Cycling around Amsterdam is one of those things you just have to do as a visitor. However, there are so many quieter cycling trails to discover in the Netherlands, all of which are accessible by train.
As one of the most bike friendly countries in Europe, you can hire bikes everywhere in the Netherlands, especially at main railway stations. Be prepared for the Dutch bike, though. It doesn’t have brakes on the handlebar. You have to pedal backwards to stop. If you hire one, or bring your own, you can take it on Dutch trains outside rush hour during the week and all day at weekends. However, you do need to buy a Bicycle Day Ticket, which you can buy locally. You could always hire a tandem and split the ticket price - you can’t get a better example of ‘going Dutch’ than that.
Long-distance cycling trails in the Netherlands
LF Routes are the long-distance trails that cross the Netherlands and into Belgium. They stand for Landelijke Fietsroutes, which translates as countrywide cycling routes. There are over 30 of these altogether. The most well known LF is the North Sea Route (LF1) which is part of a vast 5,900km trail around the coasts of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, UK and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands you can connect with it at various places by train including The Hague, Haarlem, Groningham and at the country’s last stop in Nieuweschans. One tip on this route is to check the direction of the wind. If you are cycling into a Netherlands northerly, you will definitely feel it, so maybe take an inland route if the northerlies are strong.
Cyclists might prefer this sort of trip in Amsterdam - a circular trail which combines three LF routes (LF21-23), into one big Zuiderzee Route. A 400km circle around the capital, this takes you through North Holland through Friesland, up to Weerribben-Wieden National Park and back down to Amsterdam again.*
The LF2 takes you on a 340km route between Amsterdam and Brussels, cycling through a mix of rural and urban landscapes, all with safe cycling lanes throughout. Train connections to this trail, which also takes you past the famous Kinderdijk windmills, are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Antwerp and Brussels. Love life, love a LF.
Leisurely cycling trails in the Netherlands
There are so many cycling routes, or Fietsroute, in the Netherlands, we have had to choose just a few favourites. Rent a bike at Amsterdam central station and many locations throughout the capital, then head out to Amsterdam Forest, or Amsterdamse Bos. It is three times bigger than Manhattan’s Central Park and has cycling paths throughout. Just 20 mins cycle from the city centre, you can also hire bikes at the Forest’s visitor centre.
It’s not all canals in the Netherlands, with some wonderful river cycling to be had too. Take a sultry saunter along the Vecht River between Weesp and Utrecht. This 35km trail takes you alongside peaceful pastures and windmill country, finishing in the most underrated town of Utrecht where the Old Canal is one of the country’s finest. Reward yourself with a picnic in the city’s Wilhelminapark.
A Dutch cycling favourite is Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park, which is an hour’s cycle from Utrecht. Other stations on the outskirts of this national park are Driebergen-Zeist, Maarn, Veenendaal or Rhenen. Unlike so many parts of the Netherlands, this region actually has some hills. Translating as Utrecht Ridge National Park, you can cycle through elevated woodland and moorland and feel miles from anywhere.
The de Kaag Lakes, just north of Leiden, make for a wonderful cycle for those who like a dip en route. Take on the well marked 60km circular trail around the lakes, with plenty of windmills, canals, flower-filled fields, dykes and rivers thrown into this water-filled wonderland. Come in tulip season, March to May, to catch this region in all its splendour.
Just like its cheese, you can take on a circular cycling trail around Gouda, and pack your pannier with plenty of its local fare at Gouda market. Cycle through the green heart of the country through small towns, along the River Hollandse IJssel and across dykes into a tranquil wetland. You gouda love it. Cheesy jokes are a must when cycling through this region.
*Note that on both this and LF1, route, you can usually cycle over the 32km long Afsluitdijk dyke but it is closed until 2022 for maintenance. There is a regular, free bus service with places for 15 bikes to cater for the diversion. The Dutch will never leave a cyclist stranded.
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