Hiking and Amsterdam are two words not often paired. But dammit if we can’t try.
Escaping to the wilderness is an ideal solution for managing stress. But that can seem tricky when you’re in a crowded sinking city made of brick propped up on stilts and the only elevation gains are the 14,000 stairs to your apartment.
Fortunately, Amsterdam has some surprisingly stunning walking trails in her big bag of tricks, perfect for a little dose of nature therapy. (No hiking boots required, of course.) Here’s where you can find our top seven spots for “hiking” around Amsterdam, all within cycling distance.
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|🚨 We’ve gotta say it: Take care to avoid crowded areas, wear a mask when you can’t, and choose less-busy times of the day to go out.|
7Lange Bretten, Nieuw-West’s best-kept secret
A nature reserve in Nieuw-West, Lange Bretten is uniquely beautiful, and unlike anywhere else in Amsterdam. It’s quiet and secluded, far enough from the city centre that you’re unlikely to spot a single tourist, but still close enough to access with ease.
An extensive network of trails winds you through ten kilometres of varied natural landscapes. You’ll also find plenty of grassy offshoots along the way to venture off the beaten path.
The Lange Bretten is chock-full of wildlife. Big buzzards and falcons fly overhead while little rabbits and squirrels skitter below. You’ll hear croaking frogs and toads and may even spot a few highland cattle. The hardest part is turning around and heading back. If you simply cannot, head another couple of kilometres west, and you’ll find yourself with a whole new forest to explore, the Spaarnwoude.
|📏 Walk distance: 10+ km, each way.
🚲 How to get there: Lange Bretten is a 25-minute cycle from Amsterdam Centraal.
📍 Starting point: Volkstuinpark De Bretten.
🗺 Route: Keep heading west along any of the paved or unpaved trails.
6Amsterdamse Bos, Amstelveen’s wooded wonderland
The Amsterdamse Bos (meaning forest) is unrivalled for the largest green space in the city (although it’s technically in Amstelveen), covering over 1,000 hectares. It’s three times bigger than New York’s Central Park, and one of the largest city parks in Europe. If you’re looking to get a little lost, this is probably your best bet within the city. With its infinite winding paths, you can easily spend hours exploring.
Around 150 indigenous species of trees and over 200 species of birds call the Amsterdamse Bos home. It’s the place to go to spot rare flora and fauna, encounter dozens of varieties of mushrooms, and see a diverse range of birds, reptiles, and insects.
|📏 Walk distance: 15+ km (and many shorter routes).
🚲 How to get there: The Amsterdamse Bos is a 30-minute cycle southwest from Amsterdam Centraal.
📍 Starting point: Bosbaanweg (among others).
🗺 Route: There are many routes to choose from. For a nice 15 km wandel, try the Long Forest Walk.
5Rembrandtpark, the woods of Nieuw-West
Rembrandtpark is a top choice for a quick urban nature escape. The leafy and watery park spreads over 45 hectares, with a mix of paved and dirt paths. Tall leafy trees, bushy shrubs, grassy knolls, and water features make Rembrandtpark an interesting area for spotting birds and other small wildlife, while a handful of unexpected art sculptures add a bit of pizazz. It’s a nice area for walking dogs, and a family favourite, with a playground and petting zoo.
Pro tip: If you’re up for a longer wandel, you can link your route with any of the nearby Vondelpark, Erasmuspark, or Westerpark, depending on the distance you’re up for.
|📏 Walk distance: A loop around the perimeter is a little over 3 km.
🚲 How to get there: An 18-minute cycle west from Amsterdam Centraal.
📍 Starting point: Main entrance at Postjesweg.
🗺 Route: Lots of space but you won’t get lost — follow any of the trails and meander around.
4Heemtuin Sloterpark and the Ruige Riet, the suburban sweetheart
A popular park for walking, the green space around Sloterplas (lake) in Nieuw-West is surprisingly full of trails and wilderness. The Rondje Sloter is a 5.8-kilometre loop trail around the lake. While this loop doesn’t quite offer a full escape to nature, add on a wandel in the Heemtuin and Ruige Riet area and you’ll forget all about your city woes.
Heemtuin Sloterpark is a young nature reserve, established in 1975 and maintained by volunteers. This stunning little forest hides just west of the Sloterplas. Native plants and wildlife thrive in these wetlands and woodlands. The reserve also hosts a botanical garden, petting zoo, and a nature education centre called Drijfsijs.
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In the north-western-most corner of the park, you’ll find the Ruige Riet, a modest 14.3-hectare protected bird island. With its rather primitive, mushy trails, you’ll almost certainly be bringing home muddy shoes as a souvenir — a small price to pay for this urban nature retreat.
|📏 Walk distance: 5.8 km around the lake plus another couple of kilometres for the nearby nature trails.
🚲 How to get there: From Amsterdam Centraal, a 20-minute cycle west.
📍 Starting point: Begin at any point around the lake.
🗺 Route: Take a lap around the lake, or head straight for the nature reserve and wander through the winding paths.
3Amstel River route, zuid and then some
The Amstel River trail is wonderfully expansive, adored by pedestrians and cyclists alike.
Hop on the trail at any number of entry points along the river. Once on it, you can just go and go through the picturesque Dutch landscape, windmills and cows included. Take in the tranquillity of the water along the way, and be sure to pay a visit to the beautiful Amstelpark. It’s full of large leafy trees and botanical gardens, including a rosarium and rhododendron garden with 139 varieties.
Past the park, the trail will lead you as far into the rural countryside as you’re willing to go. To give you an idea, from the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) in central(ish) Amsterdam to Amstelpark, the distance is about four and a half kilometres. Exit out the opposite side of the park and the river path continues for another six kilometres to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a lovely village for a break.
If you still haven’t had your fill, take a lap around the Ouderkerkerplas (lake) and you’ve added on another five kilometres to your walk. Now, if you’ve got some good trainers, a sandwich in your pocket, and an inordinate amount of pep left in your step, you can keep going as long as you like. After another nine kilometres is the quaint little hamlet of Nessersluis. Although, anything this far from the centre is obviously achieved more easily by fiets than feet.
|📏 Walk distance: From Magere Brug to Amstelpark is 4.5 km, continue as long as you please.
🚲 How to get there: Less than 10-minutes cycling from Amsterdam Centraal.
📍 Starting point: Start anywhere along the river, let’s say Magere Brug.
🗺 Route: Head south alongside the river for as long as your legs will carry you.
2Vondelpark, the urban classic
Yes, everyone knows about the famous Vondelpark. The park is so accessible it’s no wonder it receives more tourists than any other park in the city. For locals, this can be a bit of a deterrent. Although, during coronavirus times, you’ll find it much less crowded and I dare say, downright delightful.
Particularly on an early morning weekend wandel, the park is calm and quiet. The tall trees help you forget you’re in the city and the expansive paths lead you through interesting twists and turns. A hearty mix of trees, shrubbery, and ponds invite a range of interesting wildlife, such as grey herons, toads, bats, and even the famous Amsterdam parakeets.
|📏 Walk distance: A loop around the perimeter without diversion is roughly 4.5 km.
🚲 How to get there: From Centraal Station, it takes about 15 minutes by bike.
📍 Starting point: Maid of Amsterdam (main entrance).
🗺 Route: Straight ahead, then choose right or left. Make a loop, or weave your way around.
1‘T Twiske, soggy wandelen in the north
‘T Twiske is the furthest wandelen area from Amsterdam to make the list, but is still just 30 to 40 minutes north of Amsterdam by bike (including a short ferry). ‘T Twiske has various walking routes to choose from, between 3.5 and 16 kilometres long, all well-marked.
By following the longest route, the Twiskeroute, you can cover a large majority of the nature reserve. You’ll walk along both paved and unpaved trails around the Stooterplas (the lake), pass through meadows, dikes, and the Roemersveld and Het Smaal forests. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to encounter pheasants, rabbits, countless forest birds, and the handsome Scottish Highland cattle. Plenty of benches line the way to rest your feet and have a snack.
If you’re up to exploring more of the region, it’s easy to tie in a visit to the neighbouring nature reserves, Ilperveld, Varkensland, and Oostzanerveld. Together, the four reserves form an enormous peat bog complex. A wandel through any of these watery landscapes is sure to offer a rich variety of flora and fauna to feast your eyes upon and the squishy peat will quite literally put a spring in your step.
|📏 Walk distance: 3.5-16 km.
🚲 How to get there: A short ferry from Amsterdam Centraal then 30-minute cycle north.
📍 Starting point: An easily accessible starting point is Twiske Speelsloot.
🗺 Route: For a 16 km walk, follow red signs for the Twiskeroute.
There you have it — seven incredible areas for a stroll through nature around Amsterdam. So get out and enjoy! And if you’re still hungry for more, check out some of the other beautiful forests, lakes, and nature reserves in the Netherlands.
Will you visit any of these great hiking and walking areas in Amsterdam? Do you have any additional favourites to add to the list? Tell us in the comments!
Feature Image: Yasin Hoşgör/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2020, and was fully updated in February 2021 for your reading pleasure.