Exploring Amsterdam with kids is one of the most wonderful adventures in Europe you can embark on. Packed with beautiful canals, a vibrant nightlife, rich history and quirky businesses, Amsterdam is bound to be one of the best family trips you plan. Although it’s relatively a small city, there are countless museums, parks and festivals throughout the year; keeping its residents and visitors busy is one of its best talents. Amsterdam tends to be a great place to visit, no matter what time of the year…but we’ve written this guide to help you build the perfect itinerary for your family. It’s probably among our favorite cities in Europe – we hope you like it as much as us!
When To Travel To Amsterdam
If there’s one thing you need to know about Amsterdam is it’s rainy weather. The cold, windy and wet weather tends to take over for about six months of the year; winter being one of the worst times to experience it. Being in one of the northern European countries, Amsterdam can get hit pretty hard with bad weather during the winter time. You can expect heavy rain with strong winds and maybe even snow, so if you want to enjoy the city we suggest that you stay away from booking a trip during the winter.
During March and April, the weather is pretty unpredictable. Some days will look dark and rainy, while others will be full of sunshine. During May the weather starts to stabilise a little more, with much warmer days and lower chances of rain. Since the warmer months are just starting to take over, you’ll see more and more people enjoying the outdoors; having picnics in parks or by the canals. It’s a beautiful sight! If you travel to Amsterdam during May, make sure to stay for King’s Day. In celebration of the king’s birthday, the entire country turns in to a party. There are festivals, activities for children, music and street food everywhere you go – so you definitely shouldn’t miss that.
Although summer is the warmest time of the year, it’s not the time to visit Amsterdam with kids. There is an incredible mass of tourists that come during this time, and it can become very overwhelming to visit any of the top attractions like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. You can expect to wait in long queues for tickets, and appreciating the art just isn’t the same with big crowds. A huge part of Amsterdam’s tourist appeal is the Red Light District too, so as soon as the sun goes down, the center can become quite heavy and intense for kids.
Out of every season of the year, fall has to be our favorite time to visit Amsterdam with the kids. The weather is still incredible – especially during September and October; and there are still plenty of outdoor activities and festivals to attend as a family. There aren’t nearly as many crowds as in summer, and it’s a lot more enjoyable to visit the most famous landmarks. It’s a great time to find better deals for accomodation too!
How To Get Around Amsterdam
Since Amsterdam is already so beautiful, discovering it’s whimsical alleyways and hidden corners are best done by foot. Many of the city’s best attractions are within foot distance; especially the museum quarter and other places in the center. If you want to get a better look at the local life, we recommend getting lost in the streets further away from the center. There are the most beautiful apartments with an incredible sense of interior decorations. We say this, because showcasing your home to outsiders by keeping the curtains wide open is a huge part of Dutch culture. Don’t stay looking inside for too long – but don’t be afraid to catch one or two glances. Something else to consider is the bike culture. Locals are very used to cycling fast among tourists, but tourists may get surprised by them. Make sure you always look left and right when you’re crossing the street, and ensure that neither you or your kids are walking on the bike paths – sometimes they’re easy to get confused with sidewalks.
Tram & Train
Amsterdam’s public transport is nothing other than excellent. If walking distances are too long, you won’t have any issues with using their tram system to discover other parts of the city farther from the center. We recommend that you buy a rechargeable OV-Chipkaart inside the main train station and charge through the app. Tram stations in the city don’t tend to have rechargeable machines available, so it’s easier to just use your phone to do so.
You won’t need to use the train very much if you’re only looking to visit Amsterdam, but to go to and from the airport it’s definitely your best option. The journey to the airport is extremely affordable and easy; it leaves you directly inside the airport so you won’t even need to think about walking or paying extra fees.
As it was mentioned before, cycling and using bicycles for going from place to place is much embedded in Dutch culture. Although you may be tempted to try it for yourself, we suggest that you don’t try it for the first time in the center of the city. Because it’s already so crowded, it can be quite challenging and frustrating to get around the city peacefully. On the other hand, on a nice warm day, you should definitely take your kids out or a ride around the parks or less congested areas of the city.
Best Areas To Stay
Differently to many other cities in Europe, the center of Amsterdam might not be the best area for children. Amsterdam is very popular for its Red Light District and coffee shops, so it might get uncomfortable to maneuver around that; especially in the evenings. However, there are many other areas and neighborhoods in the city where you’ll be able to find great options for accommodation.
The Pijp is one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in Amsterdam with kids. It’s full of life; with countless quirky cafés and restaurants. It’s actually an area that’s loved by the locals and you know the rules – wherever the locals go, you should follow. It’s a little distances from the center, but easily reachable by tram. This means that you’ll get to enjoy the chaos and electricity of the city in the day, and end the day in a relaxed, laid back way.The famous Albert Cuypmarkt is one of the best things you’ll find here, as well as the Sarphatipark to stroll through. For a holiday packed with creativity and wit, The Pijp is where you’ll be the most fulfilled!
Otherwise known as the “Old-South”, this area is where you’ll find all Amsterdam’s museums in one place. Staying close to the museum district is a great idea if you’re looking to visit them, but is also central enough to other interesting areas of the city including the center. However, you won’t have to worry about running into too much tourism in Amsterdam by night. The museum district tends to be rather quiet and toned down in the evenings, so you’ll run into no trouble. It’s actually one of the wealthiest areas of the cities, so you’ll be able to witness some of the most extraordinary homes. We strongly recommend it!
Located at the east of the city center, De Plantage is an exquisite piece of green in the city. Because of the wonderful botanical garden, the Artis zoo and extended canals, De Plantage makes one of the best areas to stay in Amsterdam with kids. There will be plenty of room to play and run around, and is still really close to the center. It’s also very close to other worthy cultural hubs to visit like the Royal Theatre, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, and the Jewish Historical Museum. It’s truly a wonderful area we couldn’t recommend more!
Best Things To Do In Amsterdam With Kids
Van Gogh Museum
One of the world’s greatest and most loved artists is proudly Dutch. You’ll know him by the name of Van Gogh. He saw the world in bright colors, and represented it as such in his beautiful paintings. To see them in their truest form, make sure to visit the Van Gogh Museum. Located at the center of the museum district, you’ll find it in no time.
Besides the wonderful collection that will very likely keep your kids in awe, the museum has plenty of activities for kids to do while they explore through the halls. From workshops, to fun assignments, to a family guided tour to an electronic guide, this museum does a great job at lighting up that wonderful sense of curiosity and creativity we all have inside us; especially children.
For tickets, you’ll be required to book them online in advance. Tickets are not sold at the door. Make sure to be there at the time slot you select, and you’ll be good to go!
Website: Van Gogh Museum Address: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam Hours: Sat - Thu 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Fri 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM Cost: Adults 19 EUR Child (under 18) Free
Discover the Old Center
One of the most beautiful things in Amsterdam are found right on its streets; without having to look very far. Visiting the center of Amsterdam with kids is one of the most fun things to do; there are always things to look at, new things to admire and be curious about. You can still see some of the city’s medieval past; with uneven floorings, awkwardly standing buildings, and canals. Nieuwmarkt is the oldest medieval street you’ll find – the slim, tall houses have been around for so long you’ll have the impression that they’re falling on top of you!
When wandering about in the streets, you’ll find the most amazing and original businesses; from fashion to interior design. There are old churches, restaurants and pubs that make them unique in all kinds of ways. We recommend that you get lost in the streets at the end of the city centre; they tend to be a lot less crowded with tourists and you can see local life a lot more clearly.
One of the most important parts of the center is the Red Light District. But going around it with kids can be a little tricky. Here’s a bit of information about the Red Light District, and pointers on how to navigate it with kids:
Otherwise called ‘De Wallen’ this area of town has become famous for its red-lit windows; cabins rented by sex workers to advertise their services. In the Netherlands, sex workers are legal and fully protected by the government. It’s also recognized as a legitimate form of earning a living. There are, of course, many other historical and cultural attractions to see in this area such as the Oude Kerk, one of the oldest churches in Amsterdam, and the Nieuwmarkt. But educating your children about this type of tourism, liberal outlooks, and culture may be a good idea; but it’s totally a personal decision. However, here are a few tips you may find useful for the best way to go about it:
- Do take your children around the area in the morning or early afternoon. When the sun starts to set, the atmosphere might get a little intense. There is an incredible amount of tourists who may be drinking or under the influence of drugs wondering about.
- Do not take pictures of the women. This is extremely important to remember and is strictly forbidden.
- Do be discrete and polite. Depending on their age, you kids probably won’t know what they’re looking at. Try not to magnify what they’re seeing.
Anne Frank House
The Diary of Anne Frank lets us take a close look inside the life of its author, Anne, during her two years of hiding in the Second World War. The story about how Anne, a 14 year old girl living in the Netherlands is no less than extraordinary. Visiting her house in Amsterdam should definitely be on your priority list.
The Museum of Anne Frank’s House came to be after Otto, her father, was released from the concentration camps at the end of the war. Unfortunately, Anne, her sister and her mother did not survive. Having made an impression on her father, Otto decided to publish the book and open a museum in the very same place they spent some of the most difficult years of their lives.
It’s one of the best museums to visit in Amsterdam with kids to teach the about what went on during the war from the perspective of a child. You simply have to visit it!
tell There are free audio guides which we recommend having. It covers every aspect of the house and provides more information about other people in hiding. They also explain more about the persecution of the Jews and tell stories about the items you around the house.
Website: The Anne Frank House Address: Anne Frank House, Westermarkt 20 1016 DK Amsterdam Hours: Mon - Sun 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM Cost: Adults 12.50 EUR Child (10 - 17 years old) 6.50 EUR Child (1 - 9 years old) 1 EUR
Boat Ride Through The Canals
Another way of discovering the best part of Amsterdam with kids is by hopping on a trusty boat ride along the canals. There is truly nothing like the houses and overall aesthetics of Amsterdam; and floating about to see it is simply great.
There are many boat riding companies that will be happy to have you on board, so it’s entirely up to you. The typical city center boat ride will take you around the museum district and the west of the city. Many of them offer hop on/hop-off tickets, so you’ll be able to use it as you please. There are around 14 departure and arrival stations you’ll be able to stop and hop on at. They are conveniently placed around the best areas of Amsterdam, so you won’t have to walk very far to other landmarks.
The Rijksmuseum is also one of the best museums to visit in Amsterdam with kids. It contains a huge collection of Dutch art and history from the middle ages, including the works of the best Dutch artists Rembrandt and Johannes Vermeer.
Here, you’ll find world-famous pieces like The Night Watch and The Milkmaid; but there are many, many more to discover. The museum is, indeed, huge so if you wanted to take a shorter trip among the ocean of masterpieces, you might want to stick to visiting their Gallery of Honor. Did you think you kids would find it dull? Guess again. The Rijksmuseum does an incredible job at assigning activity packs and games for children to do as you move along the museum. The 17th century dollhouses are particularly well-liked among children so make sure you don’t miss them!
After the museum, we recommend that you stop for an ice-cream and coffee break at their local café. It’s immersed in a wonderful garden that your kids will like as you walk around as well.
Website: Rijksmuseum Address: Rijksmuseum Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam Hours: Mon - Sun 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Cost: Adult 19 EUR Child (under 18 years old) Free
Vondelpark could be explained as the greatest way to spend a Sunday afternoon in Amsterdam with kids. Located , this park is the most famous green space of the city. In the summer it becomes full of life, with hundreds of locals enjoying the sunshine while eating a picnic with friends. It has several restaurants and cafés that surround it, a rose garden, and a rental skate shop that will seem particularly appealing in the summertime.
You’ll also be able to find many children’s playgrounds, and an open-air theatre that hosts many dance and theatre performances during the warmer months. During King’s Day, the park hosts a children’s open-air market where they sell their unwanted toys, and buy those of others. It’s a beautiful scene to see!
If you want to test out the Dutch culture, we recommend that you do it here. Rent a couple of bikes, and feel free to ride along the bike paths and wide pedestrian paths. Could you name a better place to teach your kid how to ride a bike? Amsterdam’s Vondelpark sounds perfect.
National Maritime Museum
The Dutch’s strong history in crossing entire oceans is celebrated at the National Maritime Museum. Containing over 500 years of maritime history within its walls, this museum is packed with interactive and engaging exhibitions. As you approach the museum, you can’t miss the Dutch East India Company ship. To answer your question, yes, visitors are able to climb on it and explore its every corner. This part of the museum is very well-liked by kids, so make sure you pay it a visit.
The museum has audio guides made especially for children, with explanations about the displays and history of Dutch navigation that will keep them excited and on their toes. There are also several exhibitions that, although are free to everyone, will be especially interesting to kids such as the “The Story of the Whale”, and virtual reality experience.
Website: National Maritime Museum Address: Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam Hours: Mon - Sun 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM Cost: Adults 16.50 EUR Children (4 - 17 years old) 8 EUR Children (0-3 years old) Free
Botanical Garden (Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam)
The botanical garden is one of the most beautiful places to go on a casual stroll in Amsterdam with kids. Located in the De Plantage neighborhood in the heart of Amsterdam, the botanical garden is the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon in. It used to be a herb garden for pharmacists and doctors that lived in the city in the 1630s; and is now open for the public. It’s been around for about four hundred years, so you can absolutely say you’re literally walking through history. It’s truly an amazing place to catch your breath from all the buzz and energy from the city.
There are over 6000 different species of foreign plants to see and a wonderful café you can sit at to enjoy the sunshine. Among the many things there are to see, you should keep your eyes open for the 154 year old lily, and the agave cactus dating back several centuries, until the Roman era.
Website: Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam Address: Hortus Botanicus Plantage Middenlaan 2A, 1018 DD Amsterdam Hours: Mon - Sun 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM Cost: Adult 9.95 EUR
Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)
As you may have already noticed, tulips are very important elements to the Dutch identity. And what better way to see them than in a beautiful market? The Amsterdam Flower Market is the largest floating flower market in the world since 1882.
Here, you’ll find all kinds of colorful tulips available for purchase in bundles, singles, or even export them all the way to your own home. You can even buy wooden replicas of tulips to take home as a souvenir! The entire street feels overwhelming with the amount of colors, wonderful aromas and exciting market atmosphere that makes you feel as if you were frozen in time back in the middle ages.
The Flower Market has been recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site, and you’ll always find it possible to find what you need at every point of the year. Your kids are going to absolutely love coming here and discovering such a vibrant part of the city. They also sell tulip flower seeds, so you could even try planting them in your own home!
Address: Singel, 1012 DH Amsterdam Hours: Mon - Sat 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM Sun 11:00 AM - 5:30 PM
If you were looking for the ultimate medieval experience, taking a day trip to the Muiderslot castle is one of the most fun things you’ll do in Amsterdam with kids. The Muiderslot castle used to be used for defense purposes, and is still standing strong since the 1280s. In fact, it’s the best preserved medieval castle in the entire country.
The story of the castle is a long one, and many say that it’s quite a chaotic story too. You’re free to walk yourself around the entire grounds, including the gardens to discover all the stories and exciting events that took place in this castle for so many years. Besides the castle and gardens, there is a falconer giving you the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible birds that used to be popular in the middle ages like owls and falcons. During the weekends, they have bird presentations, so make sure you stay to see them
The museum has amazing ways of engaging children into getting to know more about the castle by encouraging them to discover it by themselves. They’re allowed to make their own path and journey around the castle, completing a fun activity pack given to them at the entrance. At the end of their adventure, they’ll get a special treat!
Website: Muiderslot Address: Rijksmuseum Muiderslot Herengracht 1, 1398 AA Muiden Hours: Mon - Sun 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM Cost: Adult 15.50 EUR Child (4 - 11 years old) 9 EUR Child (0 - 3 years old) Free
Things To Eat In Amsterdam
There is nothing more iconic than eating some stroopwafels down the street in Amsterdam. The idea of this Dutch snack is very simple, but out of this world. A stroopwafel is a wafer cookie join together by a warm caramel filling. Depending on where you get them, you can get a great deal of variety; like chocolate, candy, Nutella, and all sorts of toppings. But to be completely honest, the traditional recipe of a stroopwafel is truly the best. You can be sure that it’s something about Amsterdam your kids will never forget.
When in Amsterdam with kids, it will be impossible to resist some traditional Dutch fries. Whether it’s because you see hundreds to fries shops around the city, or you see everyone around you with a portion of them. Sure, you’ve tried fries in many places. But Amsterdam has a very special way of making them unique and memorable – their mayo. Don’t hesitate to stop for them as a snack on your way to the next activity of your day – you won’t regret it!
The most popular and delicious finger food you’ll find in Amsterdam is called bitterballen. These small, but wonderful balls of joy can either be meat, veggie or cheese-based. They’re are rounded up into delicious breaded balls, and fried. We recommend that you try them with mustard. But most importantly, please remember that you MUST give them time to cool down before you eat them! They can be extremely hot!
If you’re visiting during the winter or colder months of the year, nothing will warm your heart more than a hot bowl of traditional Dutch pea soup. Known as snert, this soup is wholesome and thick. Some restaurants include bacon or ham inside for a little variation; but whatever they do, make sure that you try it! You can find it very easily around the restaurants of the city.
Last but definitely not least, you cannot end a meal in Amsterdam without eating a slice of carrot cake. It’s not quite clear why carrot cake is so popular, well-liked and so well made in the city, but we’re not here to ask questions. Dutch carrot cake is hard to top, so make sure you don’t miss out on it!