Destination guides, Europe

MummyTravels’ guide to Amsterdam with kids

Amsterdam’s reputation might not instantly seem child-friendly, but there’s far more to the city than red lights and those coffee shops. Instead you’ve got all the attractions of a major city, linked by picturesque canals overlooked by gabled houses, plus plenty of green space in between.

And along with the famous art museums, zoo and science centre, the friendly Dutch are very welcoming to families. Just don’t step out in front of the bikes. Check out my photos if you need any more tempting.

Amsterdam-canal-boats-bridge-viewWith flights, ferries and Eurostar to choose from, it’s easy to discover for a weekend break as well. Here are my top tips for travelling with children – as ever, do add your own tips and suggestions in the comments.

Getting there/around
Eurostar’s direct train service starts in December 2016, taking around four hours from London, while there are currently tickets available through the site if you change along the way. If you’re in the north of England, DFDS ferries cross daily from Newcastle.

And there are a string of low-cost and national airlines flying to Schipol Airport every day, around a one-hour flight from London. Dutch national airline KLM has some great extras if you’re flying with kids as well.

Amsterdam-street-gable-houses-travelTrains run 24 hours a day from Schipol to Centraal station with single use tickets available from machines. Look for the ones with the blue top – those with a yellow top are only for travellers with passes, one of the lessons I learned along the way!

These tickets aren’t covered by the I Amsterdam card but trams and buses in the centre are, so it’s very straightforward to get around.

Where to stay
Amsterdam specialises in all kinds of quirky hotels, from five-star glamour to converted canal houses as well as canal houseboats to rent.

Travelling with kids though, I’m a complete convert to AirBNB*, which is what we used for our visit in the summer.

Or check out the i-escape Kids collection as well as the luxurious Kid & Coe for some of my favourite child-friendly places to stay.

Houseboat by a typical Amsterdam bridge and canalWhat to see
There’s plenty to entertain children of every age. Start with a canal cruise to get your bearings and see some of the architecture – there are several child-friendly options including the main 75-minute City Canal cruise with its pirate commentary option, or hop on and off as you please with the Amsterdam Canal Bus.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are my top 11 things to do in Amsterdam with kids including the Vondelpark, which is the perfect spot to escape the summer heat, as well as the Anne Frank House if you’re travelling with older children.

Amsterdam-vondelpark-trees-lake-viewExplore the world at the NEMO Science Center whose roof garden also has one of the best views of the city

And you can easily spend a day at Artis Zoo.

Girl watching the giraffes at Artis Royal Zoo, AmsterdamAmsterdam is rightly famous for its art galleries , especially the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum and Stedelijk museum. All have some activities for younger children and sit almost next-door to each other but if you’re not sure which to choose, here are my five top tips for visiting the Van Gogh museum which is included in the I Amsterdam card.

The city also has an impressive number of very quirky museums – some more child-friendly than others. With older kids (or if you’ve got someone to sit on the canal banks outside with younger ones), the Tassenmuseum is a fascinating mix of culture, history and style.

amsterdam-tassenmuseum-museum-bags-historicWhat to eat
Traditional Dutch food focuses on filling you up more than fine dining, although that’s no bad thing with kids. Don’t leave without trying the pancakes – locals love Pancakes! in the Jordaan as much as as tourists, with weird and wonderful combinations like bacon, banana and chilli pepper along with less exotic ‘pannekoek’ toppings.

There’s plenty of street food for on the go: try chips with mayonnaise, or ‘vlaamse frites’, as well as herring (although pre-schoolers are unlikely to be lining up for the raw fish in a bun of ‘broodje haring’). And stroopwafel are best eaten after balancing them above a hot drink to melt the caramel.

You’ll also find plenty of Indonesian food, a legacy of Amsterdam’s colonial past, along with all the usual global cuisines, from pizza to hamburgers…

amsterdam-card-map-travelPlan your visit
The I Amsterdam card can be a great money saver, especially if you’ll be taking trams around the city – check out my review to decide if it’s worth it.

There are also several Amsterdam guide books for kids along with my own personal recommendation of Lonely Planet’s various guides to the city.

For more information, the city’s tourist information site is at iamsterdam.com/en and if you’re planning to venture further afield, there’s more information on exploring the Netherlands here.

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MummyTravels guide to visiting the Dutch city of Amsterdam with kids. The best family-friendly attractions to see with children as well as tips on getting around, where to stay and what to eat.

All images copyright MummyTravels

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