When we moved to Amsterdam we did our first longer bike trips to the district Amsterdam Noord – the North of Amsterdam – and then we went again, and again and again over the years. When you cross the IJ on one of the free ferries (“pontjes”), and the bikes and scooters zoom off to the horizon from the boat, you can already feel how the busyness of the central Amsterdam fades away. You suddenly find space for your thoughts and for your own bike on the bike lane.
The boats to the North leave from behind Central Station and the ride to the other side is free. There are three different boats so pay attention which one you get onto!
The boat to the NDSM takes you to the old shipyards where you can find one of the best flea markets in Europe, IJ-Hallen. It’s open once per month (Sat and Sun). There is a small entry fee but if you are into second hand and flea markets, it’s worth it. Take some coins with you to pay your entry fee, because then you will most likely not have to queue: you can pay your ticket with an even sum to a guy who will walk next to the line and tell that if you have cash, you can just pay him and walk in.
After the market you should go and check out a couple of the nice, bohemian bars and restaurants in the area. First, there is Pllek that also has a city beach in front of the restaurant in summer time and Noorderlicht a little further away, because it is just an amazing place. Check some pics from here so you will understand!
For the bike trips we always took the boat to Buiksloterweg which is just opposite Central Station and the boat trip takes less than five minutes. The architecturally amazing film museum EYE is just to the left when you reach the North side and is definitely worth a visit even if you are not interested in the exhibitions (read = if your little ones are not interested, because why would you not be interested in movies otherwise??). Inside the EYE building there is a beautiful amphitheatre and big windows facing towards the water and Amsterdam, so you can see the city from a new point of view. You can always find people hanging around there, talking, having drinks and resting their feet. At the bottom of the amphitheatre there is a restaurant and if the weather is good, there is a large terrace outside, obviously, with the most amazing views.
From EYE you can go back to where you arrived on the boat and follow the canal along Buiksloterweg all the way to Noorderpark. There are a lot of events organized in the park and a lovely and quite adventurous wooden jungle gym for kids where you can even cross a little canal on a swaying bridge. Close to the jungle gym there is a tiny cafeteria called Noorderpark Bar which is open on Sundays (also every Sunday there is music and programme for kids!). They serve drinks and some food and snacks. We went once to Noorderpark to see a little local circus group perform and it was a massively successful family trip, not least because the show lasted only about half an hour which is the perfect time for a two year olds attention span.
A little further down the canal at Noordhollandschkanaaldijk 19 there is a lovely petting zoo with sheep, chicken, ponies & some toys for kids as well. If you make it here with little kids you can already congratulate yourself and maybe turn back towards the ferry. However, IF you and your kids are hardcore bikers (or you have a bakfiets where the little ones can take a nap) you can make it a real adventure and bike all the way to Durgerdam. It’s about 10 kilometers to the east. There are great bike paths and already on this small trip you will see the beauty of Dutch countryside and this charming tiny village by the sea will not disappoint you. It is just one line of old wooden houses facing the sea, behind them are just the flat fields – it is so, so beautiful! We always had a break at De Oude Taveerne at Durgerdammerdijk 73. They have a nice terrace/pier where you can have your drinks and snacks and in the summer you can take a dip in the water from the pier as well.
The shortest way back to Amsterdam is about 7 kilometers, so it is not a trip for everyone, but if you are up for a challenge and some sweating, this is your chance to see a bit of “The Netherlands” as well during your trip to Amsterdam which is hardly a representation of the rest of the country.
Also good to know: tram number 26 takes you relatively close to Durgerdam if you want to make a bike-tram combo tour there.