Exploring the rural area’s surrounding Amsterdam during lockdown
Amsterdam was – and hopefully ‘is’ after the corona crisis – a popular tourist destination in the world, famous for its scintillating nightlife as well as its captivating culture. Both for visitors as well as inhabitants, Amsterdam used to be a lively city where one doesn’t have to bored for a minute. However, now that all the museums, canal cruises, restaurants as well as stores are closed to stop the spread of COVID-19, one has to be a bit more creative in finding fun things to do in the city. One of our favourite recommendations for these special times is exploring rural areas by bicycle. It’s an activity that is safe, healthy and will give you a totally different experience than most people have had when visiting Amsterdam.
As well as being enjoyable, cycling is a great way to see Amsterdam if you’re travelling on a shoestring. One area that really shouldn’t be missed is the trading port of Haarlem, known for its stately hotels and open-air markets. Start at the train station Amsterdam Centraal, bike through the Westerpark, pass Station Sloterdijk and leave the city on the s102-road. You will arrive in Ruigoord, a squatters-village with a lot of cultural activities. Continue the route to Haarlem by cycling via Spaarnwoude. Located ten miles to the north-west of the city centre, Haarlem can trace its history as far back as 1245. In true Dutch style, it’s also famous for a variety of tulips which have been exported throughout Europe for centuries. As one of the most popular Amsterdam cycling routes, this is an ideal destination if you want to see the sights without breaking the bank.
The Keukenhof Gardens
Are you up for a bit more of a trek? If so, the Keukenhof Gardens await. Found 26 miles outside of the Amsterdam city centre, these massive gardens are situated within an incredible 79 acres of land. You can start the route in the famous Vondelpark. Head South and make your way to the Heemstedestraat. Stay on this road until you see Badhoevedorp in front of you and take a right. After that, take a left when you have passed Lijnden. From there on, your destination is about 10 miles away, passing Hoofddorp and Nieuw Vennep on your route. The village of your destination is called Lisse. Sometimes referred to as the “Garden of Europe”, it is possible to view thousands of species of flora during your stay at the Keukenhof Gardens. There are other amenities to be enjoyed here as Keukenhof Gardens contain exhibitions, open-air patios and a handful of restaurants that will serve up tasty local cuisine. It is also possible to reserve a half-day tour should you wish to explore the surrounding areas. Given the length of your ride to get there, however, you might want to consider booking overnight accommodations. That way, you can properly relax in your room before making your way back to the city.
Weesp is a small city found just over eight miles to the south-east of Amsterdam, and it is nestled upon the shores of the River Vecht. Start your tour in the east of Amsterdam on the Middenweg. Stay on this road until the name changes in the Muiderstraatweg, as you bike through Diemen. After a while you will reach the (Lange) Stammerdijk. Follow the Stammerdijk alongside the Weespertrekvaart canal up to and including Driemond. Cross the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal and there it is: Weesp. Weesp has existed since the Middle Ages, and many attest that it is most famous as being the production centre of Van Houten chocolate. Unlike some other towns in the Netherlands, Weesp was untouched during the Second World War. Therefore, you can stroll the cobbled streets to appreciate views of buildings that were originally constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are many promenades around the shores of the River Vecht, which are ideal for cyclists, and it is likewise possible to rent yachts on a daily basis. Some other notable attractions to consider include sampling ice cream at Nellie’s Ice Saloon, sipping a famous local beer known as Anker Jenever and visiting the Weesp City Museum.
Done in Weesp? Muiden is very close, so you might as well take a look over there too. Not only can Muiden be comfortably accessed by bicycle, but it’s decidedly tranquil atmosphere harkens back to more traditional times. In Weesp, start next to the railway on the Korte Muiderweg in the east of the city. Just keep cycling this road until you arrive in Muiden. It can be argued that the most famous attraction here is Muiderslot; an ornate and well-preserved castle that was initially erected under the orders of Count Floris V in 1280. However, this is only the beginning. Some other worthwhile sights to absorb during your outing include the nearby Muiden sluice gates, sampling freshly caught herring at one of the many fish stalls, and even taking the time to visit a farm that offers takeaway products such as fresh milk, honey and eggs.
The Zaanse Schans Museum
Many visitors who arrive in Amsterdam are keen to absorb its historic roots. There is perhaps no better way to fulfil this desire than to visit the Zaanse Schans open-air museum. It’s about 10 miles outside the city. Take the pond to the north of Amsterdam and look for the Klaprozenweg. Head west, go underneath the big Ringweg Noord freeway, and keep going west. You will pass Zaandam and Koog aan de Zaan. Finally, you will have to cross the Zaan-river before you reach the Zaanse Schans Museum. Intended to portray the rural life associated with Amsterdam in the early 18th century, this is much more than a museum. It is actually a fully functional community. Many of the structures found within its confines (such as timber-framed houses and windmills) were faithfully restored to their former glory and the majority still function. A large collection of iconic windmills is of particular interest, as these are said to represent the “soul” of the low countries. Some other places of interest to consider include a mustard mill, a dairy that produces fresh cheese and a clog-making workshop. As the Zaanse Schans Museum is found only 11 miles outside of Amsterdam, it can represent a pleasant day trip. Please note that guided tours, as well as a boat ride down the nearby River Zaan, are both possibilities if you book reservations in advance.
Are you really getting the hang of cycling and looking to cover longer distances during your adventures? You might consider purchasing an e-bike, which makes cycling against the wind a lot more comfortable as well!