Exploring Amsterdam with Kids

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Amsterdam might not be a natural pick for a European trip with kids, but it should be.  None of us had ever been to the Netherlands and the reason we ended up there is because our flight to India laid over there.  While Amsterdam is best known for its red light district and drug culture, we loved walking the streets and wandering down the canals.   Amsterdam with kids ended up being a great place to visit for a few days and exceeded our expectations.

Here are our highlights of our time in Amsterdam with kids.

1.  City of Bikes

The amount of bikes in the city is truly impressive and it took us awhile to get used to dealing with an extra variable when crossing the street.  The infrastructure for bikes is so great with separate bike paths alongside the road and huge (even multi-story) bike racks everywhere.  It was interesting to us that no one wore helmets biking, even young children.  Also, mopeds and motorcycles used the bike lanes as well, so you had to be very careful walking alongside the bike paths.

Practical Information: You can rent a bike at various shops throughout the city with many family-friendly options.  Bikes cost 8-10 euros per day.

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2.  Stay on a Houseboat

Alongside the canals are thousands of houseboats, which used to be a budget way of living in the city, but have now become really popular as the city is not issuing any more houseboat permits. Instead of staying in a hotel, we opted to splurge and stay on a houseboat on a canal in the heart of the city.

We loved staying on our houseboat and watching the boat traffic on the canal and the action on the bridge above us.

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3.  Wander the Streets

Our houseboat had a copy of Rick Steves guidebook and we enjoyed following along on his walking tours of the City.  There is so much charm and history in the city that we were never bored walking around.

For little feet, the hop-on, hop-off tour is a great option too.

 

We did make a wrong turn one day while looking for a place to eat.  First, we were merely in a major “coffee shop” area, which didn’t seem like the best place to eat lunch.  As I tried to navigate us into a better café area, we ended up in the Red Light District, as was evident from the “Live Sex Shows” and “Adult toy stores”.  In trying to escape this area, we ducked into an alley, which quite obviously wasn’t a smart move because you can imagine what you find in Red Light District alleys.  We got to see the small storefront windows with “girls” and lots more (or less, I guess).  I halfheartedly shielded the kids’ eyes among lots of giggles and finally made it out of the area. IMG_3564


4.  Canal Boat Ride

These 1 hour trips cruise through the canals of Amsterdam and what kids don’t like a boat cruise?  They have auto guides that describe what you are seeing and the kids learned lots about the history of the city. This should be on any Amsterdam itinerary!

Practical Information: There are a number of companies offering similar canal cruises.  Click here to book discounted tickets.
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5.  VondelPark and Kinderkook

The city has lots of green spaces and large parks and our very first day we visited VondelPark, which has lovely paths and streams.  There are playgrounds for the kids, cafes, a running track and the reason we visited: Kinderkook.  This is a cute restaurant for kids where they get to make their own food and eat it.  The kids had fun rolling out dough for their pizza and croissants and enjoying the fruits of their labour afterwards. Food was very inexpensive.  Our total bill was 25E.  IMG_3498 IMG_3496

6.  Anne Frank House

Before coming on the trip, we had read a book from the library about the life of Anne Frank and introduced the kids to the Holocaust.  The Anne Frank House is where the family lived after they left Germany and where Anne wrote her diaries and lived in hiding.  The museum is very popular and we had got our tickets online a few months prior. Read this detailed guide to visiting Anne Frank’s house.

It is a very impactful place as you wander the warehouse and offices and finally the annex where the Frank family hid.  The rooms are purposely left empty and there are quotes from her diary on the walls throughout, along with artifacts from their time there. Ella plans to read the actual diary now and really loved the graphic novel of Anne’s life. 9E/adult, kids free – order tickets online here.  

This Anne Frank walking tour is great to do before you visit Anne Frank House.  The guide will tour you through the neighborhood where Anne spent her childhood and provide the historical background for your visit.  IMG_3543

7.  Zaanse Schans

This is an open air museum just outside Amsterdam that highlights the history of the Zaan region.  You get to see numerous working wind mills, see workshops of classic Dutch products like cheese, wooden clogs, and visit a museum about the industrial development of the area.  The kids were so attentive with their English audio guides, walking around and queuing up their guides to the displays.  They particularly liked the area of the museum that was a reproduction of an old cookie and chocolate factory and the engaging video games throughout. Free to wonder around.  Windmills/each 4E/adult, 2E/child 6-12.  Museum 25E/family.

You can take the train for 23E/person or this hop-on, hop-off bus visits Zaanse Schans, Edam and Volendam for almost the same price.

Here are some other great day trip from Amsterdam ideas.

8.  NEMO Science Centre

This Science Centre looks like a large ship from the outside and is probably the best science centre I have ever been to.  The kids loved the interactive activities and I felt like they really learned from them. We visited with our Dutch friends from Malaysia and the kids had a great time together.  On the roof of the museum is a beautiful park like area with views over the city and a splash pad for the kids and a café for lunch. 15E/adult, 15E/child over 4 yearsIMG_2952

9.  Fun Food

There are quite a few Dutch foods to try from pannekoeken (pancakes) to many types of cheese and of course stroopwaffles (waffle cookies with caramel in the middle).  I couldn’t talk anyone into trying the well known herring though. The kids particularly liked the novelty of the hot foods from a vending machine shop.  IMG_3678 IMG_3623

Our Verdict

We really enjoyed our time in Amsterdam and it was a great little taste of Europe for a few days. It was wonderful to see all  the things the kids picked up from our few days here. It made me so happy to read Ella’s postcards that she wrote and realize she absorbed so much.  Don’t write off Amsterdam with kids; it makes for a great destination for families.  We had beautiful summer weather while we were there, but it would be equally as charming in any other season.  IMG_3715

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Amsterdam with kids

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