Cycling Central Holland
Holland is an excellent place to try your hand at cycling in Europe. It is mostly flat and has a multitude of dedicated cycle paths; some with light posts for after dark and some with their own cycle stop lights that have red and green bicycles, instead of round circles. You’ll have lots of company on these paths, as cycling is a way of life here and nearly everyone has at least one bicycle. Large cities are laid out with a separate space on the roads for walkers, cyclists, trams, and cars and buses. Whether you take your own bike or arrange to rent one, once you step outside Schipol airport you will notice the dedicated bike lanes and you can easily pedal away from the airport with ease and confidence to your first destination.
Stage One: Schipol to Haarlem 17,1 km
On this trip, we took our own bikes, as the cost was not prohibitive at the time. After collecting them at oversize luggage, we found a quick area to unbox and reassemble them for our ride to Haarlem. We were only a little bit out of sorts after the long flight. That done, we made our exit and turned left toward the tower. The red brick fietspad leads you away. Watch for the sign to Badhoevedorp after crossing the intersection. There are no signs to Haarlem or Amsterdam, for that matter, until you reach Badhoevedorp. Pass the aerodrome with the airport museum, then cross at the intersection and turn left. Soon you’ll reach a tunnel with a special fietspad, away from the auto traffic. Keep watching for signs to Badhoevedorp through several underpasses. The path disappears for a bit; but, never fear, it does pick up again. Once we reach Schipolweg, we finally see a directional sign to Haarlem. Here you have options with route signed to either Amsterdam or Haarlem. We had chosen to spend out first night in Haarlem; only 20km from the airport, as we were planning to head down the coast the next day. Just be aware that some directional signs are meant for auto traffic. If you arrive in Haarlem on market day, there are many booths offering all kinds of tempting foods.
Stage Two: Haarlem to Schevenegen 52,0 km
After a hearty Dutch breakfast and a good night’s sleep, we headed left Haarlem, following signs to Zandvoort and then on to the seacoast. We’re riding on our own separate fietspad. Autos are near; but, away from the fietspad and they’re following the highway known as Zeeweg. The closer we get to Zandvoort, the more it looks lie we’re near the sea. From here we encounter the dune trails, with opportunities to detour to the beach or meander the many trails down the coast. There are several small resor tcoastside towns, such as Katwijk, where you can stop for refreshments. At the other end of the ride through the dunes is Scheveningen. This is a large resort town with casino, aquarium, restaurants and hotels & it’s just a stone’s throw from the large city of the Hague. We had opted to stay here, rather than The Hague.
Stage Three: Schevenegen to Gouda 73,3 km
We had a big day ahead, so we made an early start after breakfast. We pretty much had the beach to ourselves as we made our exit from Schevenegen. We are making our way first to the Hague for a stop at the national A.N.W.B., which is similar to our AAA; however they cater to the needs of all travelers and cyclists rank right up there with auto travelers. Here you can browse the selections of maps and other materials to meet your interest. After a brief stop, we were on our way again, following the signs through Voorburg on our fietspad near the A12, A suggested side trip in this area would be a stop at Madurodam. Imagine yourself as Gulliver with Holland spread out in 1/25th scale. You tower over the replica of Schipol Airport, as well as canals, windmills, rail line and villages.
Another much recommended side trip on the way to Gouda is a visit to Kinderdijk. About 17 km beyond Voorburg, past Zoetermeer, you need to watch for the turn to Nieuwerkerk a/d Ijssel. Keep following signs pointing to the Ijssel River and the signs to Krimpen a/d Ijssel. This is where you will be taking the short ferry ride from Krimpen, across the Lek River and then follow the signs to Kinderdijk. This stretch of picturesque windmills is quite the sight and a most memorable ride. Some are quite approachable and it is nice to take the time to study the workings and take a few photos, of course. This also makes for a nice picnic spot. From Kinderdijk, it just takes backtracking back to the ferry and over the Lek again. Then head to the N210 highway and head in the direction of Schoonhoven to where the road intersects with the N207 at Bergambacht. Freom here, it’s a direct road to Gouda. Follow signs to the Centrum and along a scenic canal. Once you reach Gouda, head for the historic main square, which is lined with historic buildings, shops and restaurants. The Weigh House dates back to 1668.
If you are here on market day, the square will be filled with stall and vendors selling all sorts of wares, from the famous Gouda cheeses, to other delectable temptations and you can even pick up a pair of wooden shoes.
Stage Four: Gouda to Utrecht 46,2 km
We head out from Gouda the next morning and are soon making our way on the fietspad toward Bodegraven and then along one of the many waterways for which Holland is famous. Continue on to Woerden, where we turned off to make our way toward Utrecht. Parts of today’s ride is near the highways, on fietspads and part is through lovely pastureland and canals. After De Meern we pass under a freeway and then follow signs to Utrecht Centrum. Utrecht is the largest city on the tour so far and the transportation hub of Holland, as well as a college town. It has a nice VVV, or Tourist Information, which can provide you with what you may need to find your way around town. Some of the canals are lined with restaurants, for some pleasant dining. There is also the historic Dom (church) which dates back to the 14th century. If you’re in to trains, don’t miss the Dutch railway museum. The rain caught up to us here and we were glad to have our trusty rain gear with us.
Stage Five: Utrecht to Arnhem 60,6 km
The next morning we headed off in a drizzle for our destination in Arnhem on the Neder Rijn River. Leaving the centrum, we headed east and signs to Zeist along the N237, and then turning toward Waudenberg and then Scherpenzeel and Renswoude. The drizzle persisted. Finally at the intersection where the N234 turns toward Ede we turn left for the last 20km to Arnhem. Much of this area was destroyed during WWII, Film buffs may note that it was where the film “A Bridge Too Far” took place. We spent an extra day in town to visit some of the local attractions, including a large 109 acre Open Air Museum destination. Here you step back and experience Holland of old. Stroll past several working windmills; stop to watch paper being made, check out the village setting with old buildings re-located from all over Holland so you feel like you are in an old time bakery where you can purchase some freshly baked cookies. You can practice your milking skills on the farm and ride in the horse drawn cart around the whole village. It’s fun for all.
As a note, in larger towns, each railway station has a Rijwiel shop, which is an all purpose bike shop. You can leave your bicycle and belongings in secure parking at the station. For hort term parking, many Dutch commuters park their bike and commute to work on the train. In Amsterdam, for instance, you will see a virtual sea of parked cycles.
Stage Six: Arnhem to Apeldoorn 39,6 km
Rested and ready for a new adventure, we leave Arnhem and pass by Sansbeek park and then continue through some suburbs. Once we reach the highway, we are on a two way dual fietspad alongside the busy highway. Pass under the A50 and then reach the N311 and watch for the turn into the Hoge Veluwe National Park. This 13338 acre park is criss-crossed with trails over the varied terrain. There are plains, dunes, woods, lakes and rolling meadows. Also, the amazing Kroller-Muller Museum and statue park is right in the center. We stopped at the kiosk to pay our admission to the park and get a map of the park(museum is a separate admission). First thing you notice is the queue of white bicycles for use in the park. These can be left at designated spots in the part and at the various entrances. Then you will notice the low “mushrooms” that help guide you with directional information through the part trails. After exploring the trails and watching for the wildlife, we made our way to the Museum in the center to view the Van Gogh collection, as well as other artists. It is an incredible collection in an incredible setting. Then we roamed through the outdoor sculpture garden and enjoyed a little picnic.
Then we made our way toward the Hoenderlo exit gate, exploring more interesting trails on the way. Join the N304 on our fietspad after we exit the park and then it’s smooth sailing. There is short section on a secondary road and then on a path again, before crossing a major intersection. In some spots the fietspad is only on one side of the highway and it’s a two-way that also allows bromfietsers (motorbikes) so watch for all traffic. Eventually the N304 will lead to Apeldoorn. We had booked a quiet B and B on the outskirts of town and settled in, before heading in to town to explore a bit and have a nice dinner.
Stage Seven: Apeldoorn to Amersfoort 46,4 km
We pass through wide tree lined streets and lovely large classic Dutch homes are we make our way out of Apeldoorn. Shortly after leaving the town, we pass by the entrance to the Het Loo Palace. This doesn’t look like what you would expect of a palace; however, the Dutch didn’t build in the style of the French and were much more modest. We chose not to stop and continued along the Amsterdamweg. Merge with the N344 and into farmlands. Then pass through Vorthuizen and then Hovelaken. Eventually we are riding beside a canal, which leads us into Amersfoort. This town still has it’s 13th century city gates intact, as well as Medieval city wall and more scenic canals. Old town in on our right and the new area to our left.
State Eight: Amersfoort to Amsterdam 58,7 km
This last stage will take us to Amsterdam, which is a must visit on any tour of Holland. We exit the through a 13th century gate and then ride through an industrial area, before some greenery. Pass through Sooest and then watch for the left turn to Hilversum. Ride under the A27. After Hilversum there is a lovely wooded path beside the Loosdrecjtse Plassen lake. We continue straight with the Hilversum canal across the road and the lake on the left. We will be passing over the Amsterdam Rijnkanall, which has lots of commercial traffic. It’s a comfortable ride on our cycle path with pleasant scenery of farms and fields. Just outside Amstelveen we cross over the Amstel River and continue straight to Amstelveen. Amsterdam now begins to loom ahead. We let the tram lines be our guide as we continue on straight toward Amsterdam, passing Queen Beatrix park on the right. Amsterdam can be pretty overwhelming the first time you visit and it’s quite easy to lose your bearings. A good map or GPS to your lodging is essential. This time we were staying near Vondelpark, which has great cycling paths and takes you virtually into the heard of town. We recommend you take a day or two here to catch the sites. A good first step is to take a canal tour. We usually don’t go out of our way recommending these; but, we found Amsterdam’s to be very informative.
Central Station is a busy place with trams just outside, as well as the canal boat tours. Note the maze of bikes here. How you find your own looks mind boggling.
Then, walk and take the convenient trams. There are great museums to visit, as well as historic Anne Frank house and a flower market that stretches all along one of the canals.
Also, don’t miss the cuisine. You can find pretty much anything you may desire to eat along Leidsplein. The Dutch seem to have thought of everything, when planning this city. There is a place for walkers, cycles, trams and autos. It’s a convenient cycle ride or train connection to reach Schipol Airport for our trip home; but, we’ll be back again.
Here is a good reference to cycling in Amsterdam: