Welcome to a self-guided cycling tour of the northern Netherlands! Windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs: these and other Dutch classics await you as you cycle through a region famous for its flower fields and coastline. You'll learn how local cheese is made, tour historic villages, and sleep on a restored cargo boat. March through May is the best time for this itinerary, but it's a great trip any time of year.

Highlights

  • Cycle through fields bursting with tulips
  • Experience the charm of traditional fishing villages
  • Sample Dutch-style seafood, like kibbeling and herring
  • Learn how cheese is made in Edam
  • Pause for photo ops in Holland's flower-growing region

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Amsterdam and Cycle to Marken, Tasting Cheese in Edam  Hoorn
Day 2 Cycle from Hoorn to the City of Enkhuizen  Medemblik
Day 3 Learn About Maritime History in Den Helder  Den Helder
Day 4 Discover the flower-growing region outside Bergen  Bergen
Day 5 Spot Windmills En Route to Amsterdam & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Amsterdam and Cycle to Marken, Tasting Cheese in Edam

A pedestrian street in Amsterdam

Welcome to Amsterdam! Hop on your bicycle to start your adventure, immediately leaving the city for the countryside. Follow your guide along the canals and the Oosterpark into flat pastures and agricultural fields as far as the eye can see. At some points on your route, you'll have water on both sides of your path! When you reach the village of Marken, take a break to explore, and don't forget to stop into its small clog factory.

Along with your bike, you'll board a ferry to travel to the fishing village of Volendam, where the harbor is full of traditional fishing boats. It's a good place to sample herring or kibbeling (pieces of cod, battered and fried). In June, a traditional raw salt herring launches on the market. Then it's on to Edam, known for its centuries-old cheese market. A mix of folklore and theater, this market only takes place in the summer months, and only on Wednesdays. But even without the market going on, the market square and the Waag (the building where the cheese is weighed) are worth a visit.

The cycle route continues along the banks of the Markermeer reservoir until you reach the historic town of Hoorn. Although Hoorn is a small town, it was of utmost value to the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, and it flourished due to trade. Stroll around the historic center and the harbor full of old warehouses. At the train station, you can find an interesting museum full of old locomotives and wagons, and the Westfries Museum is also worth a visit if you want to learn more about the Golden Age.

Day 2: Cycle from Hoorn to the City of Enkhuizen 

Traditional architecture in Enkhuizen

After breakfast, ride to Enkhuizen, once one of the most prosperous cities in the Netherlands. Today, its mansions, canals, churches, city walls, and harbor are reminders of this rich history. Highlights include the Drommedaris, the entrance gate to the city dating from 1540, the Waag from 1559, and the town hall. The Zuiderzee Museum Enkhuizen is also worth a visit, offering an overview of the area's history and culture.

Continue on to Medemblik, the oldest city in the region of West Friesland. Count Floris V once had a large castle built here; today it's called Kasteel Radboud, and it's open to visitors for tours. Enjoy a stroll around town before dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 3: Learn about Maritime History in Den Helder 

 

Cows resting in front of a Dutch windmill

Today's bike ride will bring you to the northernmost point of the journey: Den Helder. On the way, you will pass the town of Den Oever, with an impressive dike measuring 19 miles. Built between 1927 and 1933, it is an important part of the Zuiderzee Works and connects the provinces of Friesland and Noord-Holland. If you like, you can cycle a distance along the dike to experience the vastness of water around you.

Continue to Den Helder, which is surrounded by water on three sides! Den Helder is part of a defense complex that was built in the time of Napoleon. The city has numerous maritime attractions, from long beaches to a naval base to the fascinating Navy Museum. It has several ships visible from a great distance, plus a 78-meter long,1,000-ton submarine is accessible to museum visitors! 

Nearby, the historic harbor has been transformed into a modern entertainment center. On warm summer evenings, the terraces of the cafés and restaurants in the harbor are excellent venues for drinks or dinner before staying overnight at Hotelboat Antje, a hotel housed inside an old sailing cargo ship. 

Day 4: Discover the Flower-Growing Region Outside Bergen 

Vibrant fields of flowers near Keukenhof

After a fortifying breakfast, you'll cycle along agricultural land bordered by sand dunes and the North Sea. This soil is perfect for flower bulb cultivation, and if you're cycling here in the spring months, you'll enjoy endless rows of vibrant blooming flowers. This region is the largest flower-growing area in Europe. 

Continue on to the charming town of Bergen, popular with artists since the early 1900s. It's easy to see why, given the location on the edge of the dunes. From here, you could ride to the seaside and enjoy some time at the beach, or detour to Franschman's, a cheese farm, to sample locally produced cheeses. Savor one last dinner in town before the trip comes to a close.

Day 5: Spot Windmills En Route to Amsterdam & Depart

A windmill in the Zaan region

The trip is nearly over, but one last ride features one-of-a-kind attractions. In the 17th century, the Zaan Region developed into an industrial area with more than six hundred active windmills. The Zaanse Schans windmills were used to grind spices, produce paint, cut wood, and produce oil. They were also important to the shipbuilding industry. A number of them still exist and may be visited if you want to learn how these towering wind-powered machines work, inside and out.

From here, you'll transfer to Amsterdam to make your onward connection. Safe travels!

More Great Netherlands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Netherlands? Check out these other Netherlands itineraries, including a 7-day Highlights of the Holland trip, a 5-day Family Tour, and a longer 10-day Highlights of Holland adventure.

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