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The first step toward a successful cycle through the city: don’t look like a tourist! Here are a few tips to help you easily blend in on the streets of Amsterdam.
In no other city does the bicycle rider reign supreme. The history, architecture, and ambiance of the city may be what lures most travelers to Amsterdam, but it’s the Amsterdammers astride their fietsen that are likely to capture the most attention.
Did you know that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam? Rich, poor, young, old – it doesn’t matter – everyone cycles. So when you’re visiting the city, join the Amsterdammers and get on a bike.
Amsterdam might have the best cycling infrastructure in the world, but getting around on a bike can be daunting. Unwritten rules, high speeds, cargo bikes packed with kids, coaster brakes, and the sheer hoards of cyclists can all be very intimidating. The first step toward a successful cycle through the city: don’t look like a tourist! Here are a few tips to help you easily blend in on the streets of Amsterdam.
Cycle on a black, upright, Dutch bike. No bright yellow or flashy green rental, no cruisers, and no mountain bikes. No need to dress sporty, just stylish. Give the bell a test because you’ll likely need it.
A cute little basket isn’t in these days. Instead, attach a big sturdy basket or old wooden crate to the front of your bike. Fill it with groceries and flowers and people will certainly think you were born and raised in Amsterdam.
Dutch people don’t wear helmets, vests, or any special “cycling clothes.” Cycling here is just a faster version of walking. So get on your bike with high heels, a pretty dress, a smart suit, or trendy jeans.
Don’t forget to signal. It’s easy: point right to go right, point left to go left. And if you want to stop in the middle of the fietspad (bike path), just point down to the curb with your left hand. No need to make a scene of it, just a limp hand does the trick.
Cycling here is social, so cycle side-by-side and chat with each other. Just make sure that other cyclists can pass. There is always someone riding faster than you.
“Doubling” is true Dutch. Ladies sit on the rear rack with their legs to one side; men have one leg hanging over each side. Dutch women are progressive, so you will also see a woman cycling while the man sits.
Is it raining? It most likely is. No matter what the weather, the Dutch suck it up and keep riding. Would you rather wait for the tram? We didn’t think so. You can always duck under an awning in a downpour, but don’t let the weather stop you from riding. And if you’re brave, you can try cycling while holding an umbrella at the same time, in true Dutch style.
Finally, bikes always get stolen. So lock your bike with two high-quality locks. People spend more money on locks than on their bikes here. Also, make sure to lock your bike to a proper rack, otherwise authorities might haul it away thinking it’s abandoned. Other than that, sit upright, relax, and pedal away.
While you’re enjoying the fresh air, light rain, or even some afternoon sun, here are a few of our all time favorite places in the city of bikes.
+ Ride over The Skinny Bridge (de Magere Brug) for a nice view of the Amstel River. Head over to De Ysbreeker for fresh mint tea and the perfect cyclist-watching spot. You can also ride along the Amstel for about 6 miles (10 kilometers) to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, and even take the bike ferry to the other side of the river for a different view.
+ For a true village feeling, ride up and down the Haarlemmerdijk/straat. You’ll want to park at some point because all the shops are too tempting.
+ Cycling in the Jordaan neighborhood is lovely. Eerste and Tweede Goudsbloemdwarsstraat are a couple of favorites. Stop at Winkel on Noordermarkt for the best apple tart or Boca’s on Westerstraat for delicious boards of meats and cheeses.
+ Take your bike on the free ferry behind Central Station to Amsterdam-Noord. Cycle to Nieuwendammerdijk and Schellingwouderdijk; dikes, water views, dike houses and houseboats, clogs, and a windmill. It doesn’t get much more Dutch than that.
+ Ride over to Java Eiland for a look at a modernist version of Amsterdam, complete with narrow houses, cute bridges, and picturesque canals.
+ The newly opened Rijksmuseum is a real treat because they also reopened the bike path that goes through the museum. Don’t miss it.
+ If you’re riding past Utrechtsestraat, make sure to stop at either of the fresh fish kiosks. They make the best herring or smoked mackerel sandwiches in the city. Get there before 4:30 pm though.
+ The Amsterdamse Bos is a large park on the south side of Amsterdam. The Dutch even call it a forest. Cycle along the lakes, the forest, and stop for a picnic. You can even rent a “waterbike.”
Meredith and Joni are bloggers for Amsterdam Cycle Chic. Meredith works as an Urban Strategist at Stipo and Joni founded the Dutch bicycle brand Bear Bicycles. Amsterdam Cycle Chic is a member of the Cycle Chic Republic and Copenhagenize Design Co. Tailored cycling study tours are available at copenhagenize.eu.