Amsterdam is famous for its canals, red lights, “coffee” shops and bikes — lots and lots of bikes. I honestly don’t think you can find a European city with more bikes than Amsterdam. One stat I found stated that 40% of all Amsterdammers ride their bike on a daily basis (yes, 40%). There are bike paths all over the city, stop lights for bike riders, and parking lots full of bikes at the train station. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Bikes are everywhere!
Amsterdam is a busy city. On top of all the bikes, there’s a tram system and plenty of automobiles. That means there’s often a lot of activity around you. Once you’re off the main drag, Amsterdam slows down quite a bit. I loved everything about the city, but my mom (who I was traveling with at the time) didn’t appreciate Amsterdam nearly as much as I did (go figure). She wanted to get out of Amsterdam so bad that we decided to rent bikes and take a ride into the Dutch countryside.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of the idea at first. I love the city. I’m built for busy main streets; not cozy back roads. With that said, I honestly loved every second of our bike ride. I would recommend renting bikes to anyone heading to Amsterdam.
Here’s how our trip played out:
My mom and I rented bikes at our hotel (the Amstel Botel) and began our adventure (click here for a map of our ride). We started in Amsterdam-Noord (North) and rode through several cool neighborhoods — neighborhoods that didn’t normally see tourists. At one point early in the ride we needed to ask a woman for directions (after I led us astray), and she laughed when she saw our bright yellow rental bikes (a clear sign that we weren’t locals). She was extremely helpful, but told us that “I never sees yellow bikes around here.”
It didn’t take long for us to ride into the Dutch countryside. It was a dramatic difference from Amsterdam. Instead of people, my mom and I were suddenly mingling with sheep and cattle. Our ride even took us through what looked to be a conservation area and/or wetlands, so there were a bunch of birds in the surrounding water and up in the sky.
It was cool to get away from the city and do like the Dutch do. We were clearly the only Americans on the bike trails (which were all paved, clearly marked and easy to navigate), but that was more than okay with us.
My mom and I took our bikes through a former village called Schellingwoude and continued on to Ransdorp. From there we ended up in a fun little town called Holysloot. That’s where my mom and I decided to stop for lunch. There weren’t too many restaurants in Holysloot — in fact, there was just one — a little schoolhouse (Schoolhuis) in the center of town. It was a great little restaurant out in the middle of nowhere (or at least that’s what it felt like to us).
After lunch, we hopped back on our bikes and continued our ride outside of Amsterdam. The adventure took us through a small harbor town called Durgerdam before we continued back to the big city. Durgerdam was a beautiful little place right on IJmeer — one of the bordering lakes in the Netherlands. At one point, my mom and I stopped to take a few pictures. Looking back on the water and Durgerdam, my mom pointed out that the view looked exactly like something you’d find on a postcard. I couldn’t argue with her, it really did.
Our bike ride wasn’t always pretty but not because of our surroundings. My mom didn’t have an easy time staying on her bike. She didn’t just fall off her bike once, she didn’t only fall twice, she fell three different times. The first time she fell, she almost rolled into the creek. The second time she fell, she wasn’t paying attention so she hit the ground to avoid crashing into me. And the third time she fell, I didn’t even realize she dropped until I looked back and saw her head popping out of the bushes. The only damage was a pair of muddy knees and a bruised ego, but that’s it (my mom is a great sport). In her defense, the rental bike was way too big for her (the Dutch are huge human beings). She couldn’t get her feet on the ground when she lost her balance.
The bike trip outside of Amsterdam was exactly what we needed that day. On top of the city grind, my mom and I were blitzing around Europe at the time. We visited eight different countries in 19 days. Our ride through the Dutch countryside was a great opportunity to unwind for an afternoon. It was picturesque, entertaining and just flat-out fun. In fact, it was perfect.
UPDATE: I recently returned to the Netherlands and enjoyed another (and different) enjoyable bike ride with my dad. Click here to learn more about that adventure, including a map you can follow on your ride through the beautiful Dutch countryside.
Have you ever taken a bike ride outside of Amsterdam? Where did you go? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Don’t forget to visit Seattle Bloggers for more great adventures in the Emerald City and abroad!