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Amsterdam tours - In the footsteps of Sinterklaas: a free self-guided walk from Schiphol to Amsterdam's red-light district - free, unguided walk

Sinterklaas with hair growing out of his eyes teaching dumb Dutch children some classic Spanish dance moves. CC KK. More.


The Dutch establishment is often taken to be progressive, but its refusal to accept that technological change has meant that for quite some time St Nicholas has been unable to find a steamboat for his annual journey from Spain to the Netherlands is clear proof that this is not the case.

Sinterklaas actually arrives at Schiphol and, like all Spanish visitors, makes a beeline for decadence and perversion. His preference for central Amsterdam is commemorated in countless children's songs, of which you may wish to translate this one:

Sinterklaas kapoentje,
geef de kat een zoentje,
geef de hond een pootje,
rook nog maar een blowtje.
... or this one, from the Hell's Angels playgroup:
Sinterklaas kapoentje,
geef de kat een zoentje,
geef de kat een likkie,
trek hem aan z'n pikkie.

There are of course alternatives, but heavy traffic and perhaps excessively ordered landscapes mean that walking from Schiphol to the south isn't much fun. Your least worst option on the return is probably to borrow a bicycle in Leiden and take the following route, which is either on cycle paths (avoid Oude Wetering because the road between it and Leiden is dangerous) or small roads, and includes windmills and a nice short stretch of canal:


But that's not what Sinterklaas would do, so let's leave Leiden to its pretty girls and their curious speech defect and chart a north-east passage to heaving heaven for our randy reverend.

Your instincts will probably tell you that über-rational town planning and Google are an investor's dream, and although the first half of this route is pretty grim, a tweak enables you to observe al fresco activities of a usually private nature in Vondelpark, and you'll be able to score pretty much whatever you want three hours after exiting Customs and Immigration:

I saw it three times

However, fellow-traveller IC disapproves of this route on the excellent grounds that a central tenet of Dutch Buddhism is that Sinterklaas is actually a reincarnation of Odin, and a deep, emotional homecoming for him must necessarily involve a dank, Germanic forest full of mafia graves, ie the Amsterdamse Bos:

But what on earth did it mean?

This is only an hour longer than Google's proposal, and is quite beautiful for much of the way. I commend it to you, Sinterklaas, and all others of exceptional holiness.

Health warning

These free walk instructions have not been properly checked and are offered without guarantees of any kind. Generally it's smarter to try to walk from rather than to the airport first, or there's a distinct possibility you may end up running across muddy fields as your flight disappears through the clouds. On the other hand, at least you'll know the way to the nearest pub.


If you've got an airport route of your own that you'd like to share, please do get in touch.

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Note for travel agents
Basic data
Grade easy
Base Amsterdam
Location tags Amsterdam, Leiden, Schiphol,
Theme tags airport, architecture, free, nature,
Your guide Self-guided
Walking distance 20 km / 12.43 miles
Walking time, excluding breaks 4 hr
Total return travel time from base to walk
Total time from "hello" to "goodbye" 4.60 hr