BUS TOURS — We think that Amsterdam’s unique alternative to the bus tour—canal boat cruises—are by far the best way to get an overview of the city. But for those who don’t like boats, and those nervous about doing a lot of walking, Amsterdam also has hop-on, hop-off circular bus tours from City Sightseeing. These buses stop at all the major sights and run every 15 to 20 minutes from 9:15am to 6pm in summer and 9:30am to 5:15pm in winter (www.citysightseeingamsterdam.nl; tel. 020/420-4000). Prices start at 21€ (10.50€ for children 4–13) for 24 hours of access to the service.

Tours & Tickets (www.tours-tickets.com; tel. 020/420-4000) and Stromma (www.stromma.com; tel. 020/217-0501) 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 begin at 34€.

CANAL CRUISES — There’s no better way to discover Amsterdam than from its waterways. Canal cruises leave from 14 different points throughout the city, but most depart from the pier to the left of Centraal Station. A one-hour cruise is included with the Iamsterdam City Card; there are four participating operators, among them Lovers Canal Cruises (www.lovers.nl; tel. 020/530-1090) and Stromma (see above). Frankly, we’ve never been able to find much difference between one cruise operator and the next (all are just fine). Depending on the tour line, boats during the summer season (mid-March–early Nov) leave daily every 15 minutes from 9am to 10pm; in winter (early Nov–mid-March), departures are every 30 minutes from 9:30am to 9:30pm. From Centraal, most cruises loop northwards into the IJ, which is bordered by the gleaming contemporary architecture of EYE Film Institute, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, and NEMO Science Museum  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 (www.amsterdamcanalcruises.nl; tel. 020/676-0302); Reederij P Kooij (www.rederijkooij.nl; tel. 020/623-3810); Rederij Plas (www.rederijplas.nl; tel. 020/624-5406), and Blue Boat Company (www.blueboat.nl; tel. 020/679-1370). Prices vary from company to company, but a basic hourlong tour is around 12€ 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 City Sightseeing (www.citysightseeingamsterdam.nl; tel. 020/420-4000) which stops at (or near) all the major attractions and allow you to build your own sightseeing itinerary. Looking for a lunchtime treat for the kids? Try the Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat; www.pannenkoekenboot.nl; tel. 020/638-8817) for unlimited servings of pancakes with sweet or savory fillings with your boat trip.

CYCLING TOURS — One of the great joys of Amsterdam is being part of its bike culture. But its streets can sometimes feel like a minefield: Cyclists zip around town at high speeds—bikes are the main form of transportation for locals—there are lots of pedestrians, and crossing tram rails can be dangerous. That’s not to say you shouldn’t hop on two wheels, but a guide can help with navigating busy streets and understanding the rules of the road. There are several tour companies offering tours of the city by bike. Yellow Bike (www.yellowbike.nl; tel. 020/620-6940) and We Bike Amsterdam (www.webikeamsterdam.com; tel. 06/1007-1179) both offer multiple options, from 2- to 3-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 (www.karos.nl; tel. 020/691-3478) 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 and on a limited schedule in winter. Rides are 45€ for 25 minutes, 70€ for 40 minutes, and 95€ for one hour.
WALKING TOURS — It’s easy enough to make up your own walking tour of Amsterdam and include all the important sights, but if you want guidance, there are also multiple free walking tours of the city that cover essential sites and areas including the Canal Belt, the Jewish Quarter, and the Anne Frank House. One of the most popular is the three-hour, tips-based walking tour from Sandemans New Europe (www.neweuropetours.eu; tel. 49/305-105-0030) which meets in Dam Square; tours run from 10am to 3pm. Another is from FreeDam Tours (www.freedamtours.com; tel. 06/4079-0279), which departs from Oude Kerk in the Red Light District.  

WATER BIKE TOURS — It’s fun to toodle around on the sturdy paddleboats called canal bikes. You can rent them from Stromma (see above). 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 9€ 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.