Bergen Aan Zee, or shall I say, one of the loveliest places in The Netherlands! Go discover Holland’s hidden treasure only 1h train ride away from Amsterdam!
In May 2016 Denis surprised me with a short romantic green weekend…in Bergen! Indeed, it’s neither Thailand nor Patagonia, but ok, there are exotic spots in each destination, right? I have to admit that after 5 years spent in the Netherlands, I started getting a bit desperate due to the lack of new activities to engage in and most of all, due to the lack of nature diversity – nothing else besides vast pastures or parks with sandy dunes and shrubs.
You must know that The Netherlands is, first and foremost, a low country which implies that the soil is very loose and vegetation struggles to implant roots deeply. Therefore there are few massive trees and dense forests. Most trees in Holland are birch, oak or beech without much variation landscape wise, and forests are a rare occurrence and not very dense.
The adventure … , from Amsterdam by bike and going to Bergen, passing by ruminant buffaloes , pedaling in the middle of huge sandy dunes with amazing color contrasts to end up sleeping under the stars, are doable things in the Netherlands.
I adore The Netherlands (with slightly repetitive landscapes though), I find it to be a beautiful green country, filled with treasures well hidden from tourists, like the national park at Zandvoort or even more so the great Hoge Veluwe Park. There are 20 national parks in The Netherlands versus 10 in France, a country that is 10 times bigger! And all these parks compete amongst each-other in terms of biodiversity richness. But ok…But I was not expecting Bergen and this area that we hadn’t explored yet. Amazing!
Day 1, by bicycle towards Bergen Aan Zee passing through Egmond and the woods:
How to get there?
To get to Bergen you can decide to go by train which stops in Alkmaar. Alkmaar is a pretty town famous for its cheese market every Friday from April to October. If you take the train you can take the bicycles from Alkmaar at the train station directly. From there, you’ll have to cycle about 16km to reach Bergen or more if you want to enjoy the surroundings like Egmond Aan Zee (which has a very nice lighthouse). On your way, you’ll find many numerous camp sites and agro touristic sites as well as hotels. The route that we chose is here below. Bergen aan Zee is a place that the Dutch very much cherish and you will understand why once you’re there.
If you decide to go by bike from Amsterdam, you’ll pass through many typical Dutch looking villages till you arrive in the vicinity of Bergen. The itinerary from AMsterdam is rather simple. The cycling lanes are very well indicated and you can even do your own itinerary on this site.
Getting closer to Bergen, you’ll find a “dense” forest (compared to the Dutch average of course), stunning dunes intersecting the horizon and landscapes that I thought would be impossible to find in this country! You’ll almost have the impression of being in another country (well, I said almost!).
After a long bike ride, if you don’t know where to stay, we recommend a nice camping site called the Bregman camping. The camping itself is well located, close to the sea but to the village too, being a departure point for many hikes and cycling lanes around. It’s also very clean with great showers and a place where kids can play. They even had a kind of big inflatable mat where kids could jump on. Nice staff too.
What to do in Bergen and Bergen Aan Zee?
Bergen is a “town” that looks more like a village, surrounded by vegetation and beautiful houses. Dutch people are huge fans of this city that is one of the most expensive places in The Netherlands in terms of price per square meter after Amsterdam. You could say that this is the equivalent of the French Riviera in The Netherlands, with the big exception that you will find significantly less foreign tourists here (although some Germans attempted to contradict me).
The town is small, you will quickly make its tour, yet a couple of attractions are worth your time:
- The Church ruins where some concerts are sometimes organized (agenda in the link). the entrance is free except when there’s a show (about 18€)
- Le restaurant de Fabbrica that serves locally sourced bio products and it was delicious! Yummy!
- Bergen Aan Zee aquarium , especially if you like piranhas 🙂 The entrance is relatively cheap (about 13€ per adult)
The town is relatively busy in the evening, so you’ll have no trouble finding a good bar to sip a good Dutch beer like in this bar, Hoppe, very typical (a so called Brown Bar) serving local beers.
After a copious meal and a fitting bill (we are of course on the Dutch version of the French Riviera), we went back to the camping biking at night! What a delight! A truly healthy ride, perfect before falling asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees.
Day 2, relaxation day at the beach and a stroll in the dunes before going back passing through Alkmaar:
The night in the camping was comfortable (as much as it can be) and with a good coffee and a croissant at the camp site (8 euros overall), you can bike towards Bergen Aan Zee, this time to the beach side! The ride was amazing with slopes and trees, dunes and finally the beach. The beach is just as pleasant as the one at Zandvoort and we wanted to take a dip but it was however too chilly (17°C). But some Dutch were in the water and were enjoying their time. Brrrr… How? For us, no swimming, but we had a small, plain bite at the brasserie on the beach, avoiding to order meat or fish since we didn’t know their origin.You’ll find many options on the beach at Bergen but also around Egmond (the neighbour town). Most of those places offer vegetarian options.
What to see in the neighborhood?
To give you an idea, find below a few pics relating our cycling trip.You will see plenty. From the tulip fields oon the way to Alkmaar to pretty little Dutch houses et if you go through the national park Noordhollands Duinreservaat you could even become friends with some buffaloes!! Huge, full of bugs but very gentle and completely free, which means that they can be approached easily. You might even find some of them sleeping on the cycling lane….
Still on our bicycles, we went to Uitgeest after being in Alkmaar to take the train (I got tired but it is of course easy to go back to AMsterdam by bike!) We crossed the forest and the dunes one more time, and then we encountered once again the cute little villages. Know that in the Netherlands you can take your bike on the train for approximately 6 euros (valid for the whole journey on all trips) – if you have rented a bike during your stay in Amsterdam, you could replicate this journey with the possibility of stopping when fatigue kicks in.
This weekend in Bergen was short yet magnificent and refreshing. It got us out of our usual routine and made us discover one of the most beautiful places that I have seen in The Netherlands: Bergen Aan Zee.
So, in case you stay for more than a weekend in Holland, I highly recommend you go there, it’s definitely worth the detour – this romantic ecological escape totally seduced me.
Here is the full itinerary on the Tripcipe website:
Translated & copy edited by Liana