One of the first things you’ll notice is thousands of bicycles propped and locked up along the canals’ guard rails. Practically everyone in Amsterdam gets around by bike. So in the words of popular kids in high schools everywhere: everyone is doing it, and YES, you should, too.
If you have the luxury of more time in Amsterdam, i.e., a week or more, walk. But, if you want to see and do a lot in a short amount of time, get a’ cyclin’! Even if you want to inject a little excitement into your trip, rent one for a few hours. You’ll see much more than on the climate-controlled, sound-deadening enclosure of a tram or car. And, if you spot an interesting or fun place en route, just stop, lock your bike up and change your plan on the fly. In one day, I crisscrossed Amsterdam: I traipsed through lush and lovely Vondelpark, visited the Anne Frank and Van Gogh museums, the Bloemenmarkt, and took a few unplanned detours down ped- and bike-only passages, and into squares and cafés. Not that kind. Well, maybe.
Biking is eco-friendly and awfully good exercise – important while traveling! The Lowlands are flat, so for the most unseasoned cyclist, it’s physically easy to manage. Rental is affordable. Cars and other motorists are used to sharing the road with cyclists – unlike in other cities – so follow the rules,
wear a helmet (likely the only major city where I’d say it’s ok to go without), most of all: pay attention and you will be good to go.
Further afield, longer cycle tours are offered through windmill country. Someday I’ll bike the windmills, whiz along the tulips looking for a slice of aged gouda and a bit o’ stroopwafel. Mmm, I’m drooling just thinking about a warm stroopwafel.
If you don’t make it out to windmill country (Kinderdijk), pedal your bike 2,5 km (1.5 miles) west of Centraal Station to Brouwerijt’t IJ. Yes, that is a brewery in a windmill. WIN.
During its heyday back in the 16th century, Amsterdam was growing so fast that sanitation and public health often suffered. Everything went into the canals. Everything. So for a long time, so the legend goes, the safest and cleanest water to drink, indeed, was beer. Thus you have Heineken, Amstel and microbreweries like Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Hooray for public safety!
The beer flight is a great deal. When I was there, the flight included a standard pilsner that was bitter and clean; a Belgian style doubel and trippel, wheaty and full-flavored; and a draft called Columbus which smacked slightly of raspberries, though hoppy, and ABV of 9%. My kind of clean water! (Be careful biking home!)
My booze mop of choice was a plate of ossenworst, or smoked raw beef sausage from the well-reputed De Wit butchers. Next time, I’ll have to have the skeapsrond:
And last but not least, we also sell a very special cheese: Skeapsrond, a sheep’s cheese from the Dikhoeve farm in Ransdorp, a village just outside Amsterdam. The sheep that produce the milk for this organic cheese, are fed on the malt dregs left over from the brewing process. It’s a perfect circle: Alex the farmer collects the dregs for his sheep from the brewery every week and leaves us a box of ‘Skeapsrond’.