Holland gets cycling. Some 84% of Dutch people own a bike and the country boasts more than 19,900 miles of cycle paths, part of its cycling infrastructure that’s been under development since the 1970s.
With that in mind, we thought it would be ideal to ‘get’ cycling as a family here too, and headed on a family cycling holiday in Holland. After a short transfer by train from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, we made our base at a seaside hotel in Scheveningen, a beachside district bordering the North Sea in The Hague. The lengthy promenade, Strandweg, made for a flat ride to get us started with lots of cafes and shops for some saddle-break browsing. Maya was soon cruising the seafront like a young Victoria Pendleton while Olivia cut up the baby buggies on her balance bike. As they powered ahead, I was left huffing and puffing behind, clearly out of practice.
Feeling more confident, we joined a cycle tour of the city the following day with Totzo! bike tour and hire company. Founder Arthur Wieffering helped us choose lightweight ‘city bikes’ for the three-hour tour and advised us to sit Olivia behind our guide in a special, strap-on child seat.
Before we hopped on our saddles, he enthused over coffee at Totzo! offshoot, Lola Bikes and Coffee, about the importance of learning bicycle safety from an early age.
“Cycling,” he said, “is our most natural form of transport. But to learn to ride safely you have to ride every day.”
We headed out on to the city’s cycle paths and weaved around historic backstreets, past grand squares and ornate palaces towards the sea. Our guide, Tymen, explained the stories behind the facades and suggested places to take the kids to play. I was feeling a bit nervous as we ventured into heavier traffic but Maya coped admirably, giving hand signals like a local.
Before we headed back into the city, we stopped at a beachside cafe and tucked into a traditional Dutch lunch of croquettes, rye bread and open ham sandwiches, all washed down with Fristi, a berry-flavoured milk drink.
Over the next few days we explored on two wheels, stopping off to visit the Palace Gardens, sitting between the Royal Stables and the working Noordeinde Palace, and to a nearby playground. By the Scheveningen seaside, we took our time biking the Zuiderstrand (South Beach) area and eating ice creams on a windswept prom.
Maya had turned into a fledgling Olympic champion by the end of the trip, Olivia was at ease on two wheels and even I had managed to get back in the saddle to keep up with the kids. I may not be ready for the yellow jersey but after a few days of exploring Holland by bike, watch out Sir Wiggins — that’s all I can say.
Best for: Primary school-age plus.
How to do it: EasyJet Holidays offers three nights at the Court Garden Hotel plus flights from £212 per person. Totzo! offers bike hire from €10 (£8) per day; bike tours cost €23 (£19). holidays.easyjet.com totzo.org/engels.html
If you liked this… try these
Dick Bruna House: Utrecht’s Miffy museum celebrates the legacy of illustrator Dick Bruna via hands-on arty activities. centraalmuseum.nl/en
River Vecht: The canal-side cycle trail from Utrecht to Slot Zuylen castle is family-friendly with plenty of picnic stops. slotzuylen.nl/english
Zoo Blijdorp: Rotterdam’s flagship family attraction also has a 72ft-long Oceanium, where kids can walk along the bottom of the seabed. diergaardeblijdorp.nl/?lang=EN
Dudok: This chain of buzzy cafes offers good-value dinner menus from 5pm every day. dudok.nl
Published in the Summer 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK)