Why Amsterdam is great with kids
Amsterdam is so much more than the red-light district and coffeeshops – it is green, compact, and surprisingly awesome for the wee ones. The city is sprinkled with winding canals, pockets of green spaces, and a deluge of kid-friendly museums, power-packed cultural centres, and fun-filled family attractions. Here are some of the best family activities in the Netherlands’ capital.
NEMO Science Museum is packed with interactive, kid-friendly exhibits © kavalenkau / Shutterstock
1. NEMO Science Museum
Take your little ones on a voyage of discovery at NEMO, where they can experiment and learn in an engaging way. Housed in a prominent green building in the eastern docklands, this is a hugely popular spot to go in Amsterdam with kids. Its five floors are filled with demonstrations, workshops, and constantly updated exhibitions. Everything is interactive, so anyone can join in regardless of age (that means you too!). NEMO’s biggest surprise is the sloping roof that encompasses an outdoor cafe, flowing water fountains and fantastic views of Amsterdam’s city centre.
Rent a bike to explore Vondelpark with the family © Will Salter / Lonely Planet
Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s version of New York’s Central Park, is the best place in the city for kids to run. The green space is a hodgepodge of picnic spots, lakes, outdoor cafes and a summer concert ground. Rent a bike to weave your way around the park and enjoy lunch at one of the many family cafes. Het Groot Melkhuis is a hot favourite – it has a glorious outdoor deck by the pond and a big adjoining play area. For the little ones, Kinderkookkafé will satisfy any young chef’s dream of whipping up their own pancake or pizza.
3. A’DAM Lookout
Poised on the top floor of the A’dam Tower in Amsterdam Noord, this observation deck reveals the best panoramic views of Amsterdam. Spot the city’s historical centre, its pulsating port, and the unique Dutch polder landscape. If the kids aren’t too excited about the view, they will surely be impressed by the swing on the sky deck. “Over the Edge” is Europe’s highest swing, and it gives daredevils the chance to swing 100m above the ground, back and forth over the edge of the tower. This is not for the faint-hearted! (The minimum height for the swing is 1.20m.)
Try a family-friendly canal cruise along Amsterdam’s many waterways © Sandra Mori / Shutterstock
4. Canal cruise
Hopping onto a cruise is the best way to explore the network of canals that criss-cross Amsterdam. Little pirate-wannabes will love the canal cruises run by Blue Boat Company that include a special pirate-themed audio guide, a booklet, and a pair of binoculars for young guests aged 5–12. Another kid-friendly boat trip that brings you out of the canals to the IJ waterfront is the Pannenkoekenboot. It offers an all-you-can-eat pancake buffet and a ball pool below the deck.
5. Amsterdamse Bos
Nature-loving families cannot skip out on a trip to the Amsterdamse Bos on the southern fringe of the city. The 1000-hectare forest and nature park has a sleuth of outdoor play areas for kids, including the Geitenboerderij Ridammerhoeve where kids get to feed, milk and play with ridiculously cute goats. Boerderij Meerzicht is another farm with deer you can feed and a massive playground. For the older kids, the Klimpark Fun Forest located just at the entrance is a hit with kids six years and older.
Take the kids to Artis Royal Zoo in De Plantage © Martin Moos / Lonely Planet
Colourful and hip, De Pijp is a bohemian neighbourhood perfect for those who want to immerse in Amsterdam without being overwhelmed by the tourist crowd. The lively district is an easy walk from most of the city’s attractions. Families can try quintessentially Dutch stroopwafels (classic caramel-syrup-filled wafers) and all sorts of cheese at the open-air Albert Cuypmarkt. Outdoorsy kids will love the playground in Sarphatipark, and tiny toddlers can go wild at the city’s most popular kids’ cafe, Blender.
On the east side of the city, De Plantage is an elegant and family oriented district that houses many regal gardens and the beautiful Artis Royal Zoo. Next to the zoo is Micropia, a fascinating museum perfect for bigger kids who are interested in biology. The district is also home to the lush Hortus Botanicus (botanical garden) and the locals’ favourite brunch spot, Dignita.
How to get around
The tram system in Amsterdam is fast, efficient and easy to navigate. Best of all, it provides easy access for families with prams or strollers. Every tram has a spot designated for prams at the back entrance. There are also counters on every tram, where you can buy tickets and day passes. Children up to the age of four travel for free, and children aged four to 11 years travel on reduced fares. Amsterdam also has a metro system, but accessibility for those with prams/strollers is not as good.