At the beginning of my trip to any city, I like to take tours to get acquainted with how the city is laid out.
I generally take walking tours when traveling, however since I know that Amsterdam is known for being a big biking city, I decided that I wanted to explore the city by bike.
I chose one of the more popular companies, ‘Mike’s Bike Tours‘ to embark on my Amsterdam adventure.
We began our tour with a brief introduction to the rules of the road when biking in Amsterdam.
We learned a very important rule: while pedaling your heart out riding down the street and you need to turn a corner, point down in the direction that you are turning to signal to those behind you of the direction you will be going in.
In addition to learning about hand signals, we discussed a few safety tips before splitting into two groups, hopping on our bikes, adjusting our seats, and leaving the shop.
We started our ride by following our tour guide Alec, a California-native turned Amsterdam-expat, through the Southern Canals and into the Fashion & Museum District. We stopped briefly to look at the iAmsterdam sign and discuss some of Amsterdam’s famous museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
We then entered Vondelpark and parked our bikes under the shade of a large tree as Alec shared the wild history of the park and some interesting facts about it.
I was surprised to learn that Vondelpark (named after famed Dutch author Joost van den Vondel) used to be home to thousands of naked hippies who set up camp in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Now the park does not allow people to play loud music or be a naked hippy, but it does allow for legally getting your groove on (just be respectful of the precious eyes of the babies and grandmas).
We mounted our bikes again and continued making our way through the city stopping along the way at Leidseplein Square, home to the famous coffee shop ‘The Bulldog’.
We then made our way over to the Western Canals area where we stopped to talk about the Anne Frank House and to learn a little bit about the history of the German-Dutch conflicts.
We continued our journey by winding our way through the lovely neighborhood of Jordaan, past Centraal station, and through a neighborhood lined with rainbow flags before.
We stopped in front of the oldest church in Amsterdam: Oude Kerk (literally meaning ‘Old Church’; you have to love the Dutch for their creativity when naming buildings and neighborhoods.) Interestingly enough, Oude Kerk is located right across from the famed Red Light District. Outside of the church, we talked a little bit more about coffee shops, the red light district, and the legality of prostitution in Amsterdam.We learned that red lights on a building signaled that women were inside and that blue lights signaled people that looked like women were inside but had two extra ‘surprise’ bulges: one on their neck and one in their pants.
We hopped back on our bikes and cycled through the streets of the Red Light District while looking into the windows at all the women vying for attention in their underwear.
We pedaled our way across the city briefly stopping to look at sights along the way until we made it Brouweij ‘t Ij, a brewery with a windmill. Eating dutch cheese and drinking dutch beers underneath a windmill was definitely a highlight of the journey.
We concluded the tour by making our way back to the bike shop where we said our goodbyes to each other and dropped off our bikes.
Would I Recommend This Tour?
Out of all of the tours that I have taken around the world, this tour was definitely one of my favorites.
The Experience & Guide: In addition to being able to enjoy the experience of biking through the winding streets of Amsterdam, past the canals and coffee shops, and over bridges, I really enjoyed my guide Alec. He gave us a no-nonsense truthful explanation of the way things are in Amsterdam with a witty sense of humor.
Group Size: The group was also a pretty good size at 13 people, and he was able to memorize each and every one of our names (which is amazing since I am horrible at remembering names).
Overall, I think this tour was an excellent way to explore the entire city and gain knowledge about the history of the city and what it has to offer.
The Cost: For those interested in taking a tour with Mike’s Bike Tours, the cost is €25 and can be reserved using their online reservation system.
Disclosure: Mike’s Bike Tours Amsterdam provided me with a complimentary tour however all opinions in this post are my own.