Encircled by canals and bursting with color, Amsterdam is a city of bike trails, tulip beds and 800 years of history. Start pedaling...
Author Adam K. Raymond Photography Ball & Albanese
DAY TWO | After yesterday, you’ve resolved to give your feet a break and get around on two wheels. The city’s pioneering free bike program has been discontinued, but there are plenty of bike rental shops in the city. You choose Frederic Rentabike (1), which rents “incognito” bikes to those who prefer to slip into stealth tourist mode. Unlike the big, garish red bikes from the larger rental companies, Frederic’s are decidedly low-key, just like the ones locals ride.
Pedaling toward the center of town, you realize why 30 percent of Amsterdamers commute exclusively on bikes—it’s much faster than walking. You soon reach Oude Kerk (2), the oldest church in the city. Consecrated in 1306, it has seen dozens of renovations in the past 700 years, but the soaring wooden vault, the oldest in all of Europe, remains remarkably intact. Admire their sturdiness and then return to your wheels. Suddenly realizing you’re smack in the middle of De Wallen (3), the city’s notorious and somewhat rundown red-light district, you keep your eyes on the road and keep on pedaling.
Heading south, you soon reach Vondelpark (4), a 120-acre tract that’s as green as it is big. You take the path that winds through the park, passing over footbridges and by flower beds that resemble thousand-count Crayola packs.
Time for lunch. You make a beeline for the Albert Cuyp Market (5), a 100-year-old institution boasting an endless selection of Dutch street grub. Start at the western edge with smoldering fries topped with mayonnaise, sample some salted herring and potato croquettes, and then try a gooey stroopwafel (two thin waffles with caramel in the middle).
Ready for some culture, you head to Museumplein, Amsterdam’s museum district.
Stop by the Rijksmuseum (6) for a peek at 17th century works by Dutch greats such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. Then move on to something slightly more modern 200 steps away at the Van Gogh Museum (7), which houses more than 700 works by the master, including his personal favorite, The Potato Eaters, and enough flower still-lifes to fill a large garden.
After you return your bike, you amble back toward your hotel, pausing at Envy (8), a dimly lit eatery overlooking the stately Prinsengracht Canal. As you enter you notice chefs jumping from grill to cutting board to sink in the open kitchen at the front of the restaurant. You get hungry just watching, but soon a plate of silky-smooth veal paired with mushrooms and creamed parsnips arrives at your table and makes that hunger disappear.
Before turning in, take a small detour to Leidseplein (9), a packed square surrounded by bars, restaurants and clubs, where you sample a few local brews before deciding to leave the rest of the night to the more adventurous.