Day 1: Canal-crawling in Amsterdam
Day 1: Canal-crawling in Amsterdam
Make your first acquaintance with Amsterdam in the garden-themed Jordaan, with its perfectly arced canals, hidden courtyards, and politely moored houseboats.
Begin your journey on the corner of Raadhuisstraat and Prinsengracht. If you don't mind a quick cardio workout, climb to the top of the 279-foot Westerkerk tower, which offers a sublime view of the city.
Whether on foot or wheels, continue your canal crawl northward, peeking into artists' galleries, antiques stores, and clothing boutiques. Work up your appetite for a satellite dish-size pancake at the Pancake Bakery.
And when it's time to turn those bike lights on, make your way to the buzz of Leidseplein. For concerts and dancing to your favorite decade, head to Paradiso or Melkweg, or listen to live riffs at Jazz Café Alto. Conclude with a nightcap in the Art Deco dining room of the American Hotel.
Day 2: Pedaling to Haarlem
With Amsterdam's Haarlemmerplein as your starting point, hop on the bike path and forge westward to the metropolis for which the square is named. The approximately 19-km (12-mile) ride to Haarlem is one super-Dutch sight after another: a medieval dike, a windmill, a steam-pumping station-turned-museum, an old sugar mill, sand dunes, and little towns in between.
By the time you spot the tower of Haarlem's Town Hall, get ready to dismount—a stroll is in order. The city is renowned for its elegant square, church organs played by Haydn and Mozart, and the nation's oldest museum.
If zadelpijn (sore butt) has set in, you and your bike can always take the train back to Amsterdam.
Day 3: Cycling and Cubism in De Hoge Veluwe
Now that you've had a taste of Dutch urban life, get ready for a whiff of nature. Keep in mind, though, that most scenes of green in the Netherlands are the work of man. Years spent tweaking dams, dikes, and polders have made the Lowlands an inhabitable landscape today.
De Hoge Veluwe, in the province of Gelderland, is the finest the country has to offer by way of a national park. Plus, it provides free bikes for navigating modest hills and dips through 13,590 acres of woodlands, plains, heather fields, and sand drifts. Besides the fellow sentient beings zooming by on shiny white two-wheelers, you might spot a wild boar or sheep.
After getting your cardio for the day, make your way to the Kröller-Müller Museum, which has a serious collection of Picassos, Mondriaans, and Seurats, as well as a superb sculpture garden to which Rodin is no stranger.
Logistics: Once within the park, the distance to the museum depends on your starting point: 2½ km (1½ miles) from the Otterlo entrance, 4 km (2½ miles) from Hoenderloo, and a little more than 10 km (6 miles) from Schaarsbergen.
Day 4: Cruising Along the Afsluitdijk
Trade in your bike for something motorized and take the scenic route southward to witness a sublime example of technology trumping nature.
The Delta Works is a massive dam and flood barrier—24-foot-high banks stretch 20 miles (32 km) along the A7 motorway. Give yourself at least a kilometer to get used to driving on the concrete tendril engulfed by blue. On your right, you'll see the North Sea's inlet, known as the Zuiderzee, while to your left, fishermen bespeckle the freshwater banks of the Ijselmeer.
Logistics: Budget and Avis have convenient locations in Amsterdam and throughout the country. You can also join a group tour by visiting almost any tourist information center.
Day 5: Museum-Hopping in The Hague
No one will try to convince you otherwise if your impression of The Hague is that of super sobriety—what with all the royalty, diplomats, international judges, and civil servants running around. But don't forget that the Count's Hedge (as the city's official Dutch name actually means) also does justice to arts and culture.
The Gemeetemuseum holds the most Mondriaans under one roof (and currently masterpieces from the under-renovation Mauritshuis) and the Escher Museum is, in a word, awesome.
For when you get peckish, there's a veritable embassy row's worth of eateries, from kiddie menu–friendly Dutch cafés to posh hotel dining rooms, and one of the most prominent Chinatowns in the country. The Hague's Indonesian restaurants are said to be hemisphere-altering.
Day 6: Sun and Fun in Scheveningen
Once you've had your fill of The Hague's manicured gardens and stately buildings, take a side trip to Scheveningen, the Netherlands' most popular esplanade. Restaurants, clubs, casinos, bungee jumps, ice cream stands, and trinket shops create an almost American ethos, though dip into the frigid waters of the North Sea and you'll be quickly reminded that the Jersey Shore is far away.
Logistics: For optimum safety and security, park your car in one of Scheveningen's public garages or open car parks.
A Few Tips
Even if you're new on two wheels, biking the car-free Hoge Veluwe is relaxing. Until January 2014, more than 30 pieces from the Mauritshuis collection—including Girl with a Pearl Earring—will be on a U.S. tour. That's a reminder that if your heart is set on seeing a particular artwork, first check that it's in house.
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