As a city renowned for its many attractions for the adult visitor, Amsterdam would not be the first to spring to mind for a family destination but we found it actually had much to offer all ages.
Only an hour flight from the UK, it was a stress-free journey and the free drink and snack with KLM was an exciting surprise for my 4 and 7-year-old (it’s the simple things that impress them). Basing ourselves in the canal district not far from Vondelpark, we found it had a relaxed atmosphere and didn’t feel like we were in a bustling capital city. The children were happy to walk around most of the city, waving to people as they passed on their canal boats and crossing over the numerous bridges. The children also enjoyed the novelty of taking the tram to sights further away.
When we first arrived, we took a walk down to Vondelpark so the children could have a run around after the journey. This is a lovely park and a hive of activity for locals and tourists alike. There are restaurants and cafes, several fun and imaginative play areas and plenty of space to roam free. Hiring skates is a fun way to get around for older children.
For children of all ages and adults too, the zoo is a great day out. Set in attractive gardens with blossoming trees and blooming tulips, the zoo was founded in 1838 and many of the 19th century buildings are still here today. As well as all the usual zoo animals including zebras, giraffes, elephants and chimpanzees, the Artis Zoo is home to an aquarium, planetarium and butterfly pavilion. You can easily spend a whole day here as there is so much to see and pleasant gardens to relax in with a picnic. There are several play areas including a large adventure playground with a café nearby so parents can have a rest whilst the children play. For older children, the ARTIS-Micropia museum next to the Zoo offers an interesting insight into the microscopic world.
The Heineken Experience is also actually very child friendly although it may not seem that appealing. It features four floors of multimedia exhibits, historical brewing artefacts and a tasting bar. There’s also ‘Brew Your Ride’, a 4D adventure that takes you through the brewing process shaking, heating and splashing you. The children enjoyed the other fun, interactive games on offer including making a video of the family cycling through Amsterdam and a rugby simulator along with the photo booths for funny photos. At the end, whilst the parents enjoy a free beer, the children can have a soft drink. It was similar to being in a nightclub but the children enjoyed the disco vibe. Another bonus is the included canal boat trip which takes you to the Heineken shop but you are not obliged to get off the boat so it offers a great way to see the city on the water.
If the children are in need of letting off some steam for an hour or two, the TunFun Speed Park is a good option for them. Built in a former traffic underpass, it is an unusual location right in the city centre. There are various attractions for different age groups with ball pits for babies and slides and trampolines for older children.
If you are travelling with older children from around 10 years old, the Anne frank museum is an interesting and educational experience. The audio headsets take you through the museum with a specific route making it easy for children to understand the displays. It is advisable to book tickets well in advance. The Van Gogh Museum also offers audio guides with a setting for children and a treasure hunt so that children can explore the paintings whilst having fun and parents can appreciate the artwork without bored children.
We didn’t visit Keukenhof as we were a little early to experience the full beauty of the colourful tulips but this is another child friendly activity which is definitely worthy of the train and bus ride from the city. Parents can appreciate the stunning displays whilst offering plenty for the children including a treasure hunt, play area with zipline and petting zoo. Bikes can also be hired if you fancy exploring the area on one of the many cycling routes ranging from 5 to 40km in length.
Eating out in Amsterdam was very easy with children in tow. The people are friendly and accommodating and you can find a wide choice of cuisines on offer to satisfy everyone. Sitting in one of the pubs along the canal kept the children entertained with the steady flow of traffic on the water. Dotted around the city, you will find pancakes houses serving classic Dutch pancakes. The children will be sure to enjoy feasting on this delicious treat. Choosing from the many sweet and savoury toppings may present a problem though.