There are so many things to do in Amsterdam with kids, its often hard to know where to start.
The Netherlands (and Amsterdam in particular) is hugely family friendly – in 2013 Unicef ranked Dutch Children as “the happiest in the world” so you won’t be surprised to hear that Amsterdam is home to hundreds of playgrounds, numerous child-friendly cafe’s and a relaxed approach to parenting that shines through its museums, attractions and events.
So throw aside all your preconceptions of Amsterdam as a stag and hen night destination and discard your memories of that hungover morning in Dam Square, Amsterdam is in fact one of the most family friendly cities around.
The list below is showcases the highlights of Amsterdam for kids who are aged somewhere between toddlers and tweens but please do explore the blog further for ideas. Our Amsterdam for Babies and Toddlers post has lots of suggestions that are sure to delight and our youngsters have enjoyed many of the ideas on our Amsterdam for Tweens list.
Click on the headlines for fuller information on every suggestion… and enjoy!
Ten Best for Kids in Amsterdam
Once your children are out of nappies and buggies, everything gets a whole lot easier and days out in Amsterdam become even more thrilling. The city’s museums and attractions are perfect for curious kids and they will love exploring this perfectly child-friendly mecca.
There are many museums in Amsterdam but none more uniquely kid-friendly than the incomparable Science Museum Nemo. The hands-on philosophy is a total delight and the roof even houses free attractions and water features when the weather warms up. Every age is catered for and young ones will be captivated by the buttons, levers and pulleys to say nothing of the bubbles that you can step into and the clouds that make rain – just make sure you have some serious incentives to persuade them to leave when its time to go home!
Amsterdam’s historic city-centre zoo is an extraordinary child-friendly paradise. As well as the regular enclosures there is a huge aquarium, magnificent buildings where monkeys and butterflies roam freely and a sensational playground to keep them busy whilst waiting for lunch. Best of all there are free trolleys for tired legs which are just as fun to pull as to be pulled in. On warm Summer evenings, head over for the uniquely gorgeous Artis Summer Nights when the park stays open until sundown on Saturday’s in June, July and August accompanied by live music, fairy lights, picnicking families and the whoops and howls of nocturnal beasties.
Our kids adore the Pirate Cruise run by Blue Boat. Take their own headphones for max comfort and they’ll enjoy a hilarious commentary and activity pack whilst you get to sit back and enjoy the view. There are toilets on board, you can take your own snacks and there’s no way for little wanderers to escape. No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a canal cruise and for restless youngsters this one’s as good as it gets.
Amsterdam has a glorious historic tramline run by volunteers which winds it way across the city on Sundays between April and November. Hop aboard at the gorgeous old Haarlemmermeer Station with its original woodwork and tea room and travel West to East until you arrive at Artis the zoo, or stay onboard for a round trip back to where you started. Sweet, traditional, untouristy and something that locals are fighting hard to preserve, show them the love and join the fun.
Amsterdam’s kids are spoiled for museum choice, but high on the list is the fabulous Scheepvaartmuseum dedicated to all things maritime. The perennial favourite is home to a marvellous full size reproduction of an East Indian cargo ship that sits in the harbour, complete with cannons to be fired and nooks and crannies to explore, but the museum interior also houses permanent exhibitions such as Life On Board and the Tale of the Whale, to say nothing of the stunning entrance atrium and cafe. We love it here.
It’s at this point in our list that we used to suggest you stop in front of the Rijksmuseum for the ultimate touristy Amsterdam snap with the “I amsterdam” letters. These have now been removed and only exist at the airport or as a travelling set around the city. So let’s suggest something else. Our kids go absolutely crazy for Amsterdam’s chocolate sensation Tony’s Chocolonely. Everything about the brand is pretty fabulous, and we used to the love the shop below their office in the Westerpark, but if you head to Beurs van Berlarge (which unfortunately is in a pretty touristy part of town), your choc-chips will get to enjoy the wonders of Tony’s ‘make your own chocolate vending machine’ in the basement store. Be prepared – they may never want to leave.
There are many parks in Amsterdam that we recommend but our kids very favourite is the vast Amstel Park. There is a huge amount to enjoy here alongside the regular playground including a little petting farm, some lovely coin-operated rides, a great maze, mini golf and most beloved of all for our two the Summer train which winds its way throughout the secret gardens. Lazy Summer days were made for this.
8. Splash Pools
In Summer, city kids love to make waves in Amsterdam’s numerous splash pools which provide welcome relief from the heat. Aside from the fountains in front of the Rijksmuseum, locals love the big and small splash pools in the Amsterdamse Bos (Forest); the water features in the Westerpark and on the roof at Nemo and the gorgeous pools in Oosterpark and Beatrixpark. You’ll find other splash pads dotted across town so get your trunks out and cool off.
Around the edge of the Canal Ring and beyond you’ll find little playgrounds and football cages in just about every residential enclave. There are lots to recommend but if you’re in the city centre none are larger or more accessible than UJ Klaren. Here you’ll find swings, trampolines and climbing frames as well as a football court for those who need to let off steam with a ball.
If your kids are anything like ours, they don’t need fancy attractions to keep them occupied. Simply riding Amsterdam’s tram network fills our boys with delight. The brand new Metro line running North to South is another favourite as is a chance to watch the Thalys and ICE trains in Central Station, racing to France, Germany and beyond.
That’s it. Ten brilliant ideas to inspire a visit to Amsterdam with kids. But there’s so much more. Take a look at our posts on 10 Best Things To Do In Amsterdam With Babies and Toddlers and 10 Best Things To Do In Amsterdam with Tweens for heaps more suggestions or head over to our 48 hour Amsterdam Itinerary With Kids to work out how to pack it all in.
If you’ve got time to head out of town, take a look at this list of places a little further afield – there are windmills and beaches, castles and villages that are less than half an hour away.
Looking for child-friendly places to eat? Have a read of our extensive post giving suggestions for even the fussiest of palettes.
But whatever you do, get yourself to Amsterdam for a visit. Your kids will thank you for the memories you make for many years to come.