Definitely one of the reasons for choosing Zaandam for the second week of our trip was its proximity to Amsterdam. Getting to Amsterdam from our holiday home is a relatively short 12 km cycle ride, with a free ferry journey in the middle. While that may be a little too much cycling for some, Zaandam is also well connected to Amsterdam by bus and rail.
By our third day in Zaandam, we were keen to see what that cycle route to Amsterdam was like. Well, I was anyway. So on the Monday morning we headed out on the bikes.
Getting the ferry to Amsterdam
The ferry port at Hembrug was just a short 2.5 km cycle ride from our holiday holiday home. We headed west onto the S150, which initially took us across the Zaan, on quite a large and modern looking lifting bridge.
We carried on a little further, then took an underpass under the S150 and onto the S152, heading south. We soon arrived at the Hembrug ferry port, where we waited for a ferry to arrive.
It wasn’t too long a wait before the ferry arrived from the other side and everyone got off. We then wheeled our bikes on and waited for more people to board and the ferry to leave.
We set off for the other side, which was just a short distance away at this point on the North Sea Canal. With the canal being quite a busy shipping lane, the ferry has to dodge the other, much larger boats passing, a bit like a very slow game of Frogger, or for the younger audience, Crossy Road!
It wasn’t long before arrived on the other side at Hempontplein, where we were able set straight off on our bikes.
Finding the Keith Haring Mural
As I mentioned in the last post, The route to NDSM, our youngest is a big fan of Keith Haring. So when we found out about the mural at Markt Centraal, we knew we had to stop off and have a look.
We initially set off along the S101, then turned off onto Westhavenweg. This area is quite industrial, with coal yards and many gas holders, obviously making use of its location next to the North Sea Canal and the Westhavenweg rail yard.
While industry is clearly the primary focus, there’s still very good cycling infrastructure, with nice wide and smooth two-way cycle paths, which were on the whole, very straight too. There were one or two level crossings to pass, over rail lines used for carrying freight trains.
We soon passed under the huge expanse of bridges carrying the A5 and A10 motorways. The underpass here was on a huge scale too. It was incredibly wide and light, with very wide cycle paths. Just after passing under the motorway, we turned right onto the Kabelweg and carried on.
At this point, the area turned from industrial to residential, with many mid-size residential blocks, at about 4 to 5 stories. Amsterdam does this kind of density very well, though there’s clearly a distinct lack of cycle parking for residents, judging by the overloaded pavements.
The cycle paths at this point tended to be one-way, raised from the main carriageway and protected with either trees or cycle parking. They were very typical of what you see in Dutch cities, in built-up areas and were of a good quality, despite being parked on by the one or two vans along the way.
Carrying on onto Admiraal de Ruijterweg, we soon arrived at Markt Centraal and realised our usual lack of research and planning had led to a problem, the general public can’t actually access Markt Centraal. After some quick Googling, it turned out we weren’t the only ones who’d make this mistake, and we found some tips on where we could see the Keith Haring Mural from outside.
We turned round and headed back along Willem de Zwijgerlaan, until we reached a spot where there’s a small car park with views of the mural, across to the other side of the Westelijk Marktkanaal canal.
While not quite as good as seeing it from Markt Centraal itself, we actually had a pretty good view of the mural. For those that don’t know Keith Haring painted the mural back in 1986, while in Amsterdam for his first solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.
In 1994, the building the mural was painted on changed hands and the mural was covered in aluminium panels, which covered it up for almost 25 years. Interest in the work resurfaced after Dutch graffiti artist Mick La Rock came across a photo of it. This started the path to the unveiling and restoration of the mural, which finally became visible again in 2018.
After eventually being successful in seeing the Keith Haring mural, we happily set off in search of some lunch. In this case, we had done some research and found out about De Hallen Amsterdam and Foodhallen, the food hall within there.
Once housing the first electric trams in Amsterdam, De Hallen is a centre for media, culture, fashion, food and crafts and has a library, hotel, cinema, market and food hall. It was also a short ride from where from the mural, so it didn’t take long for us to ride there.
Arriving at De Hallen, we found the entrance to the underground parking facility, with space for cycles, motorcycles and cars. Heading underground, there was lots of space for cycles of all shapes and sizes, though not anything to lock them up to, which is quite common in The Netherlands, with the Dutch often relying just on frame locks.
We found a table in the food hall and chose our lunch, which was really nice, with a wide selection of cuisines available. After lunch, we had a wander around De Hallen and the shops inside, which were a good mix. We then headed outside for an ice cream from La La Ijs, which had some really unusual and distinctive flavours.
La La Ijs is located at the back of De Hallen, on Tollensstraat. It turns out that Tollensstraat has seen a significant amount of change along with the restoration of De Hallen. Along with new residential developments, the street is closed to through traffic and has a few additions encouraging the space to be used for play.
After a pleasant lunch at De Hallen, we decided to head over to Vondelpark, as it wasn’t far and it’s always a nice place to spend a warm summer’s afternoon. Entering from the north east corner, we started a leisurely lap of the park.
We decided to stop off at De Vondeltuin café for a drink, which is in the south west corner. This was a nice pleasant spot, located next to a playground, so the kids can go and play, while you enjoy a break!
There’s a few different options in Vondelpark for food and drink, particularly for a park of its size. There’s the Groot Melkhuis, which isn’t too far from the Kinderbadje paddling pool. There’s also the grand Parkzuid restaurant in the north east corner, which we’ve not been to for quite a long time.
Another favourite is the ‘t Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Tea House), which is a fantastic round Art Deco building, in blue and white. This is a great place to stop, in the day or in the evening.
We didn’t do much this time, mainly just went for a ride and did some people watching, but there’s plenty to do if you’re not in a rush.
We left Vondelpark via the north east entrance on the S100, Stadhouderskade. From there, we crossed over, then looped back round, through the Rijksmuseum and onto Museumplein.
This is a popular spot for tourists, especially coach parties of school children, off to see the many museums in the area. It’s a while since we’ve done the museums. I’ve not been to the Rijksmuseum since I went there, as an art student and I’ve probably done the Van Gogh Museum a few too many times.
At this point, we were happy to just hang around Museumplein, enjoy some of the outdoor exhibits and ride through the Rijksmuseum a few times!
After the success of our boat ride, during our visit to Rotterdam, we thought it might be fun to hire a boat in Amsterdam as well. We’ve been on organised boat tours along the canals in Amsterdam before, which were good, but having our own boat is a bit of a different experience.
We found a company called Eco Boats Amsterdam, located at Westerdok and have a fleet of electric boats for hire. So we made a booking and made our way to Westerdok on the bikes.
After getting shown round the boat and a safety briefing, we set off down Westerdok in our boat. Westerdok is a large dock, surrounded largely by modern apartments and houseboats. It’s quite an impressive space and probably quite a nice place to live.
Once at the bottom of Westerdok, we passed under the many railway lines that head towards Amsterdam Centraal station and the Haarlemmer Houttuinen road. We were now on the main canal network, heading south along Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal).
The views along Prinsengracht are very typical Amsterdam, with many old tall canal houses, houseboats, bridges and cycles. Though riding along in a small boat gives you quite a different perspective on things. Carrying on, we passed the imposing Westerkerk, with a steeple that can be seen for some distance away.
Once at the south eastern end of Prinsengracht, we turned left onto the Amstel. For those that don’t know, the Amstel is the main river that passes through Amsterdam, giving the city and the beer their names. The Amstel connects up to the canals in the main Amsterdam canal ring, before it turns into the Rokin canal, then disappears underground and passes under Dam Square, on its way to the IJ.
Going from the relatively narrow and quiet Prinsengracht to the wide and busy Amstel is quite a contrast. We were now among many other boats, as we navigated under the fantastic Magere Brug bridge.
After passing under the Magere Brug bridge, we turned off the Amstel, down the Herengracht canal, which runs parallel to the Prinsengracht. At this point, we noticed that Herengracht was much busier with canal cruise boats, than the canals we’ve previously navigated.
We were warned about the cruise boats before we left. Specifically, they have right of way, mainly as they’re faster and much larger than our boat. This made things a little tricky, with boats overtaking and us bobbing about in their wake and some tricky maneuvering, when we all got stuck on a corner!
The views along Herengracht were very similar to Prinsengracht, it’s easy to get lost on Amsterdam’s canal ring! Carrying on a bit further, we turned left onto Leidsegracht, then onto Keizersgracht. Another of the parallel canals, sitting between Prinsengracht and Herengracht.
Carrying along Herengracht, we had more cruise boats overtake us, as well as the odd unusual boat, like one that looked like a floating garden, complete with barbecue! We also passed the rear of Westerkerk, which was handy for us knowing where we were.
At the end of Herengracht, we did a short loop, before realising we were running out of time, and needed to head back. We were soon back on Prinsengracht and passing under the railway lines, before we were back in Westerdok.
Travelling back through Westerdok, gave us chance to have a look along the eastern side, and the many houseboats and apartments. Along here was a fantastic playground, situated on three moored boats. This great idea just seems so typically Dutch.
We were soon back at our starting point, where we returned our boat and collected our bikes.
Riding back to Zaandam
After dropping off the boat, we set off on our bikes from Westerdok, towards Amsterdam Centraal to get the ferry. The route took us along Westerdoksdijk, which has more wide, high quality two-way cycle paths, with great views of the IJ.
We soon arrived at the Amsterdam Centraal ferry port, at the rear of the station and queued up for the ferry. For the return trip, as we were at Amsterdam Centraal, we needed to get the ferry over to NDSM, rather than back to Hembrug. The ferry soon arrived and we got on board.
It was now the evening peak, with many people heading home after work, so the ferry was a lot busier than the one in the morning. The route to NDSM was longer than the previous ferry, though with superb views of the sun starting to set behind the IJ, we didn’t mind!
Arriving at NDSM, we set off back to our holiday home in Zaandam. We started off on a slightly different route along Meteorenweg, but then returned to the route we did previously, once we crossed the S118.
We were all feeling pretty tired at this point, after a day of bikes and boats, but it was lovely riding back in the evening sunshine. We soon arrived at our holiday home, for a break, before heading back into Zaandam for pizza!
More Netherlands 22 posts
- Around Wassenaar and Valkenburg
- The route to Vlietland
- The route to Wassenaarse Slag
- A multimodal trip to Rotterdam
- The route to Katwijk and Noordwijk
- The route to Leiden
- Around Zaandam
- The route to NDSM
- The route to Amsterdam
- The route to Zaanse Schans
- The route to Zwembad De Breek
- Riding around Hembrug
- Zaandam by boat
- A day out in Delft