Famed for its love of cycling, The Netherlands capital Amsterdam is the place to go for a quick cultural city break.
The city has a vast 280 miles’ worth of exclusive cycle lanes so on two wheels you really become part of the action and feel a sense of belonging. Amsterdam’s 800,000 bikes actually outnumber its population, with 58% of residents using their bikes daily. Today, Amsterdam is one of the safest places in the world to cycle, with the government heavily investing in designated cycle lanes, bike parking spaces and even special lanes on roundabouts exclusively for bicycles.
It is not very well known that Amsterdam has not always been this way. In fact, a large number of cycling fatalities and accidents in the 1970’s resulted in mass protests calling for cycling to be made less dangerous and more accessible. This radicalized Amsterdam’s road layout, with an emphasis on cycling safety and cycle routes taking advantage of the flat landscape in The Netherlands. With offerings like this it is no wonder Amsterdam has been crowned the cycling capital of Europe.
Ride: Cycling in The City
Hiring a bike in the city gives you an authentic Amsterdam experience and is an essential part of any trip here. You simply can’t go to Amsterdam without enjoying a pedal around the flat streets, designed with cyclists in mind. Amsterdam has a diverse range of activities and a contrasting culture to cater for all. From the infamous and controversial red light district and coffee shops to the world’s largest Van Gough art collection, and The Anne Frank Museum. Despite being a relatively small city, Amsterdam is a European gem full of history, culture and unique flair. A quaint blend of cobbled streets, canals and original windmills, Amsterdam is a weekend escape to put on your bucket list.
When cycling or even walking in Amsterdam it is important to be aware of your surroundings, because driving in the city is such a horror, cyclists often feel (and act) like they own the roads. Most locals do not obey red lights and so when crossing roads you should never just assume that the cyclist coming full speed towards you will stop. With a mixture of tourists and locals on the roads cycling in Amsterdam can be hectic; tourists should be mindful that stopping in the middle of the roads to take pictures is not only annoying to the locals and other cyclists around, but it is dangerous. With the amount of bikes on the road, one person suddenly breaking and pulling in to take a photo can cause a nasty accident.
Canal Trips and Boat Hire
If you want to do something a bit different than simply taking in the sights by foot or by bike, why not hop on a boat and sail up and down the canal routes that date back to the 17th century. If you don’t fancy joining a guided group canal excursion you can hire your own boat – or even a private gondola if you are looking for something a touch more romantic. A canal ride is a wonderful way to unwind on a cool summer evening as you watch the sun set over the city alongside the colourful glow of the canal side lights switch on. By boat you will be able to sail through the canal path that separates the famous Nine Streets shopping district and get up close to the mesmerizing architecture of the canal side buildings.
Shop: The Nine Streets
Nestled amongst the canals lies nine narrow streets, each bursting with a blend of small independent boutiques, vintage shops, art galleries and an array of cafes and restaurants. The charm of these nine streets, each split up by the intersecting canal, cannot be replicated. It is on these streets that you will be able to seek out quirky one off statement pieces, hidden hot spots and authentic shops.
Stay: House Boats
If you are looking to stay somewhere other than a hotel then there are plenty of beautiful luxury canal boats available to rent. Many sites such as Airbnb have a range of premium houseboats, all kitted out with the amenities you would find in a stylish hotel or apartment. Allowing you to achieve a private luxury stay in the heart of the city without compromising on comfort or space.
Staying in a boat guarantees a great waterfront location and the best position to access the city in the day and watch the boats sail by the historic buildings beautifully lit in the evenings.
Gedempt Hamerkanaal 201, 1021 KP Amsterdam, Netherlands
In the industrial area of Amsterdam north is Stork, a fish and seafood café-restaurant right on the waterfront. The fish is caught daily and is as fresh as you can get! With a rustic yet modern feel the converted industrial loft has a unique design and is certainly not just four plain walls and a few tables and chairs. The café-restaurant is full of charisma and is in the perfect location for water lovers and those who enjoy dinner with a view. Here you can sit on the candle lit terrace and look out over the IJ lake (disputed as a river) and see the hustle and bustle of the central station in the distance. To get to the restaurant there are frequent ferries (every three minutes) that take just two minutes to cross the lake.
Where To Drink: Waterkant
Marnixstraat 246, 1016 TL Amsterdam, Netherlands
Just a 12-minute walk from the Nine Streets, Waterkant is an extremely popular restaurant and bar. It’s stunning architecture and waterfront location certainly give it the wow factor. With rows of picnic benches outside, Waterkant is a prime city hot spot for enjoying a cold drink, maybe having a bite to eat and watching the world (and maybe a few boats) sail by. On a Friday and Saturday night there is always great music playing making Waterkant one of the trendiest places in town!
Written by Ella Jenkinson