Holland is familiar and exotic at the same time, but there’s one thing the whole world knows: the Dutch had to fight to win back their land from the water, driving back the sea and digging out amazing canals in its character towns.

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A canal boat cruise is the best way to discover the real Holland

Boat hire in Holland makes an ideal holiday if you’re a fan of windmills, artists and flowers… and of course boats! Exploring the area by canal boat gives you the chance to take in this land of sailors, which was once the commercial powerhouse of the entire world. A cruise through Holland’s waterways is a really special experience, which you can round off with a weekend in Amsterdam or Utrecht to enjoy some cultural heritage. Step on board your no-license boat to explore Holland at the easy pace of the canals: you’ll discover a fascinating region, known for its tolerance as well as its passion for rivers and canals, not to mention its love of flowers, which you can see on show at the famous Keukenhof tulip garden, the biggest in the world. Holland has been a source of inspiration for some of the greatest artists, including Van Gogh, Vermeer and Rembrandt, and there’s a huge range of museums and galleries to visit. Along your route, you’ll uncover local mysteries as you explore the wonderful canals and landscaped lakes. And this is the perfect place to enjoy some watersports and outdoor activities, such as fishing or canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, and of course swimming. The colourful scenes you encounter will make your Dutch cruise an experience you’ll never forget.

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Holland, a paradise of lakes

Lakes and canals are the very essence of your Dutch getaway. Orchards and forests along the banks, outdoor activities or quiet contemplation – you can have it all.

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Discover the map of the
destination and its waterways

On a boating holiday in Holland, the country gently unfolds along the waterways.

When someone mentions Holland, do you think of windmills, romantic canals, delicious cheeses and huge fields of tulips? Well if that’s on your wish list, you won’t be disappointed

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Boat hire in Holland gives you access to a superb network of waterways

Boat hire in Holland gives you access to a superb network of waterways, where every day on your canal boat will bring new, varied and vivid experiences.

Boating holidays and waterways are what this region is all about: it’s criss-crossed by a network of small canals. When you rent a boat in Holland, you can choose from a range of themed routes, which means everyone can find an aspect of the region that interests them. You could discover gourmet Holland on your self-drive boat, cruise through unspoilt natural landscapes, or sample the high culture of cities like Amsterdam, or all of the above…

One thing is certain: Holland isn’t lacking in culture. This was once the home of famous painters, so the region has a wide range of galleries, mainly in Amsterdam and Utrecht, which are considered Holland’s cultural treasure-houses. Whatever aspect of Holland you’re dreaming about, there’s nothing to stop you getting away from it all and making that dream come true: you can cruise all of Holland’s waterways on a no-license boat and they’re all perfect for first-timers. Boat hire in Holland means soaking up the region’s really special atmosphere, with tulips and windmills along the banks, enjoying a peaceful and magical voyage that can also be a gourmet experience. Whether you’re taking in the scenery from your canal boat or exploring dry land, maybe on a bike – because it’s heaven for cyclists too – everything here seems a little bit exotic, even though it’s not far away.

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Discover the best boating holidays in Holland

Where to begin your boating adventure in the Netherlands

When you begin your river cruises in the Netherlands , you’ll find that there is a huge choice of starting points. As a nation crossed by a huge network of canals and rivers, the Netherlands has seemingly endless routes to take. All of these different routes wind through the Dutch countryside and pass through major cities such as Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. As a low country, with a low water table, canals spill out in every direction, making it one of the best countries to travel via its waterways. Most people choose to start boating through Holland from its largest city, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam itself is a maze of canals that network across the entire city, allowing you to visit every nook and cranny that its streets have to offer. Mooring in the city centre is easy, and it offers plenty of places to settle your boat while you explore. The canals move off in many different directions, allowing you to plan a route in any direction. Whether this is south-west towards The Hauge, south-east towards Uterect or north into North Holland, the choice is yours. Owing to the country’s flat topography, it is quite easy to bike and barge through the Netherlands without stepping foot on a road. Simply barge along the canal waterways to your desired destination.

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Steering your Holland boat rental south

One of the most natural paths to take is the route south that leads out of Amsterdam. Winding through the southern suburbs of the city, you will soon come to the rolling countryside that Holland and the wider Netherlands is famed for. This canal region south of Amsterdam is also known for its many lakes, mixed with iconic windmills; this is one of the most pleasant canal routes in Holland. Your boat trip from Amsterdam will make its way from the north and pass through the town of Loosdrecht. Loosdrecht is an ideal pitstop destination along the canal route and is also a great halfway point. The town itself is famous for its surrounding lakes and dikes, fitting perfectly with the rolling green countryside that also blends in.

Boaters can easily make their way into the town by mooring at the city centre dockyard, which is also home to a Locaboat’s base. This being the case, many canal holidays in Holland can be also started from here. Getting onto dry land at Loosdrecht means you can wander through the town and see its many sights. One of Loosdrecht’s most visited sites is the Castle-Museum Sypesteyn. This former late 19th century stately home designed by famous Dutch architect, Henri van Sypesteyn, is easily accessed from the banks of the canal. When navigating the canal route southernly Dutch waterways cruises tend to end in the city of Utrecht. Not only is this a great location to end your southerly journey, but it also has its own series of attractions to explore.

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Your canal boat trip in Holland heads west

Rather than taking the southerly route out of Amerstdam, taking your Holland canal boat rental westwardly is just as, if not more so, rewarding. This westerly route takes boaters out of the suburbs of the Dutch capital and into the interior of Holland. As it winds through southern Holland, holidaymakers will pass through the towns of Aalsmeer, Leiden and finally another of The Netherlands most famous cities, The Hague.

Starting out from Amerstdam, the canal first meanders westerly and flows to the town of Aalsmeer. Aalsmeer is a great first stopping point once you rent a boat in Amsterdam and gives you a chance to stretch your legs and immerse yourself in a smaller Dutch town.

Apart from the allure of a small Dutch town, Aalsmeer is most famous for its Aalsmeer Flower Auction, one of the largest flower markets in the world. Timing your Holland boat cruise with the flower market is perfect for any flower enthusiast.

When joining back onto the canal, the water winds on only for a few miles before arriving at the quaint canalside town of Leiden. Among Leiden’s many attractions is its famous windmills, and nothing defines the Dutch nation more so that its picturesque windmills. Aside from these iconic features, Leiden is also home to the Museum De Lakenhal, a museum full of art from famous Dutch painters such as Jan van Goyen, Rembrandt, and Jan Steen.

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Northern boat hire in the Netherlands

As well as boating into the country’s heartland, boating holidays may also venture north into Northern Holland. The north of the country provides a wholly different landscape in which to explore, with the North Sea on your left and Lake Ijssel on your right. The calming rural scene that flows out before you proves that Holland has many different scenes to explore.

Leaving Amerstdam in a northerly direction, you will eventually come to the town of Edam. Famous the world over as the location of Edam cheese, the town does not disappoint. One of the town’s most popular attractions is its cheese market, and planning your canal boat holiday to coincide with the market is a must.

Moving on from Edam, the canal winds evermore northerly and bursts out into Lake Alkmaardermeer. Lake Alkmaardermeer is a fantastic natural landmark, and a perfect place to stop and enjoy the views and the waterside wildlife the lake has to offer. The laidback nature of north Holland creates the perfect landscape in which to relax and is a stark contrast from the busy inner cities.

Once you have soaked up the best of Lake Alkmaardermeer, take your canal boat rental to the Netherlands’ Akersloot region. This lakeside town appears perfectly on the water’s western bank and provides a great place in which to enjoy the views of the lake and neighbouring windmills.

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Sightseeing with your boat rental in the Netherlands

Seeing the best of Amsterdam’s historic sights

Canal boat hire in Amsterdam not only allows you to explore the country’s many waterways and rolling green countryside but also allows you to see the capital city from a whole new perspective. When navigating the city from its series of waterways, you can see things you wouldn’t normally while avoiding the busy roads and streets. Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most culturally important cities and much like boating holidays in France, exploring attractions from the water adds a whole new element to sightseeing. One of Amsterdam’s most famous historical landmarks is the house of Anne Frank. Located along the Prinsengracht canal, mooring close to this attraction makes visiting a far easier undertaking.

Preserved since the 1940s the house was the hiding place of the Frank family, including their famous wartime diaries daughter, Anne Frank. The house is preserved as it would’ve been during the 1940s and also includes an exhibition about the Nazi occupation of the country during the Second World War. Another of the city’s most famous landmarks is the ‘Oude Kerk’. Simply translated into English, the ‘Old Church’ has stood here since the earliest 13th century and is one of Amsterdam’s oldest buildings. Visiting the Oude Kerk with your canal boat hire in the Netherlands means you can pull up directly alongside the church and see it in all its glory from the banks of the canal.

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Mix an art adventure with canal boat holidays in Holland

Amsterdam and the wider Netherlands are famed for their centuries of artworks from old master painters, painting iconic pictures throughout the past few centuries. No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to some of these famous artistic centres. Probably one of the Netherlands most famous sons, Vincent van Gogh, has his very own museum in the city and is a must for any fans of this post-impressionist painter. The museum is home to the largest collections of Van Gogh paintings and drawings globally. It is also one of Amsterdam’s most visited attractions and is a must-see when in the city.

Continuing with the artistic theme, Amsterdam is also home to the Rembrandt House Museum. This museum houses the work of this famous Dutch native painter and is also helpfully located along the Zwanenburgwal canal. After boating to this iconic painter’s home, you can simply jump out the door and be back on board in moments. Leaving the best until last, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is arguably the city’s epicentre for art and culture. Home to a wide range of exhibits showcasing art, history and culture from across the Netherlands and with nearly a million artefacts in storage and on display, there is too much to see in just one visit.

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Nightlife on your canal cruise through the Netherlands

Apart from the overwhelmingly diverse history and culture, Amsterdam is also famous the world over for its hospitality and nightlife. Once you have spent the day navigating the region’s canals and waterways, simply moor your canal boat in Amsterdam city centre. Here, you can walk in any direction and find an atmosphere of good times and enjoyment. Although the city has a reputation for excess, it does also have its fair share of refinement, with elegant restaurants and cocktail bars. No visit to the Dutch capital would be complete without a visit to the city’s red-light district.

This famous part of Amsterdam often has a crude and sordid reputation, yet the district’s atmosphere has more in common with a party or carnival, and although it is not to everyone’s taste, it is well worth a visit. If you are a fan of live music events, slipping from your barge to visit some of Holland’s best music venues will be high on your list. The former church venue of Paradiso is one of the city’s most famous venues, and watching a gig surrounded by the stained glass of religious iconography is a unique experience. This perfect balance of high culture, history and feel-good nightlife show that Holland is one of Europe’s ideal destinations for barge holidays for beginners . If you’re looking for this type of well-rounded holiday, try boating holidays in Ireland.

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Canal boat hire in Amsterdam choosing the right size

A cosy river cruise in Amsterdam, Holland

If you and your partner are taking a boating holiday through the Dutch countryside, a simple sized boat is all you will need. A small sized boat such as the Penichette Classiques is ideal for couples or those travelling in a smaller group. The small size of the boat is not only great for those travelling light; it is also great for those who are new to navigating vessels along the canal. The small and streamlined design makes it agile and easy to manoeuvre through some of the narrower Dutch canals. Smaller boats come in a variety of styles and cater for every type of budget, from the most luxurious to the economical budget boaters. It is important to remember that smaller boats will have far less storage space than bigger boats; this may not be an issue if you’re just using the boat as means of transport.

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Larger canal boat rental in Amsterdam

If the whole family is going away together then you may need to opt for a much larger boat, one with a bigger capacity. Boats such as the Pénichette Aft Dec are capable of playing host to up to twelve people and are great for larger families or groups of friends. As well as large cabins, beds and toilets, these larger boats are also capable of holding far more supplies, ideal if you are spending extended periods of time on the water. Even though these barges are much bigger, they are just as capable of elegant manoeuvrability through the canals of Holland.

As the network of canals spread across the country in every direction, it is easy to travel across Holland in a complete loop, even with a larger canal boat rental . Starting from one city such as Amsterdam, boaters can make their way around the country and return to the city they started in. This is ideal if you’re flying in and out of the country.

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