In Amsterdam, outdoor adventure is everywhere. The nearby coastline and the city’s own plentiful waterways offer many opportunities for water sports, while the area’s lush parks and nearby forests provide space for cycling, running, climbing and more to get your body moving.
Cycle through the countryside
Cycling tops any list of outdoor activities in the Netherlands; after all, there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam. Although most locals use their bikes primarily to get around, there are many that cycle as a sport. The busy, bumpy cobbled streets of the city are a challenge for cyclists used to quieter rides, while the greater metropolitan area boasts picturesque cycling paths. Head south to bike through 40km of colourful blooms in the famed Flower Strip, which are best seen in the spring, or head north from Amsterdam to explore historic harbour towns such as Marken or Volendam.
Go on a kayak journey
Canal tours through Amsterdam are one of the most popular tourist activities, but you can also discover the famed World Heritage Site by kayak. There are a few guided kayak tours available in the city, such as Kajakadoo, but you can also rent a kayak to create your own exploration. The canals are often busy, however, so those looking for a quieter, nature-rich kayaking experience can go south to the urban oasis at Amsterdamse Bos. The forest – accessible from the city centre by bus or the Sunday museum tram – offers tree-covered waterways and a large pond for a long, leisurely ride. Afterwards, your group can head over to Bosbaan, the rowing lake, to engage in some friendly competition.
Strap on your skates for a spin on the ice
The Dutch don’t depend on the sun for outdoor adventures; they take advantage of any and all weather. One of the country’s most popular winter activities is ice skating (just look at all the Dutch Olympic speed skaters!) When it’s cold enough, the canals in Amsterdam will freeze, providing an unmissable skating adventure, but there are plenty of other places to ice skate in Amsterdam. Jaap Eden Ice Rink, named for the famed Dutch speed skater, opens its outdoor and indoor skating rinks between October and March. From mid-November until early February, ICE*Amsterdam transforms the Museumplein into a skating wonderland, complete with a replica of Amsterdam’s famous Skinny Bridge.
Roller skate around Amsterdam
There’s no feeling like roller skating: as you glide over the ground, the wind whips around you and the sights rush past. Avid roller skaters can capture this feeling in Amsterdam with Friday Night Skate, where skaters group together to embark on a 20km adventure through the city. The group skate takes place every Friday night (weather permitting), beginning at the Vondelpark – which offers its own daily roller-skating opportunities. With the chance for exploration and special themed nights (dress up for Halloween!), it’s the perfect way to get to know the city and make some friends.
See who’s the best shot with laser tag or paintball
Think you’ve got what it takes to survive? Find out at Amsterdam West’s own indoor and outdoor laser tag arena at Lasertag Amsterdam. Two to 24 people, including kids aged eight and up, can join in on the half-hour mission using the latest laser-tag tech. If you’re in the mood to really let loose (and maybe earn yourself a few bruises), partner up and play some paintball. Run, jump, hide and ambush your friends at Paintball Spaarnwoude, an attack zone hidden deep in the woods just 15 minutes from Amsterdam’s centre.
Monkey around at Fun Forest
The Netherlands may be flat, but there are still plenty of things to climb! Fun Forest, located at the north end of Amsterdamse Bos, offers a family-friendly place to run, jump and climb the trees of one of Amsterdam’s best nature spots. Children and adults – yes, they can partake in the adventure, too – may choose from nine increasingly challenging rope courses and ziplines on which to romp around. Emerge from the forest to begin a new adventure on the water: in the summer, Fun Forest offers the stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP) experience on the nearby lake.
Rent a boat to discover more of the Netherlands
If you’d rather sit back and relax on the water, renting a boat can get you outside and moving without all the effort of paddling. Rent a motorised boat to sail gently through the canals of Amsterdam, or go a bit further north to explore Waterland. Waterland, comprising various small towns such as Monnickendam and Ilpendam, is a haven for sailors: half of the municipality is water! There are dozens of sailing routes that take you from town to town, allowing you to discover the region. End a sailing trip with a stop at nearby Edam to refuel (and sample some of their quintessential cheese, of course).
Dip your feet in the water
The water in the canals may be clean, but with so many boats, houseboats and the more-than-occasional submerged bike, it’s not the easiest place to swim, nor is it allowed in most places. Luckily, when the weather gets warmer, outdoor swimming pools in Amsterdam invite guests to jump right in. Swimming pools such as the Noorderparkbad, Flevoparkbad and Brediusbad offer – in addition to large pools for adults – wading pools and fun fountains for small children, making for a safe and entertaining day of splashing around. For a more natural swim, head to Het Twiske – a recreational area just north of Amsterdam that features a large lake surrounded by tall, lush trees and space to lounge. Read our full guide to the best (official) outdoor swimming spots in Amsterdam.
Head to the beach for a wild day of water sports
True adventure-seekers won’t mind falling in the water a few times. With the abundance of beaches around Amsterdam, fast-paced, adrenaline-packed water sports are popular among locals and tourists alike. When the breeze picks up, harness the power of the wind and hit the beaches of Wijk aan Zee, Velsen-Noord and IJmuiden. Windsurfing and kitesurfing have grown in popularity in the Netherlands, and you’ll find plenty of pros to teach you in all three seaside towns. Stand-up paddling, one of the newest water-sport crazes, is better on the calmer days – unless you have great balance! Read more about wind-water sports at Amsterdam Beach.
Canter around Amsterdam's countryside on horseback
Take in the scenery of the Amsterdamse Bos atop a trusty steed from one of two riding schools located right in the forest, De Amsterdamse Manege and Nieuwe Amstelland. The forest itself offers over 20km of winding horse trails, which you can enjoy in a guided tour. While trotting through the forest is fun, horseback riding on the beach is a dream for some, and it can be easily realised on the coastline of the Netherlands. Riding schools on the coast offer hours-long trail rides along the sandy shores, often in the evening, which makes for a romantic-yet-adventurous experience.
Picnic in the park
When the sun is shining, hitting one of the Amsterdam Area’s many beautiful parks for a picnic is one of the locals’ favourite things to do. Whether you grab a quick bottle of rosé and some olives from the supermarket or go all-out with a fully stacked hamper complete with quiche and potato salad, the city and surrounding area offer plenty of opportunities for a spot of al-fresco lunching. Amsterdam’s neighbourhood parks have something for everyone, but if you want to go further afield, you could always make your picnic the highlight of a proper bike tour in the countryside.
All that adventuring can be tiring! Chill out at Amsterdam’s best spas – the best way to recharge your batteries after an adventurous day out.