutters. The neighborhood, the Jordaan, evokes the laid-back feel you'll find here.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Western Canal Belt, not far from Noordermarkt.

Bloemgracht

Why It Makes the List: Who wouldn't love a canal named the "flower canal"? The quiet Bloemgracht represents the reason so many people want to live in this part of the Jordaan neighborhood. Among its beautiful canal houses is the step-gabled No. 87-91, which dates back to 1642.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Western Canal Belt, not far from the Westerkerk.

Egelantiersgracht

Why It Makes the List: Just like neighboring Bloemgracht, the Egelantiersgracht (named for a type of wild briar or honeysuckle) is the epitome of a tranquil, tree-lined canal in a residential area. It's also home to one of my favorite little cafés, Café 't Smalle (on the corner with Prinsengracht).

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Western Canal Belt, not far from the Westerkerk.

Groenburgwal

Why It Makes the List: If you're wandering through the somewhat confusing streets of the old city center and you come across a canal view that stops you in your tracks and has you searching for your camera instantly, you may have arrived at the Groenburgwal. The view down this little canal toward the Zuiderkerk is straight out of a postcard.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Old City Center, not far from the Zuiderkerk.

Leliegracht

Why It Makes the List: Most canal cruises turn down the little Leliegracht ("lily canal") right by one of my favorite café terraces at Spanjer en van Twist, offering visitors a unique city perspective they won't find anywhere but Amsterdam. If you're on foot, don't miss the great specialty bookstores on this canal.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Western Canal Belt, not far from the Westerkerk.

Oudezijds Achterburgwal

Why It Makes the List: Certainly hard to pronounce, this easy-to-love canal forces you to look beyond the nearby Red Light District and with its canopy of trees and parade of some of the most historic architecture in Amsterdam. Neighboring University of Amsterdam gives this area a young, vibrant feel.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Old City Center, not far from the Oude Kerk.

Spiegelgracht

Why It Makes the List: The tiniest of all the canals on this list, the short Spiegelgracht is one of my favorites because of the beautiful shops that line its streets (it quickly turns into a paved street called Nieuwe Spiegelstraat). This area is known as the Spiegelkwartier, the unofficial antique district of Amsterdam and one of its best shopping areas. Usually busy with bike traffic, this small canal is cute but not always quiet.

Where to Find It: In Amsterdam's Central Canal Belt, not far from the Rijksmuseum.
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