Amsterdam

For centuries, Amsterdam has been known as the liberal capital of Europe. Long before there were tired, poor, huddled masses longing to be free on American shores, they flocked to this city to seek acceptance and fortune. Their intellectual heritage still radiates today. Not only does the town center harbor the most historic buildings in Europe, but the restaurants, open squares, and cafes harbor an atmosphere that continues to cultivate open-mindedness. And yeah, there are some readily-available drugs to catalyze the creative process. But don't let that be the focus of your visit! Between the great museums of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, the endless twists and turns of ancient neighborhoods, and the plethora of cycling opportunities in this city, there are more than enough diversions to keep a traveler drug-free and occupied.

Despite its reputation for a busy, cobblestone-filled, impossible-to-navigate city center, there is also some great running to be had in Amsterdam too. We've put together three great routes that will cater to the tourist staying in the city center or the business traveler marooned out by the airport. If you're in the mood for a quick scenic morning jaunt, head for Vondelpark. If your legs are begging you to run long, head for the banks of the Amstel River or the paths of Amstel Forest Park. This spirally nature of the city center makes navigation-on-the-run difficult, so we suggest that after your workout you rent a bike. Bicycle is by far the easiest, fastest, and most enjoyable way to check out the city and get your bearings.

Watch Out For: 
  • Water: With an elevation of 7 feet (2 meters), Amsterdam is technically above sea level, but not by much. Between rain and the high risk of flood, this city can get wet. Even when it's dry, there are lots of gutters indented into the streets - so don't trip.
  • Cyclists: Bicycles rule the roads in this city. They outnumber cars, they have the right of way at intersections. And the paths that are marked as cycle routes? They are built especially for cyclists. That means they are not for pedestrians, and not for runners. Venture into them with care. 
  • Performance-Depleting Drugs: See "Sweet Rewards."

Did you know?
Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. It's home to over 500,000 bicycles and 400 kilometers of bike paths. While the streets may seem a bit chaotic with all the cyclists zooming around, they are actually much safer than places where bike traffic is less prevalent. In 2007, for example, Amsterdam had only 18 traffic deaths (pedestrian, cyclist, and automotive inclusive).

In the mood to rent a bike? There are ample opportunities to do so:
MacBike - At the Central Station Leidseplein, and elsewhere
http://www.macbike.nl/
Kaptein Tweewielers Amsterdam - Close to Vondelpark
http://www.kapteintweewielers.nl/

Bike Culture in Amsterdam
While there is great running in Amsterdam, the best way to explore this city is by renting a bike. Bikes rule this city's streets. They outnumber cars, they almost outnumber pedestrians, they have their own lanes on the streets, and they even have the right-of-way at intersections! The bikes you will see in Amsterdam are city bikes. That is, they are typified by their low seats, one-speed gears, and foot brakes. You will rarely see anyone wearing a helmet.

Many travelers complain of the intimidating cycling in Amsterdam. Indeed, it takes some practice to get into the flow of two-wheeled traffic. BTG put together some simple rules to help you out:

  • Bike on right, pass on left.
  • There are bike stoplights. BTG recommends following them. Most cyclists won't.
  • BTG recommends following traffic laws and directions. Most cyclists won't.
  • Look both ways for all vehicles before crossing streets.
  • Use two locks - on the front and back wheels - to lock up your bike.