AMSTERDAM : SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Amsterdam with the kids? Why not? Here are some reasons to go: most people there speak English, public transportation is easy to use, playgrounds abound, and there is even a cruise on the canals with all-you-can-eat pancakes and ice cream.


 

Let’s start outdoors: The Artis Royal Zoo, with original buildings from 1838, has a petting zoo, a planetarium, an aquarium and a fabulous playground (picnics allowed). The Vondelpark is to Amsterdam what Central Park is to New York: open air theater, a huge wading pool, wooden tree huts with swinging ropes and a cafe for tired parents. Make sure you see the city from the water on one of the many canal cruises, including the “Pancake Boat”.


 

Move indoors: Over 75 museums and many with children’s programs will keep you busy on a rainy day. Nemo is the science museum (touch everything!) where in summer the roof is transformed into a beach, complete with sand and great views of the city. Or join a scavenger hunt at the Rijksmuseum for one euro. For older children, the Anne Frank House is a moving experience.


 

Try some traditional foods: French fries are called “Vlaamse Frites”, usually served with curry sauce or mayo. The “Stroopwafel” is like two thin cookies held together by a sweet syrup and found in every bakery and supermarket. “Poffertjes” are fluffy mini pancakes, covered in powdered sugar or whipped cream and strawberries.


 

Something different: Walk through the “Nine Streets”, an area filled with cute boutiques. Rent a waterbike and pedal around the canals. Catch a free concert of classical music on Wednesday afternoons at the Concertgebouw. “Our Dear Lord in the Attic” is a 17th century church hidden away from the Calvinists in an ordinary canal house. And don’t forget to try on wooden clogs at one of the shops in the city.


 

Get off the beaten path: Day trips are easy out of Amsterdam with train connections and organized tours everywhere. Take a ride out into the country to count windmills. Go to Gouda, Keukenhof Gardens, Volendam, Delft or The Hague.


 

Universal favorite for all ages: Zaanse Schans, a village on the river Zaan with windmills and barns. There is even a Bakery Museum and wonderful shops with authentic Dutch crafts. The village is a 30 minute trip from Amsterdam, and worth it!

16 comments

  • A short trip from Amsterdam is Arnhem where an important military maneuver during WW II inspired the book “A Bridge Too Far”. Today The Liberation Museum there shows you what life was like before, during and after WW II. The Kroller-Muller Museum here offers paintings and a sculpture garden. A direct train from Utrecht makes it easy to combine a visit to both towns in one day.

  • Just 30 minutes from Amsterdam is Utrecht with the largest Dutch university (so there are plenty of cheap eats and interesting shopping). If you go by train, walk through the shopping mall attached to the station and you’ll come out in the historic city center. All along the waterfront there are cute cafes. This makes for a relaxing day trip.

  • Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage site with 19 windmills from the 1700’s. Buy tickets online and save 10%. From April to October, you can go by boat (a little complicated but worth it). The museum and films are included in the ticket price.

  • Just a 50 minute drive from Amsterdam is Madurodam with miniatures models of Dutch towns. Fun for everyone!

  • Schiphol Airport is the 5th busiest in Europe, with one huge terminal split into 3 departure halls. Even from the central plaza it is often a really long walk to your gate. Make sure you allow plenty of time, especially walking with children. If you have free time, the Rijksmuseum has an annex here with exhibits for everyone (free), there is a library with 1200 boos sin 29 languages, and access to free e-books and music. Many shops, restaurants and pubs give you a great experience if you have a lot of time. The railroad station directly below the airport (how convenient is that?) has free baggage trolleys – great if you have kids in tow with lots of stuff.

  • The Artis Zoo also has a butterfly pavilion, several historic buildings and many exotic animals. In September every year in memory of the 19th century price, admission is only 25 cents! Allow 1 1/2 to 2 hours for a typical visit.

  • Make sure you stop in a pancake restaurant, very popular in Amsterdam and very kid-friendly. They are all over, not expensive, and there is even one on a ship. Look for “pannekoek” in the signs.

  • Just 15 minutes by car or bus north of Amsterdam is “Waterland”, small villages along the Ijsselmeer River. Get the bus behind Central Station between 6 am and midnight. A ticket is 10 euros all the way to Edam and you can make as many stops along the way as you want. You’ll see houses on stilts, historic buildings, tiny cafes, boats, even a clog factory. Make sure you stop for a great seafood dinner before returning to Amsterdam.

    • Go to the furthest point you have chosen and work back to avoid crowds doing the opposite from Amsterdam. Weekends are more crowded.

  • Pietro e Marietta

    Amsterdam is probably the most bike-friendly city in the world with more than 1,000,000 bikes and 60% of travel done that way around the city. Rentals are cheap (about 9 euros for 24 hours, cheaper if rented for longer), terrain is flat, and there are hundreds of kilometers of bike paths. Most rental places are around Amstel Station and several tour companies offer unique day trips by bike. No tandem bikes are available.

    • No matter how adept your children are on their bikes at home, I would not let them ride in Amsterdam. It is still a city, with trams, cars, motor scooters, etc. – too much for a child to handle. Walking is fun – so many canals and bridges, many of them lit up at night, and you get to see more. Public transportation is easy to figure out, fast, clean and reliable. And since most of us don’t ride trams at home, it becomes a fun adventure.

  • We followed many of your suggestions and had the best family vacation ever! Thanks for all your hard work and please do more European cities. Our day in Zaanse Schans was the high point of our trip.

    • If you can’t get out to Zaanse Schans, be sure to visit Molen van Sloten, a reconstructed mill from 1847 and the only windmill in Amsterdam open to visitors with guided tours. There are 8 windmills in Amsterdam (molens) but this is the only one open to the public.

  • Two great ideas: Openbare Bibliotheek (Oosterdokskade 143) is the largest library in Europe with 7 floors right on the waterfront. One entire floor is dedicated to the kids with regular story time, incl. in English. Free for under 19’s and busy with movies, music and free Internet access on 600 + computers. The 7th floor has a cafeteria and great views of the city. Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.
    Also the Vondelpark is 116 acres (like NYC’s Central Park) with outdoor theater and free kids’ shows, duck pond, 6 playgrounds, one of which has a cafe for the parents + sandpits and water features for the kids. Open 8 am to 5 pm; entrance on Van Baerlestraat.

  • I can’t say enough about NEMO, the largest science museum in the Netherlands. With films, workshops, interactive displays, science labs, demonstrations, there is always something fun happening. The top floor leads out to a rooftop cafe with a kids’ water playground and plenty of toys around to keep them busy. But the best part is the awesome views of Amsterdam from 5 floors up! You can walk here from the Central Station or arrive by canal boat (much more fun for the kids). Don’t miss this!

    • Besides the expected science exhibits on topics like DNA and lightning, the most fun is the exhibit on Holland’s dike system. It’s easy enough so even kids can get into it. And what better place to learn about dikes than the Netherlands?

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