Houseboats, unique in Amsterdam

Why so many houseboats in Amsterdam?

The Netherlands is geographically a very low and flat country, with about 26% of its area located below sea level, and only half of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. The Dutch learned how to live with water. In Amsterdam ships with merchandise used to be unloaded in the city harbour to smaller boats and brought through the canals to merchants. Do you want to know more about the canals? Read ‘A brief history on the canals in Amsterdam‘.

Nowadays Amsterdam is host to 2400 houseboats. They do not move and cruise the canals, but can be moved by a tow boat. Most of the houseboats (750) are located in the central canal ring and are connected to the normal power and sewer system. Read further to get to know why there are so many houseboats in Amsterdam. Do you want to see houseboats during your few hours or layover in Amsterdam? Book a tour here.

Houseboat neighbourhood

A neighbourhood consisting of only houseboats in Amsterdam

Houseboats not for the poor anymore

After the second world war, old transport vessels became the answer for the housing shortage in Amsterdam. Living on a boat might have been uncomfortable, it was cheap and you would have at least a place to live.

Romantic as it may seem now to be living on a houseboat in Amsterdam, it is certainly not cheap. It used to be for the poor, but no longer poor people live on houseboats. The houseboats in Amsterdam are extremely popular and only for the wealthy few.

Luxurious looking houseboat

Luxurious looking houseboat

Houseboat looking like it needs maintenance

Houseboat looking like it needs maintenance

Two main types of houseboats in Amsterdam

Houseboats in Amsterdam are generally not motorised. They are moored to a fixed spot in the city. Arks are houseboats built on a floating pontoon made of concrete. We call this a modern ‘ark’. The arks arrived in the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century. Of the older and probably more charming kind are the old metal ships that have been transformed into a houseboat. Some are still capable of sailing. We call them ‘house ship’ (woonschip). Some houseboats are very modern, with all possible luxurious items inside. While living on a houseboat may seem romantic, it will also take up a lot of time doing maintenance on your boat.

Houseboat Ark on concrete pontoon

Type one: most common houseboat, ark on concrete pontoon

Houseboat 'old vessel'

Type two: houseboat ‘old vessel’

Wrecks on the water and houseboats that need maintenance

The problem of trying to live on a houseboat is not the houseboat itself. It’s trying to find a place to permanently stay. You can’t just moor the boat somewhere and live there. You need a special permit, ‘ligplaats.’ There are limited ‘ligplaatsen’ in Amsterdam and there is a high demand for them. City council policy states no new permits will be issued. Now even wrecks with a permit sell well, while a luxury houseboat without a permit is worth little.

Houseboat wreck

Houseboat wreck in Amsterdam

Houseboat needs maintenance to

This houseboat could need some paint

Houseboat needs maintenance too

This houseboat could need some maintenance

Self made Houseboat

This houseboat looks like it’s self-made

Houseboat wreck

An empty houseboat

Huge houseboats and actual houses on the water

Outside the inner ring of the city centre in Amsterdam you will find bigger houseboats. Some of them really look like they could house complete families.

An actual house as houseboat

An actual house as houseboat

An actual big house as Houseboat

If the water would be removed from the picture you would say it’s an actual house

Big houseboat

Huge houseboat in the houseboat neighbourhood

Houseboats with gardens

When living in a houseboat it’s of course nice to have a garden as well. Many of the houseboats have therefore a roof with for example grass, or gardens and a terrace on them.

Flower Houseboat

Flower Houseboat

Houseboat with garden rooftop

Houseboat with garden rooftop

Modern, design and art houseboats

Some houseboats look really modernly design and some even like pieces of art.

Modern houseboat

Modern houseboat

Arty Houseboat

Arty Houseboat

Houseboat looking like surmarine

Houseboat looking like surmarine

Houseboat design

Design houseboat

The houseboats in Amsterdam are extremely popular. There are whole neighbourhoods of houseboats. Do you want to experience this hype during your few hours or layover in Amsterdam? Book a tour here.


5 thoughts on “Houseboats, unique in Amsterdam

  1. David says:

    Right here is the right blog for anybody who wants to understand more about houseboats in Amsterdam. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). Great stuff, just great!

  2. Pingback: Modern Houseboat

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