10 must-see spots for a one-day bike tour in Amsterdam
The 10 must-see spots for a one-day bike tour of Amsterdam
At our global Booking.com headquarters here on Herengracht, we have more than 1,300 employees. Amazingly, only 10 of our employees regularly drive tow rok, using one of our 14 parking spots! That means the other 99% come by foot, tram, boat, or bike to work every day.
At Booking.com, we take pride in promoting the use of bikes for getting around our city. We offer a bike investment plan to our employees and have had sustainable Booking bikes developed especially for our company. We even have three bikes that can be borrowed at the Booking.com reception, so people don’t need to take a taxi if they’re going to a meeting close by.
It’s not only easier to get around Amsterdam by bike, it’s more fun, too. Driving around the city is not something I would recommend, as the streets are narrow and filled with tourists and cyclists. I am told that there are actually just as many bikes as inhabitants in Amsterdam. When I first moved to the Netherlands, I lived in a house in the center of Amsterdam, which made it very easy to get around on foot. Especially in the beginning, you have to get used to the pace of the bikes, and look both ways when crossing roads – not for cars, but for bikes. Bikes also come in all shapes and sizes. Most bikes are of the Dutch variety: no gears, and you sit up very straight, making the Dutch look even taller than they already are. I’m also amazed how they ride the Dutch ‘wheelbarrow bike’: two kids inside, grocery bags hanging on the handles, while making a phone call at the same time! Caution: watch out for the tram tracks and curbs; both can cause accidents for less experienced bikers.
The 10 must-see spots for a one-day bike tour in Amsterdam
1. Booking.com HQ on Herengracht
Let’s start at the Booking.com Headquarters on Herengracht. Herengracht is one of the 4 canals that surround the center of the city in a semi-circle. This ‘Grachtengordel’, as the locals call it, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. The buildings surrounding the canals are so well maintained, you get the feeling you’re biking in the 17th century, when most of these homes were built. On the other side of Herengracht, there’s Rembrandt Square. It has a majestic statue of Rembrandt himself in the center, surrounded by statues of figures from his iconic ‘Night Watch’.
2. The Golden Curve
Just around the corner is the “Golden Curve”. Historically, this curve was golden because Amsterdam’s banks (and its money) were based here. Booking.com HQ used to be a bank at that time as well. It’s interesting that there was at one time an underground route that connected all of these financial centers and their vaults. While this is unfortunately no longer intact, if you look up to the facades of the buildings, they display the wealth of the Golden Age in Amsterdam.
3. The passageway through the Rijksmuseum
As we continue our way down Vijzelstraat towards the Rijksmuseum, we go through the passageway under the Rijksmuseum. This passageway was closed for a number of years during renovation to the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum was reopened two years ago and I enjoy biking there. Surrounded by street musicians, the entrance of the Rijksmuseum can be found there as well, and at the end of this passage, you’ll see the beautiful Museum Square waiting for you. The Rijksmuseum, along with the Van Gogh Museum, are also must-sees in Amsterdam, ranking among the best museums in the world.
4. Museum Square
I recently learned that up until 50 years ago, Museum Square was still an empty field. The concert hall was built at the far end of the field. Amsterdam city centre was mostly built around the canals and placing the Concert Hall at the end of the field seemed far away. They probably wouldn’t have expected this area would be the Museum core of the city one day. You can bike right through this square, which is now similar to an open park, with kids playing football and people walking their dogs. It’s a nice shortcut to get to the next stop: the Conservatorium Hotel.
5. Conservatorium Hotel
Once a music school, this is now one of the most historic and interesting hotels in town. Park your bike and go in for a tasty lunch or just walk around the lobby. It’s one of my personal favorite hotels in town. It’s nice to know that they use renewable energy and have a sustainability program. Try to book a room and stay here (I know a great app for that!).
6. Through Vondelpark towards Vondelkerk
Biking through Vondelpark is always a good idea. As you bike through the park, you’ll get a great quick impression of how people in Amsterdam like to live: in small apartments but in quiet and beautiful streets. Ride past Vondelkerk, which is a church now mostly used as a wedding venue.
About 10 minutes’ bike ride from Vondelkerk, but a spot that you definitely shouldn’t miss. The ‘Food Halls’ in western Amsterdam were recently opened and inspired by indoor food markets like the Torvehallerne in Copenhagen. Surrounded by locals, you can enjoy several types of food: from great Dutch cheese to tasty Indonesian dishes, which Dutch people know how to cook from their long historical connection to this part of the world. Try to avoid this place on a Sunday though; as it tends to get crowded, it will take you forever to order.
On the way back from Vondelkerk or Foodhallen, the first canal you will see in the Grachtengordel is Prinsengracht. Amsterdam does not have a big city centre. Prinsengracht is the longest of the four main canals at only three kilometres. There are about 800 homes on this canal, so it’s always easy to find your way back in case you’re lost. I personally enjoy biking on Prinsengracht, as it can also take you to the beginning of the Central Station. If you’d like to leave the city for a bit and take a train from Central Station, you’re allowed to bring your bike on the train for an extra fee. If you want to leave your bike and pick it up later, you can park it on one of the bike parking boats. Lock your bike carefully and remember where you parked it!
9. Ferries to Amsterdam Noord
When you’ve parked your bike on one of the boats, go behind Central Station to the north side, where there are three ferries which you can take to Amsterdam Noord for free. I prefer taking the middle one, which takes you straight to The Eye Film Institute on the northern bank of the river IJ. It’s a spectacular landmark and has a great terrace to drink a coffee and watch the boats and trains coming into the city. A fun fact is that you don’t have to pay to enter the museum to enjoy the terrace or the view. The northern part of Amsterdam is pretty new and still has a lot of nature to explore. If you get the chance and still have some time left for biking, I would recommend heading to Twiske to see typical Dutch nature and landscapes outside of the city.
10. Skylounge at Doubletree by Hilton
Heading back in the city after such a busy day, what could be more beautiful than enjoying the sunset and views of the center of Amsterdam? On the eastern side of Central Station on Oosterdokskade, you‘ll find the Doubletree by Hilton hotel. This unassuming hotel is one of the newest in Amsterdam and hides a real gem of a place to have a drink or light meal. Take the elevator 45 metres up to the 11th floor. Definitely a good spot to end the full day in which you’ve spent seeing ten of my favourite spots in Amsterdam.
About the blogger:
This blog is written by Dan Houston from Booking.com. Dan Houston participated in the Booking Cares project to share personal eco-friendly tips for Holland.
Booking Cares is the CSR program of Booking.com where the employees get one day a year from Booking.com to do volunteer work. They can work on something that matters to the local community and at the same time can have a real impact on making tourism in our destinations sustainable. Booking Cares collaborated with Holland.com to highlight green and sustainable activities for the destination Holland by personal stories.