With more bikes than inhabitants, Amsterdam is often referred to as the capital of bikes. I can’t imagine the city without its iconic mode of transportation, but sometimes I really don’t get why the Dutch people in particular became so fond of cycling. Or maybe I should say, it surprises me that it got so popular in a rainy country like the Netherlands whereas in many other countries people tend to look like you’re crazy when you tell them you want to get around by bike. So what’s the deal with the Dutchies and their bikes?
A love affair
Rainy or not, Amsterdam is always on top of the list of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. I honestly don’t think that I even know a single person who goes around by car in Amsterdam. Why would you? The network of 400 kilometres of cycling paths sure helps a lot. Moreover, unless you are very unlucky and you have to cross the entire city to reach your destination, you’ll probably get to your destination in less than thirty minutes. Amsterdam is a small city and it helps that the terrain is flatter than flat. Your biggest challenge might be ‘climbing’ one of the cute bridges crossing the canals. Sure makes things easier.
According to research, about 70% of all trips in Amsterdam are made by bike. One of the biggest advantages of cycling on a daily base? Say hello to that free work-out! Sure, you will need to adapt your outfit to your transportation mode (short skirts might be your best option), but did you know that our crown princess and even our prime minister cycle to school and work every day? If they can rock that bike so can you.
Amsterdam is for cycling
Amsterdam forms the perfect background for cycling tours. Dutch people love it. Cycling tours are our Sunday brunches. As soon as the temperature gets over 15 degrees, they put on their comfortable shorts, hop on their bikes and spend a nice day on the road. Don’t be surprised if you see entire families passing by on their barrow bikes or with their children and/or pets in a child trailer. Cycling starts at an early age.
Where to go?
Of course you can use the bike to hop from attraction to attraction or to change one neighborhood for another, but there is much more you can do.
One of my favorite places to go to is the Amsterdam forest. This forest is three times as big as Central Park and yet only 20 minutes cycling from the city center. It goes without saying that this place is especially nice when the sun is shining. No matter how busy the city might get, over here it feels like you’ve truly escaped the crowds. Bring your picnic basket and a blanket and relax next to the pond. Or, if the weather is not as pleasant, treat yourself with some Dutch pancakes in ‘Boerderij Meerzicht’. They are the best!
Follow the Amstel to get an idea of what the surrounding countryside looks like. As soon as you leave the city, you’ll be surprised with traditional windmills, farms and stunning views. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour until you reach the picturesque town of Ouderkerk, known for its historic harbour and excellent restaurants overlooking the river and the many boats that are passing by.
If you prefer to stay within the city, take the ferry and visit the northern part of Amsterdam, simply referred to as Noord. Separated from the rest of the city by a big canal, you’ll notice that it is quite different and it even used to be kind of isolated. However, over the last couple of years Noord has become very popular and is now beloved for its countless hotspots and creative ambiance.
Some practical tips for cycling in Amsterdam:
- You can get a bike at almost every corner of the city; a rental bike will cost you about €10 per day.
- Although you can book a tour with a guide it is, if you ask me, much more fun to explore the city by yourself. Or, even better, accompany yourself with a local guide for a private tour. This way, you can take your time and learn more about the area.
- Ring that bell! Many tourists can’t tell the difference between sidewalks and cycling lanes, so don’t be afraid to let them know. It’s for everyone’s safety.
- If you’re not used to cycling, it’s better to practice your skills in a more quiet area than in the heart of the city. People will thank you for that.
- Please don’t mix up bikes with beercycles. Just don’t.