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Things to do

See Amsterdam by bicycle

Use an authentic mode of transport in this beautiful city and hop on a bike to see the sights of Amsterdam.

The Dutch capital is a cyclist’s playground. Amsterdam provides some wonderful scenic bike rides for all tastes so you can plan a day trip out of the city, a lush forest ride or an urban city cycle. The best part? You can plan any of your routes around food, shopping, or seeing some of the city’s historical aspects.

The history of cycling in Amsterdam

Cycling goes a long way back into Amsterdam’s history. Despite its popularity today, the post-war Dutch economy boomed, meaning more people could afford cars and the bicycle was almost cast out as the favourite mode of city transport. However, growing vehicle traffic and accidents prompted action from numerous protest groups.

These groups held bicycle demonstrations, occupied accident blackspots, and organised special days during which streets were closed to allow children to play safely. The Cyclists’ Union demanded more space for bicycles, hosting bike rides along dangerous stretches of road and reporting problems encountered by cyclists. Gradually, Dutch politicians became aware of the many advantages of cycling, and their transport policies shifted.

In Amsterdam today, there is approximately 515 km (320 miles) of dedicated cycle lanes and the Netherlands boasts over 35000 km (22000 miles) of cycle paths. All major Dutch cities have designated ‘bicycle civil servants’, to help maintain and improve the network. Plus, thanks partly to the development of electric bicycles, cycling is becoming even more popular.

Cityscape on a sunny winter day - view of the bike parking in the historic center of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Tips for cycling in Amsterdam

Make sure you are aware of the rules of cycling before venturing out, and always stay safe.

Cycling safely

Because cycling is so prolific in Amsterdam, you might find the locals hard to keep up with so take extra care when you first venture out. Even if locals are not wearing a protective helmet, you are advised to do so.

You should always follow the traffic rules, which includes obeying the special cycle traffic lights in place across Amsterdam. Crossing tram tracks with care, minding pedestrians and other cyclists are all vital. Stick to riding on the designated cycle lanes (do not ride on pavements, squares or pedestrianised ways).

If you are hiring a bike in Amsterdam, it’s important to know that most basic Dutch bikes have a single gear and use back-pedal brakes which takes some getting used to if you are accustomed to hand brakes.

If you are parking your bike on a street, always lock the frame and front wheel against something fixed like a cycle rack, railing or post. There are plenty of secure bike parking facilities (called fietsenstalling), run by Amsterdam’s council, in the centre of Amsterdam at Paradiso and Pathé De Munt. Outside Amsterdam central station there is the fietsflat, a three-storey bike store which can store up to 2,500 bikes.

Cycling rules

The rules when cycling around Amsterdam aren’t too complicated. Cycle lanes are clearly marked and are even occasionally physically separate from both road and pavement.  Cycle lanes are typically one-way, however a dashed line in the middle indicates travel allowed in both directions.

Use hand signals for turning left or right when there are others around you. Unless otherwise signed, priority is given to traffic coming from your right. In Amsterdam you are required to have both a front and back light when it is dark or during poor visibility.

Bikes by a waterway over a hilly bridge

The best cycle routes in Amsterdam

Now you know the basics, it’s time to discover some of the best routes to take your bike while you stay in Amsterdam. From peaceful forests to coasting by canals, you can pedal your way through the sights and sounds of an exciting city. Be sure to plan in some of the sights from our Secret Amsterdam article.

Zuid and Amsterdamse Bos

Amsterdam-Zuid is the borough of Amsterdam situated to the south and southwest of the Singelgracht canal with Amsterdamse Bos lying on the edge of the city. Bos is Dutch for forest, but this one has a delightful urban twist. The cycle paths here are on the narrow side, so take care, but the backdrop of evergreen trees and lakes more than makes up for it. We recommend taking a picnic so you can dine alfresco in a peaceful setting before returning to the excitement of the city.

Zuidoost

This borough of Amsterdam is known for entertainment. The city’s largest cinema is here and two of its biggest festivals take place in Gaasperplas park, a wonderful open air venue and relaxing natural space. Cycling around this part of the city will showcase the Gaasp river and monument to the Bijlmer Disaster, designed by architects Herman Hertzberger and Georges Descombes, carrying the names of the victims. Flowers are laid at a tree that survived the disaster, referred to as "the tree that saw it all" (de boom die alles zag).

Rustic North

The north of the city is where it is at its most ‘rustic’ or traditionally Dutch. Leave the busy city behind and head for rural landscapes. You can follow cycle paths from the shores of the IJ (formerly a waterway and now a calming bay) along the dykes of picturesque historical villages such as Nieuwendam and Durgerdam. Once you reach Ransdorp, you can turn back to complete the route of around 28km, via Holysloot and Zunderdorp.

Amstel River

A route of around 27km follows this pretty waterway. Encounter beautiful Dutch residential estates, artisanal cheese farms, and traditional village Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. This route has some areas where pedestrians are given precedence, so you must walk your bike part of the way. This will give you an opportunity to take in more of the scenery. From the north of the Amstel, you are close by Central Amsterdam, where shopping locations such as the famous 9 Streets is.

Oost and IJburg

Another wonderful route for lovers of water, but also those that appreciate modern architecture. If you start at the Gooyer windmill it will take you through the eastern boroughs of Amsterdam to IJburg. This is a modern neighbourhood formed by a cluster of manmade islands.

Man in a suit riding a bicycle in historical town of Amsterdam

Amsterdam bike tour organisers

We Bike Amsterdam

This company has the goal of helping you to see some of the lesser known sights on its ‘hidden gems’ tour and an easy countryside tour for those looking to see more of the natural landscapes that surround the city. They only book small groups, never with more than 11 people, so you are guaranteed the full attention of your guide.

Yellow Bike

With a choice of major city attractions or countryside routes, Yellow Bike run ‘fun and educational’ tours that will leave you knowing much more than you expected about Amsterdam, whichever route or tour you choose.

Retours Amsterdam

Retours takes you off the beaten path with expert local knowledge and lots of storytelling to keep the history fresh. The tours are all intimate as they are only up to 9 people allowed in a group at a time.

FROM HERE

A From Here tour can be completely tailored to you and your needs. You tell them what you’d like to see, and they will plan the best route by bike to take you there.

Tour de Amsterdam

As well as affordable bike rental, Tour de Amsterdam will take you on exciting tours of the Dutch countryside as well as the city itself. They also offer cycling training, particularly useful for beginners or those who want to test the waters before venturing out on their own.

Blue lit up neon sign on a building that says Rent with a picture of a bike below

Renting a bicycle

Due to the small streets and canals of Amsterdam, touring the city by bicycle is far easier than by car. You will be able to absorb all that Amsterdam has to offer while staying active at the same time. Taking your bike on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is simple and allows you to make the most of all the scenic routes on offer.

However, if you prefer to rent it is easy to find a bike shop as they have the word ‘fiet’ (bike) in the name. There are several located near the Central Station, the Leidseplein and Dam Square.

You can rent for as few as three hours, although the most common way to hire a bike is for the day. Average prices are around €8-10 a day. You will find many of the bikes have baskets, but you can easily carry what you need for the trip in a backpack.

Cityscape on a sunny winter day - view on the group of cyclists in the historic center of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Start your Amsterdam cycling adventure with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Ready to grab your bike and explore Amsterdam? You can load it on your car and travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes. From there, Amsterdam is under five hours in the car.

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