Family activities in Amsterdam
June 25, 2018 3:32 AM   Subscribe

We're off to Amsterdam next week. What are some family-friendly (2 adults, a 6y/o, and a 2y/o) activities to do or places to visit?

We're staying somewhere relatively central, and are planning on hiring bikes for the duration of our stay so should be able to get pretty much anywhere in the city.

I know there are a bunch of museums and parks around the city, but are there any that are especially good for kids? I've already flagged the Maritime Museum and Hermitage as worth checking out. Is there a good science museum? (we've kind of unwittingly started a theme of visiting a science museum in every European city we go to)

We're planning on going a bit further afield on at least one day, and going for a day trip out of the city on our bikes. Are there any towns/villages/beaches within ~10 miles of the city that are especially nice?

Recommendations for really good, family-friendly places to eat would also be great (as in they won't mind the kids/a pushchair, not that they need to serve chicken nuggets and chips). Doesn't have to be Dutch cuisine, any tasty food is appreciated (e.g. we found an amazing Vietnamese place in Prague).
posted by EndsOfInvention to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, Netherlands (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Oh yes, there is a good science museum: Nemo. And y'all should definitely go out for pancakes. Pancakes in the Netherlands are lunch or dinner, not breakfast, and children of all ages love them. Maybe combine that with your biking plans? This looks like a good option.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:52 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is there a good science museum? (we've kind of unwittingly started a theme of visiting a science museum in every European city we go to)

The NEMO is an amazing science museum. Forget kids, I have a lot of fun there myself.

Yes, the Maritime museum is pretty good as they have lots of interactive displays. I'm not sure the Hermitage will keep your kids interested.
posted by vacapinta at 3:55 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nemo is awesome for young children indeed. I also liked the Tropenmuseum with young children, but it has been a while since I have been there. They had a great booklet then, with lots of things to find and to do for children.

If you like history, you could cycle to Muiden. It has a castle and you can take a ferry to Pampus.
posted by blub at 4:07 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure the Hermitage will keep your kids interested.

Huh, I thought there was a section specifically geared towards children ("Hermitage For Children") but now I look into it I think it's a thing for school groups not random visitors?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:45 AM on June 25, 2018

A few more things from me:

--There's an exhibit at the Stedelijk (modern art museum) that your kids might love, if the kids I saw there were anything to go by. It is called Studio Drift and is a mesmerizing exhibition.

--Take a canal boat tour. Resist the giant boats, they're fairly soul-less. Along the smaller canals, like near Anne Frank House, you'll see smaller boats that will take you on a 1-1.5 hour tour. Great thing to do on a nice day.

--You'll get bike tour ideas from wherever you get your bike from, but keep in mind that there are different levels of bike paths. From ones you share with cars to fully protected bike paths. If you want to go cross-country there's a bicycle network. You can see it here, for example. Just zoom in. One nice thing is to take a train to Haarlem, which is extremely close to Amsterdam, and rent bikes there to go cycling in the dunes near the beaches. You could also take a (free) ferry behind Amsterdam Centraal and follow the northern coast.

--Within the city, also walk and eat in one of the big markets. The NoorderMarkt is really fun but only on Saturdays. The Albert Cuyp market is great and runs 6 days a week.

--This will be an offbeat recommendation but take the Centraal ferry to the EYE film museum and go see this movie: De Wilde Stad (The Wild City). It is narrated by a cat who lives in Amsterdam. It is about the city and about wildlife in the city. Or see if you can watch it online before you go. One thing they do show for example is how all the herons gather at the Albert Cuyp market in the evenings to grab fish from the fish-sellers closing up for the day.

--The Hortus Botanicus is a small but important botanical garden. The tropical butterflies have recently hatched and you can go into a small greenhouse where they flutter around you.

--Most larger parks will have a terrace cafe to sit and eat and drink. These make good places to eat and drink with kids.

..but now I look into it I think it's a thing for school groups not random visitors?

That makes sense. I've been to the Hermitage. I saw little that could be described as kid-friendly.
posted by vacapinta at 5:03 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

The zoo is pretty great, they had free roaming lemurs when I went 6 years ago.
posted by lydhre at 5:08 AM on June 25, 2018

You should definitely check out Micropia! It's part of the zoo (Artis) which in itself is quite nice and central. Though animals in cages don't really rock my world. Micropia is also a zoo, but for bacteria and microbes. Very very cool, lots of explanations in english, buttons to push, cards to stamp and living creatures to peek at through microscopes. Lots of animations and a very very cool farming ants installation. They have a special theme of poop at the moment, which kids love.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 5:29 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh and if it's nice weather, there are several pools with outdoor basins and grass to lounge around, i like the one covered in plants, the Mercator.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 5:33 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Although well-traveled, clichè-avoiding adults might find some of this a bit unsophisticated, my kids, when younger, really adored a day trip from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans. It is very well suited to kids, from the giant wooden clog the 2 year old can climb into, to seeing the shoes made in a small factory, to (I think I recall?) going into a windmill, to abundant farm animals, etc., but also just a lovely day trip for adults to take in the countryside. (This place is not a recreation but a real, living, town, where they have made tourism a staple of their livelihood, but it's also just a town where people live in a contemporary way.) It is a very pleasant short train ride from Amsterdam which was also quite fun for my then 7 and 9 year olds. It was a highlight memory of our trip that I never would have done without kids, but which made them, and hence us adults, very happy.
posted by nantucket at 6:57 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

nthing the NEMO Museum. Truly great for "kids" of all ages. I was 37 when I went.
Hermitage is not child friendly at all, but I think the Rijksmuseum would be. The museumplein is great for exploring. And agree re: smaller boat tours.
Near Anne Frank is the small museum of cheese. Fills about 15m, but kids might like it
posted by TravellingCari at 8:04 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Recently, our guests visited This Is Holland, a virtual flight experience over the Netherlands, complete with sounds, scents, wind and spraying seawater. I haven't been there myself yet, but our guests recommended it enthusiastically. It's a few minutes by ferry from the central railway station.
posted by sively at 2:01 PM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's about 2 hours away, but the open air museum in Arnhem was really cool, with lots of hands-on demonstrations about how people lived in the past. Lots of kids and school groups there, and you'd obviously want a nice day.
posted by cnc at 3:47 PM on June 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think this would work: The restaurant/bar Blue Amsterdam in the Kalvertoren shopping center. It's one of the only tall buildings in the city (tall for Amsterdam—maybe six stories?), thus giving the restaurant, which has panoramic 360° windows, an amazing view of the entire city.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:09 PM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're comfortable with it, I think a renting your own small boat is the way to see the city with kids. We've used this place next to the Okura hotel a few times: ( you should reserve ahead )

Biking south to Ouderkerk aan the Amstel is a great bike ride. You pass a couple of windmills and nice houses. Once you get there on the west side of the Amstel Loetje has nice lunch (on the water) and there's an ice cream place. In the center on the east side there's the 400 year old jewish cemetery that's pretty famous and across from it is Baker Out(it's a 125 year old bakery with a cafe) can get a nice coffee and some sweets stuff...and also sit on the water.

If you go to Nemo (as suggested above), the library is just across the little walking bridge. The bottom floor is the kid area (they've got an English section) and at the top is a La Place cafeteria with a really nice view of the city. A good idea if the weather isn't great.

The Zoo indeed still has the Lemurs walking around. (we just did a birthday party there for my 8yo kid were we got a tour and got to feed some animals.... the kids really loved it). The whole place is pretty kid friendly with a few play areas and grassy picnic type areas. There was a 3 piece jazz band playing the day we were there.
posted by Spumante at 2:35 AM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone, there are honestly so many good suggestions here that it's going to be hard to pick out what not to do. Any good places to eat are still gratefully received though!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:21 AM on June 27, 2018

You have kids, you should have Pannenkoeken(pancakes...both sweet and savory). This is where we go in Amsterdamsebos (the big park(forest) SSE of amsterdam) ( )

This place in Amsterdam across from the Heineken Experience is nice but have only been once...I think there are lots of good ones in the city though...
posted by Spumante at 12:36 AM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

OK, post-trip update:
- Hiring the bakfiets (box bike) was a great idea, kids absolutely loved it, it let us cover a lot more ground than walking (and without kids moaning about being tired), and we were therefore able to fit in more stuff each day (e.g. going to one place in the morning and somewhere else in the afternoon). The amount of cyclists takes a bit getting used to (and the fact that motor scooters are allowed on cycle paths), and it takes a day or two to figure out who has priority on some junctions, but it's nicer than mixing with cars/trucks. We rented from A-Bike and had no issues (bikes in a very good state, friendly staff).
- NEMO (science museum) was great, enough stuff there to last the whole day. The whole museum is very focused towards 5-10 age group (bar one area about puberty/teenagers) rather than there just being a kids' area. Check the schedule for the giant Rube Goldberg machine! Take stuff for paddling on the roof terrace. Food in the museum restaurant is surprisingly good (this is an ongoing theme in Amsterdam museums).
- Tropenmuseum was good, the best part was the kid-focused "trip to Morrocco" which put us on a fake airplane and then took us round a pretend Morroccan town complete with tea tasting. Out the back is a public paddling pool that the kids loved. Good food in the museum restaurant again. We happened to be there for the "Abolition of Slavery" anniversary festival so there was some cool music and amazing-smelling food in the park next door (after we'd already had lunch, arg).
- Botantical Gardens were nice, quite compact but enough interesting stuff to entertain a 6yo for an afternoon. There's a nice treasure hunt for interesting plants.
- Amsterdamse Bos (large park/forest to the south-west) was really nice. We cycled there along the Amstel river cycle lane. Very pretty and peaceful away from traffic. The park has a lot of stuff to do - more public paddling pools, swimming in the lake (with rope bridges & rafts for older kids), mini electric boats to hire, goat farm.
- Studio Drift at the modern art museum (Stedelijk) was really good. The regular exhibits weren't hugely interesting to the kids for the most part but they loved the amazing Studio Drift pieces.
- Took a 1 hour canal tour from near the Anne Frank house. Took a smaller boat as recommended (this one had an orange sign saying 1 Hour tour for €15) and it was great. The company was called Flagship and they were all wearing orange t-shirts.
- Zaanse Schans was a good day trip on the train - the part of the town on the same side of the river as the train station was very quiet and we enjoyed a peaceful, tasty meal at Brasserie De Smuiger (warning: the XXL Toasties are not an exaggeration). The other side of the river, however, where the museums are was very busy with coach-loads of tourists. The main Zaanse Schans museum was interesting although kids were mostly only interested in the imitation biscuit factory and associated interactive games.
- Cheese Museum (near Anne Frank house) was very small but free and had some really good cheese.
- Food: Pancakes Amsterdam (a chain of 3 places) was really good. Taco Cartel was tasty (and good value compared to most of the places we ate). Bakers & Roasters came recommended for brunch and was obviously very popular but the food was pretty average.

Things to look out for: Albert Heijn, the ubiquitous grocery store, only takes cash! (and Maestro cards but who has them?) Thankfully they usually have an ATM in store. Conversely, Pancakes Amsterdam doesn't take cash (except for tips). Make sure when you get off the Eurostar that you take your own suitcase, and not an identical one belonging to someone else (facepalm).

Thanks to everyone for the recommendations! We still want to go back and do all the stuff we didn't have time for.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:13 AM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

« Older What is the cost of a cigarette?   |   Why do my hands hurt every morning? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.