The canals of Amsterdam are famously beautiful, adding a spacious grandeur that most major cities can only dream of. Strolling around those streets, crossing quaint bridges and enjoying the fine architect of the houses overlooking the canals, most of which are several centuries old, is one of most enjoyable ways to unwind in Amsterdam.
Even better, staying in a vacation rental which overlooks an Amsterdam canal allows you to enjoy a fascinating overview of this aspect of Dutch life, while sitting comfortably with a coffee and a joint.
If you are particularly adventurous, you could actually take to the water by hiring a small boat enjoying an impromptu picnic as you glide around Amsterdam with your friends, seeing the city from a completely new angle. It is a lot of fun, especially when you pass other small boats and everyone waves their Heinekens to say Hello.
If you have not steered a boat before, or you suspect that your group may all be a little too fond of those Heinekens, it might be best to also hire a boat driver: some of those canal turns can be hair-raising and it takes real skill to guide your craft under a small bridge when there is another boat coming in the other direction.
If your style is more formal, you can buy tickets to join hundreds of other tourists in much bigger, enclosed boats specially designed for canal sightseeing. Some also offer fine dining to accompany your trip, but just be sure to have your escape plan worked out if the orchestra starts playing the theme music from Titanic.
If, on the other hand, you are completely bonkers, you might enjoy actually getting into the water and going for a swim, during which your view of Amsterdam would largely consist of suspiciously brown water and startled rats. Boats zipping by inches from your skulls also add to the unique atmosphere.
If you should happen to find yourself floating in an Amsterdam canal, it would be a good time to start following the Mafia’s golden rule: At all costs, keep your mouth shut. You should also do your best to avoid the syringes and used condoms – to make your drowning experience more fun, try to think of it as a sort of video game.
Incredibly, some people voluntarily choose to swim in the canals, as opposed to the many drunken tourists in the Red Light District who end up taking an involuntary dip.
A recent event, The Amsterdam City Swim, saw 2,200 people of questionable mental health taking part in a 2km swim through the city. You can be pretty sure that most Amsterdammers witnessing this bizarre sight would have immediately had two thoughts:
1. Wow, what a bunch of crazy idiots.
2. Now I feel bad about all the times I pissed in the canal.
The Amsterdam City Swim was a fundraiser for the muscle disease ALS although, with 20 swimmers ending up in hospital and with the long-term affects on the rest of the swimmers as yet unknown, it is impossible to know whether the overall result is a net gain or a net loss for health.
The swimmers included celebrities from the worlds of Dutch sports and television, and the organizers reported a significant rise in the number of participants from Syria.