"Thanks so much to Amanda for publishing this article. Her site is an incredible authority on all things expat! From wonderful posts about the Netherlands to useful tips for travelling with children, this blog has everything! For example, be sure to check out this post, covering her trip to the Nemo Science centre, mentioned in this article!
Let’s face it, when most people think of Amsterdam the first thing that jumps to mind is probably not its family friendly activities and children’s attractions. Whilst it’s true that the city’s main exports are not suitable for travellers with little ones, there are still plenty of great things to do and see that make it an ideal family destination.
I first visited the city with my parents, as a twelve-year-old, and it goes without saying that I was blissfully ignorant of the realities that surrounded me. Instead, Amsterdam was a whirlwind adventure, with winding canals, exciting museums, incredible parks and delicious food.
Now, older and wiser and having returned as an adult, I see how valuable this initial innocent insight was, and will forever preach to surprised faces that Amsterdam really is the ideal kids’ destination!
Boats, Boats & More BoatsSimply by its set-up, this city is a wonderful place for children. It’s a well-known fact that the vast majority of kids are enthralled by the concept of boats and being on the water. To tiny eyes, this is a place where the roads have basically been replaced with rivers, which, in itself, is cause for endless excitement.
There are plenty of canal rides available, whose winding trips through little tunnels, and the open water of the Amsterdam eye, are sure to delight. Many, such as the 100 highlights tour, come with a running commentary on the history and culture of the surrounding area, making it a great interactive educational activity!
Best Museums For KidsIn terms of museums, the choices are endless but experiences differ significantly. Whilst the classic sites, such as the Anne Frank House and Rembrandt and Van Gough museum, are bucket-list-worthy activities, the queues can sometimes last for hours.
So, if you don’t want a temper tantrum on your hands, these are probably best to avoid, or at least buy queue jump passes for. If your kids are super big fans of Anne Frank, there’s an alternative two-hour neighbourhood tour that is probably more interesting than the museum itself.
However, from personal experience, I recommend you head to some of the weird and wonderful alternative attractions instead. The Tropenmuseum (Tropical Museum) is awash with colours, sounds and artefacts from non-western cultures and Nemo, the Science Centre, is an interactive adventure that guarantees to amaze even the adults in the group.
The Park You’ll Never Want To LeaveFor anyone with small children, sightseeing is an activity that has to happen in short bursts to avoid overtiredness and tantrums. Because of this, it's always good to have a relaxing filler option, where your little ones can let off some steam. In Amsterdam, Vondelpark fills this requirement perfectly. However, a word of warning: it’s so child-friendly it might be difficult to get them to leave.
My parents made this mistake during our trip, and what was supposed to be a morning visit to the park turned out to be a daylong excursion! The area of the park is quite large, so we rented bikes, which is another fantastic option if you have kids, as it makes getting around easier, and the bakfiets mean it’s possible even with the youngest of children.
Set free on a set of two wheels, me and my brother found endless exciting attractions: the EYE cinema; Kinderkookkafé, a restaurant run by children; the open-air theatre; giant Picasso sculptures and much more. Never fear: there’s also several cafés and indoor areas for parents to sit down and relax as well.
Plus, it's only a short distance to the famous ‘I Amsterdam' sign, and what kid doesn't jump at the opportunity to spend a few hours climbing around giant letters.
The Tastes Of HollandOne obvious child-friendly repercussion of Amsterdam’s coffee shop culture is that the food on offer across the city is ridiculous, over-the-top and mouth-wateringly delicious. For those trying to keep their kids on a healthy diet, the reams of sugar-coated waffles, churros, pizza slices and chocolate shops may be a bit of a challenge, but there’s still plenty of delicious delights available.
There are many food-tasting tours that offer a historical and cultural insight into Dutch cuisine—so add a fantastic educational element to stuffing your face—and there's a whole range healthy eateries on offer. However, if holidays are time for a treat, then it won't be long before you're digging into giant ice cream Sundays and extravagant crepes.
Which Bits To Avoid?Whilst Amsterdam has endless fantastic children and family activities on offer, there are a few obvious words of warning. The Red Light District is pretty much the epicentre of adult activities in the city. It's obvious to spot—due to the naked women in the windows and the sudden increase in coffee shops and marijuana attractions—and luckily, it's concentrated in one small area in the centre of the map. There is some spill-off into the surrounding streets, but if you're worried, as a rule of thumb, it's best to avoid the canals at the centre of the distinct horseshoe (this will hopefully make sense when you look at a map).
Amsterdam also has a pretty lively nightlife, particularly in the summer, so if you're with kids, it might be sensible to spend the evenings in. It’s worth bringing along some night-time activities such as a pack of cards, story book or even laptop—with VPN—so you can gain access to your favourite streaming services, to keep them occupied whilst cooped up in the hotel room.
I've said it, and I'll say it again: Amsterdam is the perfect kid-friendly destination. For me, the time I spent there as a child will always stay close to my heart, and I hope other kids will get the opportunity to have the same experience as I did. If you have any more suggestions for kid-friendly activities or tips and tricks for families to make the most out of the city, then be sure to leave a comment below with your ideas!"