If you are here it is because you are -or will be- in Amsterdam and are already thinking about an Amsterdam City Break. Search no more.
I know that if I ask you about Amsterdam you will be able to close your eyes and imagine (unless you have already been there and therefore do not need to imagine) a city surrounded by waterways, flooded with bicycles coming and going at a frenetic but chaotically ordered pace through a cosmopolitan and liberal capital, where “everything” is legal and nobody cares about what the other does.
I know that if I ask you about Amsterdam, you will be able to tell me about Anna Frank, the wonderful art museums, and its very particular red zone.
But what would you say if I told you about Broek in Waterland or Monnickendam?
What would you say if I told you that in less than half an hour by bicycle you can go from the sometimes unbearable hustle and bustle of the Dutch capital to the silence of the fields that inspired Van Gogh?
I hope that with this article you can close your eyes and imagine about this wonderful Amsterdam city break.
- 1 AMSTERDAM: WATERWAYS, BIKES AND AN OMNIPRESENT SMELL
- 2 AMSTERDAM CITY BREAK:
- 3 BROEK IN WATERLAND: ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DUTCH TOWNS
- 4 MONNICKENDAM, A SMALL FISHING PORT TOWN
- 5 OTHER TOWNS, OTHER DAYS
- 6 WHY DID WE CHOOSE TO TRAVEL BY BIKE FOR THE AMSTERDAM CITY BREAK?
AMSTERDAM: WATERWAYS, BIKES AND AN OMNIPRESENT SMELL
I remember the first time I set foot in the beautiful Dutch capital. I was only 21 years old and before me, I was looking at a city that was very different from everything I had previously seen.
Beyond Venice, I had not seen another city with so many waterways traversing it, much less had I seen so many bicycles put together, piled up in a huge parking lot, tied to the iron bridges, going through the narrow downtown streets.
Nor had I known another place where you could enter a bar and order a menu of different types of marijuana. I was never interested in drugs, so that was just a curious thing, but it was still surprising.
I was fascinated, with my backpack on my shoulder I searched my hostel, I met a group of Spanish girls, a Mexican who is still my friend, and we started kicking the city, getting lost in its beautiful alleys.
TRAVELING TO AMSTERDAM WITH CHILDREN: A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE
From that first experience in 2005, twelve years have passed, many gray hairs and wrinkles, and one child in between. And when we arrived in Amsterdam, after leaving the motorhome at the campsite and getting off the bus at Amsterdam Centraal (the central station of the city), the feeling was very different.
With this, I do not mean that I did not like to be there. Amsterdam is still amazing and beautiful. But it was simply a different experience.
Maybe it was the fact of having to dodge hundreds of bicycles that passed by as if they were in the middle of the Tour de France while you ask your son not to let go of your hand (our son does not like to go in a stroller, so he walks most of the time, which I think is great, but with bicycles coming at maximum speed is not the best option).
Maybe it was the constant aroma of substances that were in the air that at this point in our lives seemed excessive.
Or maybe it was just that we were near the end of our motorhome adventure from Spain to Poland, back and forth, and we had already traveled almost 90 days between towns, cities, natural parks, and what we least wanted was to be surrounded by car horns, trams, buses, bicycles, and a long etcetera of a big capital city.
Whatever the reason was, and after two days of walking through its streets, we decided to take our bicycles and make a brief but restorative Amsterdam city break. And this was the beautiful result.
AMSTERDAM CITY BREAK:
BROEK IN WATERLAND: ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DUTCH TOWNS
Only 8 kilometers separate Amsterdam from this beautiful Dutch town. But in this less than half hour bike ride, the change is so radical that it seems we have traveled in time and space.
If your ideal Amsterdam city break is a place with great historical sites and a cultural offer of museums and theaters, this is not your place, since beyond the houses, the only historical thing you will find is the church, which was rebuilt in the seventeenth century after the Spaniards destroyed the original during the Eighty Years War.
But if you want to get out of the hustle and know a town that little and nothing has changed since the nineteenth century, Broek in Waterland is a great option.
There is documentation in travel books from the 17th century that speaks about this locality and refers to it as “the temple of Dutch neatness”. And today, four centuries later, neatness remains the main feature of the place.
But the best about this place is its tranquility, its silence, the lack of tourists that allows you to enjoy the town almost on your own. So if we talk about an Amsterdam city break, this is the quintessential place to be.
It is a very small place that can easily be covered on foot in less than an hour. But there is nothing more beautiful than sitting at the table outside the church and enjoying a family picnic watching the waterways, the houses painted in different colors, the boats that rest on the water, the bridges and the simple passage of time in this charming little town that few people have the pleasure of knowing.
Here are some photos so you can see it with your own eyes.
MONNICKENDAM, A SMALL FISHING PORT TOWN
Less than 5 kilometers away, a Dutch jewel awaited us, as small and easy to travel as pleasant. Its architecture is the typical Dutch architecture that we can imagine from those towns, with exposed bricks, and facades with triangular points.
Its 14th-century church and the 16th-century bell tower, and the 17th-century Weigh House are the highlights of this small town that was an important fishing port in previous centuries.
Like Broek in Waterland, this small town does not need a full day to be discovered as it is small and its town center is well signposted, but it is worth taking your time to stop in its different corners to enjoy another place where tourism is not something big as the vast majority prefer to stay touring the capital instead of taking this Amsterdam city break.
The view from one of the bridges in the center gives us a typical Dutch village postcard:
OTHER TOWNS, OTHER DAYS
In addition to Broek in Waterland and Monnickendam, the outskirts of Amsterdam offer many options for an Amsterdam city break such as the beautiful villages of Edam, famous for its cheese market, or Volendam, another fishing village.
You can also visit the famous mills of Zaanse Schans.
But as we always say: we prefer to see less and enjoy each place more, live it, breathe it. If we had chosen to visit each of the towns around Amsterdam, we would have had to run, we would not have been able to stop and enjoy a family picnic on the outside table of the church.
That is why we always say that there is nothing better than what is known as “slow travel“ (although I must admit that many times in our eagerness to know, we forget to put it into practice).
Traveling slowly allows you to stop in each corner and enjoy the beautiful views offered by each site that until then was unknown to you.
WHY DID WE CHOOSE TO TRAVEL BY BIKE FOR THE AMSTERDAM CITY BREAK?
All this trip can be done by bus and, in some sections, by ferry. In fact, there is a bus pass in the region to travel unlimitedly for a day. So, why did we choose to do it by bicycle?
First and foremost because if you do not live a bicycle experience in Holland you would be missing an essential element of the culture of the Netherlands.
In Holland, everyone moves on two wheels, from the children who go to school to the businessman who travels to his office in a suit. There is nothing more beautiful than understanding the culture of each country experiencing its customs.
On the other hand, the whole journey that unites these towns is plain smooth. In fact, all Holland is plain, without hills or mountains, so it is suitable for anyone who knows how to ride a bicycle.
And not only is it easy, but the whole route is covered by a wide bike path, surrounded by the most wonderful countryside nature, with waterways passing by, cows grazing, colorful houses and a tranquility that astonishes.
That’s why I recommend that if you go to the capital and want to enjoy an Amsterdam city break, you take it to know this part of Holland that only a few give themselves the pleasure of knowing.
And if I still could not convince you, I’ll leave you some more photos. Have a nice trip!
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