Cycling Around Amsterdam: A Local’s Guide to Seeing the City on Two Wheels

With more bicycles than people, Amsterdam was practically designed for cycling. There’s no better way to experience the city than on a bike, effortlessly zipping by picturesque canals, over arched bridges, and alongside quintessential row houses.

This comprehensive guide shares the best cycling routes for seeing top sights, where to rent wheels, essential biking etiquette, safety tips, and insider knowledge for an amazing day of pedaling around Amsterdam.

Let’s dive in!

Must-Try Bike Routes to See the Top Sights

If you want to see Amsterdam’s top attractions on two wheels, these scenic bike routes take you past the highlights while soaking up an authentic atmosphere along the way.

Cruising the Centrum Loop

For a 7 km spin hitting the major attractions, I recommend the Centrum Loop. Start in bustling Dam Square, then pedal by the Royal Palace, National Monument, and historic Nieuwe Kerk church.

Follow Herengracht, one of the major canals, admiring postcard-perfect views of bridges and gabled canal houses. Look out for unique landmarks like the narrowest home in Amsterdam at just one meter wide! Then turn into the quaint “Nine Little Streets” shopping district, brimming with creative boutiques and galleries.

Unwind by riding through green Vondelpark, a beloved spot for people-watching and picnicking. Then it’s just a short ride along the lively Leidseplein nightlife hub to complete the loop.

Museum Quarter Meander

If world-class museums are on your Amsterdam agenda, cruise down Museumplein to visit the treasure troves of the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, located right beside each other.

The Rijksmuseum houses the world’s largest collection of Dutch Master paintings, including Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic The Night Watch. Meanwhile, the Van Gogh Museum contains over 200 artworks by Vincent van Gogh, from his famous Sunflowers to lesser-known sketches and letters.

Afterward, continue your ride through charming neighborhoods like De Pijp, with its colorful street market, and Oud-Zuid, where you can view historic homes and funky architecture en route.

Bohemian Jordaan

For a dose of quintessential Amsterdam vibes, cycle through the postcard-worthy Jordaan district. Pedal the narrow streets past independent shops, cozy cafés, and canal-side houses sprouting flower boxes.

I recommend stopping for a thick slice of warm apple pie and coffee at Winkel 43 cafe, a neighborhood icon. Or simply park your bike and watch daily life unfold along the charming Brouwersgracht canal.

Escape to Amsterdamse Bos

Need an escape from the city? The vast Amsterdamse Bos park located about 30 minutes south of the center is perfect for biking beneath lush tree canopies.

Cruise by farms, whimsical mini castles, ornamental gardens, and placid rowing lakes within the green oasis. Stop at the charming Boswinkel cafe for apple cake and hot chocolate before cycling back.

Offbeat Neighborhoods

Venture into these off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods for a hyperlocal Amsterdam experience away from the tourist crowds.

  • Oost: An edgy, up-and-coming area with converted warehouses, trendy spots like Pllek cafe, and Frankendael Park
  • Noord: Vibrant waterfront district reached by free ferries behind Centraal Station
  • Westergas: Former gasworks turned cultural hotspot for dining, entertainment, and the Westergasfabriek market

Where to Rent Wheels

No bike? No problem. Amsterdam has plenty of rental shops and bikes suited for all needs. Look for convenient locations near your hotel or city center stops like:

  • MacBike – Classic company renting bikes for over 30 years. Rates around €15/day.
  • Star Bikes – High quality bikes from €10-15/day with flexible pick-up.
  • Recycles Bike Rental – Affordable bikes from just €6/day. Multiple locations.
  • Black Bikes – Stylish fixed gear bikes starting at €12/day.

Reserve at least 1-2 days ahead during the summer season. Ask about add-ons like baskets, lights, and locks too. Expect to leave an ID like your passport.

Insider Biking Tips

When cycling in Amsterdam, insider knowledge goes a long way. Useful tips to enhance the experience include:

  • Join a bike tour on your first day to ease into Amsterdam cycling. The Yellow Bike tour is excellent.
  • Pick up a free cycle route planner map at rental shops, the tourism office, or large train stations.
  • Download offline maps on Google Maps and Whatsapp’s bike feature to navigate without data.
  • Tram tracks, cobblestones, and wet leaves can be slippery – take care!
  • Avoid biking in the city center on Saturday afternoons – dense crowds.
  • Sunset is prime time for aimless neighborhood cruising.

With this inside knowledge for navigating Amsterdam by bike under your belt, you can now pedal the streets like a local pro. Feel at home on two wheels in this cycle-loving city.

Mastering Amsterdam Bike Etiquette

Blending into Amsterdam’s biking culture is an art. Follow these unspoken rules of the road and bike etiquette to earn your honorary local status.

  • Stop fully at all red lights and obey road signs. Police fine rule breakers!
  • Use clear hand signals when turning to alert fellow cyclists around you.
  • Stick to the right side of bike lanes except when passing slower bikes on the left.
  • Make eye contact with pedestrians, drivers, and other cyclists so they know your intentions.
  • Yield to pedestrians when they have green walk signals at intersections.
  • Dismount and walk your bike on footpaths, across tram tracks, or in pedestrianized zones.
  • Use your bell sparingly to politely warn unwary walkers, tourists, or other cyclists.
  • Some smaller T-junctions have special rules – proceed with care. When in doubt, yield to others.
  • Smile and stay cool – never yell or get aggressive! Save your breath for pedaling.

By being mindful and following these unwritten rules of Amsterdam’s biking culture, you’ll master the local etiquette in no time. Then you can truly become one with the flow of the city.

Staying Safe While Biking in Amsterdam

Safety first! Protect yourself and fellow cyclists with these key tips for staying visible and avoiding hazards while biking in Amsterdam:

  • Stick to designated bike lanes or paths whenever possible. They’re marked with white lines or bike symbols.
  • Opt for bikes with hand brakes on both front and rear wheels for better stopping power.
  • Wear light or reflective clothing and closed toe shoes for visibility and protection.
  • Equip your rental bike with front and rear lights if cycling at night or in rain. Stay visible!
  • Keep a slow, steady cycling pace in crowded city center areas. Sudden speed or swerving can cause collisions.
  • Watch carefully for oblivious tourists who may unexpectedly stop or turn in front of you.
  • Carry any bags in a way that doesn’t obstruct your hands from signaling turns. Backpacks are ideal.
  • Beware of tram tracks – they can easily catch bike tires and cause falls, especially when wet. Cross them at 90 degree angles.
  • Chain and securely lock rental bikes whenever parked to deter rampant theft.
  • Brush up on common Dutch bike signs so you know traffic rules and wayfinding.

Keep these safety tips in mind, help others stay protected, and remain alert. Now you can ensure your Amsterdam bike adventure is as joyful and hazard-free as possible.


With this guide, you can confidently embark on a memorable two-wheeled adventure through Amsterdam’s scenic streets and hidden gems. Check out route maps or join an introductory bike tour if you want turn-by-turn guidance. Buy a good lock, watch for trams, and don’t forget to ring your bell and smile! Most importantly, tap into Amsterdam’s joyful cycling spirit. You’ll wheelie love it!

Have any other biking tips or route recommendations? Share your own Amsterdam cycling know-how in the comments.