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Cycling in Amsterdam: All You Need to Know

July 19, 2023

Cycling in Amsterdam is a must if you want an authentic Dutch experience. As one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, Amsterdam has hundreds of miles dedicated to cycle paths. There are routes that take you around the city’s key sights and trips further afield to the coast or the countryside. Whatever your vibe, there’s a cycle trip to suit.

Ready to get on your bike? Whether you want to rent your own or take on a cycling tour, here’s everything you need to know before cycling in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam’s cycling history

Cycling is synonymous with Amsterdam. Young and old alike can be seen pedalling along local streets on their way to school, work, to meet friends or go shopping. To most of us, it seems like cycling must somehow be built into the DNA of the Dutch but look back a mere 50 years and it’s quite a different story.

Up until World War II, bicycles had been the favoured mode of transport for almost 50 years. Following the post-war automotive boom, they were soon replaced by modern motor cars. This surge in four-wheeled vehicles led to a huge number of traffic accidents and shockingly high death rates in the city.

In 1971, 3,000 people, including 450 children, were killed by cars. This triggered locals to take to the streets in protest and the Cyclists’ Union to lobby for more cycle space. MPs took note, and the government decided to invest heavily in the country’s cycling infrastructure. The result? Well, 50 years later, Amsterdam is now the second most bike-friendly city in the world. Within a generation, cycling has become a way of life.

There are some 22.8 million bicycles in the Netherlands and around 880,000 of those are found in Amsterdam. With an average of 1.3 bikes per person, that means there’s also a lot of opportunity for bike thieves and over 200 bicycles are reported stolen in Amsterdam every day. There are 513km (320 miles) of dedicated cycle paths in the city, more than 200,000 bike racks, and more than half of all city journeys are made by bicycle.

Black and white photo of people painting cycle path logos on the ground

Image courtesy: bicycledutch.wordpress.com

Cycling safely in Amsterdam

It’s easy to get a bit carried away when you’re travelling and forget that rules still apply. To get the most out of your cycling experience it’s important to follow some basic rules to keep yourself and those around you safe. Check out our top safety tips:

1. Wear a helmet

You don’t need to legally wear a helmet in Amsterdam, in fact, most locals don’t. As a less experienced tourist, it’s recommended that you do.

2. Don’t ride drunk

Whilst you’re definitely encouraged to get out and enjoy all the city’s nightlife has to offer, remember not to cycle when drunk. It’s illegal and you could face a hefty fine.

3. Stick to designated cycle lanes

Stay in your cycle lane and don’t veer off onto pavements, pedestrian areas or any of the squares.

4. Make sure you have lights

In darkness or poor visibility, it’s essential to have a front and back light, so make sure your bike is fitted with one.

5. Avoid tram tracks

If you can, try to avoid cycling along tram tracks so that you don’t get in the way or get stuck in the ruts.

Dutch police using bicycles

Image courtesy: dutchnews.nl

Throughout the city you’ll find a few different types of designated cycle lanes or fietspad. The most common cycle lanes are one-way, but look out for a dotted line down the middle that indicates a two-way cycle lane. You’ll find cycle lanes either marked out on the road or physically separated out from roads and pavements.

Amsterdam council provides plenty of secure parking spaces throughout the city known as fietsenstalling. The most well-known is the rather awe-inspiring three-storey fietsflat at Amsterdam Central Station that can securely store a whopping 2,500 bicycles.

Given the prevalence of bike thefts in Amsterdam, make sure you park your beloved bike properly. Always lock the frame and the front wheel to a fixed structure like a cycle rack or a railing. Or do what the locals do and ride an old second-hand bike nobody wants to steal!

If your bicycle ends up a bit worse for wear, in a city geared up for cyclists you can be sure to find plenty of good repair shops. Here are some of the best-rated:

Best cycle routes in Amsterdam

With more than 8,000 cycle routes to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin. To help we’ve listed some of our favourites:

1. Short city cycle for beginners

If you’re a beginner or just want to ease yourself into cycling around the city, then this 3.3-mile route is a great way to tick off some city centre sights.

Starting off at the ClinkNOORD hostel, you’ll travel across the canal bridge to the Hermitage Amsterdam museum, along the Botanical Gardens and on to the NEMO Science Museum to take in the spectacular views across the water. All in, you should expect the cycle to take just over 20 minutes.

2. Waterland

Starting at Centraal Station, a stone’s throw from ClinkNOORD, this 25.4-mile route takes you through traditional Dutch villages and beautiful countryside.

Highlights include 16th-century wooden houses on the Buiksloterdijk, the 90-year-old Krijtmolen d’Admiraal windmill, and the old cow market (Koemarkt). Expect to spend about 2.5 hours on this tranquil trail.

3. Amstel River

Starting just across the water from ClinkNOORD and following the Amstel River out of the city, this 27-mile route meanders alongside the famous waterway.

On this journey, you can take in the 1636-built Riekermolen windmill and bronze Rembrandt statue. Then, move on to the Rembrandt Hoeve farm that specialises in traditional clog and Gouda cheese-making. Finally, enjoy the picturesque 12th-century medieval village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Give yourself a good 2.5 hours to take in all the sights.

4. Flowers of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is famous for its fields of colourful tulips. Take this 31.6-mile route around some of the city’s best floral displays.

Starting at the world’s only floating flower market, the Bloemenmarkt, you’ll wind your way towards Amsterdam’s beautiful Vondelpark and take in Aalsmeer, the biggest flower auction in the world. Give yourself at least 3 hours to take in all the sights.

5. Zuidoost

Heading further out of the city centre you’ll find the culturally diverse Amsterdam-Zuidoost and Bijlmermeer neighbourhood, or ‘Bijlmer’ for short.

You’ll start your journey at the brightly coloured Heesterveld Creative Community building and take a 14.2-mile tour around this vibrant and eclectic area. Take in the large Gaasperplas lake and make sure you stop for some delicious international street food at the Foodhallen World of Food. Count on spending around 1.5 hours on the route.

6. Amsterdam Beach

If you’re keen to head out of the city, then this 34.4-mile seaside cycle route is the perfect choice. Starting in the lively beach town of Zandvoort, you’ll head on to Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, home to lush coastal forests and gorgeous beaches. Then, take in the impressive views of the Forteiland Ijmuiden island fortress. Expect to spend 3.5 hours on the tour.

People cycling on Amsterdam streets

Image courtesy: amsterdamtips.com

Best cycling tours in Amsterdam

If you’re not keen to organise your own cycle trip, then Amsterdam has plenty of companies to take you on a hassle-free cycle tour of the city. Here are 5 of the best cycle tours on offer:

1. Guided Bike Tour of Central Amsterdam by AmsterBike 

Starting at Centraal Station, a local guide will take you to see the charming drawbridges and warehouses of the Western Islands, the trendy boutiques and eateries of the Jordaan and De Pijp neighbourhoods, the Museum Quarter and the beautiful Vondelpark.

Tours start from £27.06pp, last around 3 hours and include free Stroopwafels!

2. Amsterdam’s Highlights and Hidden Gems by We Bike Amsterdam 

Amsterdam’s smallest bike company offers more intimate tours with a maximum of 12 people on each tour.

In this 8-mile cycle, you’ll take in the city’s hidden gems and secret courtyards, the canal district, the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood, Vondelpark, National Museums and Anne Frank’s House. Tours start at €30pp and last 3 hours.

3. Small-Group Bike Tour by Amsterdam Guias 

This 2.5-hour bike tour covers all the key sights: Jordaan, Vondelpark, the Museum Quarter, the Hermitage Amsterdam Museum, and the Amstel River. Prices start from £21.50pp.

4. Countryside Bike Tour by Mike’s Bike Tours

This 13-mile tour will take you through the lush Vondelpark and along the Amstel River to take in some of Amsterdam’s most beautiful countryside sights. You’ll see the Riekermolen windmill, visit a traditional cheese and clog-making farm, and end with a cycle under the famous Rijksmuseum.

You’ll ride a comfy Dutch grandma bike with handbrakes and have the benefit of a fun, local guide. Prices start at €42pp and the tour lasts up to 4 hours.

5. Countryside Bike and Kayak Tour by Tristan Drost

For a tour with a difference, escape the city and explore Amsterdam’s waterways by bicycle and kayak. Pass by A’dam Lookout, take in the Krijtmolen d’Admiraal windmill, and stop at the small Watergang village for lunch and cheese tasting. Tours last for 5 hours and start from £58.96pp.

Cycling around Amsterdam

From beginner to expert there are lots of other cycling routes around the city. We’ve curated some of the best routes to help you make the most of your trip:

1. Looiersgracht – Magere bridge loop

Starting at Amsterdam Science Park, this 16.1-mile route is an easy bike ride. You’ll take in famous sights including Dam Square and the UNESCO Grachtengordel neighbourhood, crossing several of the city’s beautiful canal bridges. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the trip.

2. Riekermolen – Ouderkerk aan de Amstel loop

For intermediate cyclists, this 25.7-mile loop starts at Amsterdam RAI and includes top sightseeing stops like the Riekermolen windmill and views across Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. This route takes around 2.5 hours and includes moveable bridges and ferry crossings so make sure to check timetables before you head off.

3. Haarlem – de Adriaan loop

An intermediate-cyclist route, this 30.1-mile cycle journey starts at Vijzelgracht train station. You’ll head west to take in the beautiful gothic architecture and cobbled streets of Haarlem. Take in the Amsterdamse Poort old city gate and admire the Molen Adriaan and Molen de Veer windmills enroute. Schedule around 3 hours for your tour.

4. Rijksmuseum – Vondelpark loop

You’ll need a good level of fitness for this intermediate 23.6-mile route. Lasting around 2.5 hours, this tour starts at Noorderpark and loops around the city taking in the beautiful Rijksmuseum, the leafy Vondelpark and the UNESCO Grachtengordel neighbourhood.

5. Durgerdammerdijk – Prachtige coastal loop

For a more challenging ride, take this 23.3-mile journey to the northeast peninsula of Marken. In this popular seaside town, you’ll enjoy a cycle round the harbour as you look at the beautifully coloured traditional wooden houses. Give yourself about 2.25 hours for the trip.

People cycling in the countryside

Image courtesy: iamsterdam.com

Bike rental in Amsterdam

It’s super easy and affordable to rent a bicycle in Amsterdam. It’s possible to rent for as little as three hours, but the most common and convenient option is to rent a bike for the day. The average cost for a full day’s cycle hire in Amsterdam is around €8 – €10.

There’s no shortage of great bike rental companies to choose from, but to help you pick we’ve set out 5 of the best-rated bike rental companies in Amsterdam:

1. Tip Amsterdam-Noord

Tip Amsterdam-Noord is only 2 minutes away from ClinkNOORD and offer rental for €16.50 per day including insurance.

IJpromenade 2, 1031KT Amsterdam

2. Bike Rental Amsterdam

With over 50 bikes to choose from and rentals as cheap as €7.50 per day, Bike Rental Amsterdam is a great value option.

Piet Mondriaanstraat 171, 1061 AR Amsterdam.

3. A-Bike

Offering a great range of city, e-bikes and tandems, A-Bike is found in Vondelpark and offers rental for as little as €7.95 per day.

Tesselschadestraat 1E, 1054 ET Amsterdam.

4. King Bikes

King Bikes offers high-quality bikes from €15 per day including free insurance and extra security with two strong bike locks.

Spuistraat 1C, 1012 SP Amsterdam.

5. Quality Bike Rent Amsterdam

With regular, luxury and wheelchair bikes on offer, Quality Bike Rent Amsterdam offers a good range of quality bicycles. You’ll get free luggage storage, security locks and safety lights with every rental. Prices start from €7.50 per day.

Peperstraat 4, 1011 TL Amsterdam.

What is a Dutch bike?

A traditional Dutch bike has a taller bicycle frame that creates an upright cycling position, thought to be much better for posture. Historically, Dutch bicycles were designed with only one gear, although more modern versions might have up to seven gear speeds.

It’s also very common for Dutch bikes to have coaster brakes. This means you’ll have to pedal backwards to engage the brakes! It’s a little different from using handbrakes, so make sure you test it out and are comfortable you know how to brake before you head off.

Cycling London to Amsterdam

For keen cyclists, you can cycle to Amsterdam from the UK. Several companies offer cycling trips from London. The cycle and ferry trip typically lasts between two and five days and takes in some spectacular sights along the way. Some companies offering cycling tours include:

On a final note

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert-level cyclist, there are plenty of cycle routes in and around Amsterdam to suit. Heed the safety tips, pick a couple of great routes – with or without a tour guide – and embrace the real Amsterdam experience.

For great value, friendly accommodation, check out ClinkNOORD youth hostel in Amsterdam, or if you’re visiting the city with a bigger group, take a look at our cheap group accommodation in Amsterdam.