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Amsterdam’s houseboats have become a choice form of accommodation to many tourists, wanting to experience the Dutch lifestyle on the water.
Back in the 60s and 70s many old cargo boats were restored and converted into houseboats (called woonschepen), but today there are houseboats built specifically with the living-on-water lifestyle in mind. Also, initially, it was the accommodation for artists or the not so well-off community. Those days are long gone, and houseboats can be just as pricey as a traditional house on the land.
A woonark is not motorized and built on a floating pontoon. Some of these house arks are the perfect picture themselves, with adjoining terraces and gardens. Just like a traditional house, they have a specific address “anchored” to their mooring site which is legalized by a ligplaats permit. You can’t swop mooring with your neighbor or a friend further down the canal unless pre-approved by the city’s aesthetic committee.
The Houseboat Museum on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht is well worth a visit if you’re interested in this kind of lifestyle but not fortunate enough to experience it. There is a boat (built 1914) on display occupied by a Dutch family for more than 20 years, which gives you great insight into their lifestyle.
Many moons ago the houseboats dumped waste into the canals, but no more. It is now a legal requirement to be connected to sewerage systems, so the canals’ water quality maintains its fairly good rating.
The houseboats are currently capped at 2,500 to prevent over-crowding on the canals.
Houseboat owners have no lack of house-chores. These boats require maintenance almost all year round, so DIY skills are a great advantage when living on the canals.
For more information about Amsterdam’s Houseboats you may want to head to www.barges.org
The IJburg neighborhood in Amsterdam covers a series of artificial islands. The islands have steel houses built on buoyant concrete foundations, anchored and connected by various jetties, serving as floating walkways.