From April through October, guided two- to three-hour bike trips through central Amsterdam are available through Yellow Bike. Let's Go self-guided tours (contact the VVV or visit the website for further details) takes you out of the city center by train before introducing you to the safer cycling of the surrounding countryside. Its tours include Edam and Volendam, Naarden and Muiden, and, in season, a Tulip Tour.
Let's Go. Tours depart VVV Netherlands Board of Tourism, Centraal Station, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1012 AB. www.letsgo-amsterdam.com.
Yellow Bike. Nieuwezijds Kolk 29, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1012 PV. 020/620–6940; www.yellowbike.nl.
The quickest, easiest, and most delightful way to get your bearings in Amsterdam is to take a canal-boat cruise. Trips last 1–1½ hours and cover the harbor as well as the main canal district; there is a taped or live commentary available in four languages. Excursion boats leave from rondvaart (excursion) piers in various locations in the city every 15 minutes March–October, and every 30 minutes in winter. Departures are frequent from Prins Hendrikkade near the Centraal Station, along the Damrak, and along the Rokin (near Muntplein), at Leidseplein, and Stadhouderskade (near the Rijksmuseum). For a tour lasting about an hour, the cost is around €14, but the student guides expect a small tip for their multilingual commentary. A free trip is included in the I amsterdam card. For a romantic view of Amsterdam, opt for one of the dinner and candlelight cruises offered by some companies, notably Holland International. A candlelight dinner cruise costs upward of €30. Trips for all boat tours can also be booked through the tourist office.
Operators of canal cruises include Amsterdam Canal Cruises, Holland International, Gray Line Amsterdam, Rederij Lovers, Rederij P. Kooij, Rederij Noord/Zuid, and Rederij Plas.
A popular option for exploring the city's canals, and some of the attractions that lie along them, is to hop on board one of Canal Company's Canal Buses (actually ferrylike passenger boats). Canal Buses, which leave from Centraal Station and travel along the canals by three different routes, allow you to disembark at points of interest along the way. Stops along the Green Line include the Anne Frank House, Rembrandtplein, and Rembrandt's House; the Red Line stops at the Rijksmuseum, City Hall, and the Westerkerk; the Blue Line stops at the Tropenmuseum, NEMO, and the Scheepvaartmuseum. A Canal Bus Day Pass, which costs €22, is valid from the time you buy it until noon the following day; you can hop on and off the boats as many times as you like within that time. Buying a day pass also gets you reduced entry rates at some museums along the routes.
The Canal Bike Waterfiets is a pedal-powered boat that seats up to four. On these, you can tour the Grachtengordel at your own pace. For one, two, three, or four people, the hourly fee is €8 per person. Rental hours are 10–6:30 daily. There are five landing stages throughout the city: two of the most popular ones are across from the Rijksmuseum and across from the Westerkerk.
Amsterdam Canal Cruises. Stadhouderskade, opposite Heineken Experience, De Pijp, Amsterdam, 1017 ZR. 020/679–1370; www.amsterdamcanalcruises.nl.
Canal Bus. Weteringschans 26-1, Leidseplein, Amsterdam, 1017 SG. 020/623–9886; www.canal.nl.
Gray Line Amsterdam. www.grayline.com.
Holland International. Prins Hendrikkade, opposite Centraal Station, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1012 AB. 020/625–3035; www.hir.nl.
Rederij Lovers. Prins Hendrikkade, opposite Centraal Station, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1012 AB. 020/530–1090; www.lovers.nl.
Rederij P. Kooij. Rokin, near Spui, Centrum, Amsterdam, 1012 KK. 020/623–3810; www.rederijkooij.nl.
Rederij Plas. Damrak, quays 1–3, Amsterdam, 1012 JX. 020/624–5406; www.rederijplas.nl.
There are a number of afternoon bus tours of Amsterdam operate daily but it must be said that this city of narrow alleys and canals is not best appreciated from the window of a coach. A scenic bus tour to visit attractions outside the city is a better idea.
Key Tours. Key tours has a hop-on, hop-off bus service in Amsterdam but they're especially recommended for their small troup tours in luxurious coaches to destinations outside of Amsterdam. Options include visit to the flower fields, The Hague, Haarlem, and more. They also have boat and walking tours. Paulus Potterstraat 8, Museum District, Amsterdam, 1017 CZ. 020/305–5333; www.keytours.nl. From €59.
Lindbergh Excursions. Full day excursions to Bruges or Antwerp are just some of the options that are available through Lindbergh. They also do Amsterdam bike and walking tours. Damrak 26, Amsterdam, 1012 LJ. 020/622–2766; www.lindbergh.nl. From €22.50.
Art and Architecture
From quaint to grandiose, Golden Age to Modernism, art and architecture in the Netherlands has never been anything less than visionary. Walking tours focusing on art and architecture are organized by Architectour, Architecture Tours, and the ARTTRA arts organization.
Architectour. Touwslagerstraat 13, Amsterdam, 1013 DL. 020/625–9123.
ARCHITECTURE tours.nl. ARCHITECTURE tours.nl. This firm offers customized architecture tours. 06/2884–7075; www.architecturetours.nl.
Arttra Cultureel Orgburo. Personalized tours to art collections and locations that are not usually accessible to the average person are the specialty at this arts organization. Tweede Boomdwarsstraat 4, Amsterdam, 1015 LK. 020/625–9303; www.arttra.com. From €195.
Beer Trips.com. 406/531–9109; www.beertrips.com.
The Netherlands Tourist Board (VVV) maintains lists of personal guides and guided walking and cycling tours for groups in and around Amsterdam and can advise you on making arrangements. You can also contact Guidor, Nederlandse Gidsen Organisatie (Dutch Guides Organization). Typical costs range from €150 for a half day to €250 for a full day. The tourist office also sells brochures outlining easy-to-follow, self-guided theme tours through the central part of the city—among them "A Journey of Discovery Through Maritime Amsterdam," "A Walk Through the Jordaan," "Jewish Amsterdam," and "Rembrandt and Amsterdam."
For walking tours of the Jewish Quarter, contact Joods Historisch Museum. Yellow Bike Tours organizes two-hour walking tours of the Jordaan and the Red Light District.
Probably the best deal in town is Mee in Mokum, which offers walking tours led by retired longtime residents. For just €7.50, you'll get an entertaining three-hour educational tour of the inner city or the Jordaan, focusing on architecture and surprising facts. These tours are also popular with Amsterdammers who wish to discover new things about their city. The ticket also entitles you to reduced admission to a variety of museums and a reduction in the price of a pancake at a nearby restaurant. Tours are held daily and start promptly at 11 am. You must reserve at least a day in advance. Tours are limited to eight people; private arrangements can also be made for other times of the day.
Guidor, Nederlandse Gidsen Organisatie. Guidor, Nederlandse Gidsen Organisatie Leidseplein 33, Amsterdam, 1017 PS. 020/624–6072; www.guidor.nl.
Joods Historisch Museum. Joods Historisch Museum Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, Postbus 16737, Plantage, Amsterdam, 1001 RE. 020/531–0310; www.jhm.nl.
Mee in Mokum. Tours depart Museumcafé Mokum, Kalverstraat 92, Amsterdam, 1012 PH. 020/625–1390.