As the capital city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is home to many of the low-lying country's top cultural institutions and attractions. It's also notorious as a European sin city, thanks to its liberal legislation regarding drugs and prostitution. However, anyone who has visited Amsterdam can tell you that there's far more to the city than just its famous red light district. And if you don't take some time to explore both the city and its natural surroundings, you're really missing out.
Despite being one of Europe's first-tier cities, Amsterdam is also a place that embraces the natural world. The city itself offers plenty of great walking trails, including ones that take advantage of the endless network of canals. Alternatively, you can explore the quaint former village of Sloterdijk, which was once a peripheral town but has now been absorbed into the greater Amsterdam area. It's easy to discover some of the best areas to hike Amsterdam, because the city has a public transport network that rivals any in Europe. To find out more, check out our guide on how to get around Amsterdam.
If you're the type of person that likes to get some miles behind you even on a city break, you'll find that Amsterdam is both a fascinating city to explore and an easy place to escape and see more of the true nature of the Noord Holland region. Whether your tastes lean toward a stroll through the city and its crowds of tourists, or hiking through the woods and listening to the birds, you'll find this notoriously bike-friendly city is also a hiking paradise.
So drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Amsterdam and explore some of the best hiking routes both in one of Europe's most historic cities, and in the Dutch countryside. The lighter you travel, the more you'll be able to enjoy the fresh air and scenic countryside of the Netherlands.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Amsterdam
If you're just looking for an easy walk that will show you some of the city and let you get some miles on the pedometer, Amsterdam has plenty of options for you. One of the best is the Brouwersgracht, a historic district of the city. This region is often voted the prettiest canal sidewalk in all of Amsterdam, which in a city with so many canals is really saying something. Still, once you see the historic brick buildings, sidewalk cafés, interesting restaurants, and classic Dutch architecture of this area, you'll find it hard to disagree. Even if you walk up one side of the canal and down the other to capture all the best views of Brouwersgracht, you'll only clock a couple of kilometers. Still, given how often you'll want to stop to take photographs, exploring this lovely district could take longer than you think.
Located right next to Brouwersgracht, The Jordaan shares the historic beauty of the famous street. This is inarguably one of Amsterdam's most picturesque districts, and a fantastic place to enjoy a short walk and get some impressive photos. Wandering through The Jordaan means you'll be surrounded by other tourists and visitors, just as you will by locals, but that's almost the point. All these other pedestrians make for great people-watching, after all. Plus, one of the benefits of hiking in a city like this is the sheer number of restaurants and bars where you can stop and get refreshments whenever you feel the need.
If you're eager to get a glimpse of nature while walking in Amsterdam, visit the famous Vondelpark. This urban oasis is where Amsterdam locals come to get a taste of the country without leaving the city. Although this popular park is only around a five-minute walk from the center of Amsterdam, it feels a long way away.
Like the rest of the city, the scenery in Vondelpark is completely flat. Plus, while it's not hard to find some pleasant trails to walk in the park, it's not a destination for long-distance hiking. With that said, the trees and the scenic bridges over the canals make this a wonderfully picturesque place to explore. Besides, you'll be getting a glimpse of the real Amsterdam. And how many hikes do you know that will let you see a Picasso sculpture and visit some of the best restaurants in Amsterdam?
A late brunch is the perfect accompaniment to an early morning walk in the Vondelpark. To find the best places to eat, check out our guide to the best brunch in Amsterdam.
Vondelpark gets most of the attention when it comes to urban oases in Amsterdam. But if you prefer a more varied trail for your urban hiking, consider a trip to Rembrandtpark. Here, you'll find 45 hectares of forest, lawns, rivers, and trails, both paved and unpaved. The small lake is a fantastic place to spot birds and other wildlife in the heart of the city, and the many hiking routes that wind their way through the park will make you feel like you're much further from downtown than you actually are. A loop around the perimeter of the park will give you about three km or just under two miles of hiking, but you can add to that by following the trails deeper into the park. Not bad for a place that can be reached from the center of Amsterdam in just 20 minutes on a bike.
If you're looking to experience nature in the city, the sprawling woodlands of Amsterdamse Bos are hard to beat. Not many tourists find their way out here, but it's a shame, because this park is a kind of natural playground much loved by Amsterdam locals. At three times the size of New York's Central Park, Amsterdamse Bos is one of the biggest urban forests in Europe, and is the perfect place to wander along the trail beneath the trees and enjoy this famous forest. The winding paths are especially beautiful in fall, when falling leaves carpet the ground. And although the trails are mostly flat, like everywhere in Amsterdam, you can challenge yourself by going for distance on the Long Forest Walk, which offers 15 km of woodland trails to hike.
Twenty minutes on a bicycle will bring you to this hidden gem within the city. Heemtuin Sloterpark is a green space that encompasses a lake known as Sloterplas. You'll find a 6 km or 3.75 mile loop trail that winds its way around the lake, allowing you to experience the plant and animal life of this suburban beauty. There's also a nature center, a petting zoo, and a botanical garden in this park, meaning there's plenty to do once you've finished hiking. Because it has so much to offer, this underrated park may be one of the best free things to do in Amsterdam. The trail starts at any point you choose around the lake, so make the short journey out here from Central Amsterdam and discover this oasis for yourself.
If you really want to get away from the tourist crowds, Lange Bretten can offer you a true taste of the country. Peace and quiet await for those who make the surprisingly quick journey to this park. It can be reached in around 30 minutes by bus from Amsterdam Centraal station, or you could rent a bike and travel under your own steam.
However you choose to reach Lange Bretten, you'll find yourself in a nature preserve that will make you forget the city you've left behind. You'll also find no shortage of hiking trails, with more than 10 km of paths to explore. This is also one of the best places to see wildlife close to Amsterdam, with buzzards and falcons patrolling the skies and frogs and rabbits hurrying through the bushes. The sprawling park combines woods with grassland and marshes, letting you see a little bit of everything the Dutch countryside has to offer.
Amstel River Route
Avid hikers will surely be aware of the Amstel River Route, one of the most famous hiking trails in Amsterdam. Just to the south of the city, the trail starts near the village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel and covers over 20 km or 13 miles of countryside. It's the perfect place to explore not only the nature of the region, but also some of its historic villages. Riverside trail lets you see a side of Amsterdam most visitors never do, and the winding route will slowly bring you back toward the city. It's the perfect way to see more of what the Netherlands has to offer, and you'll find no shortage of peace and tranquility waiting for you on this impressive trail.
Heading a little further out of the city means you get to experience more of an adventure. And you still don't have to go all that far. You'll need to take a short ferry ride to reach 'T Twiske, but you'll be glad you went to the effort when you see what the place has to offer. The hiking trails here range from an easy three-kilometer route to a much more challenging 16 km hike. Taking the longer route allows you to explore meadows, woods, lakes, and all kinds of other topographical features. You'll also encounter plenty of wildlife and maybe even some Highland cattle as you wander along your route. The winding paths are ideal for walking and experiencing the wilder side of the Netherlands without venturing too far from the city.
Easy Hikes in Amsterdam
If you're just looking to do some easy walking along a route in Amsterdam, there are plenty of places to do that. Brouwergracht and The Jordaan are excellent places to see the historic architecture of the Netherlands and stay close to all of the city's bars, restaurants, and other amenities. However, if you'd rather something a little more natural, Rembrandtpark offers a walking route that isn't too challenging but will still let you get out in the fresh air.
Intermediate Hikes in Amsterdam
For more of a challenge, Heemtuin Sloterpark offers a shortish route with plenty of points of interest along it. Likewise, the Vondelpark lets you stretch your legs without leaving town, and is big enough that you can get some miles behind you without being unduly taxing.
Difficult Hikes in Amsterdam
The relentlessly flat scenery of the Netherlands means you won't be climbing any mountains on your vacation. Therefore, if you want to challenge yourself by walking, you're going to have to go for distance. Larger parks like Amsterdamse Bos and the Amstel River Route give you enough distance to get some real exercise. Plus, they are often connected to other natural areas so that you can keep your exploration going and really give your hiking boots a workout.
Most visitors to Amsterdam come to explore the city's museums, its cafés, or its seedy underbelly. Those who prefer to explore the natural side of the country, therefore, have an advantage when it comes to getting away from the tourist crowds. Exploring the wilder side of Amsterdam means seeing the city like a local and getting a better understanding of what it's like to live in this famous place. Plus, it's a great way to get some exercise on your vacation, and walking is a free thing to do in what can be an extremely expensive city.
Don't forget to drop off your unneeded luggage at a Bounce luggage storage in Amsterdam. That way, you'll be ready to head out to the trails unencumbered and really enjoy a good walk on your vacation.