Another Ryanair cycling city break...
After my recent cycling day trip to Dublin, this weekend saw a return to the skies on-board another cheap (£30 return) Ryanair flight to the Dutch city of Eindhoven located in the south of the country. I genuinely did not know much about the city before leaving Manchester Airport. That said, I had a great fondness for PSV Eindhoven in the 1990s and knew that the multinational electronics business – Philips was founded in the city.
The weekend became a fact finding expedition to learn more about the relationship Philips has with the Eindhoven as well as getting a feel for the city region by bike. As I left on Friday afternoon, the Ryanair flight was full of stag groups looking for a good time in Holland!
Exploring Philips' relationship with the city...
I’d expect many of the groups to head an hour up the road to Amsterdam directly from the airport, however they have missed out if they did as I have come to the conclusion that Eindhoven is one of the best cities in Europe I have been to in a long time! This is why...
When a city reliant on one major employer decides to relocate or close down completely, there is a risk that the whole city fades with it. There was a chance that the massive factories built by Philips would become disused and fall into disrepair. Instead, there is a city full of redeveloped early 20th century warehouses into cool and trendy cafes, shops and spaces.
This is much like Manchester and the area that I live in – Ancoats that was once home to huge cotton mills and a derelict manufacturing industry. Eindhoven is a major city in Holland, yet is often just a stop off for executives at the high-tech research centres or at the headquarters of DAF Trucks.
Without Ryanair flying into the city, I probably wouldn't have considered going there. As I got off the plane and headed to the city centre, I had a good feeling about the place. The central area was modern, compact and full of interesting buildings.
I didn’t really have a plan other than to ride around the city and then possibly ride to the regional capital of North Brabant - Den Bosch. After a noisy night in the hotel on Wilhelmsplein, I went to the Tourist Information centre and hired a bike for a great price of 10 euros per day to use on the Saturday.
Dutch style cycling...
The bike was typically Dutch with a sturdy frame, upright riding position and 3-speed gearing. This was perfect for completing the ‘Rondje Eindhoven’ route around the city. This is a 30km loop around the city and follows the perimeter of Eindhoven. One thing that is immediately apparent to any visitor to Holland is the level of cycling infrastructure compared to other countries. In fact, the Netherlands is held up as the model for cycling around the world that other nations seek to emulate.
There are several reasons why. Instead of being clad in lycra to ride somewhere, Dutch people use their bikes for daily use for shopping, commuting and travel. There are segregated cycle paths that cross the country and clearly separate car traffic with cycles. Also, there are widespread bike parking points that are secure and the bikes used are more utilitarian than sporty.
This was my first proper experience of cycling in Holland and I was very impressed. I had none of the problems that I experience riding around in Manchester. I never had to cycle on the road once, I had cycle dedicated traffic lights and great signage that I could easily follow without a map even if the number directional system was a tad confusing.
I even managed to find the innovative Van Gogh Cycle Path that lights up at night with a pattern similar to some of his paintings in nearby Nuenen. Just near the Airport, there is the 'Hovenring' that is suspended above a main road and is a floating roundabout for cycles. It is also one of the largest examples in the world.
I dropped the bike off and took the train up to Den Bosch and spend the late afternoon and evening exploring the provincial capital. It is well worth a visit as the medieval square is stunning.
Leaving Eindhoven and feeling a tad sad...
I left Eindhoven from the busy regional airport late in Sunday afternoon after exploring the large, former Philips factory site to the north of the city centre. Upon reflecting on the weekend, I realised how much I enjoyed my time in Holland’s 5th largest city. I have always enjoyed going to important regional cities as they give you a real flavour of what a country is like and gives a contrasting view to the often well-funded capital cities.
For £30 return on a flight with Ryanair, you will be hard pressed to find a better city for exploring around by bike and off the bike too. Eindhoven owes its development from the Philips lightbulb and is a city full of imagination. Eindhoven's cycling infrastructure and modern architecture is an inspiration to others around Europe.