The Dutch city dubbed the “Venice of the North” celebrates the 400th anniversary of its winding canals this year by throwing a string of open-air concerts, festivals and art exhibitions.
What began as clever urban planning in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age has today become a tourist attraction in and of itself, with more than 100km of winding canals forming concentric circles known as The Canal Ring within Amsterdam.
In 2010, the architectural feat made up of 165 canals and linked by 1,281 bridges, was officially inducted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And while often referred to as the Venice of the North, the city likes to point out that, in fact, Amsterdam has three times as many bridges (1,200) as the Italian lagoon city.
The biggest party of the year is poised to take place April 30 for Queen’s Day, when 800,000 visitors are expected to descend along the canal in a sea of orange and fete Dutch royalty.
This year’s festivities are expected to be all the more special as the reigning Queen Beatrix will be abdicating her throne to make way for the next generation: her eldest son, who is to become King Willem-Alexander, and his wife, who will take on the title of Queen Máxima.
King Willem-Alexander will become the country’s first king since 1890 and will be 46 years old when he ascends the throne.
The royal couple will set sail along the canal in a royal boat parade before the inauguration ceremony at De Nieuwe Kerk or the New Church, where the couple married in 2002 and where Queen Beatrix took to the throne in 1980.
The canals will also play host this summer to Amsterdam Gay Pride, expected to attract 350,000 visitors to the city’s waterways. This year’s theme is “Reflect,” an invitation for participants to remember the beginnings of the LGBT movement. Gay Pride runs July 27 to August 4.
About 80 lavishly decorated boats will make up the convoy of floats during the canal parade – the festival showstopper – on Saturday, August 3.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.