A local shares her day out cycling alongside tulip fields outside of Amsterdam.
When I think of the Netherlands, the first three things to come to mind are bicycles, tulips, and cheese. So, it’s not surprising that my friends and I decided to fill our knapsacks with cheese and picnic supplies, hop on our bikes and head off to see some tulips!
We met up at Amsterdam’s Sloterdijk Station–Central Station is fine too, this was just closer to us!–on a sunny April morning, and boarded a train to Haarlem and brought our bicycles on board, which costs about seven euro in addition to the standard 5.50 fare. When we arrived, we took a stroll around the storybook-like town and then had a quick breakfast at Mogador Cafe to fuel up for our adventure.
Haarlem is quite charming–it’s like a mini Amsterdam, but with fewer people. We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had come for the tulips!
We headed towards the Leidsevaart Canal, which starts in the center of Haarlem and runs all the way to Leiden. We followed the bike lane beside the canal and pedaled our way through quintessential Dutch ambiance–sunburned locals relaxed on their boats beside us, cute little houses overlooked vast green fields, and the occasional scurrying animal.
That day was particularly hot, so we took some water breaks and slathered on another layer of sunscreen – keep that in mind should you decide to embark on this biking adventure! After about an hour, the landscape changed to the unmistakable tulip hues.
The tulip fields start near Keukenhof Gardens, a famous botanical garden in Lisse that opens for just two months and attracts about a million international visitors annually. Each year they design stunning tulip installations based on a chosen theme. We didn’t visit the gardens, but riding alongside the polychromatic tulip fields along the canal was spectacular. The hour flew by on the smooth and flat bike path, which has plenty of places to stop for a break. Once we found the perfect spot, we stopped for a picnic and devoured our gouda sandwiches.
We relaxed and sunbathed, then continued on to Leiden. We stayed alongside the Leidsevaart canal and arrived at the city in less than an hour. Leiden is a lively student town, with beautiful buildings and canals all around. We parked our bikes in the center and walked around exploring the city until we found a cozy cafe. We shared the typical Dutch apple pie with whipped cream and celebrated our awesome journey with a glass of wine, a satiating end to a thrilling day. From there we took a train back to Amsterdam with our bikes in tote and made it back before sunset.
Planning to bike this path? Here are some tips:
*If you don’t have a bike, there are plenty of places to rent one in Amsterdam and Haarlem. If you have a local friend, he or she could rent one for you for less than 4 euros per day with a personal OV-chipkaart. Otherwise, as a non-local, it would cost just a bit more.
*Make sure to pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and a raincoat regardless of the morning forecast…Dutch weather changes like crazy!
*Don’t forget to stock up on some cheese beforehand! You can Amsterdam you can get it from the street market in Haarlem.
*The brief tulip season begins in mid-March and ends in mid-May, so I would suggest going in mid-April to see it in full bloom.