This is a revamp of a post I wrote a few years ago. My boys are teenagers now and way taller than me. Don’t let that put you off! It’s still valid! I think they would still like doing quite of few of the things to do in Amsterdam listed below. When they were under 10 years old, they tried out all the experiences on the list and adored them!
1. Take A Boat
Go on a canal tour. There are a range of companies, all fairly similar, so there is no need to shop around (and drag your kids around after you!). The 1 hour tour gives you a good view of the city and is short enough that the kids don’t get bored. Be warned: there were no toilets on the boat we went on!
2. Park yourself in Tranquility
Take tram 4 to RAI, then cross the road and enter into Amstelpark. This sward of green is a paradise for children! The playground is large, with different structures for different ages. There is also a mini-golf course, which is a little expensive, but very well-kept. For children who like animals, you can find wallabies and alpacas, and for the treasure-hunters in your family, there are egg sculptures hidden throughout the park. There is also a miniature train that you can go for rides on.
3. Feed Yourself and the Ducks
In Amstelpark, go to eat some Amsterdamsche bitterballen (a delicious kind of croquette) with mustard at Parkcafé Zomers. Sit outside on the terrace near the lake and enjoy the peace while the kids feed/chase the ducks. The staff are very friendly and there is lots of room for the kids to run around.
4. Find Nemo
The Nemo Science Mueseum is located near the Station Centraal. It is a hands-on experiment mecca for kids. Be warned, it will be difficult to get them out of here! The beautiful building has an oasis of sanity in the form of a roof-top garden, which has a beautiful view of Amsterdam. Important note: if you want to see one of the demonstrations that happen at the museum during the day, get your place at least 15 minutes before it starts or the kids won’t be able to see anything and you will have crying fits on your hands (learnt from hard experience!).
5. Talk a Walk
Take a tram to Dam Platz, then go for a walk in the West of the centre along canals and down tiny streets. The bonus is that if the kids are getting hungry or tired, there are plenty of cafés to choose from. Just don’t go into a place that calls itself a “coffee shop”, as they deal in another kind of “pick-me-up”! Note: In the weekends there are many groups celebrating stag and hen parties. With children, it is better to walk around this area in the morning or early afternoon. Avoid walking into the Northern part of Amsterdam from the Square as that is where the Red Light District is situated.
6. Eat in a Merry-Go-Round:
Near the Museumplatz there is a fantastic restaurant called De Carrousel Pannenkoeken that serves Dutch pancakes. It has been set up in a converted carousel building. Some of the horses are still in place. The service is fast, and the food is delicious. Even better, you can relax with an end of lunch coffee while the kids can go to a small area where there are comfy chairs a TV playing cartoons, and a blackboard on the wall for them to draw on.
7. Feel the Wind in Your Hair
Take bus number 391 from just outside the Central Station in Amsterdam to the unpronounceable Zaanse Schans and see fabulously restored windmills in a beautiful setting. The bus takes 40 minutes, but drops you right at the gate of the park. You can enter the park for free, but if you want to go inside any of the windmills it costs you a small amount. I think it’s worth it to go inside one of them to see the vanes and mechanisms from close up. You can catch a little passenger ferry across the river Zaans to the quaint little village, or just walk across the bridge. Don’t eat in the actually park if you can avoid it. The food is really not that good. A perfect place for lunch is a restaurant called De Vijf Broers, just across the bridge from the park. It has fantastic outdoor seating next to the river, a wonderful view of the windmills, and best of all, a giant sand-pit with toys in it, walled in on three sides so children can’t flee to the water! You can also catch a train from the tiny station of Zaanse Schans, which only takes 15 minutes to get to Amsterdam. We caught it only on our way back to Amsterdam, as we didn’t want to have to drag the kids around the enormous Central Station looking for a train.
8. Soak Up Some Culture
There is, of course, the famous Van Gogh museum. We didn’t even try to go in as there was a two hour wait outside, whether you had already bought ticket or not. The museum is small and fills up very quickly. If you can’t get to see the museum (or even if you do) you can find out more about Van Gogh and his paintings on a wonderful website called Artsy, We did go to the Rijksmuseum, which was excellent. To avoid any queues, buy the tickets for the adults in the family online before you go, and then go to the reception desk in the middle of the beautiful entry atrium (NOT the ticket windows) to pick up free tickets for any children in the family under 18. Start on the fourth floor and snatch glimpses of the masterpieces as the children pull you past. Our boys loved a room on that floor where there is a huge replica of a battle galleon, and paintings on the walls of ships. Just after that, there is a room full of enormous dollhouses, which I’m sure girls would love! The museum provides a brochure for kids with a kind of treasure-hunt for them to follow. They need to look for particular parts of paintings in different rooms. I suggest you limit your visit to an hour to avoid the worst of the “museum fatigue” that sets in quickly when children are present.
9. Go Farming
Visit the farm/petting park that is situated right in the middle of Amsterdam. The farm is called De Dieren Cappel and is within walking distance of the Central Station. They have all sorts of farm animals, such as goats, pigs, sheep and rabbits that the kids can pet.
10. Sail The Seven Seas
Well, the boat doesn’t actually set sail, but you can get the sea experience by going to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum (my kids think the name is hilarious!). This Maritime Museum is next to the Central Station. You can explore a real-life replica of a sailing ship which sunk in the 1700’s, plus inside the museum there are lots of hands-on activities for kids, plus different tours you can take around the museum. Check out their website for details.
If you are planning to hit more than three museums or more, look into getting some kind of museum pass like the Amsterdam and Holland Pass or a museum card, at least for the adults. The children often get in free up to a certain age, so it’s less interesting to get one for them.
By Lisa Watson