Question: what comes to mind when you think of Amsterdam? Maybe you think of all the canals and the many beautiful canal houses. Or you see Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ hanging in the Rijksmuseum.
Maybe you picture all the locals riding their bikes through the Vondelpark. You might also think of all the coffee shops (the one that don’t sell coffee), the Red Light District and the exciting nightlife of the city.
Without a doubt, Amsterdam has something to offer for everyone.
But what if you are traveling with children. Should you even consider Amsterdam as a travel destination? We at Best of Amsterdam can only answer that question with a very positive yes!
The many parks, playgrounds and adventurous museums make Amsterdam a perfect city to visit with your children.
To help you prepare for your trip to Amsterdam, Best of Amsterdam presents our best tips on what to do in Amsterdam when you travel with children.
We have made a distinction between younger children (from 2 to 10 years old) and somewhat older children (from 10 to 16 years old), but of course you can decide for yourself what activities would suit your family best.
A day in Amsterdam with young children
Pancakes for breakfast!
You could have your normal eggs or toast for breakfast, but today is all about the children and they love their pancakes!
Pancakes in the Berenstraat serves the best pancakes all throughout the day. The Dutch eat theirs big and thin with bacon and syrup or with apple and powder sugar. There are also American style pancakes on the menu, served with real maple syrup. Or you can order some original Russian blini’s with smoked salmon and cream cheese.
For the children there are also smaller pancakes with fresh fruit and colored sprinkles.
The special breakfast deals include coffee and fresh orange juice and they are good value for money.
Do you have an I Amsterdam card? Make sure to bring it to Pancakes, for they offer you a 25% discount on all breakfast deals ordered before 13.00 hour.
And by the way, all ingredients here are fair-trade and often organic and they also make gluten free pancakes.
Riding a tandem bike
Now that everyone is well fed, it is time for some action. Let’s go to the Westerpark. By foot, this will take you around half an hour, maybe a bit longer if your children are not in a stroller anymore. If you think that takes too long, tram number 10 is a better option. Hop on at the Elandsgracht (tram should be heading towards Westergasfabriek) and hop off at the Wittenkade, you are now right next to one of the entrances of the Westerpark.
There is also a third option and we think it’s the most fun: rent some bikes and go cycling! There are a lot of options for rental bikes in the city, and having young children should definitely not hold you back in deciding to do so.
Go for a bike with special children seats on the front or back of the bike or choose a carrier bike, similar to the bikes Amsterdam parents all use.
When your child is a bit older, the special tandem bike for children is also very cool. With this bike, parents are in charge while the child sits up front and helps cycling.
Most bike rental shops also rent out helmets in all sizes. Cycling from the pancake shop in the Berenstraat to the Westerpark will take you around ten minutes.
So, Westerpark it is then. The best thing about this park is that cars are not allowed and that there are tons of fun activities for children. You can easily spend the whole day here if you would want to.
Start with the playground: there are two here. One is nice for children from 0 to 4 years old and one suits 4 to 8 years old better. They are both equipped with play gear made from durable wood. For the younger children there are low swings and small slides.
The children that are a bit older can enjoy climbing in and on specially build constructions. Both playgrounds are opened daily for everyone and entrance is free.
All that playing will make you hot and sweaty, especially in summer. Let’s try and cool down a bit at the pond that is located in the eastern part of the park. This swimming pond is made especially for little children to play in.
Everyday, the pond gets drained and then filled up again with clean drinking water. No chemicals here, so it is really safe for your children to play in. The excess water gets used to water the plants in the park. This pond is opened from the first of May until the first of October.
On the other side of the park there is a real children’s zoo. It is not too big, but great fun. They have a Yorkshire giant pig called Motti, pony’s, sheep, goats, rabbits, chicken, hamsters and little rats.
There is even a cow here (the only one you’ll find at Westerpark!). The children’s zoo opens from 9 until 17, every day except Monday.
Westerpark for parents
After all this climbing, swimming and petting animals your children probably will get a bit hungry again. Luckily, you don’t have to leave the park looking for food. Everything you might fancy is available somewhere at Westerpark.
Take for instance the WestergasTerras, where they serve salads and sandwiches that you get to eat while overlooking the beautiful water gardens. Or if your children have an adventurous taste, try some Algerian food at Raïnaraï.
Pacific Parc is sort of the center of the whole park and it is always crowded here. It combines a very laid back vibe with great food and lots of creativity. Locals also love it here.
At this point you might imagine the Westerpark as a big children’s paradise, but for adults there is lots to do here as well. Think art, design, movies and even a bit of shopping.
Visit exhibitions by artists you won’t find anywhere else at Kallenbach Gallery. This gallery is specialized in underground and urban art and they always try to introduce new artists in a low brow way.
Battalion is a showroom that sells contemporary art and design, spread over two floors. If you feel comfortable with letting your (older) children play by themselves for a bit, you could even go and watch a movie at the Ketelhuis.
And a pleasant surprise for all of us who can’t live without their smart phone anymore: there is free WIFI throughout the whole park.
A day in Amsterdam with older children
When your children become a bit older, visiting a foreign city with them becomes a whole new experience. You don’t have to keep them occupied all the time anymore, but doing the whole cultural experience of visiting museums all day long might still not be what makes them happy. But don’t worry. There are lots of things to do in Amsterdam for older children as well!
Breakfast with a view
All of our suggestions for spending the day in Amsterdam with older children center on and around the Dam Square, but before we get to that we will start by eating a proper breakfast at restaurant Blue.
This restaurant is located on the top floor of shopping center the Kalvertoren and it has something that both young and old will enjoy: a beautiful view over the whole city.
And of course some delicious food. Children that are on the verge of becoming a teenager usually have a very good appetite, so some nice food is naturally very important.
At Blue they serve eggs, yoghurt with fresh fruit and cereals, freshly pressed juices and classic French toast. Basically, everything you need to get a good start of your day.
Amsterdam in the old days
After our breakfast we walk from the Kalverstraat towards the Dam Square. Our first stop is the Amsterdam Dungeon. Here, you get to learn everything there is to know about the dark history of Amsterdam. And while today Amsterdam is a pretty peaceful and safe place, 500 years ago that was a bit different.
Visiting the Dungeon is a great experience for young and old. All you need is a somewhat of an adventurous spirit and of course a bit of guts.
In the dungeons, professional actors present to you 11 shows that can sometimes be scary and dark, but that are also always funny and educational.
From the Spanish inquisition to witch-hunting, torture rooms and all the dark things that went on on the Batavia ship.
The professional actors of the Amsterdam Dungeon take you back to these forgotten times and let you experience how it was like back then.
The recommended age for entering the Dungeon is ten years or older. An adult should accompany children between ten and twelve years old.
Monday: 11.00 – 18.00
Tuesday: 11.00 – 18.00
Wednesday: 11.00 – 18.00
Thursday: 11.00 – 18.00
Friday: 11.00 – 18.00
Saturday: 11.00 – 18.00
Sunday: 11.00 – 18.00
Be a star!
Are the dungeons of Amsterdam too dark for your taste? Another great option is visiting Amsterdam’s Madame Tussauds instead. It’s located on the corner of Dam Square and Rokin and even though it has become a bit of a classic, it is still lots of fun to see all those wax figures of all the international stars.
Who wouldn’t want to be photographed with Lionel Messi, Doutzen Kroes or Barack Obama?
Take the stage together with Beyonce and give the performance of a lifetime! Or let David Beckham tell you all about the things he does before he enters the field to play a game of soccer.
A little tip from us: buy your Madame Tussauds tickets online before you go. This will enable you to use the special ‘fast track’ entrance so you don’t have to stand in line for too long.
You can also profit from several online discount options, like the ‘early bird ticket’ which saves you €7,50 if you enter the museum before 11.00 hours in the morning. Or go in the afternoon with a ‘late saver ticket’ and save yourself €5.
Monday: 10.00 – 19.00
Tuesday: 10.00 – 19.00
Wednesday: 10.00 – 19.00
Thursday: 10.00 – 19.00
Friday: 10.00 – 19.00
Saturday: 10.00 – 19.00
Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Beurs van Berlage
Today, we have lunch at the grand café of the Beurs van Berlage. This is a special place: it was here where the world’s first stock exchange was founded during the Golden Age. Dutch architect H.P. Berlage was responsible for the current building that was built in 1903.
The AEX has since moved a few doors down the street and the original building is now used as a conference location and gallery.
The adjacent grand café offers a delicious lunch at a very central location. The café is located in the former head entrance of the stock exchange and all the elaborate architectural details are the silent witnesses of days gone by.
The beautiful terrace makes it possible to enjoy your lunch outside, in between the three landmarks of the Damrak: the Beurs van Berlage, the AEX and majestic department store De Bijenkorf.
We will end this day in Amsterdam on the famous canals. We are ignoring the popular canal boats with their guided tours though, and we are going to do something that is so much more fun: we are going to be captain of our own little boat.
Canal Motorboats is located right next to central station and offers aluminum boats for rent that can hold up to seven people. The good thing about these boats is that you don’t need a license, so anyone can be a captain. A boat from Canal Boats has four batteries that make it possible for you to be on the water for a whole day if you would want to.
Thanks to the build in air chambers these boats cannot sink, not even if they would fill up with water. Free life jackets are available for children under the age of 12. Of course, you will get a waterproof map of all the canals.
We suggest finding a route over the water that brings you to all the majestic monuments of Amsterdam. It is a fun way to add a bit of culture to the day!
As always, we would love to hear from you. What did you enjoy doing the most? Were there any activities that did not live up to your expectations? Or maybe you did something that would fit perfectly in our list of things to do in Amsterdam when you are traveling with children.
We encourage you to get in touch with us by leaving a comment underneath this post or via our contact form.