There are nearly as many bikes in Amsterdam as there are people – so there’s little excuse for not taking to two wheels to explore the city on a holiday here. Take a look at our guide to find out exactly where you should go on your bike.
This is among the most popular places to visit for local residents and tourists alike – and it’s a great area to head to if you’re exploring Amsterdam on a bike. There’s lots to see as you cycle around Vondelpark, including a rose garden containing 70 varieties of the flower and plenty of quirky street performers. You could stop for a moment to check out the open air theatre, or swap your bike for rollerskates for another speedy way of getting around the park.
Along The Waterfront
A great way to see just how Amsterdam has changed over the centuries is to cycle along the waterfront. The southern section in particular offers a fascinating insight into the city’s more modern developments, although you’ll start to see more of a combination of old and new architecture as you head further west. Look out for the old harbor and buildings made from what looks like lots of brightly-coloured shipping containers, which were designed by local architecture practice MVRDV.
The Nieuwmarkt is the place to go for a taste of Amsterdam’s multicultural lifestyle. This old district is named after the marketplace that was built after the waterways here were filled in during the 17th century, and has seen many fascinating buildings and attractions spring up over the years. One highlight is the 15th-century De Waag building, which houses a cafe and restaurant and is a superb example of medieval Dutch architecture. Make sure your cycling route also takes you past the Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple – or Zeedijk Temple – to see Europe’s biggest Buddhist temple and visit Chinatown to sample some incredible east Asian food. Want to explore further? The notorious red light district is just next door to the Nieuwmarkt. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not all sex shops and prostitutes here. In fact, the area is Amsterdam’s oldest district and is home to a wealth of fascinating sights, including independent boutiques, leaning gabled homes and pretty canals.
If you fancy getting out of the city for a while, cycle north to the Waterland district. Here, you’ll ride past picturesque villages, working fishing towns and large swathes of green land to get a real taste of Dutch country life. Don’t miss Broek’s wooden houses – which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries – and the yacht harbour at Monnickendam. You can also take a break from cycling and hop on a boat or scooter for a unique way to see the region.
Yes, another park, but one that is perfect for people-watching. Westerpark is a great place to relax in, especially after it recently underwent regeneration. Lots of cultural events take place here throughout the year, and you might spot some particularly quirky art exhibits as you cycle around the park (take a closer look at any bodies of water here – you never know what you might find lurking in their depths!).
Dealing With Organized Chaos in Amsterdam
Every time I go back to Amsterdam I leave loving the city even more – it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe. It’s just such a spontaneous place, and it feels as if anything can happen here, but at the same time it feels… organized. For me, Amsterdam is the perfect example of organized chaos. I felt as though people were allowed to do what they wanted, just not exactly where they wanted.They can smoke weed and eat space cakes – just not on the streets; prostitution and buying sex is legal – just stick to the right area. Everybody bikes, and even though you feel as though there are people biking everywhere, they know exactly what they’re doing and which streets they’re allowed on.
If you bike on a pedestrian-only street you risk paying a high fine. This third time in Amsterdam it became even more clear to me how people and rules here are often the straight opposite from other countries: feeling like a BBQ? Yeah sure, bring it all out and put it on the footpath in the city. Wanna party hard in the park, drinking, smoking and pumping out house music out of the speakers in public parks? Yeah go ahead, Vondelpark is perfect, there is even a sign saying you’re allowed to play music, drink and – according to the sign, joggle here. The funny contrasts make the place so different from other cities.
People simply do things differently here: Instead of having a picnic in the park they have it on the boats, instead of driving they bike (in every type of weather, snow or rain doesn’t matter here), and so forth. You see things here that you don’t see anywhere else, like a parking lot with 3000 bikes! Amsterdam is a place with many faces, and it’s up to you which one you want to see. You can choose to see the crazy Amsterdam with Penis fountains, prostitutes posing in windows and coffee shops everywhere.
But you can also choose to see the incredible architecture of the houses, the many boats on the canals where people have picnics, the art museums and the beautiful nature surrounding the city.
Amsterdam is unpretentious, bold and bright – it is exactly what it is, and they’re neither proud, nor ashamed of it.
This acceptance of people is what has made Amsterdam so popular and loved by so many people. You can be who you want – rich, poor, gay, straight – nobody cares. This was my third time in Amsterdam, but I will definitely go back there again and again.