One of the nicest and typical Dutch ways to discover Amsterdam is by bike. A friend had told me in advance that Amsterdam is a jungle of bikes but I had to see it to believe it! Even as I was driving from the airport to the city, I couldn't help but notice the numerous bike-paths, bike-racks and several guarded bicycle parking stations. I saw that bicyclists were everywhere and parked bicycles were overcrowding train stations, streets and other areas! On further inquiry, I found out that Amsterdam is in fact the most bicycle-friendly capital city in the world with world-class facilities for cyclists.
Having said that, I decided to explore Amsterdam by bike. I got a bike rental at the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand, the hotel where I was staying. I met a friend around 2 p.m. at the hotel and starting from the Grand, we spent the next few hours cycling to some of the major attractions in the city. Amsterdam is a small city and it’s easy to bike to all the important sights in one day.
Here is a summary of the places we visited on the bike.
1. Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand
After spending half an hour exploring the hotel, we left for the grand bike tour of the city. For anybody visiting Amsterdam, this hotel with its unique and rich history, is a must-see sight in the city.
Read my post on the Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand.
2. Oudezijds Voorburgwal / Red Light District
The Oudezijds Voorburgwal is one of the most central canals in Amsterdam’s Grachtengordel. It is part of the De Wallen old town quarter and hence also of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, the Rosse Buurt. The Sofitel Legend Amsterdam The Grand is in fact located in this area. It is full of coffeeshops, restaurant and bars and attracts a large number of tourists. There has been prostitution in the area since the late medieval times. A stroll through the streets in the late evening hours when the red lights come aglow, is an experience to make, however, I preferred to return to my hotel and was grateful that the hotel locked the main entrance door in the night!
3. Dam Square
Dam Square is not only the most important but also the most well-known square in the city. It lies in the historical center of Amsterdam and boasts structures such as the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), the National Monument Pillar and the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
Read my post on Dam Square, Amsterdam.
Besides the multitude of people, I was almost run over by a flock of pigeons who seemed to be waiting in ambush for me!
4. Red Velvet Cake & Chai Latte at the De Drie Graefjes restaurant
De Drie Graefjes is a cozy restaurant in Amsterdam that serves soups, salads and sandwiches as well as high-tea and baked goodies such as cakes, cupcakes and muffins. They have a small lunchroom and an American Bakery where they bake their own cakes and pastries. My friend recommended me to try their red velvet cupcake, much smaller in size than their regular cake serving. We ordered chai lattes and sat down in an open corridor outside the restaurant, pulling our chairs close to our bikes.
Read my post on Cupcakes & Chai Latte at the De Drie Graefjes Restaurant.
5. The Jordaan
Amsterdam's Jordaan is probably the most famous neighbourhood in the Netherlands. It's chaotic streets are full of galleries, restaurants, specialty shops and upwardly-mobile residents.
As we were walking through the crowded streets, I noticed some hooks sticking out of the roofs of houses. My friend explained to me that since homes in Amsterdam are tall and narrow, they come with narrow staircases which make it impossible to move furniture and other large items to the upper floors. In a city filled with canals, the safest place to store items are indeed the upper floors. These items are hoisted to the desired floor with a hook.
6. Nieuwendijk Street
One of the busiest shopping streets of Amsterdam, the Nieuwendijk Street is an extension of the main shopping street that continues from Dam Square and has a number of hotels, cafés and restaurants.
7. Amsterdam Centraal
Amsterdam Centraal is the main train station in Amsterdam. Its towering Gothic/Renaissance architecture makes it a favorite tourist spot. It is located at the north end of the city’s Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, a street in the center of Amsterdam.
8. Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal
The Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal is a street in the centre of Amsterdam. The street runs more or less north-south, and the Raadhuisstraat runs west. The street name means 'New Side Front Bastion Wall'. The Former Amsterdam Main Post Office, currently a shopping mall known as Magna Plaza, is a monumental building located at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal.
We also went to the Rijksmuseum, which is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history, and got a picture in front of the famous "I Amsterdam" sign!
10. P.C. Hooftstraat
At the end of the tour, we took a walk through P.C. Hooftstraat, an exclusive shopping destination since the 1970s for luxury brands like Hugo Boss, D&G, MaxMara, Ralph Lauren, Hermes and Gucci, where forgetting my bike, I disappeared in the Burberry store, never to come back. :)
Read my post on Luxury Shopping at P.C. Hooftstraat.
You can also bike to Anne Frank's house, the Vondelpark, the Museumplein and other parts of the city not accessible by boat or tram.