With the number of bikes outnumbering the number of people, Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. Everyone rides bikes – businessmen and women going to and from their offices, students chatting amongst themselves as they head to class, parents with their children following along like ducklings in a row.
We felt that our visit to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t hop on bikes of our own at some point. Riding around the city can be very intimidating, unless you are already a daily bike commuter. The city parks are a great place for a more casual ride. However, we decided to take day trip to one of the smaller towns slightly outside of the city.
Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood of Zaandam, about a hour bike ride from the Amsterdam city center. The small town sits just off the river Zaan and has a collection of well preserved windmills that now serve as museums and has become a popular place to visit.
Upon first entering the neighborhood, you are greeted by quaint cobblestones and vibrant greenery.
The small cottages dot the pathways and footbridges crisscross over the canals.
The true stars of the show, and a large part of why so many come to visit the tiny neighborhood, is of course the windmills.
Each mill has its own purpose (oil mill, sawmill, dye mill, mustard mill) and story that visitors can read about as they stroll from windmill to windmill. Many of them are open to walk through.
The sky was mostly blue when we arrived, but the wind eventually kicked up and the clouds rolled in, turning the sky grey. We hopped back on our bikes, ready to make the trek back to the city center.
We got back with wind burned cheeks, sore legs, and grumbling tummies.
Not far from Dam Square sits a hidden gem of a restaurant called van Kerkwijk. The menu changes so frequently that the waiters and waitresses recite the starters, mains, and desserts for patrons to choose from. We were so hungry and the food was so good, that I didn’t snap any pictures, so you’ll have to take my word! I would highly recommend dinner here. It is close to so many things, but tucked off the main streets. Diners vary, including locals and tourists, small groups and couples. The small space buzzes with conversations and the tinkling of silverware on plates. van Kerkwijk doesn’t take reservations, so plan to go early to beat the rush, or grab a drink at the bar while you wait for a table. The meal was the perfect way to end our day.