With fabulously pancake-flat, scenic landscapes beckoning along every last dyke, canal, river and coastal shore, two-wheeling in the Netherlands is one of Dutch life’s greatest pleasures (headwinds notwithstanding).
While the bike-loving Dutch practically live on their well-worn, beloved fietsen (bicycles) – cycling for visitors is a wonderful means of exploring and getting around. Bike-rental outlets are ubiquitous, and the country is crisscrossed with some 32,000km (19,883 miles) of cycling paths. Here are 10 of the country’s best cycling spots.
Amsterdam to Waterland loop
Twenty minutes from central Amsterdam, feel like you’ve step centuries back in time in Waterland. Cows, dykes, canals and lots of expansive green fields are on full display on this classic Dutch scenic route.
Immediately across the Dommel River from the center of Den Bosch, the urban landscape gives way to open meadowland in this 202-hectare (499 acres) nature reserve. It’s laced with cycling trails and offers attractive views back towards the city skyline and ramparts. To access the area, take Sterrebosweg, the paved cycle-road that crosses a bridge from the northern end of Pettelaarsweg.
Leiden to Bulbfields loop
The best time to take this route is mid-March to mid-May when the tulips and daffodils are at their peak and the ribbons of bold colors are astounding. But it’s a lovely ride at any time, and especially good in summer when you can stop at the beach for a break on the sand and a refreshing dip in the sea.
Cycle along the Waalbrug – the main bridge across the Waal River, Europe’s busiest waterway – for breath-stealing sunset views of the old town, water and boats below.
Breda Border Loop
To get away from the city bustle jump on a bicycle and take the LF9 cycle path which meanders through pretty countryside following the Mark River. Visit Breda, a Belgian shrine-village then return through the Mastbos Forest.
Join the pedaling masses along the canal-side cycling path in Kinderdijk – an iconic World Heritage–listed site. This stretch of the Alblasserwaard polder encompasses two canals, 19 traditional windmills, a pumping station that’s been repurposed as a visitor center and a dual pedestrian and bicycle path between the canals. Two of the windmills – the 17th century Nederwaard and Blokweer mills – function as museums, offering an insight into the past lives of miller families.
The length of the site and back is an easy 5.7km (3.5 miles). A cafe and ice-cream stands are dotted along the pathway. If you’re lucky, some of the mills will have their sails spinning – a truly majestic sight.
Ride north or south along invigorating dunes and Scheveningen beaches to leave the Den Haag crowds behind.
Midway between Alkmaar and Edam, the village of De Rijp on the N244 is at the south end of several good rides along dykes that give an excellent feel for just how low the land is compared to the waterways coursing between the earthen walls.
Weerribben-Wieden National Park
A serene and mysterious landscape of canals, ponds and lakes, the Weerribben-Wieden National Park is the largest freshwater wetland in northwestern Europe. Its swampy 10,000 hectares contain centuries-old peatlands, bogs, reed beds dotted with different orchid varieties, forest and a treasure trove of wildlife. Enjoy it all on one of the many scenic cycling trails.
The crescent of islands over Friesland – Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog – form a unique natural entity and a distinct Dutch region. A natural barrier between the Frisian coast and the North Sea, they hem in the mudflats of the Waddenzee, a Unesco World Heritage site since 2009. Villages, polders and salt marshes fringe the islands along their Waddenzee shores, while swaths of beach and dunes lace the seaward side. Inland, expect ample forest and heath crisscrossed with hiking and cycling trails.
A private park for the wealthy until 1953, Vondelpark now occupies a special place in Amsterdam’s heart. It’s a magical escape, but also supplies a busy social scene, encompassing cycle ways, pristine lawns, ponds with swans, quaint cafes, footbridges and winding footpaths. On a sunny day, an open-air party atmosphere ensues when tourists, lovers, cyclists, in-line skaters, pram-pushing parents, cartwheeling children, football-kicking teenagers, spliff-sharing friends and champagne-swilling picnickers all come out to play.