From sand dunes to castles, and windmills to tulip fields, these scenic cycling routes showcase the most beautiful landscapes in the Netherlands.
One of the best ways to appreciate the Netherlands is to take a bicycle ride through its beautiful landscapes. After all, the famously flat country boasts 35,000km of fietspaden (bicycle paths) which are immensely popular among tourists and local alike; and not exclusively for the very fit or sporty, either. So if you fancy a breath of fresh air, why not hop on your bike and explore some of the most breathtaking scenes the country has to offer.
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The sand dunes of Zandvoort
Located just 9.8km from the city of Haarlem, Zandvoort is one of the most famous beach resorts in the Netherlands; and for good reason. It boasts a 9k-long ‘blue flag’ sandy beach, dramatic rolling sand dunes, several popular campsites, and the famous Formula 1 race track. Just to the north of Zandvoort, lies the smaller beach of Bloemendaal aan Zee. This is known for its more laid-back vibe and hip beach bars that host regular parties throughout the summer. Not only are the beaches extremely popular among locals and tourists alike, but they are also prime spots for cyclists.
There are several cycling routes that you can follow from the center of Haarlem to the coast; each taking around 30 minutes. However, the route that runs through the village of Overveen offers the most varied landscape; featuring small villages, forests, and sand dunes which form part of Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. Once you reach Zandvoort, you can secure your bike in one of the bicycle parking areas and enjoy a quick dip in the North Sea.
There are also numerous beach bars dotted along the coast that serve food and drink during the daytime and evening. And the best part is, if you don’t fancy cycling home afterward, you can always catch a train from Zandvoort aan Zee and take your bike with you if you buy a Bicycle Day Travel Card.
The River Vecht to Utrecht
For a totally tranquil experience, fewer places beat the cycle path along the picturesque River Vecht. Winding its way between Amsterdam and Utrecht, the Vecht flows past seven beautiful towns and stunning Dutch landscapes. The country lanes along both sides of the river are ideal for cycling.
The 35km route between Weesp and Utrecht, in particular, offers sensational views of the Dutch countryside; dotted with numerous country mansions, castles, and traditional windmills. Along the way, you can stop for lunch in Breukelen; the sleepy town that Brooklyn USA was named after. The final stretch of the route encompasses the Oudegracht, or “old canal”. This runs through the center of Utrecht and is known to be one of the most scenic canals in the Netherlands.
The polders of Waterland
Located just 14km north of Amsterdam Central Station, the lush green polders of Waterland offer a stunning Dutch landscape to explore by bike. This is undoubtedly one of the most unique cycling routes in the Netherlands, which takes you through expansive fields scattered with traditional Dutch farms and old-style farmhouses (stolpboerderijen).
This is also home to one of the Netherlands’ UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Defence Line of Amsterdam. This 135 km ring of locks, forts, dikes, and pumping stations around Amsterdam protects the land; while allowing villages such as Broek, Marken, Volendam, and Edam to exist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Waterland is hugely popular for cycling and watersports such as kayaking, snorkeling, and windsurfing. There are several bicycle routes to take, starting at Amsterdam Central Station, and ranging from 39km to 80km. These include The Golden Triangle Trail, Water Trail, and the Twiske Trail. Along the way, you can stop at one of the various pubs and cafés for a well-deserved drink and bite to eat. Just make sure you don’t venture to Waterland on an extremely windy day; you may end up cycling through it a lot faster than you intended!
The windmills at Kinderdijk
Fewer places in the Netherlands are more iconic than the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk. Every year, thousands of tourists flock to this picturesque village in the south to see the country’s famous cluster of 18th-century windmills dotted along the Lek and Noord rivers. It is one of the few places in the country where you can still see how low-lying land is kept dry by using windmills to pump water from the canals. The area is only accessible by bike or foot, and is, therefore, one of the most popular cycling routes in the Netherlands.
Starting from the Kinderijk windmills, you can plan cycling tours that take from thirty minutes to the whole day; depending on your preference and skill level. Whatever route you choose, though, you will be surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, quaint Dutch villages, and thriving wildlife reserves. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, the cities of Gouda, Rotterdam, and Dordrecht are easy to reach by bike as well. You can also combine your cycling trip with a Waterbus ride and explore the Biesbosch nature reserve where you might be lucky enough to spot some beavers.
The tulip fields of Noordoostpolder
A roundup of the best cycling routes in the Netherlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the country’s stunning tulip fields. Located in the Netherlands’ biggest flower-growing region, Flevoland, Noordoostpolder boasts a magnificent display of the nation’s iconic flower.
During the spring, you can drive, walk, or cycle along the country’s longest tulip route which encompasses over 100km. This takes you through nearly 2,500 acres of colorful fields. Along the way, you can stop off at various points and take part in fun activities. These include visiting private farms, taking a tulip photography workshop, and picking your own tulips in the flower garden of the Boerenshop. With such natural beauty on offer, it’s hardly surprising that National Geographic named this one of the world’s ultimate road trips.
Cycling tips for the Netherlands
Take your bike on the train
It is possible to buy a ticket for your bike on the train if you decide to pedal one way and train it back. However, you are only allowed to take your bike on Dutch national trains outside rush hour; the prohibited times are between 06.30 and 09.00 and between 16.30 and 18.00 on weekdays. This restriction does not apply in the weekend, on national holidays, or in July and August. A ticket for a bike for a day (Dagkaart Fiets), costs €6 and you must place your bike in the appropriate car on the train.
Book an overnight stay
If you want to have more of an adventure when cycling in the Netherlands, you can arrange to stay at a B&B for a bargain rate on the Friends on the Bike website. There are around 6,000 guests throughout the country who you can stay with; therefore, you are never far from a cozy home to recharge your batteries. Some hosts also provide dinner and a packed lunch. However, you need to be a member first before you can book ahead.
Discover more cycling tips and information in our guide to cycling in the Netherlands.