Prepare to fall in love with traditional Dutch villages and countryside. The Waterland route begins and ends at Amsterdam Centraal station. It follows the cycle paths towards Het Schouw, on to the Venetian-style village of Ilpendam, and through the suburban hamlet of Purmerend. From there, you can cycle through Purmerland, with an optional side trip to Het Twiske. Then back through the hipster haunts of NDSM-werf.
Level 1: Central Station – Het Schouw (± 7 km)
If this is your first cycling trip beyond Amsterdam, be prepared to fall in love with the Amsterdam Region – embark on some quintessential Dutch gems, like 17th century wooden-framed houses, the leafy Noorderpark, and atypical windmills.
1a. Centraal Station Take the free ferry behind Centraal Station (direction: Buiksloterveer). Start with a stop at the historic Café de Pont, once a popular haunt for merry-seeking sailors.
1b. Overhoeks Head for the Eye Film Institute. This futuristic building was completed in 2012, to preserve and present Dutch and foreign films. The cafe offers an amazing view of the city across the river. Scale the A’DAM Tower for the revolving restaurant and Europe’s highest swing. Let coffee and conversation fl ow at the buzzy Tolhuistuin. Then, let the cycling begin.
1c. Noorderpark Cycle back towards the ferry, then along Buiksloterweg, with the North Holland Canal to your right. Stick to the canal paths before you embark upon Noorderpark. A large leafy space with playgrounds, cafes and seasonal splash pools for children.
1d. Wooden Houses When you see the 16th century wooden-clad houses on the Buiksloterdijk, you can imagine how early Amsterdam must have looked.
1e. Farmsteads A trip to the Netherlands isn’t complete without seeing a windmill. Pass Krijtmolen d’Admiraal (built in 1792), then cycle slightly beyond the A10 motorway and prepare for breathtakingly wide country vistas. You’ll pass a number of historic farmsteads, many of which have been in continuous operation since the 17th century.
1f. Pontje Landsmeer / Het Schouw Take the 30-second cable ferry to the other side, which costs less than a euro. Tip: take a picture of this cable ferry – it’s one of the oldest in the Netherlands.
SHORTCUT. Landsmeer and Het Twiske Too much cycleseeing? Take a shortcut to Het Twiske via Landsmeer. Cycle a few hundred metres past the ferry dock and turn left into the Van Beekstraat. On your right-hand side, the Ilperveld nature reserve, which contains many endangered plants and birds. Stop for a coffee or something stronger, in the cosy village of Landsmeer.
Level 2: Het Schouw – Ilpendam (± 5,5 km)
Loop around the road from Het Schouw into the mouth of Ilpendam, one of Amsterdam’s quieter suburbs known for its laid-back vibe.
2a. Het Schouw Take the ferry and continue your route on the right-hand side of the water, to visit the tiny hamlet of Watergang (literally ‘watercourse’). Or stay on the quieter left-hand side of the water and take the ferry to the small town of Ilpendam, 5 kilometres further.
2b. Watergang Take a minute or two to cycle down ‘Water Alley’ – it leads into a tiny suburb with all the hallmarks of a classic Dutch village. Quaint houses, sleepy canals and quiet semi-rural life.
Detour: Amsterdam Wetlands boat trip An amazing ancient water landscape of 600 isles full of birds and plants. The trip takes one hour and your bike is going on board. Every Saturday at 10.30 or 13.30 from May until September. Bookings: www.gaatumee.nl
2c. Jaagweg Get a reprieve from the sightseeing with a long stretch of cycling – it’s a good 10-minute cycle alongside the N235 to Purmerend past verdant countryside, farmsteads and open fi elds to the next point of interest.
2d. Ilpendam Ilpendam was once home to Frans Banninck Cocq, former mayor of Amsterdam and a subject of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ (1642). Stop at Ilpendam’s town square for coffee at Het Wapen van Ilpendam, also known as Café Biljart. This traditional ‘brown cafe’, a typical Dutch neighbourhood cafe, is known for its rustic menu and warm hospitality.
Level 3: Ilpendam – Purmerend (± 7 km)
Where the magic happens – explore quaint Venitian-style villages as you cycle toward the city of Purmerend.
3a. Molenpad Take a slight detour to get a different, quieter view of Waterland from the Molenpad and the Oudelandsdijkje. After passing the second bridge go left on the Basisveenstraat and Waterlandlaan. All the way to the Koemarkt.
3b. Purmerend The city of Purmerend has a long history. Founded by a rich banker in 1410, it gained city status in 1434. The draining of the Beemster and Purmer Lakes in the 16th century exposed rich fertile soil, making Purmerend even more prosperous.
3c. Koemarkt Purmerend’s historic Koemarkt (cow market) is a moo-ving experience. For four hundred years it’s where Purmerenders traded and sold cattle. These days it’s home to dozens of shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.
Level 4: Purmerend – Het Twiske (± 8,5 km)
Head deeper into the Dutch countryside. Take a side-trip out to Het Twiske, a recreational area with small beaches.
4a. Melkwegbrug Cross this stunning bridge to the Weidevenne district to the next part of your journey.
4b. Purmerland Go straight ahead through Purmerland or take the quieter route via de Zuiderringdijk.
4c. Het Twiske Cycle out to Het Twiske, a recreational area filled with small beaches and a lake. Bike around the park or rent a boat at Twiske Haven. Enjoy lunch with a great view, inside or outside, on the terrace of Paviljoen Twiske, or Twiske Haven.
4d. Shop at Zorgboerderij For fresh biological food and dairy, pop into Zorgboerderij De Marsen. This is a farm that’s partly operated by disabled people, so you will be supporting a good cause.
Level 5: Het Twiske – Central Station (± 7 km)
Make the last leg of your journey from Het Twiske through the northern suburbs of Amsterdam and visit the creative NDSM-werf.
5a. Landsmeerderdijk Cycle alongside the Landsmeerdijk to re- enter the Amsterdam ‘ring’. This used to be part of the city of Landsmeer, the southern part was added to Amsterdam in 1966.
5b. NDSM-werf This industrial-cum-hipster haunt is where Amsterdam’s movers and shakers come to play in the area’s many bars and restaurants (check www.ndsm.nl/en for their line-up).
5c. NDSM Ferry Say farewell to the north! The free pontje (ferry) from the NDSM-werf to Central Station is the last port of call on your trip to Amsterdam Waterland.