Remember Hans Brinker, the Dutch boy who put his finger in a hole in the dike to save his country? Remember that picture postcard of a row of majestic windmills under a great blue sky? Remember all those stereotypes of Holland, the wooden clogs, canals, bicycles, pancakes, tulip fields, polders, traditional costume? They’ll all come alive in front of your very eyes on this specially designed tour of nostalgia! The tour starts and finishes in Amsterdam allowing ample opportunity for exploring and museums. We’ve kept cycling distances short to give you more time at top tourist attractions such as Zaanse Schans and Volendam.
Try to arrive early! One can spend an entire fantastic day just wandering through the 17th-century canal district gazing up at the beautiful old townhouses and warehouses... The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Spend the morning visiting your favourite Amsterdam museum, or sitting in the sun on Rembrandtplein watching the world go by, or go for a walk in the famous red-light district. The possibilities are endless. As you leave the capital in the early afternoon, the urban buzz will soon make way for the peace and quiet of the countryside. This region is called Zuid-Kennemerland. In the low-lying peat landscape clouds are reflected in the water and reed sways in the wind. Top off your day roaming lovely downtown Haarlem, from impressive Grote Markt square, to the white drawbridge on the River Spaarne. Idyllic courtyards, known as ‘hofjes’, will set your heart a-flutter. In April and early May, you have the option of cycling a longer route of ca. 53 km where you can see the tulip fields.
In the morning, continue exploring the streets and squares of historical Haarlem. Should you wish to visit a museum, the Frans Hals museum of paintings from the Golden Age comes recommended. If your interests lie in the field of science, don’t miss exquisite Teijlers museum which has been drawing curious minds since 1784!
At midday, it’s time to jump back on your bikes to make your way along the banks of the River Spaarne to the pretty village of Spaarndam and the IJdijk dike. You’ll love the way some of the cute little old houses are perched high and dry atop the dike while others are sitting safe and snug behind it. Reputedly the oldest lock in the world, Kolksluis is still in working order and standing in such a breathtaking location, you must stop off for a look! The IJdijk is also where the monument stands to remember dear little Hans Brinker, the brave boy who saved the country from flooding by sticking his finger in a hole in the dike. (American fiction from A to Z, but never mind that...).
Pedalling on, you will reach the Zaan region, named after the River Zaan and justly famed for the adorable wooden houses, painted green, with white lace curtains in the windows! You can see several prime examples at Zaanse Schans, also known the world over for its gorgeous row of windmills. This whole place is picture perfect! There are lots of things to do and see here. You can visit windmills, workshops, museums, find out how to make wooden shoes or Dutch cheese... all in the name of nostalgia. After all that, sit down for a well-deserved pancake.
After a few pedals you'll reach recreational park Het Twiske. This is a favourite get-away for the people of Amsterdam. On a hot day, they’ll flee the city and cycle here to the lake for a dip. A varied landscape of wood, meadows and lakes will accompany you to Monnickendam. Today’s cycling trip concludes in festive fishing port Volendam. Browse the home-decor and gift shops for a great find or have a seat at a pavement cafe on the dike overlooking the water.
Near the old quarter of quaint red-brick houses, stands Volendams Museum where you can find out all about this close-knit community’s history, culture and folklore. Inspiring period rooms, traditional costumes and jewellery are part of the permanent exposition. There’s a section on eel fishery complete with model boats. The art collection is a delight but just wait till you see that truly incredible mosaic...
Via the isle of Marken, you will set off back to Amsterdam, arriving in plenty of time for more sightseeing.
The cycling holiday draws to a close. After breakfast at your hotel, it is time to go home.