Green Heart of Holland Bike and Boat – MS Normandie
CategoryBike and Boat
Start / FinishAmsterdam / Amsterdam
Distance175 miles/281 kms
A leisurely 7 night bike and boat holiday around the Green Heart of Holland aboard a very comfortable river cruiser. Cycle through beautiful polder landscapes, visiting historic cultural cities along the way. Enjoy easy cycling on a wonderful network of level, well-maintained cycle paths. See Gouda, Schoonhoven, Rotterdam and the famous windmills of kinderdijk.
The Green Heart of Holland is a verdant, sparsely populated, fertile area of about seven hundred square miles surrounded by the cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. Here you find the typical Dutch landscape of green meadows, wetlands, dairy cows, dykes, canals and, of course, windmills. A network of clearly marked cycle paths criss cross the region making it ideal for cycling holidays.
On this bike and boat holiday you will live aboard the very comfortable and well appointed river cruiser MS Normandie, disembarking each day for leisurely rides of between 18 and 30 miles. The well-marked routes will lead you through the polder landscape and along river banks to historic cities and towns as well as iconic sights such as the windmills of Kinderdijk. Starting and finishing in Amsterdam, this itinerary takes in Haarlem, Rotterdam, Gouda, Delft, The Hague and Utrecht.
Easy leisure cycling at it’s best and the perfect way to get to know the Green Heart of Holland.
Itinerary & Map
Day 1: Amsterdam – Haarlem
Embarkation in Amsterdam begins at 3 pm. Check in and settle into your cabin and get to know the ship. At 5 pm the crew cast off and we enjoy an evening dinner cruise to the charming old town of Haarlem. En route, the on-board tour guide will give a welcome meeting and provide more detail on life on board and the daily bike rides. We will moor for the night in Haarlem itself if possible or sometimes at Haarlem lock.
Day 2: Haarlem – Zaandam, 18 miles 28 kms
In the morning there is time to explore the delightful little town of Haarlem before setting off on the bikes. This bustling, typically Dutch town features windmills, drawbridges, canals as well as some quaint little cafes and shops.
Or cycle route today is relatively short to help you find your cycling legs and ease you into the swing of things. You head northeast to the town of Zaandam which lies on the Zaan river, close to where it flows into the North Sea Canal. We recommend making the short detour to visit the fascinating “Zaanse Schans” open air museum (entrance fee not included). The museum showcases Dutch heritage and features working windmills, a clog workshop, a traditional shipyard and a cheese factory. A short ride then delivers you to the MS Normandie at her mooring in Zaandam. Once everyone is aboard, the crew cast off for a night cruise south to the town of Schoonhoven on the Lek river.
Day 3: Schoonhoven – Rotterdam, 30 miles/48 kms
Today’s very pleasant and scenic ride leads you north to start with through pleasant, open countryside to the city of Gouda. Famous of course for its delicious cheese, the city is also known for its impressive town square with an ornate town hall that seems to be marooned in its centre. From Gouda you follow a pleasant waterway south-west towards Rotterdam. A university city and Europe’s largest seaport, Rotterdam has a vibrant, lively atmosphere and is rightly proud of its maritime heritage. We recommend taking one of the harbour tours to learn more about the history and logistics of the huge, modern, trading port. The MS Normandie will remain at her mooring here for the next two nights.
Day 4: Rotterdam – Delft or Schevenigen loop ride, 25 – 43 milers/40 – 70 kms
Today you have a choice of two loop rides and because the MS Normandie stays in Rotterdam for a second night you could even opt for a day off from cycling altogether if you like.
The shorter of the two rides leads you out to the town of Delft and back again. Famous of course for its porcelain manufacture, the town also offers offers canal tours, museums, markets and many great cafes and restaurants. A visit to the Delft factory and Museum provides an opportunity to learn about the history and production process of the world-famous blue and white pottery – of course, it is also possible to purchase pottery products too.
The longer ride takes you out to The Hague and the seaside resort town of Scheveningen on the North Sea coast. The Hague is the capital of the province of South Holland and the seat of government for the whole of the Netherlands. Visit the beach at Scheveningen and if the weather is warm you might be tempted in to the North Sea for a dip. A ride or stroll along the promenade is also a must. You can then either return to Rotterdam by bike or there is also an option to do the return journey by train (rail and bike ticket payable locally).
The MS Normandie remains moored in Rotterdam for a second night.
Day 5: Rotterdam – Schoonhoven, 27 miles/43 kms
Today’s relaxing and interesting route leads you eastwards out of Rotterdam alongside the broad waterway known as the Nieuwe Maas. After a while you reach Kinderdijk, where no less than 19 traditional windmills punctuate the polder landscape. These beautiful old windmills are monuments to Dutch engineering prowess in the field of water removal. Today, electric pumps do the grunt work but not so long ago windmills like these were the first and only line of defence against the encroaching sea.
You then follow an idyllic cycle path beside the Lek river, through green and pleasant countryside to the town of Schoonhoven where the MS Normandie is waiting for you and will remain moored for the night. Schoonhoven is famous for its silversmiths and in this small town you will find no less than 30 galleries, jewellers and workshops specialising in articles created from the precious metal. The picturesque town centre is lined with tiny, individual shops full of character and don’t miss the lovely old drawbridge/lock gate that protects the town’s waterways from the ebb and flow of the Lek.
Day 6: Schoonhoven – Utrecht, 26 miles/42 kms
After disembarking with your bikes you head north across open, verdant countryside to the small, charming little town of Oudewater. On the main street you will find the Witches Weigh House. In medieval times many trade goods were weighed here but anyone accused of being a witch could also be weighed (witches were thought to weigh next to nothing as they flew around on broomsticks). The record shows that no witches were ever identified.
The route then heads east on a network of quiet bike paths, through more idyllic polder landscapes to the city of Utrecht where the MS Normandie is waiting for you. The city has a lovely canal district and its 14th century, 112 meter Dom Tower is also worth a visit.
The MS Normandie remains moored in Utrecht for the night.
Day 7: Utrecht – Amsterdam, 31 miles/50 kms
Your final ride is a rather special one as you will follow the beautiful and winding Vecht river back to Amsterdam. Sometimes referred to as the “Loire of the Netherlands” the meandering Vecht winds its way through a peaceful world of romantic old castles, stunning villas and verdant countryside. Stop in the pretty village of Breukelen for a coffee and a stroll around before continuing along the serene, riverside cycle path, Eventually the countryside gives way to the city and you arrive back in the centre of Amsterdam. The rest of day and evening is yours to enjoy the sights and attractions of this exciting and vibrant city. The last night of your holiday is spent aboard the MS Normandie at her mooring in Amsterdam.
Day 8: Departure
After breakfast it is time to check out and head for home or your next adventure.
Dates & Prices
|2021 Arrival Dates|
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|MS Normandie - Comfort|
|Twin - sole use||£1053||£1128||£1279||£1128||£1053||£902||£752|
|Twin - sole use||£1279||£1354||£1505||£1354||£1279||£1128||£978|
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|Deposit per person||£265|
7 x Breakfast, 6 x Packed lunch, 7 x Dinner
Daily afternoon tea & coffee
Maps & route information (1 x per cabin)
Services of on-board representative
Daily information meetings
GPS route data
Bike hire (see supplements)
Helmet (available to purchase on board €40, payable locally)
Ferries. Entrance fees and excursions
Regular bike with pannier & lock. See practical information (£79)
Electric bike with pannier & lock (£173)
Regular bikes provided are modern alloy framed models with 7 speeds. The bikes come equipped with pannier, lock and a repair kit with pump.
Electric bikes are also available.
We suggest you bring your own helmet for safety and hygiene reasons. Alternatively, adult helmets are available to buy (payable locally, €40).
Please note that cycle helmets are mandatory for minors up to 18 years old and you will need to bring your own child size helmet.
On-board payments: Cash and credit cards accepted.
The captain reserves the right to make changes to the planned route due to changing wind, tide and weather conditions, and where required by organizational necessities.
MS Normandie (Comfort)
The MS Normandie is a cosy and comfortable river cruiser with a relaxed atmosphere on board. She has 51 air-conditioned cabins with en-suite shower and toilet, hair dryer, safe and TV. All cabins have windows and the upper deck cabins open to fresh air. 49 of the cabins have two lower beds, one of which can be folded against the wall during the day for more comfort. 2 cabins are single and have one bed. Some cabins, located towards the stern, have been designated as ‘eco’ cabins and are available at a lower price because of perceivable engine noise when underway.
On the upper-deck there is a comfortable lounge and bar along with a small sauna. The comfortable restaurant with panoramic windows is located on the main deck. There is also a sundeck complete with both deck chairs, tables and regular chairs.
A hearty breakfast is provided each morning, as are packed lunches to take with you on the daily rides. A three-course meal is served each evening.