Amsterdam is about as lively a city as I have ever visited, particularly bustling with bikes and boats. You’ll find loads to do in this beautifully picturesque walkable city oozing old world charm. While we didn’t have kids with us on our recent trip there, I could see lots of families enjoying all that the city has to offer. If you’ve just got a few days in Amsterdam, make these activities your priority.
The fountains outside the phenomenal RIJKS museum are the perfect spot to cool down on a hot day, splish splashing through the rising and falling streams. Families playfully dash in and out of the watery installation in efforts to remain dry. It’s also a great place to sit and people watch with your refreshment from the garden café. But don’t settle for the cooling off because the main attraction is the world class art inside. I wimped out with weary feet and chose to sit in the magnificent restaurant and peruse the gift shop while hubby explored the galleries. Small world, I actually ran into someone I knew, and we shared a bit of holiday sustenance and stories.
There are lots of places to cool off in the water, both official and unofficial. Click here for a link to a map of swimming locations in Amsterdam.
Cruising the Canals
Catch a cruise and glide along in the UNESCO World Heritage canal district in that oh so classic Amsterdam way. It’s a memorable way to explore the city and a great way to get your bearings.
The Anne Frank House will likely be pointed out as you float by. Young Anne Frank, famed for her wartime diary, hid in this building with her family and four other people in a secret annex, away from the Nazis. The property is protected from demolition, now a museum dedicated to her life and times and with exhibits about persecution and discrimination. Lineups can be very long as it is a popular attraction so your sail past may be enough.
At least one canal boat company, Amsterdam Canal Cruises, caters to kids with some free colouring stuff and games. And they’ll have a chance to become a certified pirate! There are pizza cruises, burger cruises, hop on hop off cruises, sunset cruises, and more. Check it all out here.
More Museums The RIJKS Museum and the Van Gogh Museum are the two most visited museums with the Anne Frank Museum, mentioned above, ranked as the third most popular. Families will also enjoy the National Maritime Museum, the Tropical Museum, and the NEMO Science Museum. In summer the huge sloping roof of NEMO is transformed into a beach!
Crazy for animals
A family trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the zoo, one of the oldest in Europe. The Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo is right in the city centre. We managed to walk there, but it took about an hour through the winding streets from our centrally located hotel. There are more playgrounds here with stuff to climb, as well as Dutch ornamental gardens, and a good restaurant. It’s not too big so easy to get around.
The spotted jaguar recently gave birth to two black cubs, the first jaguar cubs at ARTIS since 1975. Watch a video here. And have a look a baby elephant being born at the zoo last year here.
But where are the windmills?
With my stereotypical view of the Netherlands, I expected to see windmills everywhere. There are apparently a few in the city but we only saw those of the little souvenir variety. So we hopped on bus 391 just outside Amsterdam Centraal Station (the central train station) for an enjoyable scenic ride through the Dutch countryside to the Zaanse Schans, which is an open air museum and conservation area. Wandering past plentiful historic windmills I reached complete windmill satisfaction and also discovered Dutch crafts and baked goods. And there’s more splish splashing here with kids running and launching themselves off of the end of a wharf. It’s a fun outing that can easily be done in a morning or an afternoon!
Busy, busy, busy
Be wary of all the bikes weaving amidst the cars, buses and trams. There are almost a million bikes in Amsterdam and interestingly thousands are fished out of the canals annually. You’ll want to hold your wee ones tight and look all around you before crossing the busy streets. And yet the locals appear so relaxed whilst pedalling; you’ll see them multi tasking like talking, texting, and eating. Parents ride with multiple kids on board or alongside, confidently manoeuvring the traffic. There’s a frenetic feel about Amsterdam that you may find energizing.
A great place to end your stay is in the popular urban park, Vondelpark. It’s a lovely green space with an open-air theatre, paddling pool (more splashing) and playgrounds (more climbing).
At the Kinderkookcafé, you’ll be served food prepared by supervised children, including yours! Kids are invited to help out and gleefully take part in all aspects of the service.
Plan your Amsterdam holiday by visiting www.iamsterdam.com.
Tip: The Amsterdam pass for 24, 48, 72 and even 96 hours might save you money if you plan to take in several of the major attractions. Find more information here.