Minimise your footprint in Amsterdam with our green guide to the city, taken from travel bible Great Escapes.
Pedal your way around
Amsterdam has an excellent network of trams, metro and buses, but cycling is usually the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to travel around the city. Nearly all the cycling lanes are separate from the road (with traffic lights especially for bikes), so it’s a safe place to cycle, though you’re advised to always lock your bike wherever you leave it.
The main bike rental hubs are at Central Station, Leidseplein and Dam Square. Mike’s Bike Tours are on the Kerkstraat, around the corner from Leidseplein. Macbike is one of the largest bike rental agencies – it has three outlets (Leidseplein, Central Station and Visserplein) and provides details for ten bike tours around the city, including a 2–3hr “Ring of Canals” route and a 10km “Filmtrip Amsterdam” itinerary, which visits locations in Amsterdam used for movies including Ocean’s Twelve and Diamonds are Forever. It also arranges three guided tours (for groups of 10–15) all starting from Central Station East.
For hire prices and a map of Amsterdam showing all Macbike’s outlets and cycling itineraries see www.macbike.nl.
Find the green spaces
Amsterdam has more than thirty parks. The largest is Vondelpark in the museum square, which although popular with joggers and dog-walkers is a tranquil haven (except when it hosts open-air concerts in the summer). The largest woodland area is Amsterdamse Bos, home to the marshy areas at Nieuwe Meer, a nature reserve where you can hire a canoe or pedal-boat to explore Lake Grote Vijver.
In the centre of town, on Plantage Middenlaan, De Hortus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, with more than four thousand plant species. A café in the orangery serves organic pastries, sandwiches and salads. Some thirty private gardens are opened to the public for three days in June; a “Passe Partout” (with proceeds going to charity) allows you access to all the gardens.
Information on the city’s parks is at www.amsterdam.info/parks. For opening hours and information on guided tours at De Hortus see www.dehortus.nl. For opening times, maps and directions for how to reach the Open Day gardens visit www.canalmuseums.nl.
Sample the city’s local, organic food
After all that walking and cycling, stop for lunch at The Noordermarkt (Amsterdam’s main farmers’ market) in the Jordaan district. You’re bound to find something tempting among the local cheeses, eggs, fresh fish, bread, honey, herbs, spices, nuts, mushrooms and home-made cakes. For a slap-up organic feast go to the east side of town, home of De Kas, Amsterdam’s renowned organic restaurant.
Located in Frankendael Park, between the Rembrandt Tower and the nineteenth-century facades of Watergraafsmeer, De Kas is in an old greenhouse that belonged to Amsterdam’s municipal nursery, which the maverick chef owner saved from demolition and converted into an 8m-high glass building. The menu changes each day depending on what local produce is available.
For information on Noordermarkt see www.amsterdam.info/markets/noordermarkt. For opening times and reservations at De Kas visit www.restaurantdekas.nl. For a list of organic restaurants, cafés, groceries and markets in Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands see www.biologica.nl (Dutch only).
Stay on a canal boat
There’s no better way to get a flavour for the city’s waterways than to spend a night on a houseboat. There are plenty available to hire for a weekend or longer – for a comprehensive listing see www.houseboathotel.nl.
Don’t be put off by the anonymous numbering – many of these boats, if not their names, ooze character, such as BK09 – a small, cosy boat furnished in glossy wood, marble and copper, on the Amstel River (opposite De IJsbreker, a popular restaurant, theatre and café).
If you’re looking for a boat in a quiet part of town, try the Blue Wave boat, which you can rent from a local family; for prices and reservations see www.bluewavehouseboat.com.