When in the Netherlands, travel as the Dutch do: How I planned my first bike trips through the Netherlands
If you’re like me, when you think about traveling within Europe, your brain goes straight to train or super cheap airline, right? While both of these options are great, studying in the Netherlands offers a truly unique opportunity: access to the best country-wide bike route network in the world.
The Netherlands is a small, flat country, making it ideal to explore by bike. The bike route network is as extensive as the country’s auto network, making it very easy to travel anywhere in the country by bike.
After reading about this network, I couldn’t wait to see what I might be able to visit by bike near Amsterdam. After googling around a little, I found two lovely towns, Haarlem and Muiden, within an hour and thirty minute ride from Amsterdam.
Haarlem is a beautiful town about 20km from Amsterdam. The small, laid back village feel of the town provides a wonderful break from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. In my opinion, the main town square, the Grote Markt, is prettier than any in Amsterdam!
Muiden is once again about 20km from Amsterdam. The much smaller town of Muiden has a delightful old town straddling a canal. The star attraction is Muiderslot, an extremely photogenic castle, dating from 1370 and the numerous old sailboats lining the canal.
How to Plan Your Trip:
I planned my trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem and Muiden using this trip planner founded by the Landefijk Fietsplatform. Besides giving good general information on cycling in the Netherlands, it provides a cycle planner similar to google maps which uses bike only routes when possible.
It’s confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s easy to find your way around. The route planner gives you a route along the different paths. Each route will be made up of numbered junctions. Just follow the sequence of junctions to get to your destination!
Junction 15 is in the direction Muiden where i'm going. Right I go!
The paths are incredibly well maintained, (see the picture below!) making it easy to bike long periods of time, even with my junky bike! Also, in case you need a drink or snack, you’re never far from a cafe or restaurant in this small, densely populated country.
So you might be asking yourself, “why would I want to do this?”
Here’s what I got out of it:
I got to travel to places for free, while getting exercise and seeing the underrated, idyllic Dutch countryside.
I used the small town cafes as a quiet atmospheric study space. I got quite a bit of work done alongside the idyllic canal of Muiden, taking micro breaks watching old boats sail by.
Exercise! I don’t know about you, but I hate running. Biking 20km to a castle through pretty surroundings motivates me to work harder than any gym could.
It’s something most of my classmates haven’t done. Everyone I tell about these trips always says, “ I can’t believe I’ve never thought of doing that!” Be the one to think of it!
It introduced me to small town Dutch life and the culture of long distance cycling. Living in Amsterdam, I see the international side of Dutch life. At the café in Muiden where I’m writing this, I haven’t heard a single word of English.
For me, there is no better way for a student to be a tourist. The bike gives you freedom you don’t get with the train and it’s unbeatable for a student budget! Even for someone who never rode a bike back home, it’s a joy to ride here.
Has anyone taken a trip using the Dutch national cycle paths? We would love to hear where you went and how you enjoyed it, or any questions you have about planning your own trip!