ALL POSTS TAGGED biking amsterdam

Biking the Amstel River

One of the first things you might notice as a visitor to Amsterdam is that bikes are everywhere, and there is no shortage of places to see and visit by bicycle. This is also true for the Amstel River – which runs right through the centre of this historical and beautiful city – and offers an interesting, relaxing and scenic way to see Amsterdam.

In fact, it is from this river that Amsterdam got its name. (The river got its name from the term “Aeme-stelle,” an old Dutch term meaning “water-area.”)  The river is also responsible for naming one of Holland’s most popular beverages: Amstel Beer, which was originally established in 1870 near the river itself.

[caption id="attachment_119" align="alignnone" width="560"]The busy Amstel River in Amsterdam The busy Amstel River in Amsterdam.[/caption]

Much like the Seine, the vibrant Amstel River has been a source of inspiration for some of the world’s most famous artists, including Rembrandt and Aert van der Neer, among others.

Over time, the Amstel River has also become an important cultural and social gathering place for locals and visitors. After all, near the banks of this river is where you’ll find some of the city’s most popular cafes, bars and attractions – including the Stopera, one of Amsterdam’s most important buildings. The Stopera is home to City Hall and the Dutch National Opera & Ballet.

[caption id="attachment_117" align="alignnone" width="560"]The Hermitage Musem in Amsterdam The bike path along the Amstel passes the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam.[/caption]

The river is also home to an array of concerts, rowing races and the Canal Parade, the city’s yearly floating gay pride parade.

You can start your own self-guided bike tour at most any point along the river or at any of the three bridges that cross the Amstel: Magere Brug, Blauwbrug, Hoge Sluis and Berlagebrug.

[caption id="attachment_118" align="alignnone" width="560"]A bridge along the busy Amstel River in Amsterdam, NL. A bridge along the busy Amstel River in Amsterdam, NL.[/caption]

Heading away from the city centre and biking south of the A10 Highway, you’ll find Amsterdam’s bustle soon giving way to a scenic countryside setting with many opportunities to rest, take in some sights and grab a refreshing drink along the way.

En route, stop in for a beer and a bite to eat on the outskirts of Amsterdam at the Klein Kalfje – a pretty red-bricked building with a bright and comfortable outdoor seating area.  This popular local hangout sits on the west side of the river, and is known for its impressive menu and lively scene.

From here, it’s a quick two-minute ride to the historic windmill De Riekermolen, also situated on the west side of the river near Amstel Park.  Dating back to 1636, the windmill was used in a bygone era for draining a nearby parcel of land. Visit the site on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 12:00 to 17:00 from May through September, and you can catch it spin (provided there is enough wind, naturally).  Near the windmill, you’ll also find a statue of the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt, whose sketches were inspired by the area’s scenic setting.

[caption id="attachment_120" align="alignnone" width="560"]The Riekermolen Windmill near the Amstel River The Riekermolen Windmill near the Amstel River[/caption]

Before circling back, be sure to stop at De Zwaag – another pretty windmill on the east side of the Amstel River.  To get here, head south to the bridge at Ouder-Amstel, cross the river and then come back along the east side of the river.  Once you’ve taken your self-guided tour around De Zwaag, continue north of the A10 Highway until you once again reach Amsterdam’s city centre.

Of course, this is just one of many bike routes to help you explore Amsterdam and the Amstel River. For an alternate route along the river, try exploring the Ronde Hoep.



Vondelpark

Vondelpark is a famous public urban park located in the southern part of central Amsterdam, Netherlands. The park was opened in 1865 and was originally called the Nieuwe Park, which means "The New Park". After a statue of a famous Dutch writer named Joost Van den Vondel was constructed in 1867 within the park, visitors began calling the park "Vondelpark". The name stuck and a few years later, the name of the park was officially changed into Vondelpark.

This 47-hectares park is visited by almost 12 million people around the world every year. It has wonderful nature and countless outdoor activities for everyone to explore. Visitors can visit facilities such as the Open Air Theatre, several different Restaurants or Cafes throughout the park, a lot of green space for picnics and also biking and jogging paths for public. In addition, Vondelpark is also famous for the richness of art history as several statues are displayed throughout the park. One of the most famous statues is a sculpture by Pablo Picasso called The Fish, which was first displayed in 1965. Two monumental trees are also located in the park.

[caption id="attachment_94" align="alignnone" width="560"]A statue in Vondelpark, Amsterdam A statue in Vondelpark, Amsterdam[/caption]

With all kinds of entertainment that visitors can enjoy, Vondelpark is very popular during the summer months. In the months of June to August, the Open Air Theatre is playing numerous free concerts for the visitors, from classical to pop music, dance performances, and musical theatre performance.

The Vondelpark is one of Amsterdam's most popular attractions as both tourists and locals enjoy the relaxing atmosphere that this park has to offer. The paths throughout the park are commonly used by cyclists getting from one section of the city to the other. The paths that cut through the center of the park are more relaxed and pass the scenic ponds and grassy fields.

[caption id="attachment_93" align="alignnone" width="560"]A pond in Vondelpark, Amsterdam A pond in Vondelpark, Amsterdam[/caption]

Vondelpark is easily accessible from anywhere in central Amsterdam as it is close to major tram lines near Leidseplein and multiple routes for cars and bikes. Walking from Centraal Station takes about 45-minutes and biking can be done in about 15-minutes. Plan to visit Vondelpark as you explore the nearby neighbourhoods and enjoy the people and scenery right in the heart of Amsterdam.

For a scenic bike route in Amsterdam that passes through the Vondelpark along with several other parks, see the Amsterdam Parks Route.



Top 3 Bike Day Trips Outside of Amsterdam

Many visitors to Amsterdam rent a bicycle to explore the city but very few venture beyond the city centre and make it out into the picturesque Dutch countryside. With such flat terrain, it is quite easy to plan a day trip to nearby towns or tourist attractions from Amsterdam.

When planning a day trip on the bike from Amsterdam, some things to consider bringing include:

  • A map or directions so you can find your way
  • Water to drink and food to eat as there can be long distances between finding any places to eat
  • A light rain jacket as the weather around Amsterdam is notorious for changing quickly.

You should also be in reasonably good physical condition. The routes are quite flat and generally the only challenge is the wind resistance, which can be quite strong if you have to bike into the wind.

The follow are 3 recommended  bike day trips that start near Amsterdam Central train station and return to that point. You can begin the routes from other points along the route that are most convenient for you.

Zaanse Schans

[caption id="attachment_80" align="alignnone" width="560"]Windmills at Zanse Schans Windmills at Zanse Schans[/caption]

The windmills at Zaanse Schans are one of the most popular tourist destinations in The Netherlands. Situated along the Zaan River, the bike route requires riding outside of the Amsterdam city area, taking a free ferry across the IJ (pronounced “eye”), and riding through the town of Zaandam. The direct route from central Amsterdam is about 30km roundtrip by bike. A longer route of 45km to Zaanse Schans can be down that loops through the polders, land reclaimed from the sea, before reaching Zaanse Schans, then passing through the small towns of Westzaan and Nauerra before heading back to Amsterdam.

Muiderslot

[caption id="attachment_79" align="alignnone" width="560"]The Muiderslot castle near Amsterdam The Muiderslot castle near Amsterdam[/caption]

Amsterdam’s castle, known as Muiderslot, is located at the mouth of the Vecht River, southeast of the city centre in the town of Muiden. The 40km bike route from the Central Station area can be done in about 5 hours roundtrip, not including stops at the castle or any other attractions. The route follows the scenic Amsterdam-Rhine Canal before heading into the countryside and reaching the town of Muiden. After visiting the castle, the route continues south along the east side of the Vecht River to the town of Weesp before returning to Amsterdam through the scenic Diemerbos, a forested area built in the 1990’s.

Amstel Ronde Hoeproute

[caption id="attachment_78" align="alignnone" width="560"]Boats along the Amstel River in Amsterdam Boats along the Amstel River in Amsterdam[/caption]

One of Amsterdam’s most iconic rivers, the Amstel River (not the beer) flows through Holland, into the centre of the city. The 40km bike route known as the Amstel Ronde Hoeproute takes about 5 hours to ride and follows the Amstel out of Amsterdam, passing through Middelpolder park before crossing into the town of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The Rondehoep is a protected grassland area that is home to many different species of birds. The biking route loops around the Rondehoep before reaching the Amstel River and following it north, back into the city.

If you are looking to rent bicycles while in Amsterdam, you can see a list of bike rental shops or read about the details of renting a bike.



Art & Culture at the Rijksmuseum

Originally opened in 1800, the iconic Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has been home to some of the world’s most dazzling and important works of art for more than two centuries. Though this museum has been relocated and reinvented many times over its 200-year history, it is the museum’s most recent renovation that is the most notable. In fact, the Rijksmuseum reopened its doors in April 2013 after a massive 10-year transformation, one of the most significant restorations ever undertaken by a museum anywhere in the world.

Museumplein in Amsterdam

As a result, this historic 19th-century building has been updated with new facilities that include a stunning new entrance, a new Asian pavilion, beautiful gardens and 80 galleries that showcase more than 8,000 works of art and artefacts recounting some 800 years of Dutch art and history – from the Middle Ages to modern times.  This includes, of course, the renowned Gallery of Honour featuring highlights from the Dutch Golden Age.

A quick tour of this national treasure reveals some truly remarkable art pieces, with Rembrandt's The Night Watch anchoring the centre of the museum in its own distinct room. An exceptional representation of Baroque Art, The Night Watch radiates with energy in its portrayal of guard soldiers in dramatic light, a young maiden threading through the crowd, a lone dog and a captain commanding his troops.  This important piece signifies a turning point in Rembrandt’s artistic career, while also revealing his creative genius.

Next to this gallery is the equally impressive Gallery of Honour, displaying the works of Vermeer, Steen, Hals and more Rembrandt. Considered the heart and soul of the Rijksmuseum, the Gallery of Honour is lined with priceless paintings along with some of Rembrandt's most spectacular pieces, including a late self-portrait, another of his son Titus as well as the noteworthy The Jewish Bride.

Another section of this gallery houses the works of Johannes Vermeer, including The Milkmaid and The Little Street, which captures the serenity of a typical day in his hometown of Delft, a Dutch city roughly 60 kilometres southwest of Amsterdam.

Trees in museumplein

Ideally situated on Amsterdam’s famous Museumplein, the Rijksmuseum is easily accessible by bicycle (as well as by car and public transit) and is about three kilometres southwest of Centraal Station in the city’s affluent Oud-zuid area (translating literally to “Old South”).

Hours of operation are 9:00 to 17:00 daily (including Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day). Admission is €17.50 for adults, youth aged 18 and under are free. The Rijksmuseum is located at Museumstraat 1. For more information, visit Rijksmuseum or phone +31 (0) 20 6747 000.



Locking Your Bike in Amsterdam

Bike theft in Amsterdam is a major problem with estimates running at more than 50,000 bicycles stolen annually in the city. Therefore, it is important to take precautions and lock your bike properly.

Visitors to Amsterdam who are renting a bike should check that the bicycle comes with two different locks:

Wheel Lock

The wheel lock is attached to the bicycle’s frame and it works by positioning a metal rod between the spokes on the back wheel so the wheel cannot turn. Generally, a key is connected to the lock and when you push a latch down, then turn and pull the key out of the mechanism, the back wheel becomes locked. You will need to look after this key to unlock the wheel lock when you return to your bike. The key stays inside the lock as you ride your bike, which helps remind you to use this lock when you leave your bike.

[caption id="attachment_39" align="alignnone" width="560"]A wheel lock on a Dutch bike A wheel lock on the back wheel of a Dutch bike.[/caption]

Chain Lock

A fairly standard bike lock, the chain is used to wrap around the wheels, the frame, and the stationary object you are locking your bike to. The ends of the chain have different connections, some have a combination lock, some require a key. It is important to attach the lock to something stationary and wrap this chain around the wheels as thieves will steal parts of a bike, especially when it’s easy because it’s not locked.

[caption id="attachment_40" align="alignnone" width="560"]A chain lock on a Dutch bike. A chain lock used to lock the bicycle and its wheels.[/caption]

Before leaving the bike rental shop, make sure you have tested and know how each of the locks works. Some of the wheel locks and the connectors on the chains can be finicky and it’s much easier to ask one of the bike shop employees who are familiar with the particular locks.

Locking your bike will not guarantee that someone cannot steal it as thieves have a variety of tools and tricks they use to break locks. However, using the two locks above will ensure your bike is not stolen 90% of the time. Here are some other tips to help prevent your bike from being stolen in Amsterdam:

  1. Purchase bike insurance if you’re renting. Generally there is an option of getting insurance by paying extra Euros but the amount is often fairly low. It’s worth it to not have to worry about having to replace a bike for several hundred Euros!
  2. Park in well lit areas. Thieves operate everywhere but parking your bicycle at designated bike lockups near busier areas rather than down an alley where nobody walks usually lowers the likelihood that your bike will be stolen.
  3. Lock your bike to a stationary, secure object. There are many bike racks around Amsterdam to lock your bike to but it can sometimes be difficult to find an empty space. Make sure you lock your bike to some sort of object that is secure and won’t move or break easily.
  4. Do not leave your bike unattended and unlocked for even a minute. Even if you have just stopped to take a photo and are within 20-meters of your bike, lock it up.
  5. Avoid using the “best” or most fancy looking bike. You are stuck with what you get when renting but the point is not to draw too much attention to your bicycle. You might notice that some residents of Amsterdam have awful looking bikes that are painted in bright solid colours, or personalized in a strange, creative way. This is a security feature to make the bike appear less appealing to steal.

[caption id="attachment_43" align="alignnone" width="560"]A bike in Amsterdam People will "customize" their bicycles for practical reasons and also to make them less desirable to steal.[/caption]

Taking these precautions will help prevent your bicycle from being stolen and ensure you enjoy your time cycling around Amsterdam.