Bus Tours -- For many travelers, a quick bus tour is the best way to launch a sightseeing program in a strange city, and though Amsterdam offers its unique alternative—canal boat cruises—you might want to get your bearings on land. The hop-on, hop-off circular bus tour run by City Sightseeing stops at all the major sights and buses run every 15 to 20 minutes from 9:15am to 7:20pm (tel 020/420-4000; www.citysightseeingamsterdam.nl). Prices start at 18€ (9€ for children) for 24 hours of access to the service.
Viator (tel 888/651-9785 in the U.S.; www.viator.com) and Keytours (tel 020/305-5333; www.keytours.nl) run bus tours around the city and also across The Netherlands. A favorite trip from March to May is out to the Keukenhof bulb fields at Lisse . Rates vary with the particular tour on offer, but typical half-day tours begin around 30€ and full-day tours around 50€.
Canal Cruises -- There’s no better way to discover Amsterdam than from its waterways. Holland International (tel 020/217-0501; www.canal.nl/en/holland-international-canal-cruises) canal cruises leave from the pier to the left of Centraal Station and are free with the Iamsterdam City Card . During the summer season (Mar 20–Nov 2), tours leave daily every 15 minutes from 9am to 6pm, and every 30 minutes from 6 to 10pm. In winter, departures are every 45 minutes from 10am to 4pm. Cruises loop northwards into the IJ, which is bordered by the gleaming contemporary architecture of EYE Film Institute , Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ , and Science Center NEMO before entering the Canal Ring and passing along the eastern canals, giving sight of the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) connecting Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht and illuminated at night with hundreds of lights. Then it’s up Herengracht past mighty mansions to the “Nine Bridges” viewpoint, which actually permits sight of 15 bridges on the corner of Reguliersgracht. There’s a rather lackluster commentary in English on board the boat, but it is still an entertaining way to learn about Amsterdam in a short time.
Other canal tour-boat lines are: Amsterdam Canal Cruises (tel 020/679-1370; www.amsterdamcanalcruises.nl), Gray Line (tel 303/394-6920; www.graylineamsterdam.com), Reederij P Kooij (tel 020/623-4186; www.rederijkooij.nl), Rederij Lovers (tel 020/530-1090; www.lovers.nl), Rederij Plas (tel 020/624-5406; www.rederijplas.nl), and Blue Boat Company (tel 020/679-1370; www.blueboat.nl). Prices vary from company to company, but a basic hourlong tour is around 15€ for adults, 8€ for children 4 to 12, and free for children 3 and under. Evening tours are available through most of these companies; 3-hour candlelit dinner cruises are among the most popular.
Still other canal cruising options include the hop-on, hop-off Canal Bus (tel 20/217-0500; www.canal.nl), which stops at (or near) all the major attractions and allow you to build your own sightseeing itinerary. After a lunchtime treat for the kids? Try the Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat; tel 020/638-88170; www.pannenkoekenboot.nl) for unlimited servings of pancakes with sweet or savory fillings with your boat trip. Evening tours are also available through most of the companies mentioned above; 3-hour candlelit dinner cruises are among the most popular.
Cycling Tours -- Cycling in flat old Amsterdam would be fun if it wasn’t for the local cyclists, but there’s safety in numbers and there are several tour companies offering tours of the city by bike. Yellow Bike (tel 020/620-6940; www.yellowbike.nl) and Viator (tel 888/651-9785 in the U.S.; www.viator.com) both offer multiple options, from 2-hour canal jaunts to all-day rides out into the country past windmills and through nature reserves. Prices start at around 25€.
Horse & Carriage Tours -- These romantic, family-friendly vehicles run by Karos Citytours (tel 020/691-3478; www.karos.nl) depart from just outside the Royal Palace on the Dam for traipses through the Old Center, along the canals, and into the Jordaan. Tours operate April to October daily 11am to 6pm (July–Aug to 7pm), and on a limited schedule in winter. Rides are 35€ for 20 minutes, 45€ for 30 minutes, and 65€ for 45 minutes.
Walking Tours -- It’s easy enough to make up your own walking tour of Amsterdam and include all the important sights, but if you need guidance, the tourist office has several suggested routes to follow. For 3€, you can purchase a brochure outlining one of three walking tours: City Center, Jewish Amsterdam, and the Jordaan; a fourth brochure, which costs 1€, covers the De Pijp district. The brochures are available at the Visitor Information Center outside Centraal Station and Schiphol airport.
A lot of companies offer themed walking tours around the city. One of the best is Viator offering a range of guided walks (Red Light District, foodie tours of the markets, diamond factories) costing around 25€ per head.
Water Bike Tours -- If the canal-boat cruise whets your appetite to ramble the canals on your own, you can rent sturdy paddleboats called canal bikes from Canal (tel 020/217-0500; www.canal.nl). They seat two or four and come with a guidebook with map and route suggestions. The Canal Bike moorings are at Leidseplein; Westerkerk, near the Anne Frankhuis; and Stadhouderskade, beside the Rijksmuseum. Rental is 8€ per person hourly plus a deposit of 20€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.