10 Cities to Live on a Houseboat – Floating Home Communities

Would you like to live on a houseboat? Yeah, me too! There is something so romantic about a home that floats on water. Wake up to ducks and herons outside your bedroom window, take a morning kayak on a glassy lake, then hop on the metro to work! Houseboat communities that are in urban areas give you the best of both worlds.

Sure, being on a quiet lake or river out in the countryside would be nice. But the hustle and bustle of the city can be fun too, and maybe you need to be close to an urban area for your job. Luckily there are many cities that have floating homes.

10 Cities to Live on a Houseboat

Check out these 10 houseboat communities that are in or near cities. Maybe one of them is near you!

Amsterdam, Netherlands

When you hear the word houseboat you probably think of Amsterdam, and for good reason. There are more than 2,000 houseboats along the waterways of the city. In the mid-20th century these floating homes came into use due to lack of affordable housing. Unused cargo ships were converted into affordable living spaces and docked along the canals, avoiding rent and taxes. Nowadays however, houseboats are seen as charming and desirable places to stay, and the houseboats are often more expensive than homes on land. Did you know that the houseboats in Amsterdam used to flush their wastewater directly into the canals? This is no longer the case and all houseboats are now connected to the city’s sewer systems.

Would you like to stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam? Check out these houseboats available for rent to tourists.

Oh and don’t think houseboats are limited to Amsterdam. You’ll find floating homes all over the Netherlands in cities like Rotterdam, Haarlem and Utrecht.

Sausalito, California

Sausalito is one of the most famous houseboat communities in the world. You know the song by Otis Redding of course (listen to it again, it is incredibly melancholy). Did you know that many celebrities and well-known artists and writers have lived in these floating homes? Some of them include beloved author Shel Silverstein, comedian Robin Williams, drummer Bill Kreutzman, author Isabel Allende.

At the end of the 19th century, floating homes outside San Francisco were used for weekend and summer holidays. After World War II, dock workers used floating scraps to construct low cost housing in the bay. Later, hippies and counterculture folks were attracted to the area and built their own fanciful floating homes on the water. Today the Sausalito area is still funky, but prices are probably outside the reach of most starving artists and creatives.

Sausalito is one of the nicest floating home communities in the US. Curious about this fascinating community? Take a tour with the Floating Homes Association.

London, England

Wander the pretty canals of London and you’re sure to spot many narrow boats with their pretty painted exteriors. One of the most popular places to moor is Little Venice where two canals meet.

As London rents become more and more expensive, people look to the water for more affordable living. And of course, many are attracted to canalside views and the romance of sleeping on an old barge. Many of the boats are long and narrow at just seven feet wide. Some are heated with coal or wood fires.

Some London houseboats are what’s called “continuous cruising” and must move every two weeks. Permanent moorings are difficult to come by but they offer water, electricity, a postal address and garbage collection.

Take a look at life on a narrowboat in England.

Seattle, Washington

Did you think living in a floating home would be inexpensive? Think again if you are interested in living on Lake Union or Portage Bay in Seattle. Beautiful floating mansions here mostly go for $1 mil and up.

There is a long history of houseboats in the Seattle area, it is one of the oldest floating home communities in the US. The original floating homes were mostly made of salvaged lumber materials by logging and fishery workers. To read more about the history of Seattle’s floating homes, click here.

Seattle’s houseboat communities are well located within the city, with easy access to shops, businesses and public transport. To get a feeling for Seattle’s houseboat scene, just take a look at the 1990’s classic Sleepless in Seattle.

Nearby Victoria in British Columbia also has a thriving float home community known as Fisherman’s Wharf.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin has some areas with houseboats, for example on the Landwehrkanal in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. You can also find people living aboard boats in marinas along the Spree and in Tiergarten. There are even restaurants, cafes and bars on boats in the same areas. Does staying onboard a houseboat in Berlin sound like fun? Check out these floating homes for rent.

Portland, Oregon

There are nearly  1500 floating homes in the Portland metropolitan area. You’ll find houseboat communities like Hayden Island and Tomahawk Island with others moored along the Willamette River and the Columbia River.

Check out this video about a floating home builder in Portland.

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg is a city with a lot of water, and city leaders want to encourage people to use it to live and work. A decade ago Hamburg held a competition for houseboat designs to be placed along the Eilbek canal. As a result there are several modern floating homes moored there. Houseboats of a typically more handmade feel can be found around the industrial port. And new houseboats have now been built in the Hammerbrook area as well.

Belgrade, Serbia

Houseboats and floating restaurants and cafes known as splaviov are common along the Danube and Sava rivers in Belgrade. You can even stay at a floating hotel/hostel called Arkabarka. Many houseboats can also be found around Ada Ciganlija, a manmade lake.

Paris, France

Houseboats are known as péniches in Paris. Old Dutch barges have been converted to floating homes that are moored along the Seine. Many along the canals of Saint Martin and de l’Ourcq are also used as charming waterfront cafes, restaurants, cinemas and even bookstores.  Would you like to try out the houseboat life with a view of the Eiffel Tower? Check out these rentals available on Airbnb.

New York, New York

Another place with skyrocketing rents, New York is surrounded by water making it great for floating homes. People live on sailboats and yachts moored in Queens, New Jersey, South Brooklyn and other places along the Hudson River. These harbors make up some of the more unique floating home communities in the USA. Want to know more about living aboard a boat in New York? Check out this New York Times article and this one in the NY Post.

We hope you enjoyed this peek into 10 floating home communities where you can live on a houseboat in or near the city.

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