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Yes! Amsterdam IS for Kids!

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As an American expat living in the Netherlands with my family of four, the question they usually ask is, “Is it alright to travel with children to Amsterdam?” Yes! Amsterdam is for kids! While the city is sometimes known more for lascivious activities than family-friendly fare, there are plenty of parks, museums, and attractions to keep children’s curious minds and rambunctious bodies entertained. At the same time, parents can discover the treasures of this Dutch metropolis. Here are 10 of my favorite family-friendly sites and activities in Amsterdam.

Science Center NEMO fountain

My girls in front of the Science Center NEMO having “buckets” of fun! ~ Yes! Amsterdam IS for Kids!

1. Science Center NEMO

Opened in 1998, the Science Center NEMO is the biggest science museum in the Netherlands. Housed in a ship-shaped building, there are five floors full of hands-on activities, in both English and Dutch, to engage four of the five senses. Go into the Age Machine to get a glimpse of what you’ll look like in a few decades or wander into the Wonder Lab to blow a few things up.

2. National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam

Learn about Amsterdam’s history at sea on the 18th century VOC (Dutch East India Company) ship, The Amsterdam. Located next to the Science Center NEMO, this replica of an original ship sailed from the Netherlands to the Far East with cargo for the VOC settlements. On its return, a storm in the North Sea resulted in damage to the ship and it was beached off the coast of England, where it later sank. Look inside the vessel to see the cramped quarters where 200 sailors slept. You can also take a peek at the pantry and cook’s quarters as well as the surgeon’s cabin, which is stocked with antiquated medical supplies.

3. Vondelpark

With more than 10 million annual visitors, Vondelpark is the most popular park in Amsterdam. This 120-acre public park has several play areas, an open-air theater that stages free children’s shows on Wednesday afternoons, a film museum that has performances for children on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, and several cafés. The Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Tea House) is a national monument that is often used for theater performances and festivals. Stop by Snoephuise (Candy House) to enjoy a Dutch pannekoek (pancake).

VOC replica ship, The Amsterdam ~ Yes! Amsterdam IS for Kids!

VOC replica ship and museum, The Amsterdam

4. Rijksmuseum

A stone’s throw from Vondelpark is the Museumplein, which includes Amsterdam’s world famous Rijksmuseum. Although the museum is currently under construction, there are a few exhibitions and works of art still on display. There are also daily children’s workshops related to the museum’s current exhibitions on weekends and daily during school summer break.

5. Van Gogh Museum

Also located at the Museumplein is the Van Gogh Museum. In addition to an audio tour for children aged 6 to 12, and a scavenger hunt through the museum, there are weekend children’s sessions that begin with a tour of the museum and end with your little artists creating their own work of art.

6. Tramway Museum

Next to bikes, trams are the most popular mode of transportation in Amsterdam. Visit the Tramway Museum to learn more about the Netherlands’ preferred method of public transportation and see trams from other European cities such as Vienna and Prague. After you’ve explored the museum, take a spin on the museum tram. This 90-minute trip will take you on a historic ride through Amsterdam and bring you to the doorstep of the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forrest).

NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam

Hands-on learning on the Science Center NEMO

7. Amsterdams Bos

Amsterdamse Bos is a large recreational park on the outskirts of the city. Grote Vijver (Big Lake) is accessible via footbridges and extensive rope courses that meander through the trees and vary in height and difficulty levels. Add to that an adventure playground, and this park is definitely worth the trip.

8. Music Workshops at the Sound Garden

Take your children to Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw for a wonderful music workshop for kids at the Klankspeeltuin (Sound Garden). This real life school of rock allows children to learn about music with the sound installations in residence at the Muziekgebouw. The Xenax, with its drawing boards, pens and flashing lights, allows children to “draw” sounds. The Omni recalls the 1970s game “Simon” and has colored squares that trigger sounds. The Kosmix is a cosmic dance floor. The workshops are in Dutch, but since music is a universal language, children will probably have little trouble adjusting.

9. Artis Royal Zoo

The Artis Royal Zoo is the oldest zoo in continental Europe. This is not your typical zoo since many of the animals are not separated by bars but by a moat. Artis is also home to an aquarium, botanical garden, and planetarium, plus zoological and geological museums. After your children have fully examined those facilities there is a playground and an ateliers workshop with classes for children from age six.

10. Old Holland Candy Store

Before you leave Amsterdam, drop into the Oud-Hollandsche Snoep winkeltje (Old Holland Candy store). Go Dutch in this old-fashioned candy store that carries sweet and salty drop (licorice), cinnamon sticks and other Dutch favorites.

When visiting Amsterdam be sure to get the Iamsterdam Card for free entrance to the Science Center NEMO and the Van Gogh museum as well as a discount to VOC Ship Amsterdam and discounts to a number of Amsterdam’s other venues, attractions and restaurants. The card can be purchased online or at several Tourist Offices of Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board.

Now that you’ve learned about Amsterdam’s family-friendly side, I hope you see Amsterdam in a different (non-red) light!

Do you think Amsterdam is for kids? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

Monique Rubin is a native Californian who moved to the Netherlands with her husband 12 years ago. When this mother of two daughters isn’t dragging them around the world, she writes about Netherlands Travel & Lifestyle for the online magazine examiner.com, blogs about her life in the Netherlands as her personal alter ego Ms. Wooden Shoes, and creates itineraries and organizes tours.  

Comments

  1. When my daughter and I lived in Germany (9 of 11 years between 1995-2006), we would visit Amsterdam all the time and every time we had a blast, even when it rained in the city. It remains one of our favorite holiday cities.

  2. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Monique – Thanks so much for writing a guest post for Travel Mamas! I love these family-friendly ideas for fun in Amsterdam. I’ve been wanting to go visit friends who moved there a few years ago and now I really, really, really want to go!

  3. Hi Monique, How awesome is this post? The awesomeness! My little cousins are so beautiful. How I would love to see them in person soon. I haven an idea, maybe me and my girls can come visit you? LOL
    Love you,
    Nikki

  4. Amy @ The Q Family says:

    Great post! I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam with my family and this definitely is a perfect guide for us.

  5. We did a whirlwind tour of Europe when my son was ten months old. 9 cities in three weeks and out of all the cities, Amsterdam was the most welcoming, friendly and helpful to us as a family with a small child. Even in the fanciest restaurants, he was welcome. We would get handed flowers or trinkets by people on the street. It really was a great stay in an amazing city.

  6. I have lived in Amsterdam for the past four years and now have a 13 month old daughter. Family and friends back in the States are often surprised to hear me gush about how family friendly this city is. I receive more positive, welcoming attention with my daughter than I ever did pregnant. It is an incredible city and has so much more to offer than the infamous Red Light District and coffeeshops. I would highly recomment putting Amsterdam at the top of your “must see cities” in Europe!

  7. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Thanks for all of the comments! I visited Amsterdam during college and remember how friendly the town was, but who knew its residents were so above & beyond sweet to little ones?!

  8. Thanks for the post. I read about a restaurant in Amsterdam (or maybe elsewhere in the Netherlands) where the kids get to cook and be waiters? My daughter thinks that sounds cool. Do you know it?

  9. @phxbne, The restaurant you’re referring to is the Kinderkookkafe (http://www.kinderkookkafe.nl/). It’s for children 5-12 years and they cook, serve, clear the table, wash the dishes and settle the bill.

  10. On our way to Egypt last November my husband and I had about 9 hours to spend in Amsterdam because it is Delta’s hub. We took a train into town, then bought tickets on a tram to the Ann Frank house/museum, then went to the Rijksmuseum (same ticket on the tram) then back to the train (once again on the tram) to get us back to the airport. This was all very easy because the people we spoke to along the way were very friendly and helpful.

  11. Great article about a great place to visit.

    On our stop in Amsterdam we never saw any of the “adults only” sort of things that give it a bad rap. We thought it was a thoroughly delightful European city.

  12. Gessell Wolitski says:

    Amsterdam is a fantastic city to visit with your children. I’m glad other parents see that as well. There is so much misinformation out there about this amazing city. I’m glad more people are spreading the word. If interested in more in depth information on Amsterdam for families, I wrote a travel guide available on Amazon called “Family Friendly Amsterdam: A City Travel Guide.”

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