What could be better than cycling by canals and cobblestones?
There is perhaps no image of Europe more romantic and relaxing than that of a gentle bike trip across charming, cobblestone streets. Unless you're an anti-adventurist, that is! Your inner chicken will be cringing with every turn, fretting the buses, the cars, even your fellow cyclists. But Amsterdam is a cycling dream, even for those of us who are entirely less adventurous in their travel style. Here's how to survive and thrive while biking in Amsterdam.
Take heart - cyclists are welcome here!
Cycling on busy streets can be an intimidating experience but there's nowhere on earth more bike-friendly than Amsterdam. Cyclists enjoy unparalleled freedom and respect from cars, streetcars, and pedestrians. Of course, you should always pay attention to safety no matter where you are, but in Amsterdam the anti-adventurist can be reassured of a bike-friendly environment.
Hills? What hills?
See how the road gently slopes upwards at the left of the photo? That's what counts as a hill in Amsterdam. If you are a beginner cyclist or aren't feeling all too confident, take heart in knowing the city is flat and easy to navigate. The most challenging "hills" you'll encounter are nothing more than the bridges over the canal. Yep, you can handle this!
You can have the city entirely to yourself.
How would you like to have all of central Amsterdam entirely to yourself? Grab your bike and hit the streets on a Sunday morning. This party-hard city is absolutely ALIVE on Saturday nights, making for a some memorable moments. But it's worth it to retire early, just for the joy of having the city entirely to yourself on Sunday morning.
Seriously, where is everyone?
You can't ask for better cycling conditions and anti-adventurists will appreciate the absence of cars, bikes, scooters, and pedestrians. The cool morning air is beautifully refreshing and the early morning light is great for photos. (Bonus tip: We found it challenging to find a cafe open early for breakfast - though I am sure they exist - but we were able to refuel with muffins and hot chocolates at the Starbucks in Central Station. Not the most authentic travel experience but it did the job. The washrooms in the station cost about 30 cents to use.)
Enjoy some family time.
Flower boxes filled with lavender and herbs, colorful drawings on the wall, and an ever watchful cat perched in an open window - this is the Amsterdam you'll discover if you cycle just a short distance outside the main attractions of the city centre. The street scenes are utterly charming and anti-adventurists will appreciate the slower pace of life and decreased congestion.
Bikes + IAmsterdam cards = travel bliss!
The IAmsterdam card gives you access to nearly all of the city's famous attractions, as well as plenty that are a little less well known. Get your money's worth and hop on your bike to track down some of these more off-the-beaten track attractions. One of our favourite was the Amsterdam Houseboat Museum - though in true anti-adventurist spirit I did manage to feel a tiny bit queasy while on board! My troublesome stomach aside, it was a fascinating small museum and getting there was just a brief bike ride from our hotel.
So where do you begin?
terdam is filled with bike rental shops, which offer inexpensive short term rentals. If you're only in the city for a day or two and want to maximize your sightseeing, most shops also offer guided cycling tours. Three great rental options include:
MacBike: This 25 year old popular bike hire has five rental shops around the city. Rental costs €7.50 for 3 hours, €9.75 for 24 hours. The company also offers a daily Amsterdam City Bike Tour, with a guide taking you to the city’s biggest sights.
Amsterbike: Rental costs €8.50 for 3 hours and €12.50 for 24 hours. They also offer tours starting from €19.50, so you can experience ‘Historical Amsterdam’ or the ‘Dutch Landscape’ with a guide.
Rentabike: Offers 3-hour hire for €6.75, while 24-hour hire costs €9.40.
It's time to get in touch with Amsterdam's gentle side.
There's all different styles of travel and some of us are anti-adventurists at heart. We want to see the world and embrace local, authentic experiences - just with a little less adrenaline! Amsterdam is the perfect city for that. For sure there are wild times to be had, but this is also the ideal location to explore at a bit of a slower pace. So pack your anti-adventurist tendencies in your pannier, coast off, and explore!