Where to Go: Cycling in the Netherlands

Are you ready to explore new surroundings again? Spring is on its way, and a great way to get out and see the Netherlands in the springtime is on a bike (fiets in Dutch). With at least 32,000 km of cycle lanes and 3,300 km of long-distance bike routes (signposted as "LF-Routes", or Langeafstand Fietsroutes), there are endless possibilities to explore the country. You don't need to have a fancy road bike, but you also don't want to ride a great distance if your bike isn't in good condition so it's a good idea to have your bike serviced regularly to keep it working in tip-top shape. If you are very new to the Netherlands, and perhaps to cycling, you might want to start by exploring your immediate surroundings. You could begin by venturing out to a park that you aren't familiar with yet. Or you can just go in a direction that's opposite to your usual travel and see what you can find. If you are looking to take on a big challenge in 2021, there is even a route of almost 1,400 km around the Netherlands. If you complete the route (proven with photographs at specific locations), you’ll even make it to the Nederland Fietsland website's Hall of Fame.

Those looking for shorter routes (that's a relative term!) have plenty to choose from. Given our adopted home's flat landscape, there is little excuse not to hop on your bike and go for a ride. Even cycling to or from the different AWCA areas of Amsterdam, Haarlem and Het Gooi will give you plenty to see. From Amsterdam, you can find an excellent route for biking, no matter what direction you go in. To the northeast, Waterland offers some beautiful scenery to cycle through. Holysloot, which is technically part of Amsterdam-Noord, is a 45-minute bike ride if you start at the ferry behind Amsterdam’s Central station. The fishing village of Marken, also in Waterland, was once an island but has been a peninsula since 1957, when it was connected to the mainland; you can cycle through the equally picturesque village of Durgerdam on the way there. To the east you’ll see Muiden with its iconic castle, and the fortress city of Naarden is just a bit further east. Haarlem is a little over an hour to the west of Amsterdam; once you're there, the beaches of Bloemendaal and Zandvoort are easily accessible. One of the most well-known routes to the south for Amsterdam road cyclists is the Rondehoep, which starts in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The bike ride from Amsterdam to Ouderkerk is a good one on its own and, once restaurants and cafés reopen, it’s a lovely destination for lunch. If you want to head further south, you can ride through Abcoude toward Utrecht or a national park like the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park (website only in Dutch). If you don’t want to cycle the entire distance to a national park, try the Hoge Veluwe National Park, which has free bikes for people to use while visiting. Even though this park has 1,800 free bikes available at its entrances, that Dutch saying "OP = OP" (when they're gone, they're gone) certainly applies here. You are also welcome to bring your own bikes to use on the 40 km of bike lanes in the park; this is a great idea if you have children, because the park has limited sizes of kids' bikes. And speaking of park-like areas, Keukenhof is also a great place to rent bikes and cycle around the flower fields.

For every cycling route, you’ll find there are almost as many route finders and cycling apps. If you want to use your phone to guide you, make sure you have something to mount it onto your bike, or you could be fined €95 for cycling while holding your phone in your hand. Fietsknoop.nl has an app in English to help you find your way, as does Efita. Natuurmonumenten has cycling routes around their listed sites of important landscapes and areas of cultural heritage. Although Statsbosbeheer (The Dutch National Forest Service) primarily provides walking routes through their 273,000 hectares of protected nature, they also have some cycling routes on their website (you will have to check the box for Fietsen to filter for cycling routes). Holland Cycling Routes offers ideas for day trips or longer trips, and Holland-Cycling.com has guided cycle tours as well. If you have a paid subscription to the cycling/running/walking tracking app Strava, you can search for routes that others have made or you can create your own.

Is there somewhere you'd like to cycle, but it's too far away to get there and back in a day? There are options! You can take your bike on the train during off-peak hours with a special bike ticket (available to purchase online or in the NS app); you should also register your bike on the train in advance to make sure there is space. You can find the details here. Perhaps you'd like to take a few days for your trip? Vrienden op de Fiets is a guesthouse network for cyclists and hikers around the Netherlands. Once you've registered, you can stay at others' homes for a small fee. Want to make more of a vacation out of your cycling? Holland.com has some suggestions and links to various companies. Dutch Biketours offer self-guided cycling tours, including hotel accommodations and luggage transfers; all you have to do is the cycling. Boat Bike Tours offers cruises with cycling days in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.

Do you have favorite places to cycle that you'd like to share? In the American Women's Club members-only Facebook group, you can join the lively conversation! Not yet a member? We'd love to have you!