Canals, coffee shops and windmills are just a few of the clichéd things that spring to mind when I think of Amsterdam. But if you’re lucky enough to be in the Dutch capital for a few days, or if you’ve already seen all of Amsterdam’s usual tourist attractions, I’d recommend hiring a bicycle and exploring the Amsterdam countryside (yes, countryside).
It was a pleasant surprise to discover that you only need to cycle for about 20 minutes from the centre of Amsterdam before you reach the countryside. The first tell-tale sign was spotting a bull in a field, followed by cows, sheep and goat – it was all a bit surreal having not long since been in the urban heart of the city.
The easiest way to get out of the city is via the route of the Amstel river. You literally just take the bicycle path along it from the city centre, we started our trip from De Pjip, and follow the signs for Ouderkerk an de Amstel. I’m a pretty nervous cyclist, not being too sure which side of the road traffic is coming from compounded with the fact I can’t drive, but even for a novice like me it was pretty easy and I soon began to relax and enjoy myself.
We knew we were cycling the right way as we went passed a windmill (one of my stereotypes ticked off) which was close to a statue of one of Holland’s most famous artists, Rembrandt. Along the Amstel there is also the Klein Kalfij pub on land and a cool boat bar, both make ideal spots to stop for a drink or a bite to eat, before carrying on the journey to the village of Oderkerk de Amstel. The village was established in the 12th century and is home to an historic Portuguese-Israeli cemetery (the philosopher Spinoza is buried here).
We took a quick detour through the centre and its quaint streets before deciding to venture even further out. We carried along the path until we reached the town of Abcoude (which is actually in the province of Utrecht) where we had a much-deserved beer and snack. I had been planning to grab some herring from a nearby fish stand but discovered it was closed when I went back just after 4pm. So it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do want to go shopping the shops shut relatively early on a Saturday (I’m not sure if they even open Sundays).
Revived, we began the cycle back to Amsterdam. It took us about an hour-and-a-half but we had gone quite far out. You can still see the hidden gem that’s Amsterdam’s countryside a lot closer to the centre which is why the Amstel route is one of Amsterdam’s easiest day trips by bicycle.