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WJR city guide: An insider’s guide to running in Amsterdam

WJR city guide: An insiders’ guide to running in AmsterdamOne of our new contributors, Varia Makagonova, is based out of Amsterdam, and we thought it would be fun to have her share some of her favorite spots to run in this beautiful European city. Check out her guide below and stay tuned for more “City Guides” from our writers. 

Amsterdam is a popular European travel destination, but many people don’t see its best parts. That’s because Amsterdam is structured perfectly to trap people right in the center of the city, keeping the most lovely bars, restaurants and parks for the exclusive use of the residents. It’s not because we don’t want to share – it’s more because nobody knows how to find them.

However, as runners, even locals struggle with the challenge of finding routes that are not overly crowded. Running has exploded in popularity in Amsterdam over the past four years, and the most popular routes can sometimes feel like the beginning of a race – plodding, dodging, and avoiding traffic instead of enjoying a peaceful path around the city.

If you want to go for a run in Amsterdam, it would be in your best interest to get out of the overcrowded core and head to the more peaceful surrounding districts. Here are my insider tips about what to expect when running in the city, the most popular running routes, and alternatives to the touristy, crowded running spots.

The running culture in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is famous for its liberal, live-and-let-live nature, and in keeping with that, people here don’t pay too much attention to runners. Once in a while you’ll get a few longer looks, but very rarely will anyone actually go out of their way to engage with or comment on a runner in any way.

That said, running is not so popular here as to have integrated fully into the flow of city life. Cars, trams, pedestrians, and cyclists (who rule the road in the Netherlands) take priority over you, and you should yield to all of them. Similarly, groups of people will usually not know what to do if a runner is coming towards them, or from behind, so you should take the initiative to run around them. As long as you’re aware of your surroundings, though, you’ll be fine.

Where to run
There are three main areas surrounding the central tourist core of Amsterdam, with Central Station being the northernmost point of the mainland: Oost (East), De Pijp, and West.

Oost

  • POPULAR PARK: Oost is a lovely, peaceful area of Amsterdam near the zoo and the Brouwerij aan ‘t Ij (a brewery with a windmill). It’s about 10 minutes on foot east of Central Station. The most popular spot for runners in this area is Oosterpark, a green oasis nestled among rapidly opening cafés and restaurants. While the park is less crowded than other areas of Amsterdam, it does get its fair share of foot traffic during the spring and summer months. Personally, I find it a bit too small, since one loop around the park is only about 1.2K.
  • QUIETER ALTERNATIVE: A great alternative when in Oost is to run in the direction of Flevopark (pictured above), which offers not only a veritable maze of adorable trail paths, but also the opportunity to run along the Ij river for an absolute eternity. For those seeking true isolation, from Flevopark you can cross the river by one of the many tall bridges to find yourself in Ijburg, a heavenly path along the water that’s reserved for only the most dedicated of Amsterdam runners (and certainly no tourists).

De Pijp

  • POPULAR PARK: Amsterdam’s Latin Quarter is always packed with people – a crazy, bustling neighborhood filled with every kind of shop, restaurant, and cultural space imaginable. Vondelparkthe city’s most famous park, sits at the top of De Pijp and is the most popular place to run in Amsterdam. The 3.6K Vondelpark loop is beautiful – and you should definitely treat yourself to a walk, run, or lunch there if you’re in Amsterdam – but if you’re looking for a peaceful, quiet run through nature, you might want to seek out a different location, especially in the summer months.
  • QUIETER ALTERNATIVE: The Amstel river is just a short distance away from this bustling park and it offers a stunning, quiet path alongside the waterway for miles. The further you go down this path, the more quaint the scenery becomes: the river overgrown, the houseboats more rustic, and the boats float down the river at a slower pace. To find this path, locate the street called “Amsteldijk” and follow it, along the river, to the east.

West

  • POPULAR PARK: West is a great area to live, hang out, and run. There’s so much variety from crazy-busy blocks filled with cafes and restaurants to quiet residential alleys with playgrounds and sandboxes. The most popular running path in this part of the city is Westerpark, which is about a 4K loop and a beautiful piece of green space in the city. There’s even a bee sanctuary and a local farm hidden inside the park. While it’s quite an urban park that’s popular with local residents in the warmer months, it’s still the least crowded of all the city parks so it’s a great option for runners.
  • QUIETER ALTERNATIVE: If you’re looking for real wilderness in the West, I recommend heading to Sloterpark. Sloterpark surrounds Lake Sloterpas, and it is Amsterdam’s largest city park – a 5K loop that can be made even longer by winding your way through the park trails. The lake itself is gorgeous and clear, and on sunny days you can swim in it or take a kayak out. Despite all these possibilities, it remains a fairly undiscovered piece of Amsterdam, and you will enjoy much quieter paths here than almost anywhere else in the city.

Honourable mention: Zuid-oost

  • Zuid-oost deserves an honorable mention. It’s a bit outside of Amsterdam city limits (about 30 minutes) and it offers you the opportunity to run through dizzyingly beautiful and seemingly completely empty forest trails. You’ll find these in the Amsterdamse Bos (‘Bos’ means ‘forest’ in Dutch), which starts with the Nieuwe Meer – another gorgeous lake you can swim in – and continues for more than 10K around. This forest is much less developed than other urban parks in Amsterdam, so if you’re seeking the closest connection with nature that you can find near the city, it’s well-worth your time to make the trek.

What city would you like to see us cover next? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Varia Makagonova / Photo by Creative Commons