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Yes! Amsterdam IS for Kids!

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Should you travel to Amsterdam with kids? As an American expat who has lived in the Netherlands with my children for 20 years, I wholeheartedly say, YES! Amsterdam is for kids! While the city is sometimes known more for rowdy grown-up activities than kid-friendly fare, there is an abundance of wonderful attractions for families here. Here are 11 of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam with kids.

Kids dancing in Dam Square in Amsterdam

Kids dancing in Dam Square in Amsterdam (Photo credit: JanKranendonk, Depositphotos.com)

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 the senses. Discover how math class really does matter and trick your brain with optical illusions in World of Shapes. Then participate in science experiments in the Laboratory. Kids will love capturing energy from light, wind and water in Energize. These are just a few examples of the center’s 13 impressive permanent exhibits.

Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Science Center NEMO (Photo credit: AndreyKr, Depositphotos.com)

2. National Maritime Museum

Learn about Amsterdam’s history at sea on the 18th century 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 Dutch 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. At the National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaartmuseum), families 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.

National Maritime Museum

National Maritime Museum (Photo credit: prescott10, Depositphotos.com)

3. Vondelpark

With more than 10 million annual visitors, Vondelpark is the most popular park in Amsterdam. This 120-acre public space offers several play areas, a film museum, and several cafés. Look for free shows for children at the Vondelpark Open Air Theater during the summer. Also, 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).

Vondelpark in Amsterdam

Vondelpark (Photo credit: vitormarigo, Depositphotos.com)

4. Rijksmuseum

A stone’s throw from Vondelpark is the Museumplein, home to three museums including the world famous Rijksmuseum. With over 8,000 works of art on display, your family is sure to find something to enjoy here. Be sure to look for Rembrandt’s most famous masterpiece, The Night Watch. Children enjoy seeing The Dolls’ House, too, which was made by Petronella Oortman and is an intricate miniature display of a wealthy home in the 17th century. Wander through the museum’s beautiful gardens filled with fountains, sculptures, topiaries, and children’s play areas. Older kids will especially enjoy Family Quest, an electronic scavenger hunt of the museum. There are also daily family workshops related to the museum’s current exhibitions on weekends and daily during school summer break.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum (Photo credit: Eagle2308, Depositphotos.com)

5. Van Gogh Museum

Also located at the Museumplein is the Van Gogh Museum, which features more piece of art by the Dutch artist than any other location in the world. If traveling with children ages 6 to 12, ask for the audio guide made specifically for families. The museum also offers a Treasure Hunt for kids. On weekends, children can participate in Van Gogh art lessons. Prepare for your Van Gogh Museum visit by downloading these free coloring pages before you go!

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Van Gogh Museum (Photo credit: zamogilnykh, Depositphotos.com)

6. Amsterdam Tramway Museum

Next to bicycles, trams are the most popular mode of transportation in Amsterdam. Visit the Amsterdam Tramway Museum (Electrische Museumtramlijn Amsterdam) to learn more about the Netherlands’ preferred method of public transportation. You’ll also 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 Amsterdamse Bos.

Tram at Dam Square in Amsterdam

Tram at Dam Square in Amsterdam (Photo credit: nilaya, Depositphotos.com)

7. Amsterdamse Bos

Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) 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.

Amsterdamse Bos - Amsterdam Forest

Amsterdamse Bos (Photo credit: dennisvdwater, Depositphotos.com)

8. Muziekgebouw

Take your children to Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw (Music Building) 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. Kids especially love Kosmix, a cosmic dance floor. The workshops are in Dutch, but since music is a universal language, children will enjoy the experience, nonetheless.

Muziekgebouw is the largest classical music venue in Amsterdam. Here’s how to buy tickets to watch a live musical performance during your visit to Amsterdam with kids.

Music class at Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam with kids

Music class at Muziekgebouw (Photo from Muziekgebouw Facebook page)

9. Artis Royal Zoo

The Artis Royal Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe. This is not your typical zoo, though, since many of the animals are not separated by bars but by a moat. Artis is also home to an aquarium, botanical garden, geological museum, and a planetarium. After your children have fully examined those facilities, there is a playground and an art workshop with classes for children aged 6+.

Penguins at the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam

Penguins at the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam (Photo credit: Kateryna_Mostova)

10. Anne Frank House Museum

No first-time visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House. Made famous for the Holocaust-era Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, this is where Anne hid with parents, sister, and another Jewish family when Amsterdam was taken over by Nazis during World War II. It’s a tragic monument but an important one. A visit here gives parents to discuss the essential lesson of standing up for what’s right and fighting injustice lest history repeats itself. You may want to encourage older kids and teens to read this significant book before your Amsterdam family vacation.

Anne Frank House Museum

Anne Frank House Museum (Photo credit: Phototraveller, Depositphotos.com)

11. Old Holland Candy Store

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

Oud-Hollandsche Snoep Winkeltje - Old Holland Candy Shop in Amsterdam

Oud-Hollandsche Snoep Winkeltje (Photo from: www.snoepwinkeltje.com)

I Amsterdam Card

When visiting Amsterdam with kids, be sure to get the I Amsterdam Card. For one low price, you’ll receive entrance to the Science Center NEMO, the Van Gogh Museum, and discounts to a number of Amsterdam’s other venues, attractions and restaurants.

Bicycles parked by a canal in Amsterdam

Bicycles parked by a canal in Amsterdam (Photo credit: toxawww, Depositphotos.com)

Explore More of the Netherlands with Kids

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

Discover another expat mom’s favorite kid-friendly attractions in the Netherlands.

Learn what you need to know about bicycling in the Netherlands with kids, the preferred mode of Dutch transportation.

Visit them Dutch windmills in Kinderdijk, one of the symbols of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is also famous for its beautiful tulips. Take a tour of the Keukenhof Gardens Near Amsterdam.

Fun Things to Do in Amsterdam with Kids

Save these Amsterdam with Kids Tips

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Would you like to visit Amsterdam with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

Monique White is a mom of two and the editor of An Unstoppable Journey, a blog about travel, running, and her expat life in the Netherlands.

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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