Cycle route: along Amstel river by bike
Looking to escape the busy centre of Amsterdam? This cycle route along the Amstel takes you away from the bustling heart of the city and into the beautiful countryside beyond.
Average Biking Time:
Our first stop on our trip to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is the Skinny Bridge over the Amstel river. The famous skinny bridge across the river Amstel and opposite of the Carré theatre, is an Old Dutch design wooden bridge known as a double-swipe (balanced) bridge. Tradition has it that the bridge was named after the Mager sisters, who lived on opposite sides of the river. They are said to have had the wooden bridge built to make it easier to visit one another. Another theory is that the original bridge acquired the name from being so narrow (mager means skinny in Dutch), that it was hard for two pedestrians to pass one along another.
Given you’d have to be packing some serious pounds to get stuck side by side on this bridge, I prefer the theory that sees this beautiful bridge as an expression of family bonds.
After the skinny bridge we pass by the famous – and famously expensive – Amstel Hotel.
InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam is a five-star hotel marked by a long tradition of warm hospitality and tasteful luxury. The hotel opened its doors in 1867 and has enjoyed a fabulous reputation ever since for its majestic appearance and homely warmth. The imposing lobby, historical staircase, beautiful chandeliers and high ceilings make it a true Grand Dame Hotel.
Up next is the leafy Omval neighbourhood. Situated just inside the Ring, this peaceful suburb lies on the eastern bank of the Amstel.
The name traces its origin back to the sharp turn in the Amstel, which meant sailboats had to change direction and tack close to the wind – omvallen in Dutch.
You can watch the boats and the rest of the world go by today. It’s a wonderful place to relax on the shores of the river on a sunny day, away from the noise and haste of the centre, and there’s plenty of things to do indoors if the weather isn’t going your way. Check out Cafe de Omval or the Omval Theatre for culinary and dramatic delights.
From City to Countryside
Once you move on past De Omval, you’ll start to notice the your urban surroundings melt away into rural Holland.
Enjoy the little maze of bridges, and pay attention to the signs directing you down the Ouderkerkdijk.
Passing ‘The Ring’ – the A10 road which encircles Amsterdam – means you have set foot and wheel beyond the limits of the city.
Ouderkerk aan de Amstel
Although just outside the city, you wouldn’t believe it from this impossibly tranquil setting. Nestled into the shore of the Ouderkerkplas lake, the village exudes a sense of old Holland.
Aside from peaceful wandering, people often come here to visit the historic churches and the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands: the final resting place of Rabbi Ben Israel, a friend and collaborator of Rembrandt, and Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan diplomat.
It’s also a great place to pick up some food after your hunger-inducing ride. See below for restaurant tips.
As the landscape opens up, you start to get a feel of the wind in your hair, and hopefully at your back!
Give yourself a pat on the back: you’ve made it to Ouderkerk! What better way to reward yourself than a refuelling stop in one of the village’s excellent eateries.
Loetje aan de Amstel satisfies those cravings with their legendary steak, and has a beautiful outdoor terrace. Ron Gastrobar has a gorgeous wooden outdoor area by the water, and fuses Indonesian with haut-cuisine. Jaimie van Heije‘s attention to detail is staggering. Each dish of his 5, 6, 7, or even 8 course menu is beautifully presented, and combines perfectly chosen local ingredients and sea food with a chic, lively atmosphere.
Of more than 60 estates that previously adorned the banks of the Amstel, only three remain. Wester Amstel stands in its original form, with the house and park accessible by visitors.
This seventeenth-century estate stands as a footnote to the opulence of the Dutch Golden Age, and a reminder of changing times. You can visit between 09:00 and 16:30 on weekdays, and 12:00 and 16:30 on the weekend. Delve into the history of a bygone era, and explore the magnificent architecture and gardens of a vanishing part of Holland’s culture.
De Zwaan Windmill
You’re in the Netherlands, that means you’ve really got to visit at least one windmill. You may be surprised to hear there’s only a handful left in and around Amsterdam. If you’re looking for something less run of the mill than Brouwerij ‘t IJ, De Zwaan gives you ample opportunity for picture-perfect moments.
Built in 1638 to pump water from the Ouderkerkplas, it was essential for the maintenance of water levels and irrigation of the surrounding farm land. It is a fine example of the traditional ‘smock mill’ style, so called because of its apparently striking resemblance to the smocks farmers used to wear. Whilst the Dutch are known for their stature, you probably won’t have a great deal of trouble differentiating the sloping sides of this 25 metre structure from the rustic Ouderkerk residents.
If you’re still scratching your head about what’s a farmer and what’s a windmill, you can see both side-by-side at the Rembrandt Hoeve.
This traditional clog and cheese factory pushes Dutch-ness off the end of the scale. Make sure you taste the cheese made by farmer Roel (you will both be disappointed if you miss out), and watch clogs being turned, engraved and painted by, you guessed it, farmer Roel – is there anything this man can’t do?
If you’re one of the lucky ones who can walk three paces in clogs without falling over, you can take home your very own pair, and leave others to cheesy souvenirs as you tap dance your way out of the factory.
With the Amstel now on your right, you’re back on course for Amsterdam. If you were battling a head-wind on your way down, you’ll be breezing your way into the city like a galleon. If not, you’ll thank yourself you chose one of our Victoria touring bikes. With 30 gears and a lightweight aluminium frame, you’ll be overtaking traditional Dutch steel-frame bikes all the way back.
Your route home takes you under the ring, past Rai, and through De Pijp. If you’ve still got some energy in your legs, there’s lots going on in The Pipe. You’ve got Sarphatipark in the middle, Albertcuypmarkt just above (09:00-16:00 Monday-Saturday), and a cluster of bars and cafes around Marie Heinekenplein and Eerste van der Helststraat.
If your hamstrings are feeling the burn, it’s only another 10 minutes back to our shop. We’ll be waiting to hear stories of your adventure along the Amstel.