Cycling to the beach from Amsterdam is not only possible but actually a thing people do. Here’s a AHA moment from my early days in this city. Trying it out myself felt like a whole other level of integration. Doing Amsterdam to Bloemendaal aan Zee on a bicycle expanded my world of quaint narrow streets and serpentine canals. I did it with a friend, and we urge you to try it too.
At first, the idea of biking for 1 hour and a half all the way to the sea seemed like an adventure (therefore, interesting.) But it also felt intimidating. For starters, it was 2013 and I was weary of “doing things in nature.” It seems outlandish to me now, but yes, I’ve been the person who’s not in love with the outdoors. As an urbanite used to spending her days in historic streets and crowded cafes I was apathetic towards the natural world. On top of that, anything above a half-hour cycle seemed too much. Did I have the stamina to do it? Would boredom annihilate me? My friends assured me I’d have fun. And my friends are often right about things.
It’s perhaps good to mention that, in the Netherlands, many people don’t own a car, especially if they live in cities. These are very well-connected. The comfort and efficiency of public transport renders cars an expensive luxury. I don’t own one and I intend to keep it that way for as long as possible. Instead, I bike everywhere. And while everyone cycles, not everyone cycles long distances.
Recently, I was the one persuading my friend Dina to cycle from my place, in Amsterdam’s center, to the beach. Luckily, it didn’t require much effort. If you conjugate the words bike, beach and coffee in one sentence, she’ll be down. Off we went, one eye on the road, the other on Google Maps, our faithful guide.
There’s a lot to explore along the way to Bloemendaal aan Zee: a variety of animals, little farms, fields, bridges and stretches of canal-side bicycle paths. You won’t be cycling alone either as this route is popular for locals on two-wheels. You’ll keep hearing the sound of airplanes on your way, departing from and arriving in the nearby Schiphol airport. And then, there’s Haarlem – the second oldest city in the Netherlands – where you can stop for coffee, lunch, perhaps a quick museum visit. It takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes to get from Amsterdam to Haarlem, by bike (roughly 10 minutes with the train.) We picked up coffee + apple crumble from Het Koffiekantoor – a specialty coffee place conveniently situated en route, – and recharged by the river Spaarn before setting off for another half hour cycle to bathe shore. We chose Bloemendaal because it’s the closest beach to Amsterdam if you’re going by bike, and less touristy than Zandvoort. For me as a Southern European, Bloemendaal also evokes a more beach-like feeling because of it’s dunes. Once at the beach we read, went for a dip, people watched. Everything is documented below for your amusement.
In Bloemendaal there are plenty of beachside cafes for one to quench their thirst. We did not visit any because during the filming of this video lockdown was in place in the Netherlands. But I can particularly recommend the one-of-a-kind Woodstock 69. With a hippie-like vibe, the place is quirky and has an excellent music selection, with regular live concerts and dj sets.
If you decide to take public transport instead, the trip will take you around 45 minutes in total from central station. Catch the train to Haarlem and then switch to a bus (direction Zandvoort aan Zee) right outside of Haarlem station. Your bus stop will be Bloemendaal, Strand. So hop on your bike! And definitely let us know, in the comments, how it went.
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