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When in Amsterdam, do as the locals do and ride a bike — it’s the best way to see the city in one day. You can rent bikes from shops like MacBikes, conveniently located to the east side of Centraal Station as well as in Leidseplein and Waterlooplein, and Yellow Bike, which is also near Centraal Station. Renting a bike for a day will generally cost you about 12 euros (that includes a lock). It’s important to remember to lock up your rental, since bike theft in Amsterdam is a fairly common occurrence.
Looking for a bike helmet like you’d wear at home? Forget it — helmets are nonexistent in Amsterdam. Luckily, the city is geared toward bikers with dedicated bike lanes and traffic that will yield to you (or at least they should — if not, follow the Amsterdam locals’ lead and ding the bell on your bike until the car or person moves out of your way.)
For a biking route that will show you the city, start in the Jordaan area and pedal south along the famous Amsterdam canals to Vondelpark, the city’s largest greenspace. Next, bike to Museumplein, where you can park your bike and see some art. End with a ride over to the Amstel River for dinner or a drink along the water. If you’d prefer something more organized, Yellow Bike offers a guided bike tour that takes you on a three-hour ride from the canals down to Rembrandt’s House.
Start your day in Amsterdam on foot. Explore the historic Canal Belt and the Nine Little Streets that connect them. Or wander into the Jordaan, being sure not to miss the beautiful Brouwersgracht canal. Recharge at one of the many cafes in the area, such as Gebroeders Niemeijer, Screaming Beans or Winkel43 (the apple pie is legendary).
After lunch, rent a bicycle and head across the Skinny Bridge spanning the River Amstel into the Plantage neighbourhood. Stop at the pretty Wertheim Park opposite Hortus Botanical Gardens. In one corner of the park, six cracked mirrors commemorate the six million victims of the Holocaust. Continue past Artis Zoo on Plantage Kerklaan and admire the row of old warehouses on Entrepotdok.
Using De Gooyer windmill to guide you, pedal towards Brouwerij ’t IJ, a craft brewery established next to the windmill in 1985. Brouwerij ’t IJ offers tours, tastings, and "borrelhapjes," small snacks served with alcoholic drinks, such as peanuts, cheese, and salami. In the evening, rest your feet at Hotel Okura, where the bar on the 23rd floor offers superb cocktails and city views.