I feel like this blog post is long over due. About four years overdue in fact, as that's how long I've been living with kids in Amsterdam, or just one kid, but this is perhaps just how long it's taken me to really try out all the best things to do in Amsterdam with kids, but to also really find my rhythm as a parent in Amsterdam (which has more to do with me than Amsterdam!). But I'm confident that the time it's taken to get to this point is worth it and as a result this is going to be the ultimate guide to visiting Amsterdam with children of all ages.
A Guide to Amsterdam with Kids
And here it is! I really hope this guide for enjoying Amsterdam with kids written from a local's perspective is helpful and you can plan and enjoy the best family visit to Amsterdam by taking note of a few of this post's recommendations and tips. There are many good reasons why we choose to base our family in Amsterdam and raise our kids here, so I hope it helps you see Amsterdam is a fantastic destination for family travel, and it should also make your trip to Amsterdam with kids easier and as much fun as possible. I do plan on updating it with more tips and things to do in the future as my children (who are aged 4, and the other 8 months) grow older.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links to products, places and services I recommend for you and your family. I make a small commission off any purchases made but they don't cost you anything extra, and often I do a lot of research to find you the best possible deal in the link - yay!
Here's what this post is going to help you with, so you can scroll down to find the section you really want to focus on:
- Where to Stay in Amsterdam with Kids
- How to Get Around Amsterdam with Kids
- The Best Things to do in Amsterdam with Kids (including best Amsterdam museums for kids, the best parks, and other attractions)
- The Best Places to Eat with Kids in Amsterdam
- Other Tips for Visiting Amsterdam with Kids
You can also scroll to the bottom of the post to find links to other articles that may prove helpful planning your trip! But for now maybe these links will be worth you opening in another tab to help you plan your trip:
Best Time to Visit Amsterdam / 100+ Free Things to do in Amsterdam / Where to Stay in Amsterdam - Neighbourhood Guide / How Expensive is Amsterdam, Really? / The Best Hotels in Amsterdam - For All Budgets! / The Best City Centre Hotels in Amsterdam / Tips for Staying in Airbnbs in Amsterdam / Amsterdam on a Budget: Money-Saving City Guide / Guides for Tips for Visiting Amsterdam in Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter / Tips for Cycling in Amsterdam / The Best Photography Spots in Amsterdam / The Best Day Trips from Amsterdam / Guide to Visiting Amsterdam at Christmas and New Year / Tips for Finding Tulips in Amsterdam (at any time of year!) / Ultimate Guide to One Day in Amsterdam (Pick Your Own Itinerary!)
Now back to you and the kids!!!
Where to Stay in Amsterdam with Kids
First off when planning your family's visit to Amsterdam you will very likely be looking for family-friendly accommodation. Does this exist in Amsterdam? Absolutely! In fact, you have a number of options to choose from depending on your budget and size of your family.
While many of Amsterdam's hotels have notoriously small rooms and notoriously high rates, a spacious bargain or two can be found if you don't mind staying a bit further out of the city centre (which I actually recommend if you have children and would like a decent night's sleep!). Alternatively if you have the pennies, you can expect some of Amsterdam's best city centre hotels to be able to accommodate your family very well. Below are my best picks for all the various different types of family-friendly accommodation available in Amsterdam for all different budgets.
Family-friendly Hostels and Budget Hotels in Amsterdam
There are a number of hostels in Amsterdam which have family rooms or will of course allow a family to book a full dormitory for their stay. There are also many hostels that have special family rooms with ensuite bathrooms and additional facilities for children. Check out Generator Hostel. ClinkNOORD and StayOkay Hostels (who have a number of locations in Amsterdam. If you want your hostel to have some eco-credentials but also a more homely and personal feel, then also check out the highly recommended CocoMama and EcoMama, though be sure to book early as they only really have limited spaces for families.
In terms of budget hotels offering great rooms and facilities for families, EasyHotel in the vibrant De Pijp neighbourhood has family rooms, Meininger Hotels are great at offering brilliant value for money (and they have one in Amsterdam West as well as a new location close to Amstel Station which has great public transport links all over the city) and Motel One provides excellent value for money in a modern setting.You should also look at what The Student Hotel can offer you. They have two locations and while the newer one on Wibautstraat in the up-coming Amsterdam Oost area is arguably the better one for being closer to more things, the Student Hotel in Amsterdam West sis still very easy to get to and from on public transport, and may be a bit quieter and calmer because of this fact. While the name may put you off (and yes it is a place where students live and stay) but it also has very spacious rooms, lots of cheap and cheerful decor, and the are in great locations. If your kids are a bit older, this could be a great way to rent a family room or two separate rooms and they won't feel like they're on top of each other, or you! Also The Student Hotel has a so-called Play Room apartment which can accommodate up to six adults and has some fun extra features.
The Best Luxury Hotels for Families in Amsterdam
We have actually done a few staycations in Amsterdam with our little family and had great stays with our youngest child (as a baby through to toddler) in The Conservatorium (although we did treat ourselves to a suite!), The Okura (with two children - again we opted for a suite), in Sofitel Legend The Grand, and at the Amstel Hotel. All three of these 5-star hotels have swimming pools that children were allowed to use (although the Conservatorium had dedicated hours for this). I also had a lovely stay at Bilderberg Gardens Hotel pre-kids, but the rooms were really spacious and you're in a great location for accessing Museumplein, Beatrixpark Amstelpark and the leafy Oud Zuid (Old South) neighbourhood). I've also heard good things about The Pulitzer (made famous by the movie Ocean's Twelve), Waldorf Astoria (my favourite hotel in Amsterdam), and The Hoxton accommodating families brilliantly.
If you don't want to spend quite that much on a hotel and you're happy to stay a bit further out of Amsterdam's centre, but you still want some comfort and excellent access to public transport then I would highly recommend checking out Volks Hotel which gets lots of extra cool points for its individualised room decor, one of the Conscious Hotels (the best ones being Museum Square and Vondelpark locations), and the Novotel (where my own family visiting from UK have stayed and enjoyed).
It's also worth checking out this list of the best hotels in Amsterdam for all budgets (tried and tested and reviewed by real travellers).
Family-Friendly Self-Catering Apartments and Airbnbs
Of course, you may want to get a self-catering apartment from Airbnb or similar. This will most likely be best for your family if you have more than one child, older children or you just need an extra bit of space. In terms of where you should look for your Airbnb, I would recommend having a read of this Amsterdam neighbourhood guide to find the best neighbourhood for you and your family. You should also check out what Zoku have to offer as they have beautifully presented self-catering apartments available for short-term rent and the location is really ideal in the Hermitage close to ARTIS, Hortus Botanicus, the Jewish Quarter, Waterlooplein and the main ring canals.
A Note about Staying on Houseboats
Yes, you can also stay on a houseboat for your family's travel to Amsterdam, however, and this is a big serious however, you should know that nearly ALL houseboats will have risks for families with young children, or children that are anxious around water. Most houseboats in Amsterdam have windows, doors and patios that open straight out onto the water (fences or safety gates are not standard) and so you will see that it could be very easy for a baby, toddler or older child to fall into water so I would highly recommend considering this before you book a houseboat Airbnb or houseboat hotel. If your children are older and strong swimmers (and you are not worried about letting them out of your sight) then staying on a houseboat could really be something special you do for your family trip to Amsterdam.
Here are some houseboats on Airbnb you should look at, some great alternative and very affordable houseboats on Booking and then there is the famous Botel which I've heard is better than you may expect (and is VERY affordable for such a great location) or there is the more intimate and boutique feel of Boat Hotel Iris.
How to Get Around Amsterdam with Kids
Getting around Amsterdam with kids is surprisingly easy, and you do have a lot of options!
The city is busy and big but it's not tooooo busy (at least not all the time!) and nor is it too big. If you've visited other cities like London, Paris or Berlin, I think you'll actually find it more compact and a more manageable size to get around. In terms of busyness, it's true that Amsterdam does indeed struggle with overtourism and this means that many parts of the city have vast numbers of tourists, but as mentioned above (and in this article on the best times of year to visit Amsterdam to avoid the crowds) you can time your family's trip to Amsterdam for a time that could be a bit quieter (and cheaper!) and this will of course make getting around Amsterdam even easier.
Your options for getting around Amsterdam with kids are walking, cycling (yes, really!), public transport or a combination of all the above!
Walking with Kids in Amsterdam
My personal preference for getting around Amsterdam with children - if your kids are well suited to it - is walking as it means you see a lot, and you can go wherever you want soaking up lots and lots as you travel. Amsterdam is flat and mostly very pushchair-friendly (apart from some cobbled streets in the oldest parts of town), however, it's fair to say that not all restaurants, shops and businesses are accessible so do check ahead of time if you need to have a stroller or wheelchair with you. The same goes for many of the museums in Amsterdam. However, if you want to walk a lot and need the pushchair don't be deterred as there will nearly always be "parking space" for buggies so you can fold up your pushchair once inside places. So if your kids will either walk with you or nap in a pushchair then you should definitely do this!
Cycling with Kids in Amsterdam
While cycling in Amsterdam is of course a rite of passage, I am somewhat hesitant to recommend it to families visiting Amsterdam because it's not actually an easy or relaxing thing to do with children if you are not used to cycling with kids (either on their own bike or in a seat on your bike). Cycling in Amsterdam is quite a full-on experience and the centre of town is becoming increasingly busy and chaotic to cycle around, especially in a group! It's next to impossible to just pedal your way down one of Amsterdam's prettiest streets without rushing locals dinging their bells as they fly past on their way to work, or a band of drunk/stoned/or both tourists wobbling around in all directions.
While there are several companies that will hire bikes with children's seats, tandems for parents and kids, or even the famous bucket bike "bakfietsen" for you to rent for a day or more, I would seriously weigh up how confident you are feeling about making this your mode of transport while visiting Amsterdam. There are just lots of special secret-ish rules to cycling in Amsterdam so maybe quit while you're ahead and don't risk it with your young kids. Alternatively, hire bikes and head out of the city or just go for some laps of Vondelpark or Amsterdamse Bos (see below) to satisfy the urge to cycle in Amsterdam while avoiding most but certainly not all of the crowds!
Read more tips for cycling in Amsterdam (with or without kids!).
If walking or biking doesn't float your boat then that leaves Amsterdam's public transport which is surprisingly good value and reliable enough, and funnily enough it does include boats themselves! It also includes trams, underground and overground trains, and buses so if you have kids that just like trying different modes of transport then this is possibly a no-brainer. If your family is visiting Amsterdam for more than a few days and you fancy hitting up a number of the museums as well as travelling by public transport then you should definitely think about getting an I amsterdam City Card as this will make all public transport free and unlimited along with gaining free entry to many of Amsterdam's museums. The thing I like most about the I amsterdam City Card is that you can buy it in advance and get it sent to your home address before your trip so you can use it as soon as you get to Amsterdam. However, you can also buy 24hour cards (€8 for adults and €4 for kids over 4 in 2019) or one hour cards for quick trips (€3,20 in 2019). Here is my in-depth review of the I amsterdam City Card if you want to know more.
The Best Things to do in Amsterdam with Kids
So here we go. Let's get stuck into a long list of all the amazing things you can do with kids in Amsterdam!
From the best family-friendly museums in Amsterdam through to the best parks, the best activities and attractions, and the best places to eat with children in Amsterdam, stand by for over 50 great places to go and things you should do when visiting Amsterdam with children of all ages.
The Best Museums in Amsterdam for Kids
Below are my picks of the best museums for kids of most ages. Nearly all of these would be great for children of primary school age (4-11) and many would work for younger or older too if they have strong interests in some of the things they are about. Teens could also benefit from a lot of these museums but I have also included some other picks for older children in this post all about Amsterdam with teenagers.
TOP TIP: If you are going to be in Amsterdam for more than a few days, and you plan on going to at least two of these museums I would highly recommend getting a Museumkaart which gets you annual free access to the vast majority of museums in not just Amsterdam but the whole of the Netherlands so you'll save lots of money.
Tips for visiting museums with kids in Amsterdam: While the entry fees vary slightly by museum, most are free entry for under 4s and discount entry for under 16s (or under 12), and many will offer student discount. While I normally recommend getting yourself an I amsterdam City Card if you are going to go to at least two museums and plan on using public transport, I am wary of suggesting this for those of you with children over the age of 4 as you will pretty much need to get them a full-priced City Card too, when actually most of the museums would be considerably cheaper or free. You may just need to do some sums and make sure you read this post about the I amsterdam City Card and figuring out if it's worth getting. Also please note that with the I amsterdam City Card Anne Frank Museum is NOT included and also if you have one and want to go to Van Gogh Museum, you must book a date and time slot for your visit in advance (online).
Another tip, is to try and go early when you want to visit one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam (NEMO, Van Gogh, Anne Frank, The Rijksmuseum). Not only will there be fewer people, but also your kids will have more energy for the museum!
Ask most people with a little bit of knowledge about family travel in Amsterdam where you should go with kids in Amsterdam and they will nearly all answer NEMO Science Museum, and for good reason. This huge science museum is a hit with kids of all ages from toddlers through to teenagers, and despite the deafening noise levels, there is lots for adults to enjoy to. Nearly everything requires hands-on interaction and there are a number of break out labs for kids of certain ages to try their hands at science and technology experiments. You can spend hours at NEMO with kids so it's well worth your entry fee, and don't forget to go right up to the top floor for the panoramic views (when it's open - weather depending). Even if you don't fancy the museum, you should do this anyway as that is free and is a great space for kids to run around in and enjoy a few free exhibits.
TOP TIP: NEMO can get very busy during the school holidays and even at many weekends, so book your tickets in advance to avoid queues.
Het Scheepvaartmuseum, or the Maritime Museum, is a short walk away from NEMO and is also a big hit with kids, not least because of the huge ship it has sitting in the water next to it. My four-year-old son calls it The Pirate Ship and really that's what it looks and feels like on board complete with canons and pokey looking sleeping quarters. It's been brilliantly adapted to be explored inside and out, but don't only spend your time on the ship as there is lots to learn inside the museum building (which is beautiful in its own right) with exhibits about the Netherlands' maritime museum and an immersive section about whales and whaling.
Arguably not the first museum I think of when I think about what to do with kids in Amsterdam, but when I do remember the Rijksmuseum and what it has to offer kids, it's a surprising amount. The country's national museum is HUGE and so you can and should just target the areas that kids will enjoy most which the museum highlights in an excellent "one kilometre route" or you can even book a family tour which are held for groups during the summer holidays, or you can book a private tour for your family at other times. If the weather is nice you should also take a walk around the Rijksmuseum gardens surrounding the museum where kids can play in the water fountains or you can have a family game of chess on an oversized board, and yes, this bit is free!
TOP TIP: Book tickets online and skip the queues! Again this museum can get very busy during summer season and often many weekends.
If you're kids (and you!) are more interested in specifically learning about the history of the city you're visiting, you should definitely go to the Amsterdam Museum. Sharing the history of the city from its beginnings to the present day, there is a special and completely free (once you've paid your entry fee) tour designed for families called the Amsterdam DNA Family Tour (available in English and Dutch) but even just wondering around you'll find lots of things that kids will potentially find interesting, including the fact that the building the museum the museum is housed in used to be the city's orphanage and there is a special guide you can get before visiting the museum to help prepare you talking about this with your children.
One of my personal favourite museums (for adults and children) is the Tropenmuseum. Often overlooked by visitors to Amsterdam because it's a little bit off the beaten track in Amsterdam Oost (East) it's well worth going to (and can easily be done before or after a visit to Oosterpark or Royal Artis Zoo - see below!). A museum about world cultures there is plenty to see and do and learn here in the permanent exhibits which range from musical instruments of the world through to the impact of slavery and colonialism, and the temporary exhibitions are consistently some of the best I've experienced. If your children are travel-mad or wannabe world explorers, or they're becoming more and more aware of different cultures, skin colours and traditions, then the Tropenmuseum is a must-visit and be sure to check out the museum's family page as they often have child-focused free activities and tours. You can book your tickets to the Tropenmuseum online to make getting in quick and easy.
While it's not my favourite museum in Amsterdam (sorry, I know this is a bit controversial but it's nearly always too busy and I just find the layout a bit stark and impersonal) the Van Gogh Museum is well worth going to if your children are even a little bit interested in art or are aware of the artist and his works. There is also A LOT for children and families to do from treasure hunts to audio tours and art workshops and private family tours. The book shop is also worth popping into as there are some great kids' books there about art and artists.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT VAN GOGH MUSEUM: You must prebook your tickets and your time slot for visiting Van Gogh museum!
Another museum you must now book in advance online is the Anne Frank Museum. While this museum is less than suitable for kids younger than say 10 or 11 (there are a lot of narrow walkways and stairs, it's quite rightly quite quiet and sombre in places, and obviously the topic is really best for those who have read The Diary of Anne Frank) if you have children familiar with the Frank family, or the history of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the museum really should feature on your Amsterdam itinerary. I especially like the space at the end of the museum that encourages kids to think about and share what they learned and what they feel about associated issues like racism, war and politics. If you have kids that are really very interested in Anne Frank's story, you may also want to check out this Anne Frank walking tour of Amsterdam.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW ABOUT ANNE FRANK MUSEUM: Again, it's imperative to book tickets in advance via their website. They hold back a certain number of tickets for on the day (which you also have to book online) but buying them in advance will be a lot less stressful and guarantee your visit. They release tickets about three months in advance. It's also worth knowing that Anne Frank Museum is NOT included in the museums you can get free entry to with an I amsterdam City Card.)
If you're not staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam, your kids can still find out what it's like to live in one at the Houseboat Museum. This small but perfectly formed museum is (of course!) on a houseboat located close to the Jordaan and Anne Frank Museum so you can easily pop in for a little look around and find out what life is like living on one of Amsterdam's busiest canals.
Also close by to this is the Dutch Costume Museum, a must-visit if you and your family like dressing up. You can find out why clogs are the national shoe and yes, you can try on some national clothes and have photos taken for the ultimate Dutch souvenir from your trip to Amsterdam.
If your kids love accessories as well as dressing up then the Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrijke) should feature on your itinerary. Arguably my favourite lesser known museum in Amsterdam (after maybe the Versetzmuseum and Tropenmuseum) this is unmissable if you have kids that are fashion obsessed and even if they aren't you will all learn a lot about how bags were first made and you will see some of the most famous designer bags from the last 50 years. The museum is housed in a beautiful canal house where you can also have a lovely afternoon tea!
One of Amsterdam's lesser known museums, this one is quite a fun and quirky place to go if your kids like mermaids or sea-life, or shells, because that is exactly what the Amsterdam Shell Museum is all about. Teeny tiny in size but still worth popping in if you're towards the eastern side of the city, however do note that the museum is closed during the summer holidays annoyingly!
If you're kids are into art then two museums I would recommend are the Stedelijk and Moco, which are conveniently just around the corner from each other. The Stedelijk is Amsterdam's principal modern art museum and has exhibits about Dutch design. It's light and airy and has lots of fun pop art paintings that will attract even the most non-artistic kid's eye. Even if you don't have time for the Stedelijk you should consider popping in to the gift shop as they have some great creative and fun gifts and books for kids! Moco is quite a new museum and is home to one of the largest Banksy collections in the world. They have regularly changing exhibits from other modern artists and is anything but a stuffy art museum so will keep children of most school ages entertained. IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Moco is a private museum and is not included in the I amsterdam City Card or Museumkaart though you can get a discount with these.
And if your children are budding photographers there are two great photography museums Foam and Huis Marseille. The first is one of my favourite museums in Amsterdam and with regularly changing exhibits from the world's best photographers - those that are world famous and those that are up-and-coming - it will be a place where older kids who love photography will find some great inspiration. I've not yet visited Huis Marseille but I have heard good things about it! Both are in great locations on the main ring canals.
The Best Parks in Amsterdam for Children
You want to know the best park in Amsterdam for children? All of them. Yes, honestly, all of Amsterdam's public parks are fantastic for kids so my best advice if you want to find a place for your kids to run around outside, or do much, much more, is to locate your nearest one and just head there. Of course, they all have different things to offer, and it may be worth knowing what exactly you can do there in order to help you choose which park you want to go to.
Vondelpark is Amsterdam's most central and principal park - it's to Amsterdam what Hyde Park is to London - and there are obviously up and down sides to this. Firstly, it's a beautiful bast park that it's a narrow rectangle making it a great loop to run or cycle around and there are lots of things to see in the middle and at either end. There are several places to stop and have a drink and nearly all of them are next to playgrounds, climbing frames and/or sand pits, and that doesn't even include the main kids' area in the centre of the park where you can find a huge splash pool that's filled with water in summer, and lots of grass to picnic on. My favourite spot is Vondeltuin which is located at the quieter end of Vondelpark and is a garden bar and restaurant next to a large sandpit and climbing frame - obviously best enjoyed on a sunny day!
Amstelpark is much bigger than Vondelpark and has just as much to offer for families visiting Amsterdam, but it's often overlooked as it's a bit further out. (However, you can stay close to Amstelpark in some of the best value family-friendly hotels like Novotel and Motel One.) But the journey to Amstelpark is 100% worth it as here is where you'll find stuff to do for children of all ages from playgrounds suitable for toddlers through to teens, a small amusement park, a miniature train that tours around the park, a petting farm and a mini golf course. There also happens to be a great place to have an ice cream and lots of grassy areas for picnics. You should also keep an eye on the Pure Markt agenda as they also come here every few Sundays. (Find out more about Pure Markt and why it's so good for families here.)
Not many people know that Amsterdam has its own woods, Amsterdamse Bos, and even fewer will know how great it is for kids, but you're lucky I do know and now so do you. Just a short tram ride or bike ride from the centre of town, Amsterdamse Bos is a vast wooded and grassy area that has more things for kids to do than you probably have time in Amsterdam. There's the fantastic (and free!) goat farm, a historic tram ride you can go on, a watersports centre where you can hire kayaks or pedalos, numerous play parks, delicious pancakes to eat at Pannenkoekenboerderij Meerzicht, and tree-tops adventure course, and when visiting in spring be sure to seek out the stunning cherry blossom in the Kersenbloesempark, although that is at the other side of the woods. In fact the woods are so vast that I would recommend having bikes to get around (and obviously have kids with legs that won't get too tired from a lot of cycling!).
Oosterpark in Amsterdam Oost (pronounced Oh-st) has recently benefited from a considerable redevelopment and it's fair to say that kids are set to benefit the most thanks to a new splash pool area, a number of new playgrounds and now slightly more attractive (and it's fair to say safer!) grassy areas to run around in. We love the "highline" style climbing frame (which is just nextdoor to Generator Hostel - another hostel in Amsterdam that's great for families) and the park is on the doorstep of the Tropenmuseum making it a great place to go to for more than one reason.
Another park rarely visited by tourists is Beatrixpark, though it's very popular with local residents. This park has one of our favourite splash pools (thanks in part to the ice cream spot nearby!) and it also has a few play areas tucked away besides the playground right next to the splash pool - you'll have to investigate to find them. I also think this part of town is a great place to stay for families as the streets are relatively quiet and you're still very close to everything.
I often which we lived closer to Westerpark as it has much to offer kids and families, but having nearly always lived in the south east of Amsterdam we're just a bit too far away to visit regularly. That said, we have made the effort to go for the petting farm there and for the huge splash pool that is a long rectangle overlooked by a grassy bank good for picnics or drinks on a sunny day. We also like getting brunch or lunch at the Bakkerswinkel there. and after the Kersenbloesempark in Amsterdamse Bos, Westerpark is definitely the best place to see cherry blossom in spring. Westerpark also has some great places to eat or snack in the converted Westergasfabriek (an old gas factory) where you can find a Bakkerswinkel (see below as it's listed in one of the best places to eat with kids) and this is also where you'll find a Tony Chocolonely store, the home of this delicious and colourful Dutch chocolate brand.
I also feel a special mention needs to go out to Sarphatipark in De Pijp (where I used to live) as it may be a small park but it kept my eldest son very happy from birth to about four years old as that was where we spent many an afternoon in the sandpit play areas as well as watching the dogs run around the dog-walking area or climbing the fallen down tree when he was old enough, and we also held his third birthday on the grass around the statue of Sarphati in the middle. If you're close to De Pijp, you should definitely pop in there with your kids for a little wander. (You can read my guide to De Pijp here.)
Other Things to do in Amsterdam for Kids
So if museums aren't your family's thing and the weather is going to be dire, what else can you do in Amsterdam with kids? A LOT! Here are even more things you can do with children in Amsterdam!
If you and your family came to Amsterdam to really see Amsterdam, and find out as much about the city as possible, then arguably the best thing you can do is go on a free private tour designed for families. I would probably recommend a walking tour over a cycling tour just because I think cycling in a group is quite tricky to do in Amsterdam, and that's when most are adults!
If I'm honest, I'm still not sure how I feel about zoos - and so far my kids don't really LOVE them in the way I expected, but I do rather like spending a morning or afternoon at ARTIS Royal Zoo. It's really done so well for children with areas to play and run around in as well as lots of varied animals, and kid-friendly information boards about them. It's not the cheapest activity for families in Amsterdam - by a long shot - but you can get in for free if you have I amsterdam City Cards, and under-3s are free. ARTIS is also home to the Micropia exhibition which I've heard is very popular with school-age children.
TOP TIP: ARTIS is very popular with locals and visitors so definitely book your tickets online, and if you can go early to avoid the biggest crowds.
After NEMO and the parks, I nearly always recommend visiting families go to the main public library in Amsterdam called the Openbare Bibliotheek (or OBA). It's located on Oosterdok a short (but windy!) walk from Centraal Station (with lots of great photo opportunities across the water on the way) and there is a huge floor dedicated to children and kids' books. There are books in many different languages, reading nooks for them to enjoy and other soft-play style areas and features. There is also the most amazing miniature mouse house that will fascinate kids of certain ages for hours... okay, minutes (and adults too!). And if you're peckish, you can go up to the cafe on the top floor for not-too-pricey kid-friendly lunches or snacks (and again good views!).
If you've got football-mad kids then a visit to Johan Cruijff Arena is a must. This recently renamed football stadium (named after arguably the most famous Dutch footballer) is home to Amsterdam's local team Ajax. It's a short Metro ride to get to the station (though you can also cycle it) and kids under 5 are free. Be sure to check the website to find out if it's a good day to visit and there are no football matches or other events scheduled.
If museums are on the cards for you then also take a little time to hang out at Museumplein. With a large grass area, a skate park for BMXs, scooters and skateboarders, a small climbing frame and swing area, and in summer a little splash pool too, it's a great spot to just let the kids run around a bit, or to sit down and have a picnic. And you may get lucky and see this fantastic man giving kids bubbles to chase!
If your kids love cats then head to the Poezenboot, a rescue centre for cats on a houseboat - only in Amsterdam, right!? You can play with the kitties and find out more about how this sanctuary started as one woman's attempt to look after unwanted cats in the city for free as they don't charge an entry fee but donations are very much appreciated! For more feline fun, you should also check out Amsterdam's cat cafe Kattenkopjes and you could also consider going to the Kattenkabinet, a museum dedicated to cat art (yes, really!).
Forget cats, if horses and all things equestrian are what your children are into then you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a stables in central Amsterdam called De Hollandsche Menage where horse riding and dressage lessons take place, and you can go and watch the animals in action. Just a short walk from Vondelpark on the Overtoom street you can go and have lunch or a coffee in the cafe which has a viewing gallery.
And if your children love food and cooking, then get organised and book them an age-appropriate cooking lesson at the Kinderkook Cafe, a purpose built space for kids to cook and serve guests food is also in Vondelpark. The concept is that kids take responsibility for cooking and serving their guests in the cafe but they do so with real food. There is a "help yourself" bar set up for kids to make meals most days but special cooking classes for dinner are available to pre-book.
If the miniature house in the Rijksmuseum and the mouse house in the OBA weren't enough miniature fun for your minis then you should also look into going to the Mouse Mansion shop where there is more of the same mouse house decor to look at, and a gift shop for a very cute souvenir from Amsterdam.
If your kids have done a little research into Amsterdam and the Netherlands and they are expecting windmills, then you better check out Amsterdam's windmills. Scattered across the city, a tour to find them all could be done by bike, or you can just try to see one or two. Molen van Sloten (Sloten Windmill) out in the west of the city is the only working mill in Amsterdam and you can indeed visit the museum there to find out what the inside of a windmill looks like. Parents may like to know about the one in the photo above which is next door to one of Amsterdam's best independent breweries, Brouwerij't IJ.
If you have school age kids with a lot of energy to burn and the weather is looking good, then think about heading out to Jeugdland/Maakland out in the Eastern Docklands. It's a huge adventure playground with children's workshop so they can also make stuff too, like the forts and climbing frames you see kids playing on. Unbelievably it's free entry (but run by a non-profit so donations appreciated) and really is one of the best places to know about if you are living in or visiting Amsterdam with kids up to the age of 14. Yes, it's a bit of a trek to get to if you're not staying on the eastern side of the city, but I promise you, you and your children will not be disappointed. Check the website for more information - yes it's in Dutch but Google Translate will help!
I can't quite believe I've got this far into the article before mentioning going on a boat tour of Amsterdam's canals as a great thing to do as a family. While yes, it's about as touristy as you can get but kids don't necessarily hold this against anything and they will love seeing the city from the water. So how are you going to do it? Well, you can pick one of the many (many!) different tour boats - and many of them have special kid-focused tours like this Freshwater Pirate Cruise. Alternatively you can hire your own boat though I would only advise doing this if you are confident taking it out on the water keeping in mind that Amsterdam's canals can get very busy, especially in summer. There is also the option of hiring a boat with its private skipper too if you don't feel confident . Or, and I think this is arguably the best option for older kids, you can rent a pedalo (and this link is worth clicking on for the awful Photoshopped pic, by the way!). There also happen to be special boat tours where you go around and fish out all the rubbish in the water and I think kids will love that!
You should also think about just doing the free ferry to Amsterdam North which you can catch from just behind Centraal Station. There are lots of great things to do in Amsterdam Noord - like wondering around the trendy street art covered area of NDSM Werf - but even if you just get on the ferry there and then straight back on it to come back again that's a bit of time killed doing a free and fun activity with kids.
Visiting Amsterdam in summer, and the weather looks like it's going to play ball? Then you need to go to one of Amsterdam's city beaches. From the more authentic beach at Blijburg through to the man-made waterfront areas next to cafes and restaurants, Amsterdam offers many different urban beach options and nearly all are family-friendly. My favourites are the grassy waterfront area at Somerlust Park in the new Amstelkwartier, the sandy area in front of Pllek at NDSM Werf, the water-free sandy outside area of DOK in the western part of the city (with a trampoline and lots of toys for kids), and the Sloterplas swimming beach on this huge city lake in Amsterdam's new west area. You should also know that in Amsterdam you're less than 30 minutes away from the real beach as you can hop on a train to Zandvoort or Bloemendaal and experience the real thing complete with the wild winds and choppy waves of the North Sea.
One attraction I've never been tempted to go to but it does seem to be very popular with visiting families are the Amsterdam Dungeon. It's centrally located close to Dam Square and gets good reviews on TripAdvisor so if you have older children who like to explore the darker side of a city's history, then definitely think about give it a go but I suspect booking tickets in advance is a good idea as I often see queues outside.
Likewise, I hear good things about Madame Tussauds and but I've not personally been. (You can also buy combi tickets to Madame Tussauds and Amsterdam Dungeon to save money - and they're practically next door so it does make sense to do them together.)
Of course, I'm quite sure you didn't plan on coming to Amsterdam to go to a soft-play centre but if the weather is terrible and your kids have energy to burn the knowing where there are soft-play centres in the city will be a good thing! The most central soft-play in Amsterdam is TunFun, located very close to Waterlooplein. It's all underground and is far from aesthetically pleasing or remotely quiet, but it's heaven to kids from the age of 4 up. Another good one to know about is Candy Castle which is further out of the city to the west and is in an old converted church so somewhat more pleasant environment but don't expect it to be any quieter. The one benefit of Candy Castle is that they serve beer (Heineken, of course)! Unless you go early or late on a weekday you can absolutely expect any soft-play in Amsterdam to be pretty busy!
And if you have been to Amsterdam a few times and are looking for something a bit different to do with your kids, I highly recommend the short 20-30 minute train journey to Utrecht where you can find the brilliant Nijntje Museum (so good for preschool aged children) and also the Dutch Railway Museum (Spoorweg Museum). Or you could head a little further in the opposite direction to Rotterdam where there's another fantastic zoo and so many maritime and boat-themed activities to enjoy. Read my Rotterdam City Guide here to get inspired. Other great day trips that prove popular with children include heading up to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills or a day trip to Keukenhof (if you're visiting Amsterdam in Spring). Also, as an FYI, some of the trains to these destinations are double decker which my son still finds exciting even though he sees them every day!
Good Places to Eat with Kids in Amsterdam
Personally I find that one of the most intimidating things about travelling as a family is knowing good places to eat with kids so I thought it quite important to list some kid-friendly places to eat in Amsterdam so you're not spending hours and hours hunting for suitable places. One thing I will say is that most places will accommodate children for lunch, but don't assume it's the same story for dinner. Typically (and as something of a joke among my fellow non-natives) Dutchies like to eat their dinner early (around 18:00 or earlier) so it's not super common to see families dining out very late, though of course it does happen and is definitely more common during the summer. One easy way to book restaurants in advance in Amsterdam is by using The Fork which will help you filter restaurants by area or food type. It's also worth using The Fork to find last minute tables if you haven't made a reservation in advance but want to go somewhere that day.
Think Amsterdam, think pancakes, right? Right! Well fortunately there are lots of family-friendly places to get some pretty decent pancakes. Among them are PANCAKES (with locations around town) and De Carousel Pannenkoeken (the Pancake Carousel) near to De Pijp, where the converted-carousel interior will impress kids (and you're also close to the great UJ Klaren playground - see below!). Not exactly revered by locals as it's seen as a bit of a tourist trap but the Pannenkoeken Boot (Pancake Boat) does help you tick off two Amsterdam bucket list items in one journey!
Fancy some pasta or pizza and a side of soft-play? Unbelievably that's what Happy Italy offers. Close to the RAI Convention Centre in the south of the city (not too far from Beatrixpark if you end up there) this is a Dutch family favourite but the good news is that you don't always have to book in advance if you arrive early enough.
If you want a kid friendly brunch then Dignita Hoftuin is where you should book a table (or show up early). Located just behind Hermitage Museum, and within walking distance of Hortus Botanicus (Amsterdam's botannical gardens) and ARTIS, this is a great place to start your day and it has a small kiddy corner with toys and books. If the weather is good you can also sit outside and let them run around the Hermitage's courtyard gardens.
Further up the same road, another good spot for brunch is Stek, and they also have a small selection of toys, kids' meals and a warm smile for families.
What's that? You want to spend a few hours sipping a cocktail or two in a bar with a playroom in it? Well, head to De Kleine Valk on Marie Heinekenplein. Yes, this really is a bar that has a playroom. We've often ended up here for a few drinks and bar snacks with friends after playing at the brilliant playground at UJ Klaren and is right beside some water fountains in the middle of Marie Heinekenplein (just next to the Heineken Experience) where you'll see kids splashing around on a hot day. While it's nothing special it's very reasonable in terms of quality and price, and the playroom is basically like an unsupervised daycare room - though of course this does mean it's often a mess and not the cleanest place!
If you (and maybe your kids!) love steak then you have to go to Dutch family-friendly favourite Loetje. There are several restaurants dotted around the city and all have a kids-welcome policy, with a children's menu and high chairs. You can expect it to be busy, noisy and not the best service in Amsterdam, but you can also expect arguably the best steak in the city, a decent menu of other options and nobody batting an eyelid at your children.
One top tip I like to share is heading to De Plantage restaurant located so close to the zoo that if you sit outside on a warm day (or otherwise with lots of layers!) then you can see some of the animals in the zoo from your table. It's a large, open-plan restaurant where you'll see all sorts of diners eating but you won't need to worry too much about making a noise, and if you are outside your kids can run around lots while you get tired just watching them. You should definitely book in advance for weekends and during the summer.
Another place big enough to swallow your noisy kids is Ijsbreker on the River Amstel. With a kids menu and colouring pencils and paper placed on your table often without you having to ask for it, this is an all-day spot that will feed you well no matter the meal.
Further out of town in the still-being-built Amstelkwartier is Osteria, an originally German chain of Italian restaurants that has a fantastic outside playground that will make kids struggle to choose between their pizza and climbing. Very family-friendly and the pizzas are so big they're designed to be shared - even splitting toppings in half if that helps fussy eaters! - but I would say save it for a sunny day as that playground is the main attraction.
A special mention should also go to Moeders, which means mothers in Dutch.. While it's not exactly set up for kids (there's no play area or toy selection) it's a fascinating restaurant that is a homage to all mothers everywhere, and people are encouraged to bring and leave a photo of their mother there, though you'll struggle to find a spot to leave it - the restaurant is literally covered in photos, including all the walls in the bathrooms! It's also a great place to try traditional Dutch food.
As mentioned above briefly, the hip hangout of NDSM Werf in Amsterdam Noord, Pllek, is not just for millenial hipsters. They're also very welcoming to families, hosting child-oriented events (normally on a Sunday afternoon) and of course having that man-made beach with one of the best views of Amsterdam. Also the food is very decent and they have great vegetarian and vegan options too.
If you want to know a good place for a tea or coffee and a slice of cake, that will impress your kids then I can recommend Corner Bakery (for Instagram-worthy sweet treats/milkshakes/cakes). It's also in a great location close to Museum Square, however, it gets very popular, very quick so go early to avoid being disappointed or waiting for a long time. Other places to look out for around town are the chains Coffee Company, De Bakkerswinkel and Bagel & Beans. All of these places are also good for a quick lunch (think sandwiches, toasties and yes, bagels!) and many will have a small selection of kids toys or books to keep your little ones quiet while you caffeinate, but all will be welcoming to families - just watch out for the alternative protein menu at Bagel & Beans, unless your kids REALLY like bugs!
A little shout out to Pure Markt as not only a great place to get food for kids but just a good family day out. Combining street food stalls with other types of artisan and crafty businesses, this Sunday market (which normally only takes place from Easter to October because of the winter weather) moves around some of Amsterdam's best parks so you can easily combine it with some outdoor adventuring. Be sure to check the website to find out when and if it's on when you're here.
The other thing worth knowing is that Amsterdam is full of kiddy cafes, i.e. places that are actually designed to have lunch, snacks or dinner with your kids so they have great children's menus and lots of play areas (often inside and out). These are places you can be as noisy as you want and you don't have to worry about ruining anybody else's dining experience because everyone else there has young children. Of course, it goes without saying that long with this you can expect these places to be noisy, chaotic and perhaps not serving the most haute cuisine! Our favourite kiddy cafes in Amsterdam are Melksnor, Mini Markt, De Kleine Parade and Blender and I've heard good things about other places in the west like MiniChiChi, WijsWest and Mook Pancakes
If you're staying in a self-catering apartment and you did want to go out for dinner without the kids, I can recommend checking out Charly Cares, a babysitting service you can book in advance or even on the day before or the day itself (if you're lucky)! We've used more than a handful of babysitters from this service over the years and never been disappointed.
Other Tips for Visiting Amsterdam with Children
Firstly, if you have a long layover at Amsterdam or end up there delayed or waiting for a flight for a long time it's worth knowing Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport has lots of facilities to keep children of all ages entertained for a while. As mentioned above there's a dedicated room for feeding, changing and even napping babies, and you will find lots of baby care facilities (normally inside disabled toilets which is less than ideal I know) and there are also a few "family room" style bathrooms. There's a special mini NEMO exhibit in the Holland Boulevard (which connects Departures 2 & 3 areas) that kids will enjoy, and upstairs near the eating area in Departures 2 is a aeroplane climbing frame. All the restaurants and cafes in Schiphol will happily warm up meals or provide hot water for bottles too. Find more info about what kids can do at Schiphol here.
The weather can be very changeable in Amsterdam. Make a note of the Buienradar website so you can check the rain forecast and if make sure you have waterproof layers with you and/or umbrellas if you're out and about all day. And if you're visiting during the summer have a hat and sunscreen with you as you shouldn't underestimate how warm it can be in the summer months and remember there is a lot of water around and that reflects the sun's rays.
Speaking of water, yes, Amsterdam has a lot of canals and they're all over the city, which is great, BUT they rarely have fences or barriers which can present a bit of a risk to young children. If you're travelling to Amsterdam with very young kids who like to race off and go exploring and don't have any experience with water safety you may want to prepare your kids (and yourself!) for this!
Oh, but the good news is Amsterdam's tap water is DEEEEEEELICIOUS and completely safe to drink - you can even use it to make your baby's bottles - so keep your eyes open for the many water fountains that are dotted around the city so you don't need to pay for bottled water.
Dutch supermarkets are excellent and have pretty much everything you need for children with mainstream requirements (i.e. nappies, wipes, formula milk (Nutrilon is the same brand as Apatamil) and other things. If you can't find what you need there, you can try Dutch drugstores like Etos and Kruidvat which you'll find on many shopping streets in Amsterdam. If you need paracetamol for your child, don't be alarmed if the only form for babies and toddlers that you can find are suppositories or "zetpillen" although there is an oral paracetamol medicine called Sinaspril available too. And if you're from the UK and really stuck for Calpol, they sell it in the "expat shop" Kellys in De Pijp.
If you do need to see a doctor for your child in Amsterdam, there is an out of hours doctor service called Huistartsenpost, which you will be able to access providing you have proof of identification and possibly insurance also (if you live outside the EU). However, don't be alarmed if their response is simply "give them paracetamol and rest". Most non-Dutch residents find GPs (Huisartsen) in Amsterdam (and the Netherlands) are reluctant to prescribe anything stronger - for adults and children alike - unless you've tried treating a non-serious ailment with paracetamol for a few days first. Personally, this is also my own approach, but some other nationalities find it a bit odd and hands-off. That said, if you do have a much more urgent and potentially life-threatening situation then you should call 112 to seek emergency medical advice (all operators speak English) and see if you need an ambulance.
Have a mix of cash and cards for paying for things. Most places will except most international credit cards but there are some notable exceptions, like the biggest Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn. The good news is that most of the branches in Amsterdam will also have a cash/ATM machine close by, and you can always pay by cash in Albert Heijn supermarkets. Likewise with cash, there will be many places that require you to pay by card only, and they won't accept cards. Be sure to look in the window or at the service desk for signs telling you what payments they do (or don't!) accept. If you see words like "Alleen pinnen" or "Geen contant" then that is where you can only pay by pin card. But of course, if in doubt, just ask!
The Dutch approach to parenting could be a little different to your own! As a Brit raising my boys in Amsterdam, I am now very used to the Dutch style of parenting which is quite hands-off, a little relaxed and very much focused on giving kids freedom to explore, learn and have adventures. I think to other countries and cultures, it could seem wild but I would never describe it as such as more liberal and close to the opposite of micro-parenting. Playgrounds in Amsterdam are safe places (of course!) but they don't have the same level of safety precautions compared with those in UK for example, and you will often see kids playing by themselves on climbing frames, slides etc. while parents sit on the side drinking coffee or chatting with friends. Of course, they are there for their children and are hands-on in terms of affection and soothing kids when they need it but they are very quick to give children space to learn by doing things themselves.
And the final thing to say, of course, is enjoy! Amsterdam really is a great city to visit with kids and I hope this guide helps you and your family pick the best things to do during your time here!
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Frances M. Thompson
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