Biking the Waterland

The Netherlands (or Holland, whatever you want to call it), is not limited to Amsterdam. In fact, the famous city is surrounded by beautiful countryside. Imagine fields of green, a lonely bike road along the water. A few cottages and sheeps, and a windmill on the horizon, and there you got it : the Waterland.

windmill country

I decided to bike the Waterland for two days, and as I hadn’t been on a bike for at least three years, oh boy how painful it was ! But I was even more proud of myself for making it through. I’m just trying to forget about the time an old man jogging was going faster than me, that’s not good for self esteem …

I give you here an itinerary for two days, but easily adaptable for just a one day outing out of the city. Are you ready ? Get on your bike aaand GO !

The first and hardest step is leaving Amsterdam. I’m gonna be honest, I was completely freaking out in the city. I was shaking on my bike, afraid I would not remember how to ride it and fall. My hand was pressing on the brake at every turn or every time I crossed somebody on the road, even if it was just an old lady with her dog. Thankfully, I didn’t have far to go in this pathetic state.

Right behind Centraal Station (get around it by the left side) is a free ferry that will take you across the water in five minutes. Once on the other side, just follow the bike road towards the right. The road is red and really easy to follow. Soon enough, you’ll start seeing signs to guide you towards the first village : Durgerdam.

Durgerdam is basically rows upon rows of the prettiest houses you’ll ever see, but there’s nothing to stop for. Keep going towards your first stop : Monnickendam.

bike digue sea

The bike road between Durgerdam and Monnickendam was my favourite part. It follows the coast, completely isolated from the main road. It was fall when I was there, there had been a little drizzle in the morning, and the sea and the sky were the exact same light grey color. Sometimes I couldn’t tell where the horizon was.

boat white magic

Monnickendam is a charming village, and a good place to stop for a while, especially if you’re already as sore as I was at this point. I parked my bike near the centre (you know you’re in the center when you have a view of the big tower) and went for a walk around the docks. If you want to see more of this town, there’s a tourist information office near the tower.

monickendam houses

Once you’re ready to go back out again, head for Volendam. Once again, there’re not much to stop for (although I’m pretty sure I did, since I was ready to take any excuse to get off the bike at this point).

Keep going toward Edam, the real goal of the day. Once there, park your bike (and give it a kick to let it know you’re not happy about what it’s doing to your body) and head for tourist information to get a map. There’s also free wifi there if you need it.

To give you an idea, I left Amsterdam around 10H30, and it was 16H when I arrived in Edam. Don’t worry though, I was going really slow and made a lot of breaks.

Edam is beautiful. There’s a really weird bridge right in front of tourist information, a church, a few canals to walk the length of, a few cafés to warm you up, and a cheese shop where you can taste the delicious flavors of “local” cheese. I’ve already talked a lot about my love of cheese in my post on Amsterdam, so I won’t bore you more.

house edam canal

At this point, you can choose to sleep in Edam if you plan on biking the next day also. I went a little bit further to Purmerend to sleep because I had a Couchsurfing host there, that’s up to you and won’t influence the next day a lot.

On the other hand, if you want to get back to Amsterdam before nightfall, you can head back by the inland road (it will be much shorter than the way in) but don’t forget to stop by Broek in Waterland if you do (more on this place later) !

windmill window

On the second day, I went to see Zaanse Schans, which is a place where they brought together a lot of historic monuments from all over the country. Consequently, it’s a very touristic area, and I don’t recommend it in the summer. In the fall there still was a bit of a crowd, but even I wasn’t too bothered by it.

To find Zaanse Schans (say it Zaaanche Zrrranch), follow the signs towards Purmerend (if you slept in Edam) and then towards the small town of Neck. Out of Neck is a really long straight road called the Noorderweg. You have to follow it all the way to the end, and the sights through that ride are pretty magical, with this road going straight as far as the eye can see, bordered by trees and little houses. At the end of that road, you’ll see clear signs for Zaanse Schans. Be brave, you’re almost there !

zaanse schans windmill

In Zaanse Schans, the entry to the site itself is free. So even on a small budget, you can wander around the windmills, look at the town across the water and play with the farm animals as much as you want. You have to pay to get into most of the monuments though, so I’ll leave that up to your wallet.

Near the entrance is the Catherina Hoeve Cheese farm, which is free and offers a big cheese sampling opportunity (just one by bowl please, keep some dignity).

zaanse schans museum cheese

Once you’re done with Zaanse Schans, you have to take the same straight road you did on the way in, but this time turn right before the end to follow the signs towards Purmerland. This part of the road is also very nice, away from the car road, with a lot of animals and birds. I don’t know how many swans and blue feathered herons I saw that day, but by the end of it I was all giddy with bird fever !

bike swan animal

In order to get to Broek in Waterland, you have to follow signs to Purmerland, then Ilpendam, and then you’ll start getting signs for Broek in Waterland. Don’t take the first ferry towards Ilpendam, keep going on that beautiful road along the water.

Take the ferry that actually points towards Broek in Waterland, it’s even cheaper than the first one (25 cents for one person with a bike). After crossing, you’re not even five minutes biking from seeing the beautiful row of houses of Broek in Waterland. They actually live separated from land and every house has its own little ferry and several boats to get them across. I can’t imagine what living like this must be. I guess really annoying as a teenager and then like paradise for an adult ? Gosh how stupid we all were at some point.

I want that little house, Lennie.

I want that little house, Lennie.

From Broek in Waterland, you just have to head back to Amsterdam. The road is very well indicated, and once you’re in the city, you just have to follow the “Centrum” signs to get back to the free ferry and the Centraal Station.

You can take the opportunity to explore the north shore of Amsterdam, in particular the Eye Museum, which I’ve heard is amazing. Myself, I was at the point where I was pushing two or three times on the pedals and then letting myself be carried until I had to push again if I didn’t wanted to fall off, so I went straight to the bike rental shop and gave my bike back, happy but swearing that I would never be caught on that thing again.

biking the waterland pin

I rented my bike from Frederic Rent a Bike, Brouwersgracht 78, near the Centraal Station. I paid 20€ for one day and a half, which I thought was a good deal. The people there are really friendly and will give you maps and any information you need !

Also, please don’t be scared off by my complaining, the road was flat everywhere, I’m just really out of shape.

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