This post was most recently updated on September 7th, 2020
Amsterdam was DOPE – literally haha! And, no we did not smoke any marijuana (Although the widespread use of weed is something that you might want to be aware of before you take your little ones to Amsterdam. To be honest, we don’t smoke and it wasn’t that big of a deal for us.) We really LOVED Amsterdam and Beckham* thought it was the best! He loved the boats, the bikes, the buildings and he even enjoyed some of the museums. While Amsterdam isn’t the typical destination for families in Europe, we had a fantastic time and are going to give you our top five things to do in Amsterdam with kids. We promise – your little ones will love them!
Guest post by Our Family Passport
1. Participate in the Kids’ Programs at the Van Gogh Museum
If you have been following us for awhile you know I am OBSESSED with art. Really I can not get enough. So any excuse I can get to haul my child through a museum for a couple of hours and have him actually enjoy it is a total win! The Van Gogh Museum has some pretty amazing programs put into place for their young visitors and they are FREE with admission.
They have a scavenger hunt, as well as a fun interactive learning game where you take around a traveling case full of information and fun things to do in certain parts of the museum with your child. Also, if you visit at the right time, your little one can participate in free art workshops. You can find out more about the programs here – Can Gogh Museum Children and Families. They are fun, creative, and educational. Be aware of the age of your kids – some of the activities are tailored toward children who are a bit older.
Tips for Visiting the Van Gogh Museum with Kids
Go early! I can not stress this enough. Next to the Anne Frank Museum, this place is one of the most crowded in the city. In my opinion, for you and your child to get the most out of your visit, you must be one of the first ones at the museum. The museum opens at 9:00 am. You can also buy your tickets online here before your visit so you can bypass the lines. Purchasing tickets online before your visit is highly recommended and will save you some time.
Do you think your child might need some prep before visiting a museum? Visit our post about how to prep your child for your trip and your activities here – Traveling with Kids: Six Trips to Prepare for Upcoming Trips. Most of the time the tips work wonders!
2. Take a Boat Ride on the Water
This was our third boat ride on the canals of Amsterdam and by far our favorite. It was a 2-hour private boat ride at dusk through the canals. It is a wonderful to see the city from the perspective of the water and to see the city come alive at night as all the lights come on. There are bigger, less expensive boats to take through the canals like Blue Boat Tours (and if this better fits into the budget, we can recommend it highly), but the smaller boats are easily able to navigate their way through the smaller canals and this gives a more intimate experience through the city. Our Private Boat Tour was one of our favorite things we did in Amsterdam. Everyone in the group loved it, including 3-year-old Beckham.
Tips for Taking Kids on the Water in Amsterdam
It can get chilly at night! So be prepared and have some clothes to bundle up in. Also, make sure your child uses the bathroom before the cruise if the vessel is not equipped with a bathroom.
3. Visit Vondelpark and Splash in the Water
They don’t call Vondelpark the Central Park of the Netherlands for nothing. Vondelpark is cool, and it is possible to spend hours here visiting all of the different areas! Beckham had a great time and even shed some tears when we had to leave. It is fun to walk around, feed the ducks, and play in the open areas, but Beckham loved the designated children’s area in the center of the park the most! (When you walk through the park there are several help centers with nice volunteers who can provide maps and easy directions if you get lost.)
There is a little fountain and wading pool that your littles ones can splash and play in with the locals. We were lucky that we had an extra set of clothes and Becks was just itching to get in the water. It was a total win.
Next to the wading pool is a cool little park. It is complete with see-saws, swings (the adults even took turns haha), a sandbox, and a little playground area. Beckham ended making friends and see-sawing with some local children and was SO mad at me when we had to leave.
Tips for Visiting Vondelpark with Kids
There are lots of dogs and not all of the owners pick up after them. There are some stinky areas and a couple of places that you will want to watch your step. However, dogs are not allowed in the little fenced-in kids’ area which was great! Also, have a small towel and an extra set of clothes/swimsuit if you plan on letting your child play in the water.
4. Visit the Rembrandt House
The Rembrandt House Museum is small and easily navigated with children. It is the house where the Dutch master Rembrandt lived and painted. On the tour of the old house are many different rooms and a walkthrough provides a glimpse into the daily life of the 17th century. There are two audio tours offered free of charge to visitors. One is for younger children and provides a more simplified and entertaining story of the “goings on” in this old house in Rembrandt’s day.
The second is is an audio guide for teenagers and adults 13 years and older. The museum also has paint preparation demonstrations that provide insight into the way Rembrandt made and mixed his paint. What child would not love this? Check the website for information on these free daily demonstrations.
Tips for Visiting the Rembrandt House Museum with Children
You can not navigate the house with a stroller so if you have sleeping child or a child that needs to stay in a stroller, this is not the place to go. However, the staff was so helpful in helping us find a place to park the stroller. Beckham thought the narrow winding corridors and staircases were so interesting and fun. Also, I prepped him a bit on how to act in a museum before we went and had positive reinforcements on hand (okay they were bribes in the form of M and M minis).
5. Throwing Sticks into the Canals & Waving at the Boats
It is so funny that the simplest of activities was by far Beckham’s favorite! That is what is so amazing about traveling with kids – they are amazed by the smallest things and find pleasure in the simple moments. We enjoyed time sitting by the canals almost every day because he loved it so much. Our favorite place to sit and throw sticks is in the Nine Little Streets area.
It is so darn pretty, people are nice, and there is a lot of boat traffic. Sit at the edge of the canal, gather some sticks which have fallen off the trees and snuggle and throw the sticks in together. Whenever a boat passes be sure to say “hi” and wave. Most people in Amsterdam were so nice with Beckham and would wave, smile, and engage him in a little conversation. He still talks about the boats in “Ansserdam”.
Tips for Enjoying Time on the Edge of the Canals in Amsterdam with Kids
You will most likely have to sit on the ground at the edge of the canal, so if you are wearing white or a short skirt this isn’t something you will want to do. I made sure to have a LONG chat with Beckham about what he could and couldn’t do (ie – jump in the canal) and I had a hand on him at all times when we were near the water. And seriously – wave and say hi to the boats. People loved it!
A few considerations before taking your kids to Amsterdam
- Bikes, bikes, and MORE bikes!! – Among all of the things to do in Amsterdam, getting run over by a bike did not make the list. There are more bikes in this city than there are residents. When crossing streets, you must be very mindful of cars, trains, AND ALSO THE BIKES! You must cross traffic and then you must cross the bike “interstates” as we began to call them. Beware.
- Amsterdam with a stroller. – Amsterdam, in certain areas, is not easy to navigate with a stroller, but in our opinion, this city is worth the trouble. Cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, and train tracks in the road can be difficult. We recommend two people- a stroller “buddy” if you will, to trade off on stroller duty as it can become burdensome and to provide assistance in difficult situations.
- Weed/Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam and widely used. You will see it and smell it everywhere. It was the first thing we noticed when exiting the airport. Prepare yourselves to have it blown in your face- probably more than once. If visiting a “coffeeshop” (where it is legally sold in Amsterdam) is on your list of things to do in Amsterdam, then go for it, but for us, we tried to steer clear.
True, Amsterdam isn’t usually the first place you think of to take kids – but we had a great time there as a family and Beckham thought it was the best!
Shani, Kam, and Sav are a mother/daughter team who have built Our Family Passport.