The Netherlands is one of Europe’s top destinations and for good reason. I mean what’s not to love about the land of pancakes, tulips and bikes?
Last spring I explored the Netherlands Dutch style, by bicycle. This was one of our most eco-friendly trips yet with no transport needed by car or plane within the Netherlands. We were able to use only bikes and the occasional public transport to travel from city to city.
99% of the Dutch population are cyclists and the Netherlands has more bikes per capita than any other European country. Basically, the Dutch cycle a lot and the cycling infrastructure in the country is truly second to none.
I was a bit a skeptical about taking a cycle trip around the Netherlands. I never in my life cycled long distances and in the past 3 years in Malta, hardly ever hopped on a bike. I also didn’t know much about the Netherlands as a country and the destinations aside from Amsterdam.
During my research, I stumbled upon this tool: Holland Cycling Routes – Route Planner. This tool allowed me to create a circular loop from Amsterdam to Amsterdam. Best. Thing. Ever.
Once I found this website, it was that easy. This was the circular route I created and the exact route we stuck with on our trip.
I am embedding a similar route from google maps but definitely use the Holland Cycling Routes planner to get a good cycle route for your trip.
From Amsterdam we took off to Zaandam and Zaans Schans for a day trip, then onwards to Alkmaar for a few nights. From Alkmaar we continued on to Haarlem and finally to Lisse. The morning of our flight, we cycled from Lisse back to Amsterdam.
First stop Amsterdam. We flew into Amsterdam from Malta and settled in for a few nights before embarking on our cycle journey.
This city was more beautiful than I imagined with its streets lined with canals, dancing houses and vibrant shrubbery. Read more about Amsterdam in my Do You Even Tourist Guide to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is dotted with places to rent bikes so the best bet would be to check out a few options near your accommodation. We rented bikes with gears and a rack to secure our very large backpacks.
We stocked up on some snacks and drinks for the road at the nearby Albert Heijn, a Dutch supermarket chain you will see everywhere. Albert Heijn has so many healthy and inexpensive snacks that this store quickly became our go-to stop in the Netherlands when we needed to refuel.
We set off from Amsterdam, taking the ferry across to the other side of the city to head further up North. Right when we hopped off the ferry, we spotted the IAMSTERDAM sign. This sign was removed from central Amsterdam and relocated on the other-side of the water because of well, tourists taking selfies and independent photos on the sign. The city and residents thought it wasn’t a message they wanted to support in the heart of the city.
I had thought they removed it entirely and was very surprised to see it sitting by the waterside. So I hopped on a latter and had my little Do You Even Tourist? moment.
We continued on to the charming town of Zaandam on our way to the Zaanse Schans. Zaandam is a city along the banks of the Zaan River. We did not explore the city but the cycle through the scenic neighborhood was one the highlights of our trip. Adorable houses, the smell of chocolate in the air from the resident chocolate factory and a wooden playground zipline made this stretch one for the books.
We arrive to the Zaanse Schans after a leisurely few hour cycle from Amsterdam. This place was so adorable and touristy for good reason. It truly is a stop you cannot miss in the Netherlands. Exploring the area and visiting the windmills gave me a deep appreciation of Dutch history and culture.
Check it out in my Zaanse Schans guide.
After a long day trip at the Zaanse Schans and lunch in the visitor’s center, we notice that it is getting late and we need to make it to the city of Alkmaar before it gets dark. We push on and make it to the city of Alkmaar by 8pm.
Alkmaar is famous for its Friday cheese market and we have indeed come for the cheese. We booked a few nights in Alkmaar to explore the town and to thoroughly enjoy the cheese market. Read all about Alkmaar and the world’s largest cheese market in my guide here.
After a truly wonderful stay in Alkmaar, we continue on to Lisse. This would be our longest cycle stretch yet. Our goal was to cycle all the way but the wind was against us and my legs were not used to this amount of cycling. At the halfway mark in the city of Haarlem we decide to take a train for the second stretch to Lisse.
We take a short stop to refuel at you-guessed-it – Albert Heijn! Before we hop on the train, I lead us to the Molen De Adriaan Windmill, one of the Netherland’s famous windmills right in the center of Haarlem.
The small town of Hillegom and Lisse were our final destinations on our cycle trip in the Netherlands. Lisse and the surrounding area is known for its fields of tulips and the Keukenhof flower garden.
We were just in time to visit the Keukenhof, which is open for a short period during the months of April and May. In fact we visited the garden on its closing weekend where they held a special event “Mozart in the Keukenhof”. Classical musicians from the Rotterdam Orchestra were scattered throughout the park playing beautiful music. There was a small stage set up in the center and people in period pieces served champagne and strawberries.
After two nights in Lisse we had a plane to catch back to Malta. We took off for our last cycle ride from Lisse to Amsterdam.
Cycling around the Netherlands has been one of my favourite holidays to date! Each day was so much more meaningful and full of adventure. One of the best things was finding an amazing restaurant at the end of the day for a well deserved meal and a glass of wine. To anyone that is skeptical, just go for it! If you get stuck you can always take a train from one city or another with your bikes on board.