Hire a rusty fixie bike and explore the cobblestones, cafes and canals of Amsterdam. Pedal power is all you need to discover the city’s gems (well, that and this handy guide to cycling like a local).
PLAN YOUR TRIP PROPERLY
1. Before you go, head to GoEuro to plan your trip. This super handy site is ideal for planning little breaks and weekend escapes in Europe – just type in your destination and it’ll show you the cheapest and easiest way to travel there and help you book rail, coach and air tickets hassle-free.
2. Local travel writer Jan Meeuwesen has tons of helpful info on his website, Netherlands Tourism, including snippets of history, architectural facts and a free e-book guide to cycling around Amsterdam, so you can sound like you know what you’re talking about.
3. Check out this guide to cycling safely in Amsterdam. It’s an incredibly safe city to cycle in, as bike paths abound and car drivers are both aware and respectful of bicyclists, but it’s still good to know the local rules and how to avoid the rush hour traffic.
4. If you’re a little nervous of seeing the city on two wheels on your own, sign up for a guided tour. Yellow Bikes offer Big City and Small City rides on their pretty lemon-yellow steeds, or Mike’s Bike Tours will take you out into the Dutch countryside, past picture-book windmills, winding canals and clog makers (seriously). Mike’s also rents out their ‘undercover’ (i.e, not plastered in rental logos) bikes for just £6 for 24 hours.
How to look like a Dutch person on your bike
You’re more likely to see an Amsterdammer cycling in anything from a suit to a ballgown than in full lycra and a helmet – this is a city where the bike is king, and local ladies use them to get everywhere, usually with bread, babies and boyfriends in tow. The trick to cycling around comfortably all day is to wear bike-friendly gear that will also look nice when you’re cafe-hopping and canal-Instagramming. So no neon please. Instead, start off with a secret weapon – Brigitte. She isn’t a helpful friend but stripy, padded cycling pants from the Urbanist (2, from £38.50) which look lovely as well as keeping your nether regions happy when you’re in the saddle all day. Rain can be plentiful in the land of clogs and caramel waffles, so stick a rain mac in your pannier (this one is vintage but ASOS (1, from £25) have a great range of retro styles) and pop waterproof gaiter shoes from Toast (6, £50) on your feet.
Don’t forget your bike. Rusty rentals aren’t always the safest of steeds, especially at night, so keep some Knog lights (5, £8.99) in your pocket for evening forays. These genius little rubber lights clip on and off your bike in seconds. Travelling with a friend? Do as the Dutch do and take your mate along for a ride on the back on your rack – a pretty bike cushion like this one from CycleChic Republic (3, £20) makes for a less bumpy ride. Be warned, it takes a few attempts to feel confident giving someone a backie.
When it comes to what to do, what to see and where to drink coffee and eat naughty cakes in Amsterdam, a Rapha city cycle guide (4, £4) is your friend. Beautifully written, illustrated and researched, these gorgeous little books come complete with pullout maps, itineraries and secret spots to visit in the Dutch capital.