Anywhere you go in The Netherlands you are bound to see someone riding a bicycle, especially if you’re in Amsterdam. There are 1.3 bikes per citizen and over 400km of bike lanes, making it one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world.
Upon arriving in central Amsterdam, you’ll notice that the crowded, winding streets make travel by car inefficient. Taxis are expensive and for visitors, taking the tram/metro can be confusing. With things to do and sights to see everywhere, the bicycle is simply the fastest, most flexible and fun way to explore Amsterdam.
Visit a rental shop and get a bike for the whole day, at least once. The average cost is about 10 euros per day, depending on what kind of bicycle you get and what bicycle shop you get it from. Get your bike in the morning and make your way in and around the inner ring and back, visiting the museums, sampling the culture and touring the historic neighborhoods. The best way to cycle Amsterdam is aimlessly, but for those who prefer a little guidance, here are your 3X travel tips:
Top 3 areas to stumble upon a bicycle rental service:
- Amsterdam Centraal (Central Station) Look for the huge multi-story bike parking ramp
- Leidseplein (near Vondel Park)
- Dam Square (a 10 minute walk straight out the front door of Amsterdam Centraal and down the Damrak)
Top 3 rental companies to check out
Here are 3 cycling pointers for Amsterdam visitors:
1. Get a bike map:
Amsterdam is a mess of 17th century streets, winding all over the place. If you don’t know any Dutch, the names of the streets will be mindboggling. You can try to remember that turn you took onto the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, but unless you have rain man powers, you likely will not.
2. Take your time
Whizzing around at the speed of native Amsterdammers may look fun…so keep it that way: fun to look at. Don’t try to imitate their level of cycling. There are tram tracks to get your tire stuck in, trams coming in multiple directions on the tracks, cars racing across the tracks… There are other cyclists and pedestrians everywhere, and you can never tell which direction they may turn. Don’t be surprised when a motor scooter or a tiny little car with a moped engine cruises by you with only inches between. Take it easy and you’ll do fine. Ride like you know where you are going and you might pop a tire—or your ego—in a wipeout. 😉
3. Use the tools of the bike:
The lock – There are 100,000 bicycles stolen in Amsterdam every year. You definitely don’t want the one you’re using to be one of them. No matter what neighborhood you’re in or how quick you’ll be in and out of the coffee shop, lock it up. The bell – With all of the pedestrians everywhere, you need to let them know you are coming. If you aren’t used to using a bell, have fun with it! Ding, ding, coming through! If they don’t move, yell!
Here are 3 great areas to cycle to/through on a day ride in the city:
1. Jordaan neighborhood
If you get your bike near Central Station or the Dam square, make your way to Jordaan. Jordaan is a traditionally working class neighborhood, though over the years it’s been gentrified into a quaint but artsy little nook. Here you’ll find some awesome galleries, architecture and gardens along quiet canals. Stop at a “brown” café for a quick snack or cup of Joe before moving on.
Vondelpark is the ‘Central Park’ of Amsterdam. While there you could have a picnic, stop at one of the park’s cafés or grab a hot dog from a cycling hot dog vendor. Also to enjoy are the flower garden, birdwatching on the ponds or street performers work their magic. After you make your way through the park and back, exit the park the way you came in to move on to the Museumplein area, very nearby.
3. From the Museumplein to the Amstel
From Vondel Park, make your way out of the Oud Zuid neighborhood by heading southeast along Van Baerlestraat. You’ll almost literally run into the the best “I Amsterdam” sculpture in the city as well as a number of museums. After that, keep heading along the outer canal (see your map). Along the way you’ll ride along canals and busy streets toward the Amstel, Amsterdam’s famous canal From there, turn left to make your way back into the city and get lost in the oldest part of the city. Trust me, it’s funner than it sounds and you’ll always find your way out.
There are so many places to cycle to that no matter which direction you go, you will enjoy yourself and see some interesting sights. Get on your bike and ride!
Check out the “Fotos & Facts” Photo essay on cycling in Amsterdam!