The Eleven Cities Tour is a legendary skating route through Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. Many skaters dream of completing this 120-mile (200 km) stretch through wintery conditions. But, unfortunately, the ice has rarely been thick enough for skating in recent times. So, as skating may not be possible, why not ride your bike along the route instead?
The Friesland region offers more than just meadows and canals. Along the Frisian Ijsselmeer and Wadden Sea coasts, you’ll find picturesque villages and hamlets, vast lakes, historic farms, shipyards, and, of course, dikes. It’s Frieland’s unique scenery and traditions that make the region so special. You may hear locals speaking their own Friesian language or participating in Fierljeppen, a traditional sport where participants pole jump over canals.
This Collection guides you along the 165-mile (267-km) route to the 11 legendary Frisian cities in six stages. Some of the cities feel more like picturesque, small villages, but they still have ample to explore. The rides are suitable for all abilities, averaging around 30 miles (50 km) per day. You will follow well-maintained bike paths with plenty of facilities and places to stop en route. You should plan to spend around four to five hours a day on your saddle, so an e-bike might be a good option too.
During this adventure, you'll cycle almost entirely on paved paths and roads; more than 68 miles (110 km) of the route follows cycle paths. On these traffic-free sections, you can fully enjoy your surroundings, far away from busy roads.
Friesland may sound far, but Leeuwarden, Friesland’s capital city, is easily accessible by train. Along the route you'll find many camping sites which usually have spaces available. During the Sneekweek, Europe’s biggest sailing event, in August it can be a lot busier, so book in advance. To make sure your trip goes smoothly, it’s a good idea to book hotels in advance too.
Leeuwarden was the European Capital of Culture in 2018 and to celebrate, local artists in each of the 11 Frisian cities created a fountain. These striking fountains represent the history and culture of the region and are great places to stop for a selfie.
Friesland offers beauty in abundance and is a wonderful place to explore by bike. Hop onto your saddle and explore the 11 cities and the beauty of the far north.
Your Eleven Cities Tour starts in the capital of Friesland. The Frisians also call Leeuwarden Ljouwert or Liwwadden. The starting point is the always pleasant Stadswaag. You drive past the station, so that could also be a good starting point of this Tour.Before you get off today after about 50 kilometers in Sneek, the route takes you along IJlst. A perfect place for lunch as well, if you start on time. One of the smaller Frisian Eleven Cities. A city, yes, not a village. In Friesland, some cities are even smaller than the villages. IJlst is now especially popular among water sports enthusiasts, the city used to be known for a flourishing trade and shipbuilding.Sneek, or as the Frisians say, Snits, is a lot bigger and has a vibrant center. It is best known for the Sneekweek in August. In this week Sneek is overloaded with real water rats Skûtsjesilen. Then you are better off by booking a place on the campsite, otherwise there is always room on the tractor field. You should book hotels in advance anyway during the high season.
From Sneek you set course for Sloten. The smallest and most cozy of the eleven cities. Medieval streets, canals with characteristic bridges and squares with monumental buildings. A lovely place for a lunch break.Suddenly it no longer resembles Friesland. In the Gaasterland forest area, the vast plains give way to a rolling landscape with forests and wooded banks.After the forest you reach the coast of the former Zuiderzee. Out of the forest you reach the high Minser cliff. After another short climb on the Roode Klif you drive along the banks of the IJsselmeer to the harbor of Stavoren.
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From Frisia, this Frisian tour continues inland through fishing towns of Hindeloopen and Workum. For those who did not find Frisian difficult enough, they speak their own dialect in Workum.In the countryside it is especially enjoy the vast landscapes. Characteristic are the mounds on which churches and farms were protected from the sea.With 30 kilometers it is a short day. So you have some time left for a nice city walk through the old town of Bolsward.
Today the stage goes via Harlingen, among others. Harlingen is located on the Wadden Sea and with its characteristic monumental buildings is a real port city. Ferries leave from the harbor to Terschelling and Vlieland.From here it is only a short distance to the day destination: Franeker. The city has international fame thanks to the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium. This is the oldest moving model of the solar system in the world.
We reach Holwerd via vast polders and the highest mound in the Netherlands. Along the way you pass the Noardereech salt marsh center on the edge of the Noard-Fryslân Bûtendyks nature reserve, where you can spot enormous numbers of birds. The perfect place to get a breath of fresh air on the Waddendijk.Before Holwerd you pass Hogebeintum. The 90-inhabitants village is partly located on the highest mound in the Netherlands. On top of the 9 m high mound is a picturesque church dating from the 13th century. Of course you climb up here.
Before the Elfstedentocht is completed, you still have to bring in the (imaginary) stamp of Dokkum. Dokkum is the most northerly Frisian city. You reach Leeuwarden via the iconic wooden bridge by Bartlehiem, known from The Tour of Tours.Completely in style you decide the tour at the official finish arch on the Bonkevaart. Chapeau! Skating next year?