Amsterdam City Guide
The terrain and climate that helped establish Amsterdam as one of the foremost maritime nations hasn’t gifted the city much in the way of natural landscape for endurance. Though many would rejoice in the high rate of commuter cycling, road cyclists looking for variety might have a different perspective. The most optimistic will note Amsterdam’s abundance of waterways and an interest in premium indoor classes, specifically for cycling and swimming. Still, whether you’re in Amsterdam around races or aiming for some good off-season volume, there are plenty of facilities to explore, well matched in hospitality with quality hotels and an appetite for healthy food and coffee.
To make the most of this Amsterdam City Guide, note two patterns within this post. The first concerns sections, which follow in this sequence:
The second pattern is to do with the detail on each venue. Exact hours aren’t indicated alongside venues unless very restrictive or seasonal, and prices are also omitted in the knowledge that no listed facility charges more than €25 for day access. Instead, a full directory of telephone numbers is provided in the final Directory section, so you can call ahead to confirm your intended training time. The place names in the Directory link to the venue’s Google Maps profile – click on the venue’s name to generate directions with the actual app.
Orientation & Logistics
Amsterdam’s layout fans out from its main waterway, a human-made canal that slices the city from east to west. Along this, The North Sea Canal connects with the River IJ at Coenhaven, pinning up the western corner of Amsterdam, from where the river continues through the town centre to Oranjesluizen, where locks bolt onto the eastern part of the city. The developed tourist area of Amsterdam falls to the south of the canals, with narrower canals radiating in arcs still further, so linking neighbourhoods Jordan, Canal Ring, Museum Quarter and De Pijp. Across the water, Amsterdam’s northern district (Buiksloterham) has undergone substantial updates in the past decade and is increasingly relevant to athletic types.
Navigating the flat terrain of Amsterdam is easily done through the entire reliance on the tram, bus and metro system. Distances aren’t vast and the tram alone provides a dense network that can be relied for most transits. Get hold of a transport chip card (OV-chipkaart) at a GVB ticket vending machines, selecting your day allocation from one to seven days. The system requires tapping in and out through transit terminals, including when you make changes.
Amsterdam’s winters can be grim and a northerly latitude means that days in the darkest months barely scrape over eight hours of sunlight, with sunrise at a staggering 8:48am in mid-December. Freezing temperatures and dustings of snow from December through February are replaced by a vibrant spring and long summer days, with sunrise and sunset hovering at 5:18am and 10:06pm respectively on the longest days of the year. As it turns out, rainfall falls fairly consistently throughout the year, ranging between 40 and 65mm, with rain expected on seven to ten days per month.
Amsterdam’s central canal network offers a navigable, if broken, pattern of roads stretching like bands through the city. Other options including parkland and waterfront areas, which extend the pan flat theme without interruptions during your route. Athletics tracks are available and Amsterdam has a social and competitive running culture that links in with these facilities and other known routes on a weekly basis.
Planners must have welcomed Amsterdam’s flat terrain when tasked with installing the town’s Olympic-grade stadium for the 1928 Summer Games. The Olympisch Stadion has proved enduring but is reserved for sports events, being home to Ajax football team and others. Fortunately another athletics track is across the road from Olympisch Stadion, part of a sports facility and cafe where you can grab refreshments, Park Schinkeleilanden.
If you want to take a wider berth and get orientated in Amsterdam, follow this simple 10km loop along the outer ring of the canal system, using the s100 [road] until you return to the city centre and cut back to your accommodation. Alternatively, if you’re trying to clock the same distance and perhaps make a time trial out of it, head to Westerpark in the city’s north-west where a loop of just over 5km takes you around the perimeter.
Those looking for a way to get in a long run during their visit to Amsterdam should jump on the Amstel south and head to Ouderkerkerplas, a lake that sits 10km south of the city centre. Either make it to the Ouderkerkerplas and cross over to the alternative side of the Amstel for your return leg, or double back once you’re at the halfway point of your mileage.
Organised runs are operated by Phanos, the city’s foremost running club for competitive athletes. As well as organising a Friday Night Run from Olympisch Stadion, Phanos train on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Park Schinkeleilanden. Look out for Wim Schoots’ middle distance group, listed among the comprehensive set of training groups on their website, and do make contact before you attend as a way of confirming the group and perhaps getting a forward-glimpse of the workout.
The same topography that makes Amsterdam a viable city for urban bike transit is also the trial of local road cyclists, testing their creativity in finding interesting routes. Nevertheless, escaping Amsterdam through its numerous canals is simple, providing pathways to escape the city without more than a few minutes of horrid traffic. The long winter has also helped establish indoor cycling gyms, with the added benefits of performance testing facilities bolted onto in recent years.
The natural starting point for new cyclists to Amsterdam is to ride south on the 38km Ronde Hoep loop. Lights are few and cafes plenty. Other cycle routes out of Amsterdam can be found through almost every main exit point, offering a 360° zone of navigation that pulls in cycle bridges and ample waterside routes. For a catalogue of options, see Strava Local’s webpage for Amsterdam.
Despite Amsterdam’s generally flat surface, hills can be found in the south of the city.
Social groups offering guidance are a good way to go, not least to offer some protection against the bitter winds off the North Sea. A Rapha Clubhouse is located within the Canal Ring, so helping prop up the city’s cycling scene by organising several rides per week for locals and visitors alike. Their fleet of carbon Canyons are available for rent to members of Rapha Cycle Club (c. $200 per year), and rides are published on their Clubhouse website with Wednesday and Sunday rides organised throughout the year.
Another local hub for road cycling can be found through Maats Cycling Culture, a shop selling a range of premium apparel brands one mile to the west of Rapha. They arrange rides on Sunday mornings, departing from the store at 10am. Other events are published on their Facebook Page, but if you don’t have an account, email founders Joost and Rob via hello@Maats.cc to find out what’s going on during your stay.
Data-orientated cyclists visiting Amsterdam should make the most of the opportunity to visit cycling lab Robic, a testing facility at the city’s velodrome. Make an appointment to see a sports doctor, do some aero testing or simply measure your current fitness on the bike.
For regular indoor cycling, look towards Rocycle or WattCycling. Rocycle is your motivation spinning class, with venues in the city centre and at De Pijp. Meanwhile WattCycling is further south from the town centre, but stocks a set of Wattbikes for optimal riding.
A reasonably wet Amsterdam provides good reason for locals to take their swimming seriously, leading to the creation of one novel indoor concept and the adoption of the canal waterways for recreational swimming. A city dominated by these inlets and threads of swimmable water is also the domain of enthusiastic open water swimmers.
Indoor pool and training facility SwimGym was set up by former Olympic medalist Johan Kenkhuis as a dedicated pool for lap swimming. The business works on a membership basis, but guests can also join classes for €15 per class fee. Hours are broad, starting at 6am and extending until 10pm, with coached sessions, independent lane swimming and one-on-one guidance all available. If you have you’re own session in mind, you can also book this in.
Another outstanding swimming facility with a more regular lane-design can be found at
For more conventional swimming infrastructure, check the open lap swimming schedules at Flevoparkbad in the south of the city. They have a 25m indoor pool and a 50m outdoor pool that is open in the summer months. Early morning and late evening swimming is available to members of Flevoparkbad Association (€10 to join for the year)
Open water swimmers can enjoy year-round dipping in Amsterdam, either through a liberal leap and adoption of a waterway or through organised sessions. Open Water Swimming Amsterdam (Facebook Page) are active, using the Sloterplas for their swims, training every Thursday at 7pm and Sunday at 10am. Amsterdam Triathlon and Cycling Club swim on Tuesdays, also at 7pm (they welcome visitors for up to two sessions as a trial). There are no changing facilities at Sloterplas, but an improved beach, “Sloterstrand”, and cafe at Hotel Buiten sets a focus for the lake in the north.
Despite the innumerable aesthetics from the burgeoning world of premium gyms, the Dutch have defined their own in the shape of Vondelygym. Their two industrial spaces combine cafeterias, cafes and boxing rings, providing a place for both social and serious gym goers. This harmony can be enjoyed on a day pass for €15 (single entry only, you can’t come and go).
Sleeping & Eating
Despite Amsterdam’s reputation for revelry and madness, it has made strides into the world of organic, raw and vegan. Coffee is a cornerstone for the winter months, mirrored by a number of cosy hotels and unique hospitality options for those not already welcomed by the city’s marijuana-infused “Coffee Shops” (you’ve been warned). With healthy food evenly distributed across its central neighbourhoods, consider where to book your accommodation with an eye on training facilities.
Healthy eatery Vinnies have three venues in town, serving breakfast and lunch menus alongside their specialty roasts. Also offering breakfast at its two venues are Coffee & Coconuts, who take their inspiration from the city’s maritime heritage with rope ladders and the co-option of a number of signature dishes from their extensive trade routes.
For smaller plates within the domain of slow food, wander to the small venue of Gartine. Getting a table for more than two during peak times will be a push, but the staff are very friendly and are willing to put tables together. Foodhallen contains about a dozen restaurants, allowing you to browse the hall ahead of your meal by simply following your nose. Poke bowls are served up at Sushito at two venues, one in Oud-West and the other in De Pijp.
Coffee spots are well spread through town, with Stooker Roasting, Lot Sixty One, Sweet Cup, Monk Coffee Roasters, Bocca and white label coffee featured in the map below. If you make it to Vondelgym’s venue next to Oosterpark, lean heavily on 4580 who serve coffee as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Amsterdam’s compact central area removes the risk in choosing conveniently located accommodation, but certain emphases can be made depending on access to restaurants and training facilities. Most central is The Hoxton, opened since 2015 as the first venue outside of the London, home to owner Ennismore. They don’t have a gym but have guest passes to the TrainMore 200m away, and their in-hotel restaurant is well supplied with healthy dishes. The Hoxton is also a 3-minute walk from Rapha, passable in lycra before and after your rides.
One mile south is Sir Albert, a very different style to The Hoxton with modern furnishings and smaller rooms, but right in the middle of the De Pijp neighbourhood. Their welcome gift of a bag of dried fruits and nuts is almost enough to justify a stay, but you can also enjoy breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, Izakaya, which focuses on Japanese cuisine during the evenings.
Amsterdam’s Sweets Hotels has introduced a very novel accommodation type by converting a number of its bridge houses into tiny hotels, each with capacity for up to two tourists. Though storing a bike and operating as a pair of athletes might be tricky in the smaller spaces, they’re worth exploring for their novelty and, if you’re serious about open water, being able to make dips from your hotel’s doorstep into the canals is an option. Their distributed properties also allow you to position yourself next to your favourite facility – #311 (south-west) being the most optimal for track runners and #103 (north) for swimmers aiming for Nooderparkbad.
Park Schinkeleilanden: no number
Vondelpark: no number
4580: no number