Most of the city's main canals were excavated by workers in the 16th century. Their original purpose was to drain the marshes, to keep the land from flooding and to allow for expansion outside the walls surrounding the city. Later, they became waterways for ships and boats. Most of the goods were transferred to warehouses located on the banks of the canals in the center of the city. Some of the warehouses were right on the water. Today, the most common sight on these canals is the sight of tourist boats sailing over them. At night the lights on the bridges light up and give a pleasant and romantic atmosphere especially during cruises.
Amsterdam has three main canals, which you will not miss: Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. They were excavated during the Golden Age of the Netherlands, around the 17th century. You can find buildings built in 1550 along the canals.
The canals form a horseshoe around the center of the old city and the entire area serves as a passage from the noisy area to the quieter and calmer neighborhoods. The area becomes particularly lively at night, where you will find plenty of clubs, bars and pubs, restaurants and more.