This takes about 3 hours. The CITO map of Amsterdam is recommended – the full city map, not their small city-centre version. There are two specialised map shops in Amsterdam: Pied à Terre (Overtoom 135-137), and A la Carte (Ferdinand Bolstraat 147). Revised June 2017.
start at the south entrance to the new cycle tunnel under Centraal Station. Facing the city, turn right, between the mega cycle-rack and the Ibis hotel.
at the 12-storey tower beside the Ibis Hotel, cross the tube-arch cycle bridge. On the other side, turn right, through the underpass.
Note the old lock gates in the Singel canal: they once opened into tidal water. Centraal Station was built on an artificial island in the 1880’s.
at road level, turn right over the bridge: you are already leaving the area of the small mediaeval city. Continue into the Haarlemmer straat, the mediaeval road to Haarlem.
pass left at nr. 75 the West-Indisch Huis, former headquarters of the Dutch West India Company.
The Company was probably the largest single slave trader in history, although Holland was not the largest slave-trading state.
go on to the Korte Prinsengracht canal, cross the bridge, and turn right, passing Korte Prinsengracht nr 20.
go straight on, across the cycle bridge under the railway viaduct. It brings you to the quayside of a former dock basin: the new apartment blocks (opposite) are built on a former railway yard.
continue along this quayside, past 1980’s housing – this is not a cycle path. Then go down a few steps, step off your bike, and walk along a boardwalk, in front of new brown-brick apartments. Go up the steps at the end, and turn left.
go on through the short Kleine Bickers straat, and across the bridge over Bickers gracht. The structure of the 17th-century dock basins is preserved here.
turn left at the first corner, at the new apartments. This street is a rectangle around an artificial warehouse island, Prinsen eiland. Here there was relatively early (1980’s) gentrification of 17th and 18th century warehouses.
Prinseneiland, CC image by Bicyclemark
around the next corner, pass a group with triangular top gables, numbered 269-321 (Witte Pelikaan).
at the next corner, pass the houses 24a and 24b.
They were purpose built as artists studios, for the painter George Hendrik Breitner in 1898. His photographs, along with those of Jacob Olie, are the best visual record of late 19th-century Amsterdam.
pass a line of heritage warehouses, nrs. 77-85, then a single warehouse with recently cleaned brick, nr 75 (Mercurius), then a group of five warehouses at nr 65-73 (Mars, Broek in Waterland, Goudenkop, Korenbeurs, Schelvis).
cycle round the next corner. At nr. 49 turn left and cross the narrow wooden lifting bridge, over Realengracht. Cycle on into the Vierwindendwars straat (“transverse street of the four winds”).
at the end of this short street, turn right. At Taandwars straat turn left, then right along the quayside of the Zoutkeets gracht, towards another wooden lifting bridge.
turn left over the bridge, into Bokkinghangen. Until about 150 years ago, herrings were hung here in sheds, to dry into bokking.
at Barentsz plein, turn right towards two former grain silos converted to prestige apartments. The first one was a simple 1950’s concrete structure: after cleaning and addition of windows, it looks like a new building. The older brick silos behind it are a listed monument, silo “Korthals Altes”, a former art squat.
cross the main road (van Diemen straat) toward the silos, and cycle along the access road (Silodam).
The original structure and appearance of the oldest silo have been lost. It would have been cheaper to demolish it and build new apartments – but the rich pay extra money to live in ‘heritage’ buildings.
cycle on to the new block: you can walk under the building, and up the steps to a platform with a view of the Amsterdam harbour. The name of this river (estuary) is IJ, which is a single letter in Dutch.
turn back, past the 1950’s silo. At the traffic lights turn right (Van Diemen straat, no sign at this corner).
go on along Van Diemen straat, and cross an inland shipping canal – you will pass this canal several times.
go straight on, passing dockland construction sites. The cycle path has been relocated, alongside a new tunnel (not open yet).
continue along the older section of street (Tasman straat). After the traffic lights, turn left, into Hembrug straat.
continue along Hemburg straat: this area was built around the time of the First World War, with examples of the architecture of the Amsterdam School.
cross the Oostzaan straat, and pass the most famous of these housing projects: the 1917/1921 block with Post Office designed for housing association Eigen Haard by Michel de Klerk. (Under renovation 2016-2017, there may not be much to see).
stop at the most-photographed feature, the tiled steeple on the left. At this point, beside nr 334, turn right into the arched entrance of another housing project, Zaanhof.
inside the arch turn right, along the right-hand side of the enclosed public garden. The design of the block was influenced by the English Garden City movement.
cycle around the public garden, until you reach nr 98. Turn right here, to exit the block, under another arch, dated 1918.
turn right after the arch, along Zaanstraat. At the end of this street, go onto the new two-way cycle path, and turn left.
pass the WestCord Amsterdam Art Hotel, and go straight on at the traffic lights, still on the cycle path.
pass under the rail line, through an underpass. Immediately after the underpass tunnel, turn left onto the cycle path at the sign ‘Weth. de Roos Schoolwerktuin’.
the path rises slightly: after 100 m turn right, sign for Begraafplaats St. Barbara. a graveyard.
100 m after the graveyard entrance, stop at some fields, with an old farmhouse. This survived as an agricultural remnant until the 1990’s, although only 3 km from the city centre.
You are standing on the mediaeval sea dike of the IJ south bank. It is called the Spaarndammer dijk, because it extends to the village of Spaarndam, near Haarlem. The fields are on the original land side: most of the land to the north – the present port zone – was salt water and mud flats until the 1870’s.
from this point turn back, back past the graveyard, toward the railway maintenance depot. At the fence of the depot, turn right along the cycle path, Overbraker pad.
pass under another rail line, through a wide cycle underpass: you are now in the extended Westerpark. Pass (left) more grazing land, abandoned to revert to a pseudo-natural state.
the path rises: just before the cycle bridge, turn left. This cycle path is raised, because it is the old embankment of the rail line to Haarlem.
The park is laid out on the site of a 19th-century coal-gas plant, the Westergasfabriek: the buildings were redeveloped as a gentrified arts/cultural centre. The 1854 topographic map still shows open fields here: but later in the 19th century parks, housing and industry were built outside the city walls. The gas plant became redundant after the introduction of natural gas.
the path rises level with the rail line: here the tiled steeple is just visible left. Cycle downhill, and then straight on, through the older section of park.
as you leave the park, at the sculpture, turn right. Cross the main road at the traffic lights, toward the faded-pink 8-storey block.
go into the street beside this block, De Witten straat. This quarter is the Staatsliedenbuurt, with late 19th-century housing and schools, and much urban-renewal infill from the 1970’s on.
cross tram line 10, go straight on. At the end of De Witten straat, turn left, then right along the quayside: this is the inland shipping canal again (Kostverloren vaart).
Here the gentrification of the area is highly visible, in a cluster of upmarket apartment blocks along the canal. 20 years ago the sites were used by warehouses and light industry. The apartments ahead are the most prestigious, the Krier / Kohl Meander project.
cross the wooden footbridge, and turn left along the van der Palm kade. Follow the quayside past a primary school (on the ground floor of the block), and then go up the steps.
turn right, then first left, into Donker Curtius straat. It takes you back to the quayside of the Kostverloren vaart. The newest apartments were built on the last remaining quayside sites.
pass a restored windmill, De Otter – a sawmill on a relict industrial location, with old wooden sheds.
Even 300 years ago, activities not wanted inside the city walls relocated to this area. An 1854 map specifically indicates ‘sawmills’ along this stretch of canal.
continue over a cycle bridge over a side canal. Cross the road at the end of the cycle bridge, and turn left, crossing the Kostverloren vaart.
10 m after the bridge, turn right, onto the cycle path. At the end of the short path, turn right, between the new apartment blocks.
at the end of this street, at the care home De Werf, turn right onto the cycle path. It bends left to the waterside of the Kostverloren vaart.
cross the arched footbridge / cycle-bridge. Go straight on, along Bilderdijk kade.
at the tram line, turn right across the bridge, and then immediately left. You are now on the other bank of this canal, also called Bilderdijk kade.
turn second right into Kwakers straat: the area on the corner is being redeveloped. At Bellamy plein, go left of the small public garden.
pass (left) a former tram depot, now a flagship regeneration project: go on into Bellamy straat, and cross Ten Kate straat.
This was until recently a low-income area with cheap late 19th century housing. The street market in Ten Kate straat is perhaps the most authentic market in Amsterdam, because it retains its original function (although now for a largely immigrant population). The housing along Ten Kate straat is classic revolutiebouw, ‘revolutionary build’. The ‘revolution’ was the discovery that small private builders could mass-produce cheap housing, and that the slowly rising incomes of the poor allowed them to rent it. Two families once lived on each floor: perhaps 15 people, in what is now considered acceptable for one student.
continue along Bellamy straat, past smaller 19th-century houses: early suburbanisation of a horticultural area outside the city walls.
at the end of the street, turn left. You are again on the quayside of the shipping canal (Kostverloren vaart).
On the other bank is the Westermoskee or ‘western mosque, built after 20 years of controversy about Islam in Amsterdam.
cross the Kinker straat, with tram lines 7 and 17, and continue along the canal side. Further on, the road turns, to follow a side canal.
turn right across the first bridge after the bend, into Pieter Langendijk straat. Turn second left into the Wilhelmina straat. This area is typical late 19th-century housing of reasonable quality.
Most houses have had some form of renovation, in the last 20 years: there is relatively little infill housing. Note the large windows, on many of the ground floors in this street – all former shops. Under the very different urban density, demographics, and retail practice of 1910, it was economic to have 5 or 10 shops in every street. This mass of retail employment was displaced by the supermarkets, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Most former shops are now residential: a few are still in commercial use.
at the Jan Pieter Heije straat turn right. This is a typical local shopping street in 19th-century quarters. The side streets are generally similar to the Wilhelmina straat.
All in all, this area is not very gentrified, and not a slum either. It is is not all “white”, and not a ghetto either: some students, some immigrant families. But none of the white lower-middle-income families, who were the bulk of the population until about 1960. They left. They got cars, motorways, broad parks, and private gardens. And they pay for them: about one-third of consumer expenditure is related to this 20th-century transformation of urban life.
the Jan Pieter Heije straat ends at the Overtoom (route of tram line 1). Cross the road, to the two-way cycle path on the other side, and turn right.
after 50 m, at nr. 325, turn into the short Katten laan. Go past the tennis courts, into the 19th-century Vondelpark. Inside the park gate, turn right along a long tree-lined avenue.
go on through the park. Further on, the avenue curves. When the avenue splits, go the the right, and exit the park by the large triple park gates.
cross the Amstelveense weg (with tram line), and go on along the cycle path, opposite the triple gates.
via the cycle bridge, cross the Kostverlorenvaart, again. This canal is one of the oldest major landscape elements in the city, along with the Amstel river, the dam, and the sea dike.
go straight on into Theophile de Bock straat, past a small square with 3-storey houses, Jacob Maris plein.
This type of housing is unusual in Amsterdam, although there are comparable areas in Watergraafsmeer (Route 5). The square marks the furthest western expansion of the 19th-century city: on a 1908 map there are fields beyond it.
cross the Haarlemmermeer straat at the traffic lights. The housing here, 4 or 5 storey enclosed blocks, is typical interwar private housing.
before the new school (Bockesprong), turn right, follow the cycle sign for Osdorp. Stop on the bridge, and look back at the older housing.
The interwar houses stop here: this is a sharp urban edge line representing a stop in expansion. It marks the worldwide Depression, the Second World War, German occupation, and post-war austerity: urban expansion restarted in the 1950’s.
immediately after the bridge turn left, onto a cycle path along the lake: again follow the sign for Osdorp. Pass new apartments, built on the site of a former hospital.
after the new apartments, turn right, over the cycle bridge with the brown wooden railings. Then turn left, under the viaducts of the ring motorway.
A new bridge is under construction here, to replace the older cycle bridge. If it is open, the route is the same: turn right over the bridge, and turn left under the motorway.
go under the motorway, and then turn left at the roundabout. Pass the World Fashion Center.
Despite the grandiose name, this was originally built as simple rehousing for city-centre sweatshops. The functional 1960’s block was was later expanded, given a makeover, and renamed World Fashion Center. It still houses the clothing sector, but a cluster of office employment grew up around it.
cross a bridge over a canal, and turn right at the traffic lights, along Heemstede straat, the route of tram line 2.
The canal is now on your right. It is the Sloter Vaart, originally a mediaeval canal to the village of Sloten, which you pass later. The canal was relocated when the area was built over in the 1950’s, and it gave its name to this district, Slotervaart.
go under the metro viaduct, passing the metro station Heemstedestraat (on the ring metro line).
continue along Plesman laan, named after the founder of KLM. The urban design of the 1950’s and 1960’s is preserved here.
Slotervaart is one of the westelijke tuinsteden, or ‘western garden cities’, started in the 1950’s. Together they house about 130 000 people. The area was ‘new and modern’ in about 1965, but by now it seems an architectural museum. A mass demolition programme is clearing most of the 1950’s housing. As in other European cites, the aim of ‘regeneration’ is to force low-income families out of the area, and replace them with younger better-educated home-buyers.
pass left a medical complex, including a hospital, the Netherlands Cancer Institute, and the national blood transfusion laboratory.
after the medical complex, pass untypical houses on the left: this was once a horticultural area. Behind them is Nieuw Sloten, a 1990’s housing development.
pass left Ottenhof (garden plants, a relict of the former land use).
at the next roundabout, turn left into the housing development, under the 9-storey apartment block – follow the signs for Oeverlanden.
follow the cycle path through a wedge of open space. Nieuw Sloten is typical of recent urban-edge housing, the VINEX locations.
Nieuw Sloten itself was was first planned around 1985 – it would have been the Olympic Village in Amsterdam’s failed bid for the 1992 Olympics. VINEX is an abbreviation for the revised 4th national spatial plan. This 1990’s policy attempted to “limit urban dispersal” by concentrating hundreds of thousands of people, in large new developments at the edge of existing cities.
the cycle path continues towards the Slotertoren, the highest block in Nieuw Sloten, and crosses tram line 2.
continue past the shops. At the end of the path, go slightly left to the traffic lights, and cross the road.
from the traffic lights go straight on, along the two-way cycle path, passing two schools (Mijlpaal and Lumion).
at the next roundabout, turn right, onto Sloter weg. Follow the cycle sign for Sloten.
go on along Sloter weg, past detached houses, and some old farmhouses. This road once passed through open grassland.
at the corner of Ditlar, cycle straight on (past the no-entry sign). Be careful here! Continue into the historical core of the village of Sloten.
in the village, stop at nr. 1204, and go into the alley, to look at a surviving boundary marker of the city of Amsterdam: TERMINUS PROSCRIPTIONIS.
Located here because it was one German mile (7,4 km) from the city gate, it marked the limit of city jurisdiction, as fixed in late-mediaeval times. (The Sloten road was a main route to the city at that time). Those sentenced to exile faced execution, if they crossed this point, back into the city.
continue along the village street, with its two-storey rural houses. At nr 1253, turn right toward the church, across Dorpsplein, the old village square.
A sign explains that it is built on the site of a mediaeval terp – a raised mound. A terp (plural terpen) was the only flood defence, before dike construction began around 1200.
the circular graveyard around the church is still visibly raised: go around it anti-clockwise, to the right.
when you reach the church door, turn right into the Nieuwe Aker weg, then left into the Akerpolder straat.
The first building here still has the sign above the door indicating its original function: ‘Wees- en Armenhuis’ – Orphanage and Poorhouse.
back at the village street, turn right to continue: here too some farm buildings survive. At the last houses, the old settlement ends, but ahead there is still a windmill.
cycle on and cross the main road to the windmill, a water pumping mill dating from 1847. This is the furthest point on this route, and after the windmill you turn back.
This the only windmill in the region open daily. It is heavily restored, and primarily a tourist attraction. The sign attempts to associate it with Rembrandt. He was the son of a miller, and he sketched in the area, but he certainly never saw this windmill, built long after his death.
to return, follow the main road here, past the bus stops, back toward central Amsterdam. The road brings you back to Plesman laan, and the metro station you passed earlier (Heemstedestraat). From there, simply follow tram line 2 back to the centre: along Heemstede straat, around the square at Hoofddorp plein, on through Hoofddorp weg, Zeil straat, Koninginne weg, Willemspark weg, and Paulus Potter straat, to the Rijksmuseum – the end point of this route.