Amsterdam cycle routes – list

Printable cycle routes around Amsterdam – not standard tourist routes, but cross-sections of the urban region.

Unlike most cycle routes, these routes have a political, social, and urban perspective. Shorter routes are listed first. All the regional routes have rural sections, but especially routes 4, 8, 9, and 10. For urban planning and urban design, try routes 5 and 8, and for dikes and historical land reclamation, routes 2, 8, and 9.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 6: western cross-section of the city
A cross-section through western Amsterdam, in roughly chronological order from 17th-century to 20th-century areas. About 3 hours. Revised August 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 5: city cross-section, new nature, heritage town
Along the historic route eastwards out of the city, and across the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal to the ‘heritage town’ Weesp. Return through the failed housing projects, and the new retail/entertainment zone, of south-east Amsterdam. 40 km, 4 hours. Revised August 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 7: Port, Westzaan and Zaan river
Past the west port basins, crosses the North Sea Canal by ferry, through the polder village of Westzaan, to a heritage windmill park, and back along the still-industrial Zaan riverside. 38 km, 4-5 hours. Revised July 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 2: Spaarndam/Velserbroek, dikes, heritage, and suburban landscape
This route follows the mediaeval coastline and sea dike of the IJ estuary, through the mediaeval settlements of Spaarnwoude and Spaarndam. 28 km and return by train, total 3 hours: otherwise 5 hours if you cycle back. Revised August 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 8: Linear villages, historic reclamation, expanding satellite town
Crosses by ferry to the northern docklands, follows a rural linear settlement north of Amsterdam, goes through the new suburbs and the historic core of Purmerend, and returns through a reclaimed lake-bed polder, and along a 19th-century ship canal. 41 km, 4 hours. Revised August 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 10: Linear urban extension, Green Heart, Amstel river
Exits the city via Amstelveen, the most linear of the post-war extensions, into the still-rural ‘Green Heart’, and returns along the river Amstel, in its rural setting and in the city. 42 km, 4-5 hours. Revised August 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 4: docklands, heritage villages, newest suburb
Through gentrified docklands and interwar housing, along the Amsterdam-Rhine canal and heritage villages, returning through Amsterdam’s newest suburb, IJburg. 46 km, about 5 hours. Revised August 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 9: dike villages, grassland landscape, heritage tourism
Along relict dike settlements, and interwar garden-city housing, and through the reclaimed marshes to the heritage-tourism island of Marken, returning along the mediaeval sea dike. 47 km, 4-5 hours. Revised March 2016.

Amsterdam Cycle Route 3: Haarlem, dune villas, castle ruins
Through Haarlem, to the narrow strip of land just behind the dunes, with the oldest continuous habitation. 53 km, 5-6 hours. Revised September 2016.

Finally, there is a much longer all-day cycle route from Amsterdam to Zyfflich – the nearest village in Germany.

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Amsterdam to Zyfflich cycle route

This is an all-day cycle route across the Netherlands, from Amsterdam to Zyfflich, the nearest place in Germany. It is 129 km to Zyfflich, and then 10 km back to Nijmegen station, to return by train. The route is relatively straight (34% longer than the great circle), yet passes through several historic towns and cities, such as Weesp, Amersfoort, and Nijmegen. It crosses some main landscapes of the Netherlands – the reclaimed peat bogs and lakes in the west, the glacial ridges, and the Rhine flood plain.

You need a whole day for this route, in summer, preferably with west or north-west wind, or no wind at all. It will take at least 12 hours. Return by train from Nijmegen: the last direct train is at 22.42. You pass shops about every 15 km. If you want to spread the route over two days, Amersfoort is the best place to stop on the first day. Revised April/May 2016.

Central Amsterdam to the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal

start on the Dam or “Dam Square”. The present Royal Palace is the former City Hall, completed at the height of the city’s glory in 1665.

The original Amstel dam which gives the city its name, was located between the National Monument and the Bijenkorf department store. (The river flowed toward the present site of Centraal Station).

go into the Damstraat, to the right of Hotel Krasnapolsky. Go on along this narrow street, which changes its name at each bridge.

at the metro entrance (in the Nieuwe Hoogstraat section), turn right along St. Antoniesbree straat. Go on into Jodenbree straat.

turn left at the HEMA store, into Uilenburger steeg, then continue along Nieuwe Uilenburger straat.

montelbaanstoren

cross an iron lifting bridge, go on along Peper straat. At the end, turn right along the main road, Prins Hendrik kade.

at the maritime museum (Scheepvaartmuseum), the road bends left. After the bend, at the traffic lights, turn right: follow the cycle sign for Almere.

at the end of this road, turn right, and then left (follow cycle signs for Almere), past the windmill De Gooyer.

turn left at the traffic lights, onto Zeeburger dijk, again follow the cycle signs for Almere. Be careful turning left here!

go on along the long straight Zeeburger dijk. At the end, as it curves toward the traffic lights, turn left. Again follow the signs for Almere.

cycle past the wooden-fronted new housing, toward the arched bridge ahead. At the end of the road, turn right along the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal – again follow the sign for Almere.

Along the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal to Weesp

continue along the canal-dike road, under the A10 ring motorway bridge, and under a new cycle bridge. At the 19th-century redbrick house (nr 553), you leave Amsterdam. (This section is shared with Route 5).

nescio brug

go straight on, along the canal bank. Pass right the 1990’s housing of Diemen-Noord, then a park (converted farmland). Visible left is Amsterdam’s newest suburb, IJburg.

pass floodgates, separating the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal from the Diem, a former tidal creek. Continue under the new arched bridge, linking IJburg to the A1 motorway.

pass under the triple-girder motorway bridge. Continue along the canal bank, to the railway bridge, about 1 km further.

On both sides of the canal, sites have been cleared for construction of a new motorway bridge. Work will continue for several years, the cycle path may be diverted at times. If so, follow the yellow signs for an alternative route.

 

approaching the arched rail bridge, turn right, up to the embankment, and then make a U-turn to the bridge. Follow the sign for Almere/Weesp.

cross the 4-track bridge, originally double-track. (This is the 1874 Amsterdam-Amersfoort line).

continue along the cycle path, parallel to the rail line, away from the bridge.

1 km after the bridge, continue on this side of the rail line, follow the sign for Almere. (Don’t turn under the rail line at the first underpass).

After the bend new housing is visible ahead: there are plans to fill this entire polder (Bloemendaler Polder) with housing, joining Weesp to Muiden. This issue is typical of the planning conflicts around all Dutch cities.

pass Weesp station. At the roundabout, turn right, through the underpass under the rail line.

150 m further, turn left along the waterside road. This is the river Vecht, which once flowed into the sea at Muiden.

The Vecht is a distributary of the Rhine. In its original course it, diverged at Utrecht from the Kromme Rijn, itself a distributary of the Nederrijn or Lower Rhine. You will cross the Lower Rhine 80 km further on. Distributaries are characteristic of a river delta.

at the next corner, turn left across the lifting bridge, to continue along the river, along Hoog straat.

vecht weesp

turn second right into Slijk straat, at cafe Het Wapen van Weesp. Then turn second left into Nieuwstraat. Food: shops.

pass the late-mediaeval church of Weesp, built 1462. At the old Town Hall (nr. 41, built 1776), turn right.

stadhuis weesp

cross the bridge, and turn left along the canal (Nieuwstad).

16 km from Amsterdam

continue along Nieuwstad. After the last house, you can see two windmills on the left. Turn next left into Utrechtse weg, toward the windmills.

utrechtseweg weesp

The water here, and the grassed mounds, are the moat and bastions of fortified Weesp. The town first belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht, but was later conquered by the Counts of Holland. They fortified it as a border town, at first a defence against Utrecht, and it retained a defensive function until the Second World War. It formed part of three successive defensive lines, the Holland Water Line in the 17th century, and the New Holland Water Line and the circular Stelling Van Amsterdam in the 19th century. The wooden houses at the beginning of the Utrechtse weg were built inside the military zone, on condition that they could be set on fire in wartime.

Weesp to Hilversum

continue parallel to the Vecht, passing the two main windmills of Weesp, De Eendracht and De Vriendschap. Beside the first windmill is a waterside open space to rest.

at the end of Utrechtse weg, after nr. 118, turn right into Lage Klomp weg. The other road here is a dead end.

cross the the main road (N236), and turn left along it – use the cycle path.

Construction work, 2016 – 2018: the bridge ahead is being replaced by a new bridge on the south side. The cycle path may be diverted: if so, follow yellow diversion signs.

cross the lifting bridge over the Vecht, and then turn right: use the cycle path. Follow the road sign for Nederhorst den Berg, and the small sign with number 40 in a circle.

route sign

The numbers in circles, on the low signs, are the junctions of a cycle route network – this one is for the Gooi region. The routes are not signposted by destination, but from number to number. At each junction the simple signs indicate neighbouring numbers, and there is usually a map of the network. (In this case, on the corner).

after 1,6 km along the Vecht, turn off left onto Goog pad, follow the cycle sign for Hilversum (and junction 39). After about 400 m, the cycle path follows the shore of a lake, Spiegelpolder plas.

about 2 km on, the cycle path turns away from this lake, to another lake (Ankeveense plassen). The church spire of Ankeveen is visible ahead, across the other lake.

stop here, at the corner facing the second lake: 20 m to your left is a small wooden footbridge. Cross it, and go to the two benches with a view of the lake. This is a classic lake landscape of the western Netherlands.

ankeveense plassen

The lakes were created by turf cutting from the late Middle Ages onwards. Around 800 AD, the landscape consisted of uninhabited peat bog, from the coastal dunes inland to the Gooi ridge. It was above sea level, with natural drainage. As the bog was reclaimed for farmland, the soil shrunk, making river dikes necessary. Then windmills were needed, to drain rainwater into the rivers (which were now higher than the adjoining land). Turf cutting lowered the ground level even more, and the flooded turf cuttings became new lakes. Some were reclaimed again, from the 17th century onwards. Sources used here, for the settlement / landscape history of the region include Atlas Amsterdam (1999, C. Dijkstra, M. Reitsma, A Rommerts. Bussum: THOTH), and the provincial survey Monumenten Inventarisatie Project Noord-Holland published by the Provincie Noord-Holland.

go back from the benches, back to the concrete cycle path, and continue. Further on, pass a small brick building beside a weir: it is a pumping station.

just after the weir, at the signpost, turn left across the narrow footbridge: follow the sign for Hilversum (and junction 38). Continue along a narrow footpath (Bergse pad).

bergse pad

at the end of the path you are on the village street of Ankeveen: turn right, toward Hilversum. Ankeveen is a linear settlement typical of the reclaimed peat bogs: the land was reclaimed in regular patterns.

500 m on, at the road junction, go on toward Hilversum. Cycle on along this road for 2 km, to the village of ‘s-Graveland.

at the end, cross the bridge, and go straight on into the narrow road beside nr 40A (Ankeveense Pad).

Like Ankeveen, ‘s-Graveland is also a linear village, built along a canal. It was a favoured place to build country houses for the 17th-century elite of Amsterdam. The name means “the Count’s land”, the s-apostrophe is a relict genitive case, absent in modern Dutch.

's-graveland

the narrow road continues through fields: at the end, turn right, at the sign for Hilversum.

This road is slightly higher than the fields, which you just passed. Here it forms the landscape boundary between the former peat bog, and the generally forested Gooi ridge.

after just 40 metres, turn off left, onto the cycle path (fietspad), into the Spanderswoud nature reserve (Goois Natuurreservaat Spanderswoud).

cycle straight on through the wood.

The wood is on sand and gravel, in fact the small hillocks are former sand dunes. West of the landscape boundary, in the early Middle Ages, there was nothing but bog, creeks and mud flats from here to Haarlem. The marshlands of Holland were one of the last areas in western Europe to be settled. The Gooi ridge is a glacial ridge pushed here by the Saalian Ice Front – the edge of the Scandinavian ice cap during the Saale ice age, about 200 000 years ago. The ridge extends to the Rhine at Rhenen: the section east of Utrecht is known as the Utrecht ridge, ‘Utrechtse Heuvelrug’.

the path ends at the edge of Hilversum: turn left along Bach laan.

30 km from Amsterdam

cycle along Bach laan: the Hilversum television tower is visible above the trees. It is part of the national broadcasting centre, now the privatised Mediapark.

at the kiosk De Boshut, the road bends: turn right here, into Bussumer grintweg. Follow the cycle route sign for junction 54. Check the street name sign for Bussumer grintweg, the cycle route sign is unclear. (The name means “gravel road to Bussum”).

follow the signs, number 54 in a circle, through the upper-income areas of northern Hilversum. First along the Bussumer grintweg, then left into Trompenberg weg, then left into Jacobus Penn weg.

at the circular water tower, cross the inner ring road of Hilversum, go straight on. The tower was built in 1893: this is the highest point in Hilversum, at 27 m.

watertoren hilversum

turn next left, still following the number 54 signs, into Heuvel laan. Cycle on downhill along Heuvel laan, and at the end of this street, turn right into the Hoge Naarder weg. (The sign with this street name is often obscured by foliage).

This is the old ‘high road to Naarden’. This section is officially a ‘cycle street’, with priority for cyclists over cars.

pass (left) the yellow brick Hilversum Town Hall – a prominent example of early 20th century Dutch architecture, by Willem Marinus Dudok.

stadhuis dudok

go straight on, over the red asphalt (indicating cycle priority). At the end of the open space, turn left along Melk pad, a one-way street with two cycle lanes.

pass (left) the St. Vitus Church. The road then bends right at a construction site: this is the new market square of Hilversum.

after the bend turn right, into the wide street, lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés. This street is called simply Groest, but there is no street name sign at this corner. If it is busy, you may have to step off your bike.

Groest is the old high street of Hilversum, which was only a small town, on the heaths of the Gooi ridge. It never received city rights, and for centuries sheep grazing and wool-working were the most important activities. Hilversum began to expand in the late 19th century, when the rail line from Amsterdam attracted wealthy commuters to the area. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, it became the centre of broadcasting in the Netherlands, and the economy is now dominated by the media and related sectors.

turn next left into Leeuwen straat: follow the pedestrian sign for ‘Station’.

at the end of Leeuwen straat is Hilversum station. Go straight on, on the cycle path, through the new cycle tunnel under the station. A glass facade separates it from the platform access tunnel.

on the other side, the cycle path climbs back to street level. Turn right here, into Kleine Drift.

go straight on along Kleine Drift. At the end, turn left, along the main street with the two cycle lanes. Confusingly this section also called Kleine Drift, but there is no clear sign. Don’t turn into Lorentz weg, and don’t turn into Ehrlich straat.

continue along this radial road – 200 m further, as you pass the new houses, the name changes to Minckelers straat.

Hilversum to Baarn

continue along Minckelers straat, out of Hilversum. About 2 km from the station, you leave the built-up area, and the road continues through a wood, towards Baarn.

Construction work 2014-2016. If the cycle path has not yet opened, use the diversion toward Baarn, indicated by yellow signs with the letter B. The diversion takes you back to the Baarn road.

follow the curving road through the wood, and pass under the A27 motorway. After the next bend, the road is straight: you are now in the Province of Utrecht.

37 km from Amsterdam

cycle on out of the wood: the return to grassland marks the edge of the forested Gooi ridge.

pass a tree nursery, and then turn right into Wildenburg laan (sign for cycle route junction 22).

continue straight on, to the grounds of Groeneveld Castle. Pass the small car park, and then turn left along the unsurfaced cycle path, lined with trees.

follow the path on alongside the ornamental lake. At the end, turn right: you are at the front of the ‘castle’, in fact an 18th-century country house. It is now a publicly-owned centre for nature and landscape. (You can rest in the grounds, open to the public).

groeneveld

cycle away from the front of the castle, along the tree-lined former avenue, past the Moestuin (herb garden). At the end of the castle grounds, you can see the first houses of Baarn.

cross the main road, and turn right, the wrong way, along the cycle path. Go toward Restaurant Greenfields and the petrol station.

pass the petrol station forecourt, and immediately go through the gap in the fence, with a barrier to deter cyclists. At the barrier is a faded sign for Van Heemstra laan. It is easy to miss this gate: if you are 20 m from the petrol station, turn back and look again.

go straight on along this road through Baarn – along the van Heemstra laan, and then Eemnesser weg.

Baarn is built at the edge of the forested ridge. Since the coming of the railway, it has been an upper-income town, especially because of its association with the royal family. Soestdijk Palace is on the outskirts of Baarn, and ex-Queen Beatrix went to school here.

at the roundabout in front of the police station, turn right, into Nieuw Baarn straat.

at the shops, at Café De Karseboom, turn left into Laan straat, the old village street of Baarn.

continue along the Laan straat, but step off the bike during shopping hours. Food: shops, supermarket at nr. 87.

laanstraat baarn

at the end, at the square with the bandstand, go toward the HEMA store. In front of the HEMA, turn right, past Gall & Gall, and Etos.

43 km from Amsterdam

at the next corner, follow the cycle sign for Amersfoort, onto Bos straat. Go on along Bos straat, cross Java laan, and go straight on along Ooster straat.

continue along Ooster straat, an old road out of Baarn. About 1 km further, the old houses stop. Go straight on past repainted 1960’s flats: this is the low-income end of Baarn

after the last block, at the corner of Ooster straat and Dotterbloem laan, turn right onto the unsurfaced cycle path (beside the pond). At the end of the path, go straight on along Zuring laan.

at the end of this street, there is a cycle bridge on your left. Turn left, follow the sign for Amersfoort, across the small bridge, into open countryside.

fietsbrug baarn

Baarn to Amersfoort

cycle on along this road, Bremeentje. The Amsterdam – Amersfoort rail line is on your right, on the left is the open land of the reclaimed Eem delta.

The land was regularly flooded in historic times, although the Eem is a short river. Between the high ground of the Gooi/Utrecht ridge, and the high ground of the Veluwe, is a low-lying area, the Gelderse Vallei. A channel of the Rhine once flowed through here, and if the Rhine dike west of Wageningen broke, then the Rhine would again flow into the Eem, causing widespread flooding. Even earlier, before the Saalian glaciation, the river Maas flowed through the valley: the ice sheet deflected its course. (After Amersfoort, this route goes through the Gelderse Vallei, along its main drainage canal).

pass Grote Melm, a cluster of historic farmhouses on the bank of the Eem.

continue along the road parallel to the rail line. To the right is the village of Soest, built on the edge of higher ground. Visible ahead is the spire of the old Amersfoort cathedral, the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Toren.

The apartment tower (on the left) is the northern point of Amersfoort. The city extends north-south, and you are looking at it ‘from the side.’ Because of its visibility, the Amersfoort spire was used as the centre point of the triangulation of the Netherlands. It is the true origin point of the national grid, located at 52° 09′ 22.178 north, and 5° 23′ 15.5 east.

further on, the road (now Hilhorst weg) turns away from the rail line, and then goes under a power line.

the road then turns back toward the railway line. At the end of this road, turn left into Amersfoort, through the industrial zone of Isselt.

go straight on to the traffic lights, and cross the main road (Amsterdamse weg), into the residential area of Soesterkwartier, into Plataan straat.

on Plataan straat, turn third left into Noorderwier weg. Further on, this is the main street through Soesterkwartier, a low-income neighbourhood built on the ‘wrong’ side of the railway line.

after the shops, you pass an 11-storey pink/yellow block, Puntenburg. Turn to the right here, along Puntenburger laan.

continue to a cycle underpass under the rail line. The station/river zone here, a former industrial area, is being redeveloped.

go under the rail line, and up the ramp. As soon as you reach street level, make a U-turn, back toward the railway. At the railway, turn right along the cycle path (alongside the tracks).

pass the old station of Amersfoort (Amersfoort NCS, the white building at nr 15). The station was relocated in 1904, the new station is behind you.

old station amersfoort

go on past the new office building, to the river. (This is the National Cultural Heritage Service, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed).

cross the cycle bridge over the river Eem – alongside the rail bridge. On the right is the Koppelpoort – a preserved late-mediaeval city gate. To the left of the gate is a weir, controlling the water level in the old city.

koppelpoort amersfoort

turn right, through the gate, under the coat of arms, into the historic centre of Amersfoort.

Amersfoort grew up around a ford on the river Eem, formerly called the Amer. The Eem is formed by five streams draining the Gelderse Vallei, which meet here. The ford was just east of the higher ground of the Gooi ridge, on the easiest route across the low ground, to the high ground of the Veluwe. The flow of the Eem was later diverted around the city to avoid flooding, and the water now flows through a modern drainage canal fed by the Vallei kanaal, which this route later follows.

go along the canal, the old course of the Eem. This was the city’s harbour.

at the end go left, then right, onto the short Nieuwe weg. At the end of Nieuwe weg, turn left along Havik. Both sides of this canal are called Havik: you should be on the right bank – i.e. cycling past Havik 17 and 19.

toren amersfoort

go right from Havik into Lavendel straat. At the end of this street, you are at the main square, Hof.

about 55 km from Amsterdam

turn left, go past the church, into Zevenhuizen.

cross the Lange straat, the main street of Amersfoort, straight on into Nieuw straat.

Lange straat is the old main road from Utrecht to the eastern Netherlands and Hannover, the road which crossed the ford in the Eem.

at the end of Nieuw straat, turn left along Muurhuizen. The street is named for its wall houses built on the remains of a city wall.

Amersfoort was part of the Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht within the Holy Roman Empire. It was granted city rights in 1259, and the first circular city wall was completed around 1300. When the growing city built a new wall in the 15th century, houses were built backing onto the circular old wall. The territory of the Prince-Bishop of Utrecht – the Sticht – comprised the Nedersticht around the city of Utrecht, and the Oversticht (‘over’ the IJssel river). Later the Counts of Gelre/Geldern acquired the Veluwe region, cutting the Prince-Bishopric in two. The three territories gave rise to the modern provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland, and Overijssel.

stop at nr. 59, go into the archway beside this house. (The next house after nr 59 is numbered 99). Cross the cobblestone bridge, over the former moat (of the early city wall).

from the footbridge, turn left and then right, into Sint Andries straat.

at the traffic lights, cross the Stads ring, the inner ring road of Amersfoort. Go straight on into Heiligenberger weg, an old road out of Amersfoort to the south.

go straight on, along the newer, wider, section of Heiligenberger weg, follow the cycle signs for Leusden. At Beethoven weg, cross to the right-hand side of the road.

follow this road, on out of Amersfoort, and over the A28 motorway. The wooded area after the motorway bridge is Heiligenberg itself, ‘Saints Hill’.

go straight on, and pass the country house Lockhorst (now offices). At the traffic lights turn left, into Burgemeester de Beaufort weg: follow the cycle sign for Stoutenburg.

Through Leusden to the Vallei Kanaal

continue into Leusden  a village expanded into a southeastern suburb of Amersfoort. Cross Groene Zoom, and go straight on along Burgemeester de Beaufort weg. (The old village centre is further to the south).

at the roundabout, go straight on, between the local shops (snack bar, supermarket). Last food for 20 km!

go straight on, to the street leading away from the shops. This is the Ashchatter weg, but there is no sign here with that name. It takes you to the edge of Leusden.

after the last houses, cross the new cycle bridge. 50 m further, turn right onto Kanaal weg, the canalside road.

This is the Vallei kanaal – the main drainage canal of the Gelderse Vallei. It drains into the Eem at Amersfoort (north of the historic centre).

Along the Vallei Kanaal to Veenendaal

from here you follow the Vallei Kanaal for about 12 km, to the Utrecht- Arnhem rail line. Be careful crossing the roads that intersect the cycle path.

SAM_2126

The present version of the canal was built in the 1930’s, but it was originally cut between 1473 en 1481, under David of Burgundy, son of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. He was Bishop of Utrecht from 1456 to 1496. The canal was earlier known as the Grift or Grebbe, the name ‘Vallei Kanaal’ is recent. The opposite bank of the canal appears to be higher, but in fact the ground level is the same on both sides. This section of canal was fortified in the 1930’s, by building a raised bank with bunkers. That upgraded an older defensive line, the Grebbelinie, first built in the 18th century. It was an inundation defence line on the flank of the Utrecht ridge, flooding the land to the east of the Grift in wartime. (The land on your left, about 3 m above sea level). The Grebbelinie saw heavy fighting in 1940, during the German invasion of the Netherlands. Parts were briefly refortified by German forces in 1945, as Allied forces advanced from the east. The inundation zone was kept free of buildings, to provide a clear field of fire, and it is still relatively open landscape. The Gelderse Vallei is an area of intensive pig and poultry farming – and a stronghold of orthodox-Calvinist Protestantism.

6 km along the canal, pass a weir with fish ladder.

The water flows towards Amersfoort, you are cycling slowly uphill (about 6 m rise from Amersfoort to Wageningen). The tree-lined raised road (left) is a compartmentalisation dike – for dividing sections of inundated land in wartime.

cross the N224 main road, continue along the canalside path. About 9 km along the canal is cycle route junction 81, at the crossing with Nieuw straat. Beside the stone cone is a grassed area with benches, a good place to stop and rest.

after cycle sign nr 24235, the asphalted canalside cycle path ends. Turn right over the bridge, follow number 22.

after 200 m turn left, along De Steeg, again follow number 22. This road runs parallel to the canal.

at the end of this road, you are at the rail line Utrecht – Arnhem, the main line to Germany (opened 1845). Turn left, cycle sign for Veenendaal.

cross the canal again, and go on 500 m to the level crossing, at Heuvel steeg. Turn right across the rail line, then left along the parallel road – that is its name, Parallel weg.

after 2 km, the road goes uphill: stop at the crest of the hill. This is the Emminkhuizer berg – an isolated glacial feature.

Although it is only 22 m high, and about 15 m above the surrounding land, the ‘hill’ at Emminkhuizen is the only high ground in the Gelderse Vallei. It was settled early, partly because it was safe from flooding. From here you can see the higher ground on both sides of the valley.

75 km from Amsterdam

after the hill, the road turns away from the rail line: don’t turn onto the cycle path here. The road turns south toward Veenendaal, passing under the motorway.

450 m after the motorway, turn left into Veenendaal, at the mushroom cycle sign, along Munniken weg. After 100 m, you are again cycling alongside the old canal (this section is still called the Grift).

Through Veenendaal, back to the Vallei Kanaal

continue straight on along Munniken weg, for more than 1 km. At traffic lights, cross the west ring road of Veenendaal. 100 m after these traffic lights, turn first right into Dahlia straat.

cycle downhill to the end of Dahlia straat, and turn left just before the supermarket, along Panhuis. Food: in the supermarket, or 5 minutes later in the centre of Veenendaal.

cycle straight on along Panhuis, then Zand straat, into the town centre. This is the old east-west road into Veenendaal. At a square in the centre, it crosses the Hoofdstraat or main street. (There are more shops, in the shopping centre on the left here).

about 80 km from Amsterdam

go straight on, along Hoog straat, no sign here.

at the end of this pedestrian street, go straight on to the cycle path at the boulders. Follow the cycle sign for Wageningen. You are now on Verlaat: the street name sign is on the new block at the boulders.

go straight on away from the centre, along Verlaat and then Vallei straat: they form a long straight road, out of Veenendaal.

at the end, at the blocks of flats, follow the signs for Wageningen, and go through the cycle underpass tunnel.

turn left at the end of the tunnel, cycle sign for Wageningen. Look backwards at the sign as you leave the tunnel, they forgot to make it double-sided. The cycle path now follows the Vallei Kanaal again.

Veenendaal to Wageningen

continue along the canal, pass under the ring road, and cycle out of Veenendaal. This section of canal is called ‘Bisschop Davids grift’.

rand veenendaal

at Meent dijk, the road turns away from the canal. At the next crossroads, turn right, back towards the canal (toward junction 27).

back at the canal, cross the bridge and immediately turn left, follow the cycle sign for number 27.

use a farm access road, and then a narrow cycle path alongside the canal, on through open country, for 2 km.

kanaal veenendaal wageningen

at junction 27, turn left across the bridge: follow number 29, and the cycle sign for Wageningen. The canal forms the provincial boundary here, and you enter the Province of Gelderland.

1 km further, turn right at the T-junction, along Veen steeg, sign for Wageningen and number 13.

cycle 3 km along Veen steeg, the last section is now a cycle path.

This was a beautiful tree-lined road. Unfortunately, the local authorities thought the trees were ‘dangerous’, and removed most of them in early 2016. Further on, you can see the high ground on both sides of the the Gelderse Vallei (Rhenen and Wageningen). The valley is about 8 km wide here, but although the Rhine flowed through it, it is not an Urstromtal. The valley floor was not cut: the high ground on both sides was raised by glacial action.

 

Veensteeg

at the end, just before the bridge, turn left along the tree-lined canal. You now enter Wageningen.

The buildings at the edge of Wageningen house food technology and biotech firms: the research themes of Wageningen University.

Through Wageningen to the Rhine ferry

at the end of this road, turn left. Use the new cycle path, not the access road. The cycle path runs parallel to the Wageningen ring road.

continue alongside the ring road, for about 1 km. Cross the N225 (the main east-west road). Stay on this side of the ring road, now using a parallel access road.

when you reach Troelstra weg, in front of the Hoogvliet supermarket, turn left. Food: in the supermarket, and 2 minutes later in the town centre.

cross a bridge to the historic centre of Wageningen: this street is called Wal straat.

The bridge crosses the old city moat: the line of the bastions has been restored here. The line of the city walls and bastions can be seen on the map, forming a rectangle. Wageningen is built at a strategic position, where the western edge of the Veluwe ridge meets the Lower Rhine. It controls the old highway, from Utrecht to Arnhem via Rhenen. The town was fortified from the Middle Ages as the western outpost of the Duchy of Geldern (Gelre in Dutch, see map). The Prince-Bishopric of Utrecht, across the Gelderse Vallei, was a rival of Geldern. Three of the ‘quarters’ of Geldern became part of the Netherlands in the 17th century, and form the modern Province of Gelderland. (The fourth ‘quarter’ is now divided between the Province of Limburg and Nordrhein-Westfalen).

after the bridge, go on along Wal straat, past the memorial sculpture. Don’t turn left into Plantsoen.

200 m after the bridge, turn left into Hoog straat. There is no street name sign at this corner, but there is at the next corner.

continue along Hoog straat (high street), the old highway to Arnhem, and now the main shopping street of Wageningen.

The historic centre of Wageningen was largely destroyed in May 1945, as Canadian forces advanced toward the western Netherlands. (The Ruhr was surrounded first, and then a part of the Allied armies turned north-west to enter the Netherlands).

go straight on. At the end of Berg straat, just after the last shops, pass Hotel De Wereld, site of the Surrender at Wageningen.

hotel_de_wereld

Since the 1950’s, Dutch schoolchildren have learnt about the dramatic events here on May 5th 1945: Generaloberst Blaskowitz surrenders the German forces in the Netherlands to the Canadian General Foulkes and to  Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Ending five years of German occupation, the surrender at Wageningen is remembered as effecting the liberation of the Netherlands. The only problem is, it never happened – a fact which was known to historians, but only widely reported 50 years later. All German forces in the Netherlands and northwest Germany had already surrendered to Field Marshal Montgomery, on the previous day. Both Foulkes (who later became Chairman of the Canadian Chiefs of Staff) and Prince Bernhard (who was originally German, and needed a patriotic image) later promoted the myth of the “surrender at Wageningen”.

from the small square in front of Hotel de Wereld, turn right into Veer straat. (There is no street name sign, go right of the statue).

Veer straat, ‘ferry street’, is the old road to the ferry over the Lower Rhine.

at nr 19 go left: this is still Veer straat.

at the end of Veer straat, continue along Veer weg, follow the sign (with the ferry icon) for Zetten.

Veer weg is the exact edge of the Veluwe ridge, where it meets the flood plain of the Lower Rhine. The road is about 12 m above sea level: in a major flood, the water will come up to the right-hand side of the road. The Nederrijn or Lower Rhine is one of the the two main channels of the Rhine, which splits as it enters the Netherlands. The other is the Waal – which this route crosses later at Nijmegen. Together with the Maas they form the main river barriers between the north and south of the Netherlands. There was no land route between north and south until 1868 (rail line from Utrecht to ‘s-Hertogenbosch).

about 200 m after the last houses, turn right along Veer dam to the Rhine ferry, Lexkesveer.

The ferry here exists since the Middle Ages, perhaps replacing an earlier ford. The river bank may not be in exactly the same place, but in Roman times this was the main channel of the Rhine, forming the boundary of the Roman Empire or Limes Germanicus.

about 95 km from Amsterdam

Through the Betuwe

cross the Nederrijn by the ferry: you are now in the Betuwe – the island flood plain between the two main Rhine channels.

It takes its name from the tribe of the Batavians – the location and the tribe are mentioned in Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico.

go on from the ferry, to the main river dike.

The land outside the dike – the uiterwaarden – is flooded when river level is high. The Rhine peak flow is in the spring, fed by melting snow in the Alps. The road from the ferry landing to the main dike obstructed the flow, and it has been replaced by a bridge.

at the main dike, first go straight on (road sign for Zetten). As you go down from the dike, turn right, into Hemmense straat. Follow number 53.

cycle on through the fields. About 2,5 km further, you pass a park on the left, with a small lake. There are benches at the lake, a good place to stop and rest.

hemmen-park

In the park are the ruins of Hemmen castle, and its restored herb garden. The castle was destroyed during the Second World War – the Betuwe was a front-line during the winter of 1944-1945, after the failure to seize Arnhem.

just after the park, turn left into Hemmen, along Molen straat.

at the church, turn right into Dorps straat, and pass through the small village.

Hemmen is an early-mediaeval settlement, built on an ‘oeverwal’ – the raised bank of a former Rhine channel. It was formerly a small municipality, with its own town hall/post office, at Dorps straat 9-10. All the villages in the area, and the former castles, are on similar low ridges: some farms are built on a terp. Until the river dikes were built, the Rhine regularly flooded most of the region. This eastern half of the Betuwe, known as the Overbetuwe, was inhabited by Romanised Batavians in the Roman Empire: a temple and a Roman road were found at Elst, 11 km east of here. The area is now a single municipality, also called Overbetuwe.

towards the end of the village, the road bends right. Just after the bend, turn next left along Zettense pad, the path to Zetten.

at the end of the path, go straight on past the primary school, and then turn right along the village street of Zetten. Food: baker, cafetaria and supermarket in the centre of the village, about 400 m further.

go straight on, on out of the village, past Wilhelmina plein, and along Stations straat. Where the road bends left, go straight on along the cycle path to the rail line.

at the rail line, turn left, past the small station of Zetten-Andelst. Then cross the rail line, at the level crossing.

station-zetten

This line, opened 1882, once carried international trains, but got left behind when traffic was concentrated on main lines between cities. It is  now known as the ‘old Betuwe line’, to distinguish it from the new one. It is not electrified, and has an hourly passenger service from Tiel to Arnhem.

cycle uphill to cross the new rail line, the Betuweroute

The new Betuwe line is a purpose-built rail freight line, starting in the Rotterdam port zone. It connects near Zevenaar to the main line to the Ruhr, but improvement of the connecting line in Germany itself has not yet started. The line massively overran its budget, leading to a parliamentary inquiry.

cross the A15 motorway: it also runs from Rotterdam to Germany. Go straight on, toward Andelst.

stay on this road, which by-passes Andelst. Don’t turn off into the village itself. About 1 km after the motorway, pass the former town hall, an ugly two-story office building with a spire.

300 m after the town hall (at nr. 178), turn right onto Waal straat, cycle sign for Nijmegen. Don’t turn into Rozen straat here.

cycle on out of the village, and on towards the motorway embankment.

at the end of Waal straat, you are on the dike of the river Waal, beside the motorway bridge (north-south A50 motorway). The bridge was doubled in 2011-2013. The bridge is named after the Roman historian Tacitus, who first described the region.

waalbrug-a50

106 km from Amsterdam

Along the Waal dike to Nijmegen

turn left under the motorway: you now cycle 10 km along the Waal dike, to the rail/cycle bridge at Nijmegen.

The dike was reconstructed after the 1995 flood, when it almost broke at Ochten (15 km downstream). The entire Betuwe population, about 250 000 people, was evacuated for a week.

2 km further on, pass a tree-lined lake in the floodplain (this is all under water during flood). Ahead, you can now see the Nijmegen power station.

dike lake

4 km along the dike, pass the small white church of Slijk-Ewijk, now an art gallery (Galerie 1400) There is a long bench just below the dike, where you can stop to rest.

pass the suburbanised village of Oosterhout: the road ahead may be closed to vehicles, but cyclists can pass. Visible on the opposite bank are the power station, a container dock, and the locks of the Maas-Waal canal.

9 km along the dike, pass under Nijmegen’s second road bridge, opened 2013.

SAM_2386

 

just after the new bridge, pass a war memorial for the United States 82nd Airborne Division, and other Allied forces.

They crossed the Waal here during the Battle of Arnhem on 20 September 1944. The new bridge (De Oversteek) is named after the crossing. The monument lists the names of US soldiers killed in action here: remember it, when you get to Zyfflich.

pass (right) a recently excavated flood relief channel. Continue toward the railway bridge: behind it is a cycle bridge, but you can’t see it from this side.

go under the railway viaduct: stay on the road. Don’t use the waterside path. On the other side, there is a stepped metal ramp, up to the cycle bridge.

go up the steps, and cross the cycle bridge over the Waal. Ahead is the old waterfront of Nijmegen.

SAM_2391 SAM_2394

 

Through Nijmegen

from the bridge, continue along the elevated cycle path. About 300 m from the bridge, you cross a road leading to the historic centre of Nijmegen with the St. Steven’s Church.

This is the old highway into the city, possibly since Roman times. Nijmegen is a Roman city – Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum – and might be the oldest city in the Netherlands, although Maastricht also claims that title. Later it was a Frankish and Carolingian centre, and a mediaeval trading city. From the Roman period only archaeological traces survive, and many older buildings were destroyed by bombing and shelling in 1944, but the city still has around 700 historic buildings. Since the late 19th century the city has expanded, especially since the opening of the (originally Catholic) university, in 1923. Nijmegen is built on the northern slope of a glacial ridge, where it meets the Rhine flood-plain.

continue past the blue office building, the regional police headquarters. When you reach the street, turn left, past the three apartment blocks. (This is the Stieltjes straat, but there is no sign here).

at the next corner, again turn left, follow number 20. Use the cycle path, alongside Kronenburger Park. In the park is a mediaeval defensive tower, and remnants of the city walls.

at the corner of the park, turn right, and go on into Lange Hezel straat. There is a street sign at the start of this street, but it is very small. Don’t turn into Park weg.

go uphill along the Lange Hezel straat and the Stikke Hezel straat. This is the old road to the centre, which you saw from the elevated cycle path. Food: some restaurants here,  a small supermarket, and the HEMA store at Grote Markt has a food section. (After Nijmegen you pass no more shops).

pass through the Grote Markt, the historic central square of Nijmegen. Behind it is the 13th-century St Steven’s Church.

118 km from Amsterdam

go on along the Burcht straat, now the main shopping street, passing at nr. 20 the restored Stadhuis (city hall, 1555).

stadhuis-nijmegen

go straight on, past the open space at Kelfkensbos, past the blue facade of the city’s Valkhof Museum.

100 m after the museum building, turn left into the park behind it, at the snackbar/kiosk Hunnerpark (follow a pedestrian sign for Hunnerpark/Belvedere).

go on along the footpath, in front of the city wall – this is the longest intact section. Nijmegen was heavily fortified for most of its history, and the city walls were maintained until the late 19th century. In this small park, Hunnerpark, you can stop to rest.

go left through the gap in the city wall, under the small arched bridge. Then turn right along the footpath, to the Belvedere tower – now a restaurant.

SAM_7167

go up to the platform, with an excellent view of the Rhine flood plain.

This was once a defensive tower, at the point where the plateau slopes down to the river. Across the flood plain you can see Arnhem. It is built, like Nijmegen, at the edge of the glacial ridge. It was all formed as one ridge, and the Rhine originally ran north from the Rhine Gorge, and did not even flow here. Diverted by the ice in the last Ice Age, the river flew east, and it cut through the older glacial ridge. Until the Middle Ages, the Rhine flood plain was occupied by meandering channels over its entire width, here about 15 km. When the rivers were enclosed by dikes, the present double channel was fixed. Below the tower is the 1936 Waal road bridge.

to leave Nijmegen, you go downhill and under the Waal bridge. From the Belvedere tower, go back along the footpath, but keep to the right, and pass the Museum entrance.

continue along the right-hand edge of the square (with the wooden benches), to the blue sculpture. At the sculpture, make a U-turn right, downhill: follow the sign for Waal kade parking.

approaching the river, go right, and under the Waal bridge viaduct: the road then turns to the right again.

300 m after the bridge, turn left onto the Ooyse dijk, follow the cycle sign for the LF3b Maas route, and for junction 48.

pass the 1933 German-Dutch pumping station, go straight on. You are now back on a river dike, which re-starts at the edge of the Nijmegen plateau.

Through the Rhine flood plain to Germany

700 m after the pumping station, turn right, down from the dike, into the Persingense straat. You are now on the reclaimed flood plain of the Rhine, with the wooded edge of the Nijmegen plateau on your right.

ooij polder

cycle on through the Ooij polder, the name for the Netherlands section of the flood plain.

The river dikes never protected the area entirely, and it was often flooded when dikes broke. In the 1990’s, plans were made to use the entire area as a flood retention basin, sacrificing it to save more populated areas downstream. See the map at hoogwaterplatform.nl, the website of the plan’s opponents. Since the Netherlands can only use its own territory in this way, a large new dike would be built along the border. Earlier, in the 1950’s, the Ooij polder was planned for defensive inundation, in case of a Soviet invasion (see De Ooijpolder: een tragisch paradijs).

3 km on along the road, pass through Persingen, the ‘smallest village in the Netherlands’. On the right at the church, there is a picnic bench where you can stop to rest.

Persingen is built on higher ground, a donk – former river dunes formed during the last ice age, the Weichsel glaciation.

700 m after Persingen, at the St. Hubertus weg, turn right, sign for Beek.

after 600 m, before the traffic lights, turn left, into the Alde Wetering weg. (There is a sign with the street name, but it is about 10 m from the corner). Follow the sign for ‘Wylerbergmeer’, and junction 64.

at the corner of the sports fields, at junction 64, turn left. Follow number 66. These sports fields should be on your right as you pass them!

at the end of the sports fields, pass the entrance to Wylerbergmeer, and go straight on along the cycle path. The Wylerbergmeer is a lake, with a recreational park around it.

continue along a concrete cycle path, and pass two entrances to the recreational park.

after these two entrances, cross a concrete bridge. Immediately after the bridge, turn right, along a rough clay/gravel track. There are no signs here.

after 500 m on this unsurfaced road, you reach a grassed dike, about 2 m high. It is called Querdamm, transverse dike. The name is in German because this is the border with Germany.

There is a border marker on the right: 641A. The border with Germany is open, under the Schengen Agreement, and permanent border controls have disappeared, except for freight traffic. There are random checks by police near border crossings, and occasionally at the border itself.

go straight on through the gap in the dike, and on along the road, called ‘Zum Querdamm’. The houses along this road form the village of Zyfflich.

Like Persingen, Zyfflich is built on an east-west ridge in the flood plain, about 5 m higher than the land on either side. It may have been settled in Roman times.

at the fork with the cross, keep left, along Zum Querdamm.

after 2 km, you enter the ‘centre’ of Zyfflich: the bar (Haus Polm), the church, the village hall, some benches on the grassed space, and maps of cycle routes beside them.

All shops and services are in Kranenburg, a small historic town on the Nijmegen-Kleve road (about 7 km from Zyfflich), or in Kleve itself. The village of Zyfflich is part of the Gemeinde Kranenburg. It is known locally, as the place where storks returned to the Lower Rhine, in 1996. The stork was once common here, but had disappeared during the first half of the 20th century. The pioneer stork, which nested at Zyfflich in 1996, apparently died during the cold winter of 2010-2011, but there are now several nests in the region. The nest at Zyfflich has new inhabitants: it is behind the trees, about 100 m left of the benches. And sometimes, a stork might be right in front of you.

storch-zyfflich

go to the church to see the war memorial with the names of the local dead.

You are in another country, with a different history: these are the people killed by the 82nd Airborne, and other allied troops. They were ‘the enemy’ for the Dutch and their American allies, but many have Dutch names, and would have had relatives across the border. Like so many borders in Europe, it divided an older regional cultural unity.

you are 129 km from the Dam in Amsterdam – from here you turn back to Nijmegen.

Back to Nijmegen

to return, go back back along Zum Querdamm, starting beside the benches.

go back through the gap in the dike, onto the unsurfaced road. Turn left when you reach the asphalted cycle path. Go over the bridge, and on along the cycle path.

go on past the sport fields, and turn right at the next corner (cycle route junction 64), back along Alde Wetering weg.

at the end of Alde Wetering weg, turn left toward the traffic lights.

cross at the traffic lights, and immediately turn right, on the cycle path alongside the main road. You now follow this road into Nijmegen.

continue along the cycle path, and then the parallel roads, beside the main road. Even when you are almost in central Nijmegen, there are few buildings. The road is at the foot of the ridge, with the flood plain on the right-hand side.

at the end of the parallel road, follow the cycle path. It crosses the main road, and then turns. You then continue uphill, alongside the main road, using a cycle lane.

at the top of the hill, you are back at the city centre, opposite Hunnerpark. Follow the cycle signs for Venlo, onto the inner ring road, the St. Canisius singel / Oranje singel.

continue along this wide road, to a very large roundabout (Keizer Karel plein).

go to the right, around the roundabout, to the corner with the theatre and the VVV tourist office. Turn right, passing the entrance to the underground car park ‘Keizer Karel’.

at the end of this street, 10 km from Zyfflich, is Nijmegen station, the end point of this route.

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Amsterdam Cycle Route 3: Haarlem, dune villas, castle ruins

This cycle route passes through Haarlem, to the narrow strip of land just behind the dunes, the first inhabited land in the region. 53 km, 5-6 hours. Revised September 2016.

Recommended cycle map: the ANWB Fietskaart Noord-Holland Zuid (Amsterdam & Kennemerland), which costs € 9. The map is nr. 13 in the ANWB Fietskaart series, the scale is 1:50 000, and all the cycle routes here are within the map area. There are two specialised map shops in Amsterdam: Pied à Terre (Overtoom 135-137), and A la Carte (Utrechtsestraat 110/112).

start at Haarlemmer plein (square) on the western edge of the historic core of Amsterdam, facing west to the ‘triumphal arch’. It was at the edge of the city when it was built, in 1840.

go toward the canal bridge, on the new two-way cycle path: follow the cycle sign for Haarlem.

turn right just after the bridge, past the statue of Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis.

Domela Nieuwenhuis

100 m further, turn left across the road, and through the park entrance, at the coloured sculpture.

At the entrance, the cycle sign for Haarlem has green letters, indicating a route through parks.The red letters are the default colour. Green letters are used only if there are two possible cycle routes starting at the sign, and one is through countryside or parks.

cycle through the Westerpark, a late 19th-century urban park. On the right is a rail line – like the main road, and the canal, it runs in an almost straight line to Haarlem, 18 km away

at the tennis court, keep to the right, onto a cycle path through a new section of park, cycle sign for Haarlem. The path rises, and you can see the whole Westergasfabriek complex.

Westergasfabriek

This late 19th-century coal-gas plant has been converted into a gentrified arts/cultural centre. The park is landscaping for the new cultural attraction, and the project is part of a wider strategy to gentrify the area.

continue along a gently curving cycle path – it is the embankment of the older rail line to Haarlem. Pass a cluster of office buildings, some empty (awaiting redevelopment).

at the open space, pass a small statue commemorating the farmers who once lived here: until 1950, this was the edge of the city.

 

just before the motorway viaduct, at the older houses, turn right. After 50 m, turn onto the raised section of road, Spaarndammer dijk.

stop in front of nr 663: you can see that this is a dike, as the street name implies.

This is a relict of the mediaeval sea dike, on the south side of the IJ estuary. The houses are much older than the surrounding buildings, this is the eastern half of the former fishing village of Sloterdijk – the other half was destroyed when the motorway was built. The original harbour occupied the space between here and the motorway embankment.

Patience Sloterdijk

go back to the corner of the open space, and turn toward Haarlem, under the motorway. Continue on the cycle path, into the office zone around Sloterdijk station.

after the motorway, turn first right, into Kingsford weg.

turn second left, into Teleport boulevard. Use the cycle path on the left-hand side of this street.

cycle straight on, over the new cycle bridge above the tram / bus stops at Sloterdijk station.

Bus / tram station Sloterdijk

pass left the entrance to platforms 9 and 10: this is not the main station entrance.

go straight on at the traffic lights, into Narita weg. It is aligned with the cycle bridge, but the road itself is closed at this crossing: use the cycle path.

cycle on, along Narita weg: after the next corner, the cycle path is definitively on the left-hand side of the road.

at the end of Narita weg, turn left: use the cycle path, you don’t need to cross the road in front (Seine weg).

at the traffic lights, follow the red-letter signs for Haarlem. Cross the main Amsterdam – Haarlem road, and then turn right alongside it, on the cycle path.

pass a windmill, built 1632. After another 400 m, turn left across the wooden cycle bridge.

Molen Haarlemmerweg

cycle 150 m on, past an apartment block and a playspace, and then turn right along the road. This is Ruys de Beerenbrouck straat, but there is no sign here.

This area was built in the 1950’s. It is now being cleared for gentrification: many replacement blocks are already built. Clearance lowers the number of immigrants, especially Moroccans. It is no longer taboo in the Netherlands to deliberately ‘whiten’ an area.

at the end of the Ruys de Beerenbrouck straat is the Lidl supermarket: turn left, then first right, into the Cornelis Outshoorn straat.

continue straight on, along the J. M. den Uyl straat. This is the last housing before the edge of the city, built in the 1990’s.

at the last houses, go straight on, along Tom Schreurs weg. Pass between the sports fields, and go straight on, past a new park (on former farmland).

pass under the new A5 tangential motorway. At the end of Tom Schreurs weg, turn right into the suburbanised village of Halfweg.

Its name comes from its location, half-way between Amsterdam and Haarlem.

100 m after the corner, follow the cycle lane (double broken line on the road), into Miente kade. Be careful! Look behind you first. (Drivers don’t expect cyclists to do this).

turn immediately right, onto Burg. Simons straat, then next left into Juliana straat.

continue along Juliana straat, pass on the left a 1920’s church, and go straight on at the traffic lights.

at the end of Juliana straat, you are on the bank of the ring canal of the Haarlemmermeer polder.

The houses on the opposite bank are built on the dike of this polder – originally the Haarlemmermeer lake, reclaimed in 1852. North of them is the old CSM sugar factory, now being redeveloped as ‘SugarCity’.

go on past the steam pumping station which pumped water from the ring canal into the IJ estuary.

Reclaimed lakes typically have a separate ring canal: the water is first pumped into this canal, and then again into rivers, where it flows to the sea. The building is now a museum – Stoomgemaal Halfweg – and one steam pump is still operated, on some weekends in the summer.

at the end of the street, at the main road, turn left across the bridge. From here you see the front of the pumping station.

The original channel and its dikes are gone: the water was pumped towards you. To the right of the bridge are the old locks which once opened into the estuary. Passengers on the Amsterdam-Haarlem canal changed boats here: the village of Halfweg grew around several inns, built to serve the travellers.

gemaal halfweg

across the bridge, pass the former sugar factory, closed in the 1990’s. Opposite it is the new Halfweg-Zwanenburg station, opened in 2012.

The oldest part of the factory, on the corner, is a former office of the Dijkgraaf (built 1645). A dijkgraaf was an official in charge of maintaining the dikes. The original sugar factory opened in 1863, and grew in the 1890’s, processing beet from the new polders in the former lake and estuary. It was the largest employer, and responsible for the growth of the village. The main silos were converted to offices, by cutting 296 diamond-shaped holes for windows in each silo wall.

pass the small town hall of the municipality of Haarlemmerliede.

Town Hall Haarlemmerliede

Built in 1904, it includes the house of the constable, two police cells, and space for the village fire engine. The municipality has survived as an independent local government unit, despite attempts by Haarlem and Amsterdam to divide it between them.

further on, the telecom tower of Haarlem is visible ahead: go straight on, following the cycle signs for Haarlem.

pass several warehouses. After nr 79, stop at the stepped ramp, on the left of the cycle path. It leads to a cycle underpass under the main road. Go down the ramp, mind the steps, and go through the tunnel.

on the other side, cross the rail line, over the level crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Warning: this is an unsupervised crossing with barriers. That does not mean, that the trains are slow and infrequent! When the red lights flash and the bell rings, you have 25 seconds to clear the crossing. If a train passes, wait until the red lights stop – another train may pass on the second track.

on the road, turn left: from here you follow the rail line into Haarlem. After you pass under the motorway viaduct (Schiphol-Alkmaar motorway) there is a separate cycle path.

pass the dairy farm De Ettingen. Most of the land to the right is part of the recreational zone Spaarnwoude.

Originally a wooded urban park was planned, from here to IJmuiden, but park fashions change. Open landscape is now highly valued in Netherlands planning. The area is no longer truly agricultural, cycle paths and picnic tables have been added, and farms converted.

at the Liede weg, the cycle path continues on a wooden cycle bridge. On the right is a fort, the Fort bij de Liebrug.

The fort was built around 1900, as part of the ‘Stelling van Amsterdam a defensive ring around the city. The cycle bridge crosses the Liede, an arm of the Spaarne, which in turn was an arm of the IJ estuary.

continue alongside the rail line, toward the new station of Haarlem-Spaarnwoude. Around the telecom tower is Waarderpolder, the city’s main industrial zone.

at the station, go under the short footbridge to the platform, make a U-turn, and then cross that footbridge.

from the platform, cross the higher footbridge, over the rail line and the main road. The wooded coastal dunes are visible, only 5 km away.

IKEA Haarlem, Station Spaarnwoude

go straight on from the footbridge steps, to the traffic lights. Cross the road, and immediately turn right, along the cycle path (cycle sign for Haarlem).

go past the new 11-storey office block: the cycle path continues as an access road (parallel to the main road). Pass the Jewish cemetery of Haarlem.

The house on the left with the name ‘Rijksstraatweg’ is in fact a former station, part of a low-cost rural rail network, built before and during the First World War.

pass two more office buildings. At the traffic lights, cross the road, into Dr. Schaepman straat, following the cycle sign for Zandvoort.

after 100 m on Schaepman straat, turn right, and then left (cycle signs for Centrum / Zandvoort). Continue on the access road, parallel to the main road. Pass (right) the main train repair works of Dutch railways.

City gate Haarlem

continue to the only preserved mediaeval city gate of Haarlem. The city walls are gone, and the 1425 Amsterdam Gate stands in the middle of the road.

cross at the pedestrian crossing, and walk under the gate.

sources: settlement and landscape history
for Amsterdam and the region in general:
Atlas Amsterdam. 1999. Bussum: THOTH
C. Dijkstra, M. Reitsma, A Rommerts.
for all other settlements the provincial survey
Monumenten Inventarisatie Project Noord-Holland
Series published by the Provincie Noord-Holland.

go straight on into the Spaarnwouder straat, sign for Centrum. You are now in the historic core of Haarlem, although not the most gentrified or touristed part.

Note that some house numbers are duplicated: black numbers mean ground floor, red numbers mean upper floors. Number 99 would be written as 99 zwart (99 zw) and 99 rood (99 rd).

at the first canal bridge, turn right onto the river quayside: again follow the sign for Centrum.

Spaarne, Harlem

cross the footbridge over the Spaarne, the river of Haarlem.

on the other side, turn left, past Teylers Museum. Then turn next right, at the grey late-mediaeval building, into Dam straat – towards the cathedral.

SAM_8570

go around the cathedral, into the Grote Markt, a pre-modern European city centre landscape.

There is a slight rise in street level here, from river to cathedral. Haarlem is built on a low ridge – an eroded coastal dune, formed 5000 years ago. The main mediaeval streets follow the axis of the dune ridge, SSW to NNE. The Grote Markt (Great Market) was the centre of the mediaeval city. At one end is the late-gothic St. Bavo cathedral (built 1370-1520), at the other the town hall. It is the product of a pre-reformation unity of culture, civic institutions, and religion (a unity which 19th century nationalism tried artificially to reconstitute).

pass to the right of the Town Hall (1630/1633) at the end of the square, into the Zijl straat.

Although many buildings are 19th century, here too the urban landscape looks older. The Haarlem agglomeration has about 150 000 inhabitants, but in fact central Haarlem serves a region of about 400 000: it has no other comparable centre. This explains why the small city centre has so much retail activity.

at the end of the Zijl straat, cross the bridge, and go straight on into Zijl weg, the extension of the Zijl straat.

This is a typical 19th century radial road, which you can find in most Dutch cities, although this one does not go anywhere important. It carried the tram line to Overveen (opened 1914).

pass under a rail bridge carrying the “Old Main Line” from Amsterdam via Haarlem to Den Haag. The line opened in 1842: the new line (1981) runs in tunnel through Schiphol airport.

cross the west ring road of Haarlem (N208) and continue along Zijl weg – follow the cycle sign to Overveen. On the right here is a cluster of colleges.

after 400 m, the road rises slightly, indicating the edge of the dunes.

From Amsterdam you cycled through flat polder land, where elevation differences are measured in centimetres. You are now approaching the zone of coastal dunes, several kilometres wide, with a natural ‘uphill and downhill’. Dunes and glacial ridges (ice-pushed ridges) are the only significant elevation in most of the Netherlands. The strip of higher ground, immediately behind the dunes, was inhabited early on. Haarlem developed as its mediaeval centre. Further inland were estuary, tidal mud flats, peat bogs, fresh-water lakes and creeks. That zone was settled late by European standards, from about the year 1000. Amsterdam became its urban centre, later overtaking Haarlem.

Weg naar Overveen

at the end of Zijl weg, turn to the right, onto the Bloemendaalse weg.

This is the old village of Overveen, transformed by the building of the railway from Amsterdam to the sea, in 1881. The inland edge of the dunes near Haarlem was suburbanised, when high-income groups began commuting to work by train (at the end of the 19th century). Until then the old villages depended largely on horticulture (flower bulbs): now they are synonymous with ‘upper middle-class’ in the Netherlands. Bloemendaal is rated the second most prosperous municipality in the country, by household wealth. (The poorest parts of the country are the rural north-east, and the depressed mining towns in the south-east).

cross the rail line (Overveen station is behind the Albert Heijn supermarket).

Level crossing, Overveen

cycle straight on at the roundabout: you now follow the the Bloemendaalse weg, to the next village, Bloemendaal. The road is wider, the houses get bigger and more expensive.

pass left the white villa-style Town Hall of Bloemendaal.

Here you can see that this road is built at the edge of the dunes, the ground on the left (west) is higher. Like all the dune-related features around Haarlem, the road is aligned SSW – NNE.

Raadhuis Bloemendaal

at the junction with the Busken Huet laan, continue along the Bloemendaalse weg, follow the sign for Santpoort.

stay on the Bloemendaalse weg, passing the white-painted villa Hofstede Sparrenheuvel. Most traffic turns off left here, you go straight on.

go straight on into the old village street of Bloemendaal, now a gentrified local shopping street. This is still Bloemendaalse weg.

at the end of the village, the Bloemendaalse weg joins the Kerkplein (church square). The church was built in 1636.

Church, Bloemendaal Kerkplein

100 m after the church turn left (sign Doorgaand verkeer), into Donkere laan – ‘dark avenue’ or ‘dark lane’.

at the end of this road, at the white house with tower and coachhouse, it joins the Brederode laan.

From here you go to an observation tower in the dunes, and you then come back to this corner. The tower is closed on Mondays, and otherwise open only from 10:00 to 17:00. Outside those times, skip the trip to the tower, and simply turn right here.

across the road are sports fields: slightly to the left is the start of a footpath, Aelbertsberg weg. Go along this path, through the grounds of the elite Hockey Club Bloemendaal.

The higher dunes are visible ahead. In fact the sports grounds are built in a dune valley: beside the hockey club there is still grazing land. Since the water table in the surrounding dunes is above sea level, some dune valleys contained fresh-water marshes, which became islands of grazing land. This valley is about 5 km long, although this is the only place where you can see its structure clearly.

at the end of the path, continue along the Aelbertsberg weg and Zomerzorger laan, which climb uphill. Not all of the Netherlands is flat.

haarlem-25

pass the entrance to the Caprera park: the road turns to the left, and is steeper.

300 m on, pass a car park on the right. 40 m further, go up the path on the left, at the sign Peper’s Pannekoekenhuis.

at the top, 100 m on, go up the concrete steps, past the Pannekoekenhuis (‘Pancake House’), and climb the small tower. The view from the observation tower is worth the climb.

Although the park is public, the municipality has fenced off the tower, and handed the keys to the owners of the pancake restaurant. They only allow access from 10:00 to 17:00, closed on Mondays. This dune, Het Kopje van Bloemendaal, is one of the highest on the coast at 43 m., and inland the country is flat. On clear days you can see 20 km, as far as Zaandam, Purmerend, Amsterdam, and the Schiphol control tower. If there is no haze, you can see the Princess Amalia Wind Farm, 23 km offshore. The summit of the dune was raised in 1907, to make a viewing point. As the trees grew, they blocked the view. They have recently been felled, restoring the original park layout. (The tower itself was not included in the 1907 plan: it is a World War II German observation point).

Tower view, Kopje van Bloemendaal

go back to the road, turn right, go back downhill, and go back through the Hockey Club fields. Back at the white house with tower, turn left along the Brederode laan.

If you skipped the observation tower, continue here…

1 km on, pass left the old entrance gates of a 19th century mental institution. Further on (at the street map), Brederode laan continues as Brederoodse weg.

200 m after the map, turn left, following the sign ‘Ruïne van Brederode’, into Velserender laan.

after 200 m, suddenly, there is a castle on your right, among the trees.

Cross the small wooden bridge, and you can walk along the moat. This is the partly restored Ruin of Brederode Castle, a place that used to be in school history books, though probably no-one ever remembered exactly why. It played an important role in the mediaeval history of this region, and was besieged in 1351 in an obscure war. The castle is closed in winter to protect the bats that hibernate in the tower, but it is open from March to October (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 17:00, admission € 3).

Brederode Castle in winter

Brederode Castle in winter

after the castle, continue along the Velserender laan. The road curves to the right and you can look across the field to the restored tower of the castle: you get an impression of how it looked, to a small army with no firearms.

SAM_8581

you now turn back toward Amsterdam…

at the end of Velserender laan, turn right into Middenduiner weg. Cross the railway (Haarlem – Alkmaar), then pass a roundabout, and continue along Middenduiner weg.

just before the church, turn right onto Velserhooft laan, at the southern edge of the village of Santpoort.

pass the windmill De Zandhaas, a fully functional corn mill dating from 1779. The shop is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10.00 to 17.00.

molen-santpoort

at the end of Velserhooft laan, go slightly left, into Johan van Beemlaan. At the end of this short street, at the barrier, turn right. You are now on the main cycle path into Haarlem from the north.

pass under the motorway: the cycle path turns right towards Haarlem, along Dijkzicht laan. Go straight on, along the main road into Haarlem (Rijksstraatweg).

pass the local shopping center at Marsmanplein, and further on, a 1930’s church (Mariakerk).

at the traffic lights after the church, just before a bridge, turn left onto Jan Gijzen kade, alongside a canal. Follow the cycle sign for Amsterdam.

at the end, turn right, and then left across a new bridge. Again follow the cycle signs for Amsterdam.

cross the Spaarne river, for the second time, via the new bridge. The river is much wider here.

brug-spaarne

after the bridge, follow the cycle path along the main road, through the industrial / commercial zone Waarderpolder.

1500 m after the bridge, turn left at the snack bar ‘Sea Cottage’, into J. W. Lucas weg. There is no street name sign here.

at the end, turn right along the A. Hofmanweg, toward the telecom tower.

turn next left into Oude weg, follow the sign for Penningsveer. You leave the industrial zone: cycle on toward the windmill, De Veer.

go straight on, and cross the river Liede (again). Cycle through the small settlement Penningsveer, and alongside the moat of a fort (Fort bij Penningsveer).

after the fort, at the junction, turn right, follow the sign for Halfweg. Continue along the Liede weg, along the bank of the Liede.

pass through the small village of Haarlemmerliede, which gave its name to the municipality.

pass the ‘Fort bij de Liebrug’, and the wooden cycle bridge, which you crossed earlier. Go straight on, across the rail line, and under the motorway.

at Hotel De Zoete Inval, turn left toward Amsterdam, on the cycle path. You now follow the main road back into Amsterdam, for 14 km.

pass under the A9 motorway, and then pass the underpass, where you crossed the main road on the outward route. Pass once again the small Town Hall, the converted silos, and the old steam pumping station.

this time go straight on, to the traffic lights at Halfweg, and straight on alongside the main road.

after Halfweg, you cycle for 6 km alongside a busy main road. At the Sloterdijk office zone, pass under the rail and metro lines, and then under the ring motorway. After the motorway junction, there is less traffic on the road.

pass the south side of the Westergasfabriek complex, with restored 19th-century industrial buildings.

600 m further, you reach the Haarlemmer plein, your starting point and also the end point of this route

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Amsterdam Cycle Route 9: dike villages, grassland landscape, heritage tourism

This cycle route passes relict dike settlements and interwar garden-city housing, and continues through reclaimed marshes to the heritage-tourism island of Marken, returning along the mediaeval sea dike. The return route is difficult with south, south-west or west winds. 48 km, 5 hours. Revised March 2016.

Recommended cycle map: the ANWB Fietskaart Noord-Holland Zuid (Amsterdam & Kennemerland), which costs € 9. The map is nr. 13 in the ANWB Fietskaart series, the scale is 1:50 000, and all the cycle routes here are within the map area. There are two specialised map shops in Amsterdam: Pied à Terre (Overtoom 135-137), and A la Carte (Utrechtsestraat 110/112).

start at the ferry landing behind Centraal Station (Route 8 also starts here). The quayside was widened by 40 m, to make room for a new bus station and a road tunnel.

cross the IJ, by ferry to Buiksloterweg. The destination is indicated on the ferry.

The IJ estuary was once wider, but land was reclaimed on both sides. Centraal Station was built in 1889 on an artificial island, between the old city and the estuary. A ferry was for centuries the only connection, to what is now Amsterdam-Noord (North). Until the housing projects of the 1920’s it remained rural, and was not considered part of Amsterdam. After many plans for a bridge, a road tunnel (IJ-tunnel) opened in 1968. Amsterdam-Noord has 88 000 inhabitants.

on the other side, cycle away from the ferry, along the entrance basin of the Noordhollands Kanaal (1824). Shipping waits here, to enter the locks ahead.

The canal was one of several attempts to by-pass the shallows to the east of Amsterdam. Curiously, the leading maritime city of early-modern Europe had one of the least accessible harbours. Solutions included the Nieuwe Vaart canal in the east of the city, a never-completed canal through the island of Marken (later in this route) , and extra floats under ships. The Noordhollands Kanaal allowed ships to be drawn by teams of horses to Den Helder, on the open North Sea coast. The North Sea Canal, cut straight through the dunes in 1876, finally guaranteed port access.

go straight on to the locks, past the weatherboarded 1920’s house with pyramidal roof. Cross the locks, using the footbridge across the lock-gates.

House Buikslotermeer Amsterdam

go past the construction site, immediately after the locks (now mainly used for storage). The long-delayed North-South metro line, planned to open in 2017, passes under the construction site.

go on along the cycle path. At the end of the path, the ventilation towers of the IJ-tunnel are on your left, and ahead is a basketball court. Go left, along the road here, the curving Meeuwen laan.

Mosque Meeuwenlaan

turn second left, at the green-tiled mosque, into the Valken weg. Continue straight on, past local shops, into the Sperwer laan.

at the end, go slightly left and then straight on, along the Adelaars weg, alongside the motorway. (Don’t cross the motorway).

Adelaars weg is the line of the former steam tram, north to Purmerend and other small towns (finally closed in the 1950’s). The low-density housing was built in the 1920’s. This area is only 2 km from the city centre: when the metro opens, the barrier effect of the IJ river will disappear, and gentrification has already begun. The future metro line will run in the central reservation of the motorway.

continue straight on, to the end of Adelaars weg, at a cluster of shops. Cross the road there (this is also Meeuwen laan). Turn left, and then right, into the Nieuwendammer dijk. Follow the cycle signs for Zunderdorp / Schellingwoude.

cycle along Nieuwendammer dijk, at first past 19th-century and 20th-century houses. The older village core of Nieuwendam is 1 km further. This road is the oldest urban structure in Amsterdam-Noord: it is the mediaeval sea dike.

Nieuwendam

Nieuwendam is one of the four mediaeval settlements along the dike, along with Buiksloot, Schellingwoude and Durgerdam. You can see it is a dike, because the alleyways between the houses slope sharply down from the road. Many are typical dike houses – apparently single-storey when seen from the road, but with another level below. The sea was on the right-hand side, at least until the 1870’s, when much of the IJ estuary was reclaimed.

continue toward the village core of Nieuwendam. Pass the first church, a Catholic church dating from 1889.

It is typical in Dutch villages, that the oldest churches are Protestant. After the Reformation, the Protestants got all the existing churches, and Catholic churches were forbidden. The emancipation of Catholics in the 19th century led to a wave of Catholic church building, that continued into the 1920’s.

pass Café ‘t Sluisje, and go over the lock (sluice) which gives the café its name.

It is the reason for the existence of a settlement here: Nieuwendam was originally a fishing village around a small harbour, with access to the canals of the polders behind the dike.

beside nr 331, turn left into Kerkepad, church path. This too is a typical feature of a dike village – a path leading inland to the church. The church (protestant) is surrounded by newer infill.

pass the church: the small graveyard is raised above ground-water level. After this point, the remnants of mediaeval settlement end abruptly. Everything else has been added since the First World War.

turn right, along the cycle path of the Purmer weg. This area was built in the 1920’s, influenced by the Garden City Movement. About 200 m on, you pass its centrepiece, the roughly hexagonal Purmer plein.

continue along Purmer weg, passing streets with weatherboarded entrance portals. Although it counts as architectural heritage, the area is not gentrified as yet.

Purmerplein Amsterdam

the road makes a 45-degree turn, into the Volendammer weg: follow the sign for Monnickendam. There is a small open space here, with a monument for the war years.

The Commemoration of the Dead at these monuments, on the evening of 4 May, is symbolic of national unity. This 1950’s sentiment is increasingly irrelevant, three generations after the war. The neighbourhood also seems symbolic of a vanished social vision: a land of white Dutch working families, in neat houses with neat gardens, divided by religion, but with a strong sense of national and social identity, and a common past.

continue along the Volendammer weg. The inter-war built-up area ends here.

After the 1920’s expansion, came came the worldwide depression, the Second World War, and post-war austerity. There is a park with a lake – and beyond it is where the city started to expand again. Here in Nieuwendam-Noord urban expansion did not restart until the 1960’s. If there are many people on the street, you can see that this is a typical immigrant housing area. (The older low-rise housing remains ‘white’).

cross the IJdoorn laan (the main transverse route through Amsterdam-Noord), and continue along the Volendammer weg.

The older housing blocks are being demolished in phases – not because they are derelict, but because they are cheap. Replacing low-rent housing replaces low-income tenants by higher-income owners. For neoliberal urban theorists, that is an unquestioned advantage.

pass under the ring motorway. At the council depot, go left onto the cycle path (cycle sign for Doorgaand verkeer). Continue past the orange/blue sculpture, to the white wooden cycle bridge.

Sculpture Amsterdam-Noord

as you cycle onto the bridge, the city ends. The ring motorway is the boundary of the built-up area, as planned in the 1920’s. This is probably one of the sharpest urban edges in western Europe.

cycle straight on, into the open polder landscape of Waterland. Pass under the Amsterdam ring power line, into a preserved mediaeval settlement landscape – church towers mark the small villages.

This is classic Netherlands grassland landscape. Until the middle ages, most of the province of Holland was uninhabited peat bog. Reclamation converted it into a dense population concentration, of European significance. The peat here was originally above sea level. It shrank when ploughing exposed it to air, and a sea dike was then necessary (around 1300). Since then, the region has been grassland. Ironically, the grazing cattle, used as an icon of Holland for three centuries, may permanently disappear into sheds in the coming years. It is more economical to harvest hay and bring it to them.

at the next road, turn left, follow the cycle sign for Zunderdorp. Use the cycle path.

after 500 m, at the cluster of sheds, turn right onto a new footpath / cycle path, over a cattle grid (veerooster).

cross a small bridge (the right-hand bridge), and cycle on through the fields. About 1 km on, the path rises a few metres, enough to give an excellent view of the open flat landscape.

stop at the metal/concrete information panel for Volgermeerpolder, just beside the cycle path. This is the largest toxic waste dump in the Netherlands.

The area was first used as a domestic waste landfill by the city of Amsterdam. Tens of thousands of barrels of pesticide residue were illegally dumped, from the 1950’s onward: it became one of the great Dutch environmental scandals. The landfill closed in 1981: the present solution is the result of years of research, and took six years to implement. The waste is still there under your feet, covered by multiple protective layers, which are intended to form a natural seal.

cycle on toward the village visible ahead.

at the end of the path, turn right over the bridge, and then next street left, into Broek in Waterland. Follow the cycle sign for Monickendam here, the street name is Wagengouw, but there is no sign at this corner.

The village of Broek in Waterland has been a tourist destination since the 17th century, originally for is prosperity, neatness, and cleanliness, and now for its historic wooden houses, painted in a distinct local colour.

after 500 m, turn right: this is still Wagengouw, but it looks like a side street. Follow the cycle sign for Monnickendam.

cross the narrow cycle bridge: you can see some of the local architectural style here. Just after the bridge, turn right, follow the cycle sign for Zuiderwoude.

go straight on (cycle sign ‘Doorgaand Verkeer’), and out of the village. After the last houses, use the cycle path on the right, because the road is dangerously narrow.

cycle 2 km on, to the small village of Zuiderwoude. You can stop to rest in front of the church, on park benches facing the lake.

A sign explains the history of the area: the lakes are the result of early-mediaeval flooding. The village looks idyllic: but remember that without intensive planning control, a sea of suburban houses would have reached it by now. You are 11 km from the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

pass the church, and cycle on into Zuiderwouder Dorpsstraat: follow the sign for dorpshuis / school.

at the end of the village, the road bends left: follow the sign for Marken. The small town of Monnickendam is visible left.

at the end of the road, go up the steps, to the cycle path on the dike. Turn right, toward Marken.

You are again on the mediaeval sea dike of North Holland and West-Friesland. Beside the steps is a green cast-iron pillar with the number 26: this is one of the dike marker posts, at 1 km intervals. Ahead, to the right, is the island of Marken. This is the shore of the Gouwzee, an arm of the Zuiderzee. The dike lost its primary function when the Afsluitdijk (enclosure dike) was completed at 13.02 on 28 May 1932. Marken was, until the late 19th century, a very poor fishers island, inaccessible during winter storms. It was cut off from the rest of Holland by a flood in 1164 – in the early Middle Ages much land was lost in the region. The sea broke through into the fresh-water lake Almere, forming the Zuiderzee (Zuyder Zee in the old spelling). Marken continued to shrink by flood erosion, until the 1932 enclosure dike reversed the effects of the mediaeval breakthrough – converting the Zuiderzee back into a freshwater lake. In 1957 a dike joined Marken to the mainland – completing its transformation into a heritage tourism destination.

pass the junction of the 1957 dike with the old sea dike: go straight on. 800 m further, at the wind turbines, the dike turns north.

The former sea coast is visible, from Amsterdam to the wooded ridge of the Gooi (with the Hilversum TV tower, about 22 km away). The nearer buildings are the centre of the planned city Almere in the Flevo polder (reclaimed 1968). To the north-east, on clear days, you can see the telecom tower of Lelystad, another planned city in the polder.

cycle along the dike, built as part of the plans for a Markerwaard polder. Reclamation of Markerwaard was abandoned – due to environmental concerns, and also the growing water-sport lobby.

as you approach Marken, the settlement pattern is visible: raised clusters of houses. At the ring dike of the island, the road dips into the low-lying land: the island is itself a polder (263 hectares).

sources: settlement and landscape history
for Amsterdam and the region in general:
Atlas Amsterdam. 1999. Bussum: THOTH
C. Dijkstra, M. Reitsma, A Rommerts.
for all other settlements the provincial survey
Monumenten Inventarisatie Project Noord-Holland
Series published by the Provincie Noord-Holland.

the parking area marks the start of tourist Marken: cycle left around it, to the wooden bridge. (The island’s only supermarket, Deen, is opposite the car park).

Marken village

cross the wooden bridge and follow the signs for Haven, to the harbour (haven in Dutch). At the harbour, some old houses have been preserved: now bars, restaurants, or souvenir shops for heritage tourism. In summer there are Marken folk in traditional costume, again for the tourists.

turn right and then next right, away from the harbour. The numbers in circles on signs are the junctions of a cycle route network: go toward junction 52.

pass through a newer section of the village, cross the Juliana brigde, and turn left to Kerkbuurt (church quarter) – follow the signs for ‘Grote Kerk’ / junction 52.

Kerkbuurt Marken

This settlement was founded by monks from the monastery Mariëngaarde in Friesland, around 1235. The monks organised the construction of dikes to protect the island, and built a monastery here on artificially raised ground. In later centuries more of these artificial mounds were added, about 1,5 m above sea level: they are called a ‘terp’ in Friesland. The largest cluster of houses is around the harbour (Haven), the others are: Kets, Wittewerf, Grotewerf, Rozenwerf, Moeniswerf, and Kerkbuurt. At the terp edges and near the harbour, some houses are built on piles. The island terp cluster on Marken, and the local architecture, are unique in Europe.

pass the church and the small museum, and follow the path out of Kerkbuurt into open land. At the bus stop (bus 315 to Amsterdam), turn right, toward junction 52. Use the cycle path (left of the road at first).

cycle back towards the main car-park: further on, the island’s lighthouse is visible (left). Also on the left are the other clusters of houses: they give a better impression of the original settlement structure.

pass the car-park, back onto the road to the dike. Beside the road (right) is the never-completed exit canal from Amsterdam, avoiding the Pampus shallows.

It was cut in 1825, left unfinished, and later much of it silted up. Its curved line is still clearly visible from the air. It may seem strange to cut a canal through an island, when you can sail around it already – but with the technology of the time, that was the best option to avoid the shallows.

after the wind turbines, turn left, following the sign for Durgerdam. Use the cycle path (left of the road). This route now follows the old Waterland sea dike, back to Amsterdam. At first, there is reclaimed land on the ‘seaward’ side.

1 km on, pass the yacht harbour of Uitdam: the path now runs along the top of the curving dike.

at the small village of Uitdam, the cycle path drops back down to the road. This is a farming village rather than a fishing village, oriented to the polder, the landward side. After the village, the path climbs back up to the dike.

pass another cast-iron marker for the 30 km point, with the inscription Noorder IJ en zee dijk. On the land side are lakes, some created when the dike broke in the past.

Some were reclaimed again, as a polder within the polder, such as Blijkmeer polder alongside post 33. Note the small ring canal around this former lake.

pass Kinsel meer, the largest of the lakes. Ahead on the seaward side of the dike is the IJdoorn promontory.

A new marshy lagoon – “new nature” – was created here, by building a breakwater parallel to the dike. Beside the iron lighthouse tower at the point is a fortified battery of the 19th century defence line Stelling van Amsterdam. This battery guarded the entrance to the IJ estuary.

the cycle path ends, go on into the village of Durgerdam. This is a harbour village, oriented to the seaward side: it still is a yacht harbour.

at the small weatherboarded church (1687), the dike makes a right-angle turn. The new arch bridges to Amsterdam’s newest suburb, IJburg, are visible to the south.

Durgerdam

100 m before the ring power line, turn right onto the cycle path in the fields, toward junction 46.

about 1 km further, pass under the ring motorway, and then under the viaduct of the arched Schellingwoude bridge. Follow the cycle signs for Centrum.

after the cycle path ends, you enter the next dike village, Schellingwoude.

The road is on the dike, the houses are all on the landward side, and there is still some open water, with moored boats. This dike settlement has retained its basic structure – but everything else you can see, is a 19th-century or 20th-century addition.

continue along the Schellingwouder dijk. After nr 83, the original dike is cut by a never-completed road project. Go onto the cycle path, then follow the sign for Centrum. Be careful crossing the road here!

cycle on toward Centrum. At first this appears to be a dead-end road, but it turns right to rejoin the old dike road. You are now back in Nieuwendam.

cycle into the village core: you are now back on the outward route. Cross once again the lock at Cafe ‘t Sluisje.

continue to the end of Nieuwendammer dijk. Cross the road, at the cycle crossing, and turn left along the main road, Meeuwen laan.

Bredero school Amsterdam

pass a roundabout, go straight on.

at the corner of Haviks laan, just after you pass the Dirk van den Broek supermarket, turn left across the road.

go under the block on pillars: the street name is Motor wal.

cycle along Motor wal, a former dock basin. At the end, the whole of the eastern docklands are visible, from the mouth of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal to Centraal Station. Again, almost all of this was reclaimed in the 19th century.

turn right along Noord wal. At the end of Noord wal, use an unnamed footpath along the water’s edge: it brings you to the IJplein ferry.

cross by the ferry (every 15 minutes off-peak, every 7 minutes peak times), to the landing stage behind Centraal Station, the end point of this route.

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Amsterdam Cycle Route 4: docklands, heritage villages, newest suburb

This cycle route passes through gentrified docklands and interwar housing, continues along the Amsterdam-Rhine canal and heritage villages, returning through Amsterdam’s newest suburb, IJburg. About 45 km, 5 hours, revised August 2016.

Recommended cycle map: the ANWB Fietskaart Noord-Holland Zuid (Amsterdam & Kennemerland), which costs € 9. The map is nr. 13 in the ANWB Fietskaart series, the scale is 1:50 000, and all the cycle routes here are within the map area. There are two specialised map shops in Amsterdam: Pied à Terre (Overtoom 135-137), and A la Carte (Utrechtsestraat 110/112).

start on the cycle path behind Centraal Station. The station was built in the 1880’s on an artificial island, cutting off the mediaeval waterfront.

facing the water, turn right, along the new cycle path. The quayside has been rebuilt: traffic now uses a new road tunnel, while the bus station is on the viaduct above.

the cycle path follows the waterfront, and then rises to a bridge. It was reconstructed to carry a new tram line to IJburg, which you pass later. The concrete tower is for ventilation of the IJ-tunnel.

continue along the cycle path, passing the Amsterdam cruise terminal PTA, and new offices along the Oostelijke Handelskade or eastern trade quay.

Oostelijke Handelskade Amsterdam

The dock basin (IJ-haven) is part of of the eastern docklands undergoing ‘regeneration’ – meaning gentrification plus offices. The basins and quays run east-west: they were built when the North Sea Canal made the port accessible to larger steamships. But since the canal ran west to the sea, it changed the direction of port expansion. As early as 1886, a purpose-built oil terminal, Petroleumhaven, was built west of the city. Despite the predictable shift westward, the eastern docks reached the height of their prosperity between the World Wars. They lost their function by 1980: warehouses were squatted by artists in the late 1980’s, as studio space. Arts, design and crafts are typical pioneers of gentrification.

pass a renovated 1930’s warehouse, De Zwijger (now a media/cultural centre). The lower floors were demolished, so that a road could run through the building.

pass more new offices: the road then curves, following the curve of the rail line.

The thoroughly renovated restaurant/club ‘Panama’ was originally a rare type of industrial building: a hydraulic power station. When electric motors were still weak, high-pressure water was an alternative means of distributing power: a similar system existed in the London docks.

pass the sub-surface tram stop (Rietlandpark, on the IJburg line). Stop at the objects which look like giant wooden tables. They are indeed giant wooden tables: this is Art. Rietlandenpark, tram 26 at the traffic lights (at the tables), turn right, alongside surface tram line 10, under the railway.

cycle on along the Czaar Peter straat. Former cheap housing is undergoing rapid gentrification.

at the end of the street cross the bridge, and then turn left (sign for Almere), past the windmill De Gooyer. It was first built 1725, but rebuilt several times since. Molen De Gooyer cross another bridge over the Singelgracht (former city moat) and turn left at the traffic lights, onto Zeeburger dijk. Follow the cycle signs for Almere. Be careful turning left at this crossing!

pass under the rail bridge, and turn right alongside tram line 14, into Borneo straat. Gentrification is spreading into this low-income area (Indische Buurt, built in the 1920’s). Borneostraat at Java plein (square with the small fountains), cycle almost straight on, past FEBO fast-food. Go on into Java straat, toward the red 9-storey block on pillars.

cycle straight on past this block, over the cobblestones, and on across Java plantsoen (square), past the artistically carved boulders. This is the eastern edge of interwar Amsterdam.

slow down at the end of Java plantsoen: the steps here are not visible, until you are almost on them. Go down the steps, and through the low underpass tunnel.

On the other side, on both sides of the cycle bridge, are the entrance gates of the former Jewish cemetery. A sign summarises the history: from 1714 to 1942, approximately 100 000 people were buried here.

Gates of Flevopark the area beyond is now a park, Flevopark. Ahead is a pool, it served as a basin for an old pumping station. Turn left here, past the playground.

at the end of the path, turn right, at the tram lines (terminus lines 7 and 14). You pass the entrance of an open-air swimming pool (Flevopark bad, open summer only).

continue along the cycle path, parallel to the road viaduct. On the right is a dike breach lake – formed during the St. Elisabeth’s Flood of 1421.

at the end of this cycle path, cycle up to the dike road of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal and turn right, follow the sign for Almere.

Look back toward the arched road bridge. Two identical brick buildings are visible, one each side of the canal. This is the inlet siphon for the Amsterdam canal system, taking water from the IJ-meer (lake).

Bridge Amsterdam-Rhine Canal continue along the dike road – it extends all the way to Utrecht along the canal bank. (The canal itself continues to join the main Rhine channel at Tiel).

pass on the right the buildings of the Amsterdam Science Park in Watergraafsmeer. Pass under the motorway bridge, and under the new cycle bridge, the Nesciobrug. (You will cross this cycle bridge on the return route). Nesciobrug Amsterdam at the 19th-century redbrick house (nr 553), you enter the suburban municipality of Diemen (population 27 000). Continue along the canal bank.

pass right the 1990’s housing of Diemen-Noord. Across the canal, behind the trees, is the newest Amsterdam suburb, IJburg.

Diemen-Noord is a VINEX suburb, an abbreviation for the Fourth Policy Document on Spatial Planing Appendix (VIerde Nota ruimtelijke ordening EXtra). The policy, adopted in the 1990’s, concentrated suburban housing in large developments, at the edge of existing cities.

after the last apartment block of Diemen-Noord, there is is open land on the right. This is New Nature, farm land which is being converted into ‘nature’, i.e. a rural park.

pass floodgates, separating the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal from a wide channel.

This is the Diem, a former tidal creek which gave its name to Diemen. The original fishing village was on your left, at the mouth of the creek.

pass under the new bridge to IJburg, and then under the triple-girder A1 motorway bridge.

pass under a second motorway bridge (not open yet), and continue along the canal bank, to a railway bridge, about 1 km further.

just before the arched rail bridge, turn right onto the cycle path, up to the railway embankment. The path makes a U-turn to the bridge.

cross the cycle bridge alongside the tracks. (You now follow Cycle Route 5, for about 1 km).

The 4-track bridge was originally a smaller 2-track bridge. This is the 1874 Amsterdam-Amersfoort line, the route to the eastern Netherlands, and Berlin.

sources: settlement and landscape history
for Amsterdam and the region in general: Atlas Amsterdam. 1999. Bussum: THOTH C. Dijkstra, M. Reitsma, A Rommerts.
for all other settlements the provincial survey Monumenten Inventarisatie Project Noord-Holland Series published by the Provincie Noord-Holland.

continue along the cycle path parallel to the rail line. About 1 km after the bridge, continue on this side of the rail line, follow the cycle sign for Hilversum. (Route 5 turns off into Weesp here)

After the bend new housing is visible ahead: there are plans to fill this entire polder (Bloemendaler Polder) with housing, joining Weesp to Muiden. This case is typical of the planning conflicts around all Dutch cities. Note how absolutely flat the land is: the contrast will be clearer, when you later leave the zone of reclaimed marshlands.

pass the station of Weesp. At the roundabout after the station, turn right, through the underpass under the rail line.

150 m further, turn left and cycle along the waterside road.

This is the river Vecht which flows on to Muiden – you will cross it there, on the return route. Originally the Vecht diverged at Utrecht from the Kromme Rijn, itself a branch of the main Rhine channel.

at the next corner, turn left across the lifting bridge, to continue along the river. (Route 5 also passes here). Hoogstraat / Vecht, Weesp

turn left over the next (wooden) bridge. On the opposite bank, pass the circular fort at Ossenmarkt.

It was built in 1861, as part of a defence line around Amsterdam, the Stelling van Amsterdam. Weesp was a fortified town, part of the original inundation defences of Holland – the 17th-century Oude Hollandse Waterlinie. Muiden was also fortified, and Naarden (5 km east) has the best-preserved fortifications in the Netherlands. The 17th century defences were expanded in the decades before the First World War, and again in the 1930’s. The Netherlands continued to build defensive lines until the 1960’s.

Fort Ossenmarkt Weespcontinue across another bridge, and then turn left: follow the cycle sign for Muiden.

continue along the east (right) bank of the Vecht, and pass under the railway again. In the fields on the right, the rail line to Almere splits from the Amersfoort line.

700 m after passing under the rail line, turn right into an access road, at a small transformer shed (Reaalspolder weg 1). The ‘dead-end’ sign does not apply to bikes, there is a cycle path ahead.

cycle through open landscape toward the rail line. The TV tower at Hilversum (the national broadcasting centre) is then visible.

The landscape with few farms is typical of reclaimed land. There was no dispersed peasant settlement (and consequently no rural depopulation).

cycle through the narrow tunnel under the rail line. Fietstunnel Weesp after the tunnel, continue along a cycle path, and a farm access road. To the left is a windmill, the trees ahead are in the Naardermeer nature reserve.

at the end of the access road turn left, toward the windmill. Near the windmill, cross a small wooden bridge over the drainage channel (connecting to the Naardermeer lake ).

The sign explains that the windmill was a second attempt to drain the lake, in 1809 – the channel itself was built in 1623. A few metres behind the sign is a blue enamel water level gauge, reading downward – the water is about 1 m below sea level (NAP).

Windmill Naardermeer at the next corner, there are three concrete pyramids on the right, almost hidden by reeds in the summer. These are anti-tank defences, dating from before the Second World War.

go straight on, and under the rail bridge. The road then loops around a pond, and climbs to cross the A1 motorway. (This bridge is replacement, the older  bridge was demolished in 2016).

at the traffic lights, go straight on, across the Muiden-Naarden road. Cross a lifting bridge: this is the dead-straight Naarder Trekvaart, the towpath canal to Naarden.

The trekvaart system is known to economic historians as the most efficient pre-railway transport system: the Netherlands were at an advantage in canal-building. The road beside the trekvaart is the old high road from Amsterdam to Germany – the predecessor of the A1 motorway. (The old road ran via Naarden to Amersfoort, connecting to roads over the Veluwe ridge, to Deventer, Zutphen and Arnhem).

go straight on towards Muiderberg. Pass on the right two concrete bunkers.

They are part of a cluster of about 80 bunkers built around Muiderberg in the 1930’s. (Most of the Netherlands defences proved useless, against the German invasion of May 1940).

600 m after the bridge, at the Jewish cemetery, the road rises slightly. This is the north-western tip of the Gooi ridge.

This is the first land above sea level, east of the coastal dunes: in the early Middle Ages there was nothing but bog, creeks and mud flats from here to Haarlem. (In fact, the marshlands of Holland were one of the last areas in western Europe to be settled). In other countries a rise of 2 or 3 metres would be insignificant. But in marshland close to sea level, an extra 2 metres means different soil, accessible terrain, and no flood danger. The landscape type changes from grazing land with high water table, to wooded ridges with dry sandy soils. The Gooi ridge is a glacial ridge pushed here by the Scandinavian ice cap, during the Saale ice age, about 200 000 years ago. See this map of the Saalian Ice Front.

Brink Muiderberg cycle on into the gentrified village of Muiderberg with about 3 300 inhabitants. Go straight on, through the village green (brink).

Muiderberg is unlike the linear polder villages north of Amsterdam. Substantial houses spread out around the ‘brink’ – the old common grazing land. Since 1703 it is a public park, probably one of the oldest in the country.

go straight into the village street, Dorps straat, with a few shops. Just after the shops, turn left into Bad laan – follow the sign for cycle route LF23b.

This is the road to the beach. From 1882 to 1938, there was a steam tram from Amsterdam to Muiderberg, and on to Hilversum. Muiderberg was a small bathing resort from around 1800, and the tram made it a popular excursion from Amsterdam.

sources Muiden / Muiderberg / Zuiderzee

Het Hart van Nederland: Steden en Dorpen rond de Zuiderzee Ph. Bosscher et al. 1973. Bussum: De Boer.
De Zuiderzee K. Boonenburg 1956. Amsterdam: Allert de Lange.
Het Mysterie van Muiden Ton Koot 1977. ‘s-Gravenhage: Nijgh & van Ditmar.

Van Korre tot Koren ‘s-Gravenhage: Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat.
Zuiderzee/ IJsselmeer 1975 Den Haag: Informatie- en Documentatiecentrum voor de Geografie van Nederland.

the street rises and opens out: stop in front of the small beach, looking over the IJmeer (IJ lake), and the reclaimed Flevo polder opposite. This ‘hill’, which gives the village its name, is at most 7 metres above sea level. Flevoland van Muiderberg

Until 1932 this was open tidal water. The land opposite, with the three apartment blocks, did not exist. This was the Zuiderzee, a gulf of the North Sea – a dangerous sea. In the late Middle Ages, much of the village was washed away by storms. But at 13.02 on 28 May 1932, the last gap in the Afsluitdijk was closed, the most heroic act in the national mythology of reclamation. It converted the Zuiderzee into a fresh-water lake, the IJsselmeer. Reclamation of the polders began several years later. About 50 km of artificial land extends north-east from the beach opposite: the south Flevo polder (fully drained in 1968), the eastern Flevo polder (1957), and the Noordoostpolder (1942). In 1986 they were grouped into the Provincie Flevoland.

In the polder, 5 m under sea level, is the new city of Almere – population zero until 1976, 226 at the end of that year, and now 197 000. The Flevo polder is separated from the ‘old land’ by a randmeer, ring lake. The first lake polder, Noordoostpolder, was joined to the old land. When it was drained, groundwater level on the adjoining old land fell: the water drained into the new polder. To avoid that mistake, the later polders were built in the lake, leaving a wide strip of water (randmeer) to maintain ground-water levels. These lakes became recreational areas, worth more than the potential farmland. (In February 2010 this lake froze over completely).

you are halfway through the route. To go back toward Amsterdam, turn left here, from Bad laan onto Zee weg.

go on along the footpath, between the beach and a wood.

continue on the asphalt path, past the church (Kerk aan Zee), probably the highest point of Muiderberg. When the lake was still an open sea, this church was a landmark for sailors. Kerk Muiderberg at the end of the path, pass the corner of Dijk weg, and go on another 40 m. Stop at the monument on the corner, a glacial boulder. It commemorates Floris V – Count of Holland and Zeeland, Lord of Friesland.

Floris granted Amsterdam a toll privilege, and that is regarded as the foundation date of the city. In 1296 he was captured by his enemies, while out hunting. A few days later, on 27 June 1296, they tried to take him as a prisoner through Muiderberg, but the population attempted a rescue. His enemies killed him on the spot.

go back to the corner of Dijk weg, and turn along this road toward Muiden – follow the sign for cycle route LF23a. The higher sand ridge ends here, and the old sea dike is on the right of the road.

after 500 m the open, flat, reclaimed marshland is again visible: note the difference between the top of the dike and the water level in the ditches, the ‘maximum flood’.

pass the only building on the dike itself, Dijk weg 1, a typical dike house, one ‘safe’ storey at dike level, another below. Mind the chickens here.

after this house, the road bends left, into Noordpolder weg. Visible right is the castle of Floris V – or at least the later version, on the site of his castle.

at the end of this road, turn right, at the old pumping station for this polder. A plaque commemorates its opening in 1892.

You are now at the bank of the trekvaart (Amsterdam-Muiden-Naarden). On the opposite bank the first houses of Muiden (population 3 500).

cycle toward the grassed mound: it has chimneys. As you cross the wooden bridge, you can see it is also a 19th-century fort, Muizenfort.

It was designed specifically to fire along the length of the trekvaart. Behind it is another grassed mound with chimneys – a fortified barracks, built 1875-1880.

to go to the castle, turn right just after the wooden bridge, along the Ton Koot singel. After 40 m step off your bike, go up onto the footpath (right), and walk along the 17th-century fortifications of Muiden.

The original military geography is intact: the line of the walls, the moat, and the open farmland on the other side.

at the end of the footpath, you are at Muiden castle – Muiderslot – strategically located at the mouth of the Vecht river. Muiderslot, Muiden castle

Muiden is older than Amsterdam, a strategic location from the early Middle Ages. And possibly earlier: even in Roman times a north-south trade route existed, through Utrecht and along the Vecht. It connected the Roman cities along the Rhine with lake Flevo, the predecessor of the Zuiderzee. Later, the route south led to the Frankish trading city Dorestad. In the early Middle Ages the Vecht was controlled by the Bishopric of Utrecht, but from 1280 Muiden came under the control of the Counts of Holland, who maintained a castle there. As Amsterdam grew, the Vecht became more important as a defence line than a trade route: it protected the cities of Holland against an attack from the east. Centuries later, Muiden became part of the Oude Hollandse Waterlinie, and the 19th-century Stelling van Amsterdam. The forts at the entrance to the village are from this last period: there is another 19th-century battery across the river from the castle. In the middle of the former estuary, the island Fort Pampus completes the circle around Amsterdam. The region was last fortified in 1939-1940.

walk through the gate for a closer look, the ticket office is further on.

The Muiderslot is the most famous castle in the country, crowded in summer. From April to October it is open Monday to Friday from 10.00, last tour at 15.30, weekends and holidays open from 12.00 and last tour at 16.30. In winter it is only open at weekends, open 12.00 with last tour at 15.30. Entrance costs € 13,50, for children under 12 it is €9,00. Muiden castle was built, or repaired, by Count Floris V around 1285, and expanded in the 14th century. In the Netherlands Golden Age, the ‘Muiden circle’ of artists and poets met here, as guests of the governor P. C Hooft. In 1825, the derelict castle was to be demolished, but it was the era of romantic nationalism, and the cultural elite protested. The building was saved – an early example of preservation inspired by nationalism. The castle became part of the schoolbook historiography of the Netherlands, along with Count Floris V.

turn around (away from the castle entrance) and go straight on along the river quay, Heren gracht.

This is ‘heritage Muiden’, note the flood wall on the waterside – until 1932 this was tidal water. The quayside cafes and restaurants are crowded in summer, with the yachting upper-class (and their imitators).

Lock at Muiden at the old sea locks on the Vecht turn right, across the old swing bridge (1870) toward Amsterdam.

The Vecht was originally tidal, almost as far as Utrecht. The first locks to control flooding were built around 1330 at Breukelen, and moved north in 1437. They were rebuilt here in 1673, at the mouth of the river. The locks were renovated in 2005.

stop after the bridge: there are two options. In winter the path along the sea dike is closed, to protect migrating birds. Use the winter route below. In summer, the path is covered in sheep-shit, and is only tolerable if the ground is 100% dry. If it is raining, or has rained recently, then use the winter route.

Winter route: go straight on from the bridge, and cycle out of the village: the dead-end sign is not for cyclists. Continue along the canal for 2 km. At the second power line, turn right across the bridge toward IJburg. Cycle on past the Maxis shopping centre. At the last building, turn right onto the cycle path, follow the sign for ‘A’dam-Noord’. At the end of this path, turn left along the cycle path at the foot of the dike. Pass behind the power station. Pass under a concrete bridge, and immediately turn left, up the cycle path to the bridge. Make a U-turn, and cycle across this bridge toward IJburg, see below…

for the summer route, turn first right into Helling straat (the sign ‘Vonkplein’ is not the real street name). Pass old shipyards on your right: helling means slipway.

turn left into Stads steeg, and next right along Zee straat.

continue along Zee straat, between the dike and the back gardens.

pass the circular West Battery, an artillery position intended to control the mouth of the Vecht.

go through the gate, and continue past the allotment gardens. This looks like a dead-end road – and it was until recently.

after the last allotment, a brand-new cycle path begins, part of a new ‘nature boulevard’ along the old sea dike (opened 2011).

cycle on along the new path, mainly on the dike itself. In the lake you can see the island Fort Pampus. The wooded and fenced area on the left, is the former Muiden explosives works.

Its predecessors exploded in 1972, 1966, 1963, 1947, 1923, and 1883, see Buskruitfabriek “De Krijgsman”. It was originally a powder mill in Amsterdam: the city ordered it moved to Muiden in 1702. Why? Because it exploded. The plant closed in 2004 – an end to the industrial history of Muiden, which once had a salt works and shipyards. The council wants to build luxury housing on the site.

the cycle path drops down from the dike, go straight on (with the dike now right of the path). Pass behind Diemen power station.

pass under a concrete bridge, and immediately turn left, up the cycle path to the bridge.

make a U-turn, and cycle across this bridge, and a second bridge just after it, into the new suburb of IJburg.

The summer and winter routes rejoin here. Built on expensive artificial islands, the suburb of IJburg is a prestige project of the city of Amsterdam – and one of the largest construction sites in the country. It will ultimately have 18 000 housing units, but falling average household size will cancel the entire housing gain.

after the longer bridge, turn first left into Peter Marten straat, toward the white triangular apartment block.

at the white block, turn right into Ben van Meerendonk straat. When this street rises slightly, turn left onto the main avenue, Pampus laan.

at the tram stop, the wide avenue bends right: you are now on IJburg laan, the main axis of the development, with the tram line.
ijburg-gracht   ijburg-laan ijburg-plein   ijburg-haven ijburg-straat   ijburg-winkels

continue along this wide street. Just before the Albert Heijn supermarket, at the traffic lights, turn left into Vennepluim straat, cycle sign for Diemen.

cross a bridge, and then turn right into Oeverzegge straat, again follow the cycle sign for Diemen. Go on over the long cycle bridge.

Long cycle bridge, IJburg, Amsterdam

go straight on, cross a raised road (the old sea dike), and cycle up to the new cycle suspension bridge.

cross the bridge, and go back toward Amsterdam, along the bank of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, sign for A’dam-Centrum. (The return route is different from the outward route).

pass under the arched bridge, which you passed on the outward route. At the small roundabout after this bridge, turn left along the footpath (not the road). This raised path is also part of the old sea dike.

pass an apartment block, and go straight on along Zeeburger dijk, a long straight road.

pass under the rail line. At the traffic lights, turn right past windmill De Gooyer, and then right over the bridge.

instead of going back along the Czaar Peter straat, turn left along the Oostenburger gracht, cycle sign for Centraal Station. At the end, turn left. Continue along Prins Hendrik kade to Centraal Station, the end point of this route.

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Amsterdam cycle route 10: linear urban extension, Green Heart, Amstel river

This cycle route exits the city via Amstelveen, a linear post-war extension. It goes into the still-rural ‘Green Heart’ and returns to Amsterdam along the river Amstel, in its rural and urban settings. 42 km, 4-5 hours. Revised August 2016.

Recommended cycle map: the ANWB Fietskaart Noord-Holland Zuid (Amsterdam & Kennemerland), which costs € 9. The map is nr. 13 in the ANWB Fietskaart series, the scale is 1:50 000, and all the cycle routes here are within the map area. There are two specialised map shops in Amsterdam: Pied à Terre (Overtoom 135-137), and A la Carte (Utrechtsestraat 110/112).

start in front of the former Heineken brewery (now ‘Heineken Experience’), at Stadhouders kade 78. This was a functioning brewery until the 1990’s.

The canal in front is the former city moat (of the 17th-century city). The bends in this canal mark the position of the former bastions, they were removed in the late 19th century, when the brewery itself was built.

facing the canal, turn right along the Stadhouders kade. Turn right at the next corner, into 1e (Eerste) van der Helst straat.

This district, De Pijp, is a 19th-century expansion – in fact a classic example of 19th century urban growth in Dutch cities. The houses in the side streets are typical of that period, but many have been replaced by urban-renewal infill. Most of the brewery site has also been redeveloped, and the area is gentrifying rapidly.

at the small ‘square’ Gerard Dou plein, go diagonally left, into the continuation of the Eerste van der Helst straat. (All the streets here are named after artists of the Golden Age).

cross the Albert Cuyp straat, the best known street market in the Netherlands (Monday to Saturday, until late afternoon). The next section of the Eerste van der Helst straat is pedestrianised, step off your bike.

go straight on, past Sarphati park. Cross the Ceintuur baan, a 19th-century ring road (route of tram 3). The houses are of better quality than those in the first side streets.

Ceintuurbaan

continue along 2e (Tweede) van der Helst straat. At van der Helst plein, go to the right around the square, past Den Hartog Drukkerij, into the continuation of the Tweede van der Helst straat.

at the next corner, turn right into Lutma straat. Cycle on across the Ferdinand Bol straat, the route of tram 12 and 25.

pass through the square Cornelis Troost plein, then go to the left toward the church tower, into Pijnacker straat.

at the church turn right, along the van Hilligaert straat. Cross a canal, toward the petrol station.

go on past the petrol station. As you pass it, just before the next bridge, turn right, along the tree-lined canal, along Reynier Vinkeles kade.

The expensive canalside houses form part of Plan Zuid, the 1920’s expansion of Amsterdam designed by H. P. Berlage.

cross a tramline (lines 5 and 24), and continue along the Reynier Vinkeles kade.

Vinkeleskade

at the next bridge, the canalside street ends: turn left across the bridge here. The incongruous and ugly building is the Amsterdam Hilton.

at the next traffic lights cross a broad avenue, Apollo laan. On the other side is an office building at nr 151: turn right, passing its entrance. At the corner, turn left into another broad avenue, Minerva laan.

Minerva laan is aligned north-south, and extends to the site of the ‘southern station’ in the 1920’s Plan Zuid. It was intended as a grand entrance avenue to Amsterdam: the Hilton site would have been occupied by a public building.

cross Minerva plein, surrounded by 1930’s apartment blocks, and continue along Minerva laan.

Minervaplein

at the next canal, cross the cycle bridge. The Second World War interrupted the completion of Plan Zuid and its successor, the AUP of 1935.

go straight on towards the office buildings ahead. Minerva laan still has a broad central reservation, but it is lined with suburban houses with gardens.

These houses were built when the ‘southern station’ was delayed for 50 years. Amsterdam-Zuid station finally opened in 1981, together with a cut-off line to Leiden via Schiphol airport. In the 1980’s it was designated as an employment zone, one of several along the ring motorway. Development later stagnated, but restarted in the late 1990’s. The new plans are much larger – one million m2 of offices and 9 000 apartments.

at the end of Minerva laan, go straight on, under the low road viaduct, past the bike racks, toward the station entrance.

pass the large underground cycle storage (Fietspunt). Step off your bike and walk through the station.

The station hall is under the ring motorway: the rail line and metro are in its central reservation. There are plans to put them all underground, creating a single development site. The station has been rebuilt several times already, and from 2018 it will be served by the north-south metro line.

leave the station by the narrow south exit to Mahler plein. Keep to the right in the square, go toward the twin yellow/brown office towers ahead.

Station Zuid, towers

go straight on, along the cycle path, on the right-hand side of the yellow/brown towers. Cross the new yellow-brick footbridge.

at the older flats, turn right. At the traffic lights you reach the Vrije Universiteit (VU) campus.

VU gebouw

The VU is the second university of Amsterdam, with an orthodox-Protestant tradition. Many European universities relocated to suburban campus sites in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as student numbers expanded.

turn left here onto Buitenveldertse laan, alongside the light metro line. Follow the cycle sign for Amstelveen.

The road and metro line continue along the length of the Amstelveen extension of Amsterdam. Planning in the 1950’s included urban extensions in the form of ‘fingers’, a version of a famous Copenhagen plan. Between the fingers would be wedges of open space. This extension has retained the intended linear character, with a clear north-south transport axis for road and metro – although the light metro line was not completed until the 1990’s. The whole extension has about 100 000 inhabitants, almost all in post-war housing. There is only one former village: old Amstelveen.

at the station A. J. Ernststraat, pass a cluster of shops: typical of 1950’s and 1960’s planning.

The effect of motorisation on the scale of retailing was not appreciated until later. These clusters were built for a lifestyle, where the housewife walked to the shops to do the family shopping. This cluster still has a baker, a butcher, and a greengrocer, but some have lost all retail functions.

at Uilenstede station, you cross a canal, the boundary of the municipality of Amstelveen. The main road is now called Benelux baan

These transverse canals are remnants of the former landscape – polders with drainage canals running almost exactly east-west, to the Amstel river. ‘Uilenstede’ itself is behind the trees on the left: student housing, built for the expending universities in the 1970’s.

continue past a petrol station. At Kronenburg station, at the traffic lights, turn right into Rembrandt weg.

This route now turns toward the old village of Amstelveen. London and Paris swallowed up surrounding villages as they grew: the village streets survive within the agglomeration. Amsterdam, however, was surrounded by thinly-populated grassland. Only four village cores south of the IJ are completely surrounded by later building: Sloterdijk, Diemen, Sloten, and Amstelveen.

pass the local shops. At the next roundabout, go straight on along Rembrandt weg.

800 m on, Rembrandt weg curves slightly right, approaching the ‘city centre’ of Amstelveen. Continue into the central square, Stadsplein.

Stadshart

Ahead is the new cultural centre, with theatre and a concert venue. The street still has a street market on Fridays, but most shops are now in enclosed mall. Most of the new buildings are infill, on the oversized central square of the 1960’s development. In the 1950’s, planners decided not to expand the old village core, but to build a new centre here. It is now the top-level retail centre for Amstelveen itself, and for surrounding commuter villages. To the south, the next comparable centres are Leiden and Utrecht.

sources: settlement and landscape history
for Amsterdam and the region in general:
Atlas Amsterdam. 1999. Bussum: THOTH
C. Dijkstra, M. Reitsma, A Rommerts.
for all other settlements the provincial survey
Monumenten Inventarisatie Project Noord-Holland
Series published by the Provincie Noord-Holland.

cross the square diagonally right, and exit at the right end of the cultural centre. Go on past the ANWB shop, to the traffic lights. (The shop sells cycle maps).

at the traffic lights, cross toward the new Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst (on your right). This art museum was built to add class to the suburban retail development.

at the corner of the museum, turn left across the main road (Keizer Karel weg).

on the other side, go slightly left, and then into the first street of houses-with-gardens, Thorbecke laan.

go along Thorbecke laan, past several side streets. At the open space, turn left along Mr. F. A. van Hall weg.

after 100 m turn right, up the short cycle path to the railway embankment. This old railway is now a museum tram line (summer only)

turn left across the track, following the cycle sign for Schiphol. (The cycle path is split, with the rail track in the middle).

You cross the busy A9 motorway (Alkmaar – Haarlem – Schiphol – Amstelveen – Utrecht). It follows the line of the Haarlem-Hilversum provincial highway built in the 1930’s – the first ‘tangential’ infrastructure in the region.

continue along the cycle path, to the old station of Amstelveen. Built in 1912, it still has the station name in tile above the entrance.

A network of local rail lines was built south and west of Amsterdam between 1912 and 1918. The line to Amstelveen was opened in 1915: it split about 1 km south of here, and continued to Aalsmeer and Uithoorn. From Aalsmeer there was another branch to Leiden, the Uithoorn branch continued to connect with the Utrecht main line. In a few places the lines encouraged suburban development. If they had developed into a full commuter network, the regional structure would be quite different. Instead they were closed by 1950.

Station Amstelveen

at the old station turn right, along Stations straat. At the end, turn left along Dorps straat, the village street of Amstelveen.

The line of the street itself is probably the oldest surviving heritage here: a centuries-old road from Amsterdam to Leiden. At nr. 75 is the old Town Hall, one of the few ‘original buildings’ (built 1896, so it is not very old anyway). The village was destroyed by fire in 1792, and most of the mainly 19th-century houses were demolished after 1950. In 1963, the council decided to demolish the entire village core. That was before Europe discovered Heritage: in 1977, the council decided to rebuild it.

go straight on along the cycle path. Ahead is a level crossing of the old rail line.

just before the level crossing, turn right across the road, and go along the restaurant access road, toward the water visible 100 m ahead.

cycle slowly, because it ends on a wooden jetty in a lake, with no warning sign. This is the Amstelveense Poel, a lake created by deep turf cutting.

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Between 1400 and 1920, almost all land between the Amstel river and the Haarlemmermeer lake was cut away for turf. At first the turf was cut on the surface, but after 1600 it was cut underwater. No advanced technology was needed – simply a boat, and a spade with a long handle. That left a lake: most were reclaimed again by 1900. (The present soil in those polders is the underlying clay, 4 or 5 meters under sea level). On your right the present town hall of Amstelveen. The church tower on the left is at Bovenkerk, a hamlet which suburbanised at the same time as Amstelveen.

turn back from the jetty. Cross the road again, to the cycle path, and turn right, crossing the rail line. 15 m further, turn left into the cycle path, toward the curved apartment block.

follow the cycle path down. At the street (Kastanje laan), facing nr 20, turn right.

pass more apartment blocks, and cross the Keizer Karel weg (again). Continue along Linden laan.

650 m further, at the roundabout, turn right along Van der Hoop laan, past the shops.

at the next roundabout, cross the Sportlaan, go on past a sports centre.

at the next traffic lights, continue along Van der Hoop laan – but cross the road, and use the cycle path on the left-hand side. The route is easier to follow, if you switch here.

cross the next traffic lights, continue along Poortwachter – still using the cycle path on the left-hand side of the road.

the road Poortwachter bends to the right, you also turn right here. Then turn first left, into Grote Beer.

the road bends left: just after the bend, turn off right into Brink.

pass the anti-cycling barrier, and walk along the footpath, to the corner of this block. This is the local shopping centre Middenhoven: in front is the light metro station Brink.

amstelveen-19

cross the light metro line, and go slightly left into the cycle path, at the sign ‘Dr. Willem Dreesweg 416-422’. The path parallels a decorative watercourse, with some wooden bridges.

follow this path along the watercourse: don’t turn off into the housing. Cross the last (third) wooden bridge, and cycle toward the open land ahead.

200 m further you reach Nesser laan: you are now in open polder landscape with grazing Frisian cattle (sheep in winter).

Nesser laan is a polder access road, with some surviving farm buildings. Ahead of you is the rest of the Bovenkerker polder, reclaimed around 1770. Diagonally left is the church tower of Nes aan de Amstel. Visible ahead is Uithoorn, 4 km away, with about 25 000 inhabitants. Since the 1960’s there are vague plans to extend Amstelveen across the polder, to join with Uithoorn. This is controversial because it is an extension into the ‘green heart’ of Holland – more on that issue later. To indicate the scale of the extension: Uithoorn is already one-quarter of the distance from central Amsterdam to central Rotterdam.

turn left along Nesser laan. The housing of Amstelveen simply stops dead: such sharp urban edges are the result of strong planning controls.

amstelveen-20

cycle on alongside a small drainage canal: visible ahead is the river dike of the Amstel river.

The river originally ran through uninhabited peat bogs: they were settled in the Middle Ages, at first as farmland. The Bovenkerker polder is part of the secondary land reclamation, after turf cutting.

pass an intermediate pump in the drainage canal (metal boxes on a wooden platform). The blue enamel water gauge here indicates a level of 5,50 m under sea level.

pass the ‘corner’ of Amstelveen: along its east side there is an equally sharp urban edge, the line of a planned Amsterdam-Rotterdam motorway.

amstelveen-21

at the main pumping station, the road rises to the first dike.

This is not the river dike: the water drains into an intermediate canal. This is the ring canal of the Bovenkerker polder. Water is pumped from polders into ring canals, and then another step into rivers or lakes – multiple water levels are characteristic of the Dutch polder landscape.

instead of going directly to the river, turn right in the direction of Nes a/d Amstel, passing the pumping station. Cycle on alongside the ring canal.

Four landscape elements are visible here: the river-dike, a strip of grassland about 100 to 300 m wide, the ring canal, and the regular ditches in the low-lying polder. Its depth is the result of turf-cutting: it had become a lake like the Amstelveense Poel, and was drained around 1765. Strips of higher ground were often left at the margin of the turf-cutting, called bovenlanden or ‘upper lands’. The grassland on the left is an example: it is about 3 m higher than the polder.

after 300 m pass the remains of a windmill. There may be cattle on the path.

Originally there were 10 windmills here, to drain the polder – the predecessor of the diesel pumps.

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approaching the village of Nes, cross the canal on a wooden cycle bridge. 100 m further, stop at the open space on your left, facing the church

go across the open space, cross the basketball court, and go through the gap in the bushes. There is a footpath here: turn left, and it leads to the churchyard. (You have to step off your bike to pass the barrier).

go to the left around the church, passing the graveyard, and out through the front gate. The church, St Urbanus, is a neo-gothic catholic church built in the 1890’s.

turn right along the bank of the Amstel river which gives its name to Amsterdam (Aemstelredam). Pass a small statue of Aagje Deken and Betje Wolf, 18th-century literary figures.

Nes aan de Amstel

pass recently built houses: Nes lost population after the second World War, falling to 314 inhabitants in 1969. Since then it has grown again to about 500. (It would be ten times that size, if planning controls were lifted).

about 1 km after the church, opposite nr. 187, cross the river by a cable ferry.

The ferry operates until 20.00, but in winter only until 18.00 on weekends and holidays. It costs just 70 cents. On the other side you are in the Province of Utrecht. This is about half-way through the route, and you now turn back toward Amsterdam.

cycle down from the dike, to the road behind (Waver dijk), and turn left.

pass on the right Fort Waver-Amstel (built 1908-1912).

It is part of the late 19th-century defence line, the Stelling van Amsterdam. The defence system was based on inundations: most of the polder behind the fort would have been deliberately flooded. Amsterdam would have been surrounded with an almost complete circle of shallow water, up to 10 km wide. The system was never tested, but it may have deterred a German invasion in World War I.

the road rises: cycle along the bank of the small Waver river, towards a white lifting bridge ahead. You are now looking back towards Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Arena stadium is the most prominent building. Beside it the cluster of offices around Bijlmer-Arena station.

Arena, vanaf Waver

cross the white cycle bridge, and turn right. There is an information sign here, and a sign for Junction 1 of the local cycle route network.

You are on the ring dike of De Ronde Hoep, a mediaeval polder – built between 1100 and 1300. Apart from the motorway across its northern tip, its structure is preserved (about 1000 hectares). It was originally peat bog, reclaimed from the dike inward. The centre is open, without a single building.

cycle on along the Waver: it forms the provincial boundary here, on this side you are back in the province of Noord-Holland. To the right is the polder landscape of De Ronde Venen, an approximately circular group of 19th century polders. This landscape is the Green Heart, the still agricultural centre of the Randstad.

The Randstad is the collective name for the ring of cities including Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Gouda, and Utrecht. Historically, this area is the core of the Netherlands state. Depending on the definition, the Randstad has about 7 million inhabitants, and yet there are cows grazing all around you. Now, what would happen here, if all planning controls were lifted? The disappearance of the Green Heart under urban sprawl was the classic nightmare of Netherlands planning. It is now fashionable for architects and planners to denounce the ‘Green Heart’ concept: some advocate its conversion to a landscaped park-suburb.

amstelveen-26

2 km along the dike, there is a lifting road bridge: turn right across it. Cycle about 300 m along the Hoofd weg. Here, you can look back at the pumping station, this is the main canal of the Polder Groot-Mijdrecht Noord.

Like others in the area, this polder was reclaimed from peat bog, then cut away for turf, then abandoned, flooded, and reclaimed again. The second reclamation, in the 19th century, was only possible with steam pumps, since the turf-cutting had lowered the land (now 5-6 m under mean sea level). This polder is strictly speaking a droogmakerij – a ‘dry-makery’. It has a classic droogmakerij landscape, very regular in layout. The main road, ‘Hoofd weg’, runs due south along the main drainage canal, in fact National Grid line 122 runs exactly along the canal. The lateral roads are at 1 km intervals. Because it is so deep, brackish groundwater flows into the polder. Continual pumping extracts this groundwater near the surface. The ground then shrinks – about 8 mm per year – and the problem gets worse. The Province considering flooding of the polder but settled for a less ambitious plan with wetlands, after opposition from polder residents.

turn back, back over the bridge, and then turn right, to continue along the dike of De Ronde Hoep.

continue through the settlement of Waver, a cluster of houses rather than a village. It has no church – the traditional defining feature of a ‘village’ in the Netherlands.

after another 2 km, you are diametrically opposite Nes aan de Amstel. Pass on the right a lifting bridge, Stokkelaars brug. Here the river Winkel joins the Waver (and they sell ice cream here in the summer).

pass, behind nr. 47, the old pumping station (gemaal). Beside it is the new pumping station, which now drains the Ronde Hoep polder.

Gemaal Ronde Hoep

pass another lifting bridge, and Cafe De Voetangel, and continue towards Ouderkerk. Here the river Holendrecht joins the Waver: they flow on with a new name, the Bullewijk.

pass under the A9 motorway bridge into Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Go on past new housing, pass a bridge, but cycle straight on along the river bank.

pass on the opposite bank the Beth Haim cemetery of the ‘Portugese-Israelites’ of Amsterdam – funerals came here by boat.

The cemetery dates from 1614, soon after the Sephardic community is recorded in Amsterdam. The cemetery is the probable site of the castle of the Lords of Amstel – no traces remain. Ouderkerk, not Amsterdam, was the central settlement of early mediaeval Amstelland, the region along the Amstel river. Around the year 1000 the settlement began, at the meeting of two semi-tidal creeks in marsh forest – the creek banks were slightly higher then the surrounding peat bog. Before the existence of Amsterdam was even recorded, the Lords of Amstel tried to carve out an independent princedom, between the territories of the Counts of Holland and the Bishop of Utrecht. They failed, and their castle was destroyed in 1204. The subsequent rise of Amsterdam gave them a mythical status, as predecessors of the city’s power.

continue to the neo-gothic church ahead, beside the wooden lifting bridge into the village core of Ouderkerk.

Brug Ouderkerk

turn right over the bridge, and cycle along Kerk straat, ‘church street’. The street splits, but both are named Kerk straat: use the older section of street, to the left, with the shops.

at the end of Kerk straat, at the town hall of Ouder-Amstel, turn left into the village street, Dorps straat. The Amstel is now on your left.

the street continues as Hoger Einde Zuid. At the end of the village, cross the main road, go straight on into Hoger Einde Noord. After 300 m, you are on the right bank of the Amstel.

pass the first of several 17th / 18th-century country houses. There were once about 60, along the Amstel and Vecht rivers.

Landgoed Amstel

pass windmill De Zwaan, a polder drainage mill (1638). Further on, the Arena dominates the view on the right. These fields now have a primarily recreational function: there are new cycle paths across them toward Amsterdam Zuid-Oost.

as you pass nr 12, there is a small obelisk on the opposite bank. It is a banpaal – a boundary marker of the city of Amsterdam.

At one German mile (7,4 km) from the city gates, they marked the limit of city jurisdiction. Exiles who passed them, back into the jurisdiction, faced execution.

pass on the opposite bank the ‘Rembrandt windmill’.

It was not his windmill, but he sketched here, there is a statue of him sketching, and hundreds of tourists arrive here every day in summer. They all stand in front of the windmill and have their picture taken: in fact it was moved here, from the other side of the city.

5 km after Ouderkerk pass under the bridges of the ring motorway, the ring metro, and the Schiphol-Almere rail line.

The area ahead is surprisingly undeveloped, with Volkstuinen, allotment gardens. The river bank itself is overgrown, there are houseboats behind the trees. There are plans to develop this area, but they are strongly opposed by the Volkstuinen associations.

pass the rowing club Poseidon, and then you are back at the river bank. Ahead is the viaduct of the Utrechtse Brug, the start of the motorway to Utrecht.

go under this viaduct, on the cycle path nearest the river (cycle sign for Centrum). The cycle path then rises to a new cycle viaduct.

The towers ahead are beside Amstel station, on the former Omval: compare Rembrandt’s view from the north with the present.

cycle on past a former 19th-century gasworks and waterworks: the wooden lifting bridge is the entrance to its small dock basin.

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continue through a redeveloped former industrial area. At the main road (Spakler weg), turn left, towards the office towers.

Here you join the return route of Route 5.

at the roundabout, continue along the cycle path between the towers, cycle sign for Centrum.

pass (right) the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and the Amstel Station. Continue along the riverside road Weesperzijde.

at the Ruysch straat, cross the tram line, continue past grander 19th-century riverside houses.

cycle through an underpass, and pass the Amstel Hotel, the most prestigious in the city. Turn diagonally left, to rejoin the riverside road: here it is simply called ‘Amstel’.

at the 19th-century bridge with lanterns, Blauwe Brug, the Amstel river bends west (left). Ahead is is Amstel 1 – the Town Hall and Opera complex, the end point of this route.

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Amsterdam Cycle Route 8: linear village, historic reclamation, satellite town

This route passes the northern docklands, through a rural linear village, to the new suburbs and the historic core of Purmerend, returning through a reclaimed lake-bed polder, and along a 19th-century ship canal. 41 km, 4 hours. Revised August 2016.

Recommended cycle map: the ANWB Fietskaart Noord-Holland Zuid (Amsterdam & Kennemerland), which costs € 9. The map is nr. 13 in the ANWB Fietskaart series, the scale is 1:50 000, and all the cycle routes here are within the map area. There are two specialised map shops in Amsterdam: Pied à Terre (Overtoom 135-137), and A la Carte (Utrechtsestraat 110/112).

start at the main ferry landing behind Centraal Station (Route 9 also starts here). Take the free ferry to Buiksloter weg: there are two or three boats on this route, about every 5 minutes

The ferry crosses the IJ estuary, which was originally wider. Centraal Station was built in 1889 on an artificial island, between the old city and the estuary.

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on the other side, turn left as you leave the ferry, onto a cycle path. Cross a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, into Overhoeks, a dockland redevelopment.

This was the former Shell complex, with laboratories and chemical plants. The old main laboratory (A-Lab), visible from the bridge, is now used by startups and a Clink hostel. The former Shell offices have been rebuilt as the ADAM tower,  with a revolving restaurant, hotel, clubs, and restaurants. The northern docklands are on former estuary floor, reclaimed around 1875 – the original sea dike is further back from the river. The land was reclaimed for agriculture, but it was ideal for the industrial expansion after 1890. A strip of dockyards, factories and chemical works developed along the northern shore.

pass the film museum EYE. At the end of the museum building, turn right: cycle up to the apartment block with rounded corners.

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continue along the raised road, in front of the apartment blocks, parallel to the river.

at the last apartment block, turn right into Bund laan. Continue past the new Shell building, and on along Gras weg, past the temporary school with lots of square windows (Hyperion Lyceum).

turn next left into Aster weg, and go on through the former dockland industrial strip, now filing with studios, media, start-ups and so on.

at the end of Aster weg, turn left and then right, at Basic Fit, into Ridderspoor weg.

cross an old dock channel, on a new bridge. Go straight on, and cross the main road (S118, Klaprozen weg). You are now on Flora weg, no name sign here. On your right are the Halfords and Gamma stores.

after the bus stop, at Gamma, turn left across the street. Then go into the short section of cycle path, opposite the FEBO snackbar. The FEBO should be on your left, as you cycle on this path.

at the end of this path, turn left: follow the cycle sign for Oostzaan. Continue parallel to Metaalbewerker weg.

further on, the road bends right, and then follows the bank of a canal, with houseboats. You are now on the former northern sea dike of the IJ estuary.

This is Zijkanaal I or Side Channel I. When the estuary was reclaimed, these ‘side channels’ were left open, to connect to existing drainage sluices. The land on the right was enclosed by dikes in the Middle Ages. The land on the left, across the canal, was tidal estuary, until the 1875 reclamation.

further along the dike road, there is a pumping station on the right, Gemaal Kadoelen. In fact, two: one 19th century, and its 1987 replacement.

Gemaal Kadoelen

Water from the pumping station is drained to the estuary via Zijkanaal I. As you pass the old pumping station, there is a green-painted cast-iron pillar on the left side of the road (obscured by foliage in summer). It carries the number 46, and the text “Noorder IJ- en Zeedijk”. These pillars are old dike kilometre markers, which extend to km 71 at Beverwijk.

continue along the dike. After nr. 145, there are no buildings on the right. Stop here to look at the Wilmkebreek polder – an intact open polder, inside the city.

It is unusual that such a polder survived: it is still used for grazing, but is now threatened with development. Looking down here, you can see the typical structure of polder drainage systems. The road is on the original sea dike: the water to the left is separated from the sea only by the locks at IJmuiden. Below the road is the ring canal of the polder, and inside it is a third water level (about 4 metres below mean sea level). Multiple water levels, drained upwards against gravity, are characteristic of the Netherlands polder landscape. The ending ‘-breek’ in the polder name, indicates a breach in the seadike, at some time in the past. The water rushing in always scours (deepens) an area behind the breach. After the dike is repaired, a small lake is left behind. In this case, it was large enough to be reclaimed separately.

polder-Wilmkebreek

after the polder there are houses on both sides of the road. The stepped alleys between the houses are typical of dike settlements. The name of the dike road changes from Landsmeerder dijk to Oostzaner dijk.

at Oostzaner dijk nr. 29, turn right, following the sign for Oostzaan. (It is easy to miss this sign). Cross the bridge over the small canal, into Zuideinde.

The housing is now different, this is the beginning of Oostzaan, a linear settlement in the older polder landscape (Waterland) north of the IJ estuary. The village extends north-west from the former sea dike, a long street of older rural housing with some farmsteads. Between them is later suburban infill, untypical for Amsterdam: detached and semi-detached houses, with gardens front and rear. The suburban character developed at the time of the First World War, when workers commuted to the docks and industry of Amsterdam-Noord. Even in the 1880’s, there were regular steamboat services to central Amsterdam. By the 1960’s Oostzaan was effectively a residential suburb, and the southern end was annexed to Amsterdam. There is a ‘twin’ settlement, Westzaan, on the other side of the Zaan river, with an identical linear structure, also aligned parallel to the Zaan. In both cases the structure was determined by the mediaeval reclamation of the peat bogs.

sources: settlement and landscape history
for Amsterdam and the region in general:
Atlas Amsterdam. 1999. Bussum: THOTH
C. Dijkstra, M. Reitsma, A Rommerts.
for all other settlements the provincial survey
Monumenten Inventarisatie Project Noord-Holland
Series published by the Provincie Noord-Holland.

1 km further, pass under the viaduct of the ring motorway. It forms the boundary of Amsterdam, and you enter the residual Oostzaan municipality, with about 9 000 inhabitants.

continue along Zuideinde (‘south end’). Go straight on at the traffic lights, on past Presto Cycle Sport. There are housing estates on both sides of the the old village street.

pass at nr 33 the former Polderhuis, administrative offices for the water infrastructure (dikes, canals). Just after it, cross a bridge over a small channel.

These channels, at right angles to the village street, are typical of the linear polder settlements. Too small to be called ‘canals’, they were nevertheless used for agricultural transport. Farmers went by boat to milk the cows and cut the hay, and the produce went to Amsterdam by boat. The main street itself was originally a canal with houses on both sides. (More of this landscape later).

continue to the village church, at the core of the village, called Kerkbuurt (church quarter).

The church is one of the three listed heritage buildings in Oostzaan. However, the major contribution of the village to Netherlands culture came in 1887, when the young Albert Heijn took over his fathers grocery shop here. Soon after, he opened a branch in Purmerend. Since then, Albert Heijn has not stopped opening them. Beside the church is the new Gemeentehuis, town hall.

continue straight on: after the village core, the houses thin out.

Across the fields on the left, the slab blocks of Zaandam are visible. On the right, the trees are in Het Twiske, a 1970’s recreational park laid out in a polder. Reclamation of Het Twiske begun in the 1930’s, as unemployment relief, but the Netherlands no longer needs to reclaim farmland. Parks have a higher priority.

at nr 121 the road forks: turn right into De Haal. The fork left (De Heul) is a dead end.

These are settlement names rather than street names, and here the original structure is best preserved. (De Haal was also a dead-end road, until 1884). On the left further on, there is a ditch alongside the road, and simple wooden bridges at each farm.

pass (opposite nr 58) Stations straat, the access road for the former station of Oostzaan, on the 1884 line from Zaandam to Hoorn.

Oostzaan De Haal, richting Twiske

continue straight on, toward Purmerend. Between the houses, the landscape type is now clearly visible – grassland, high water table, broad ditches, island fields.

Settlement here began late, by west European standards – until the year 1000 this was uninhabited peat bog with tidal creeks. At first the land was above sea level, but when peat is exposed to air by ploughing, it oxidises and shrinks. By 1300 the land was too wet to grow grain. To raise the fields, soil was cut from the banks of the ditches and spread on the field. This widened the ditches, eventually producing the landscape of island fields with grassland. It is called a vaarpolder, a boating polder, because all agricultural work was done with boats. Some of the fields are now overgrown with reeds. This is the so-called New Nature policy – the subsidised abandonment of farmland, to revert to a pseudo-natural state. With a huge surplus of farmland in the EU, the reclamation work of 1000 years can simply be abandoned.

at the last houses, the road bends right: 400 m further, you cross a small lifting bridge (over the Twiske).

Twiske

100 m further, at the cycle sign, turn left along the cycle path (direction Purmerend). Pass through open landscape, parallel to the railway. The new housing of Purmerend is now visible ahead.

at the next cycle sign, turn left across the rail line, again toward Purmerend. But don’t stop in the middle of the railway to admire the view. (The crossing has a half-barrier and warning lights).

at a cluster of houses, turn left, following the cycle sign Doorgaand Verkeer (‘through traffic’). The reed-lined canal here is a polder ring canal.

100 m on, turn right across the canal, again follow the sign for Purmerend. You are now on the ring dike of a polder, De Wijde Wormer, a lake reclamation project of the 17th century.

The correct name is not polder, but droogmakerij, ‘dry-makery’. Unlike a polder, the land was permanently under water: it is about 4 metres below sea level. The merchants of Amsterdam invested in the reclamation of lakes to the north: Beemster (1612), Purmer (1622), Wormer (1626). Chains of windmills were used to drain lakes: the largest preserved example is at Kinderdijk outside Rotterdam, the only functioning chain is at Arlanderveen, near Alphen aan de Rijn. The Wijde Wormer originally had 12 drainage windmills, replaced by a steam pump in 1878. The agricultural landscape here is planned on straight lines, contrasting with the irregular mediaeval pattern outside it. The farms are all located on two tree-lined longitudinal roads, the central axis was the main drainage canal, but it was displaced for the Amsterdam – Friesland motorway. The farms are larger than those in the older villages, with newer and bigger cattle sheds. This is also grassland, but with large working farms, in the normal agricultural economy. It is not ‘producing nature’, but producing food. Until 1991 the polder was a separate municipality, with about 1 300 inhabitants – a relatively low population density of around 80/ km².

cycle on along the dike, toward the new housing at Purmerend.

From the dike three different water levels are visible: in the older land, in the deeper reclaimed lake bed, and in the ring canal (between double dikes). To the right is the village of Purmerland, another linear settlement, along the old road to Purmerend.

at the power line, pass the first houses of Weidevenne, the newest expansion of Purmerend.

Weidevenne is a typical VINEX location. VINEX was the 1990’s answer to growing demand for housing, an abbreviation for the Fourth Policy Document on Spatial Planing Appendix (VIerde Nota ruimtelijke ordening EXtra). The idea was to “limit suburbanisation” by concentrating housing at the edge of existing cities. As you can see, a VINEX location is a suburb anyway.

cycle bridge Weidevenne

at the metal suspension bridge, turn right across the ring canal. The wetland and the waterside houses are typical of new housing developments.

go straight on along the cycle path, to the new Weidevenne station. Just before the station underpass, turn left, sign for Purmerend-Centrum.

cycle past the coloured houses, and go on into the cycle underpass. After the underpass, the path bends – do not turn along Alpen pad here.

continue on the main cycle path, through the last sector of Weidevenne (some parts are still under construction). This is an old road to the town centre, but there are no old houses.

go straight on to the new cycle bridge, across the Noordhollands Kanaal (1824).

The canal begins in Amsterdam: it was one of several attempts to by-pass the shallows in the former Zuyder Zee. Ships were drawn by teams of horses, on past Alkmaar, to Den Helder on the open North Sea coast. The North Sea Canal, cut straight through the dunes in 1876, finally guaranteed port access.

Cycle bridge Weidevenne - Purmerend

cross the zig-zag cycle bridge, then cross the road (Tramplein) into Gouw, an old street leading to the centre.

Tramplein (Tram Square) takes its name from the old tram station here: the present bus station building is a replica.

continue through Hoog straat: step off your bike here. At the end you are in Kaasmarkt, the historic market square of Purmerend.

Old Town Hall Purmerend

In front of you is the former town hall, now the local museum. On a map, the historic core is tiny in comparison to the present city. Purmerend was originally a fishing village, with three lakes around it. When the Beemster, Purmer and Wormer lakes were reclaimed, it became a market town for the surrounding area, a function it retained until the 1950’s. In 1884 it was linked to Amsterdam by railway, and from 1894 by steam tram along the bank of the Noordhollands Kanaal: there was also a steamboat service along the canal. In 1950 Purmerend still had only 7 000 inhabitants: planned suburban expansion began in 1957. In the 1970’s it was designated as an expanding town, ‘groeikern’. The expansion was intended for families from Amsterdam, living at low densities, with employment in the area, and some commuting to Amsterdam. Purmerend did provide that – but household size fell, work patterns changed, commuting distances increased, and consumer expectations of housing rose sharply. Weidevenne increased the population of Purmerend to 80 000, but residents work and shop in Haarlem, Zaandam, Schiphol, or Almere. Already, two-thirds of the working population works outside the municipality. In retrospect, the ‘satellite town’ concept was dependent on low car ownership, low employment dispersal, and standard family structures – the father as breadwinner in full-time employment, mother at home and children at school in the leafy suburb.

turn right after the church, to leave the square by the Breed straat. Continue through Dubbele Buurt, and go straight on along the square Koemarkt (Cow Market).

Koemarkt Purmerend

from the square, go straight on. At the end of this street, you can see traffic lights on your left. Cross the road, to the cycle path opposite, and continue along Purmer steen weg. (The street-name sign is on the house on the corner). You don’t have to cross at the traffic lights.

pass the new Town Hall, and immediately turn right, along the cycle path (sign for Station). After 300 m, turn left to the station.

The station is small for a city of 80 000. It is served by a Schiphol Airport – Hoorn commuter service, with two trains an hour.

go under the railway via the cycle tunnel. Go straight on to the second cycle sign, 100 m after the tunnel. Turn right here, in the direction of Monnickendam.

continue along the Wetering straat, which turns to the left.

This area is called ‘De Gors’, and it was built in the 1980’s. At the time, the dreary housing was seen as an improvement on the slab and tower blocks of the late 1960’s.

at the traffic lights cross the main road (Gors laan). After another 200 m, turn right into Bovenlandse straat.

here too the road bends left, and then rises to a wide bridge. You cross here the ring canal of the Purmer polder, another reclaimed lake.

go down from the bridge. In front of the first houses, turn right along the cycle path. It also bends left. From the bend, you follow it in an almost straight line, out of Purmerend.

cross a curved cycle bridge with white railings: on the left here is the local shopping centre.

This area, ‘De Purmer Zuid’, has bigger houses, more gardens, more water, and more open space. It is architecturally intermediate between ‘De Gors’ and Weidevenne.

pass under the ring road: continue past the last houses. After a small wooden bridge, turn right along a tree-lined road. This is one of the original longitudinal roads of the polder, with some old farmhouses.

after 700 m, turn left: follow the sign for Monnickendam, along a tree-lined cycle path (Groene weg).

about 1 km on, cross a bridge with white railings. The canal here is the axial canal of the polder, the main drainage canal. Cycle on into the original open polder landscape.

The canal is the municipal boundary of Purmerend, that is why the landscape has been preserved. The Purmer polder has the same shape and structure as the Wijde Wormer – oval polder with axial canal and two longitudinal roads – but it is bigger. There were plans to fill the eastern half of the polder with new housing, but they were abandoned during the crisis.

at the next road, turn right, toward Ilpendam. Follow this road for 4 km: it bends several times. Further on, the two church spires of Ilpendam are visible ahead.

approaching the village, cross the ring canal (out of the Purmer polder). After the bridge, turn left into Ilpendam.

pass the church. At the village hall (Dorpshuis), turn left into Dorps straat, the village street of Ilpendam.

at nr. 66 turn right – follow the wooden cycle sign for Amsterdam.

pass the village pond, originally a harbour, and continue to the main road. You are now alongside the Noordhollands Kanaal.

Ilpendam pond

turn left along the cycle path, beside the main road. You follow it for 4 km – all on segregated cycle path or access road.

The road has a fully separated bus lane, the main form of transport between Amsterdam and Purmerend. A planned metro extension has receded into the future, 2025 at least. According to the transport ministry, public transport has a 73% share in centre-to-centre travel on this route. But most people begin or end their journeys outside the centres anyway. Only high urban densities at both ends can make such a system competitive: the bus lane is essentially a political gesture, not a transport system. The old tram line on this route closed as uneconomic – and that was in 1949.

pass the small village of Watergang, which is a single narrow street parallel to the main road.

It has no significant heritage buildings, but because the canal and the highway by-passed it, Watergang is perhaps the best-preserved example of a linear polder settlement.

about 1 km after the last house of Watergang, the cycle path rises,to cross a bridge over a side canal. Cross the bridge, pass a bus stop, and then make a U-turn, down to that canal. Follow the cycle sign for Amsterdam.

at the canal, turn left under the road bridge: again follow the cycle sign for Amsterdam. After 100 m, you are back alongside the Noordhollands Kanaal.

pass a new ferry jetty, and continue along the canalside cycle path. If you want, you can cross by the ferry and continue on the opposite bank, the route to the centre is the same, just follow the canal.

at the power line, the canal bends right. Turn right at the next corner, at the houseboats – follow the cycle sign for Amsterdam.

continue along the canal bank: pass under the Amsterdam ring motorway, and then another road bridge. Pass, on the opposite bank, a small windmill (D’Admiraal, 1792, it ground ingredients for mortar).

cycle on toward an old swing bridge across the canal. The road turns briefly away from the canal: turn right and then right, back to the swing bridge. Follow the signs for Centrum.

cross the old swing bridge: here the Noordhollands Kanaal cuts through the former sea dike – the raised road. The old houses belong to the dike village of Buiksloot, on the sea dike.

50 m after the bridge, turn left, to rejoin the canalside path: follow the sign for Centrum.

pass under two bridges, pass some small older houses, and then turn left along the road to the ferry. Cross by the ferry to end this route at Centraal Station.

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