(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

 

 

Ams­ter­dam has a bit of a rep­u­ta­tion. When many peo­ple in the U.S. think Ams­ter­dam, they think Red Light Dis­trict, illic­it sub­stances, and X‑rated shops.  Not exact­ly what you’d look for in a fam­i­ly-friend­ly vaca­tion destination. 

My hus­band and I had sim­i­lar notions about Ams­ter­dam but we were also drawn to its unique cul­ture and archi­tec­ture. So we decid­ed to put those racy ideas aside and plan a fam­i­ly trip any­way.  To our sur­prise and delight, Ams­ter­dam end­ed up being one of the coolest, most unique Euro­pean trav­el expe­ri­ences we’ve ever had with many fun things to do for kids too.

With a ton of impor­tant his­to­ry, amaz­ing food, one-of-a-kind archi­tec­ture, and world-renowned art, Ams­ter­dam is a can’t miss des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies.  Don’t miss these 7 things you need to do in Ams­ter­dam with your kids.

 

 

Foodhallen

 

foodhallen amsterdam

Every­thing you could pos­si­bly want to eat, under one roof. Pho­to cour­tesy of amsterdamsights.com.

 

 

I don’t know about your fam­i­ly, but for ours, find­ing a place to eat that suits every­one’s per­son­al tastes is always a chal­lenge, espe­cial­ly on vaca­tion.  So, dis­cov­er­ing Food­hallen was a god-send.  It was also a real­ly fun and mem­o­rable din­ing experience.

With 23 food stands, each fea­tur­ing a spe­cif­ic type or style of food, you won’t be at a loss as to what to order.  In fact, you might have the oppo­site prob­lem — analy­sis paral­y­sis, or the inabil­i­ty to choose because there are too many options.  What­ev­er food you could pos­si­bly want to eat, Food­hallen has it.  Dim Sum?  Check.  Fried Chick­en?  Check.  Tacos?  Check.  There’s a French patis­serie, a hot dog stand, a piz­za joint, a sushi bar, and a pita place, just to name a few.  Can’t decide on just one?  You can do what my hus­band did and sam­ple some­thing from a few dif­fer­ent places.

Once you’ve made your selec­tion and placed your order, you can enjoy your meal at one of the dis­tinct­ly Euro­pean com­mu­ni­ty tables.  The hall is great for peo­ple watch­ing.  Our biggest rec­om­men­da­tion?  Make sure you save room for dessert! 

 

 

Van Gogh Museum

 

van gogh museum amsterdam

Love the works of Van Gogh? Then you’re going to love this muse­um. Pho­to cour­tesy of Medium.com

 

 

Cen­tral to the city, the Van Gogh Muse­um is equal parts his­to­ry les­son, exhib­it, and liv­ing art instal­la­tion.  Locat­ed in a beau­ti­ful, mod­ern build­ing in the heart of the city, the muse­um is very well-curat­ed, and one of those places where you walk away feel­ing much more knowl­edge­able and cul­tured than you were when you walked in.

Beyond dis­play­ing some of Van Gogh’s most notable and mem­o­rable works, you can also learn a lot about his child­hood and youth, parts of his sto­ry that often get obscured by the rehash­ing of his adult antics, most notably the fact that he cut off his own ear.  They also have rotat­ing exhibits, many of which bring the works of Van Gogh to life in a vis­cer­al and inter­ac­tive way. 

When we vis­it­ed, the exhib­it on dis­play was “Van Gogh Dreams”, a mul­ti­sen­so­ry light exhib­it about his emo­tion­al jour­ney as an artist dur­ing his time in the South of France. While it admit­ted­ly sound­ed a bit bor­ing, the gigan­tic light and mir­rors dis­play was fun and very enter­tain­ing, espe­cial­ly for the kids.  We got to walk through fields of larg­er than life, glit­ter­ing pop­pies that gave us Wiz­ard of Oz giggles. 

 

Anne Frank House

 

anne frank haus

The beau­ti­ful Anne Frank Haus and Muse­um, locat­ed right on the canal. Pho­to cour­tesy of TripAdvisor.com.

 

 

I remem­ber first read­ing The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank when I was eleven. My copy was my moth­er’s — I’d found it at my grand­ma’s house and it was dog-eared and smelled like moth­balls.  Eleven was prob­a­bly a lit­tle young to read it and ful­ly com­pre­hend the enor­mi­ty of its sig­nif­i­cance.  But if I’m being hon­est, when we had to read it again for school a few years lat­er, I still don’t think I real­ly appre­ci­at­ed the story.

I could­n’t ful­ly com­pre­hend Anne Frank’s sto­ry until I was stand­ing in the stuffy and cramped attic where she and sev­en oth­er peo­ple lived for over two years. Star­ing in front the pho­tos of movie stars she had cut from mag­a­zines and past­ed on the wall above her bed, I could relate to the hope­ful teen she had once been.

Of all the things we did while we were in Ams­ter­dam, vis­it­ing the Anne Frank House was by far the most mem­o­rable.  Read­ing about his­to­ry is one thing, being inside of it is anoth­er.  You can’t under­stand how cramped the annex she lived in was until you’re suf­fo­cat­ing with­in it.  You can’t visu­al­ize how much they must’ve missed the sun­shine until you see that sun­light is scant in the attic.  And you cer­tain­ly can’t fath­om how qui­et they had to be, until you’re walk­ing across those attic floor­boards, cring­ing with every groan and squeak of your steps.  It was mind-open­ing and very, very sobering. 

In addi­tion to see­ing the annex where the fam­i­ly lived in hid­ing, the Anne Frank House offers an incred­i­ble muse­um that is very well appoint­ed and was one of the more inter­est­ing muse­ums I’ve ever vis­it­ed.  If you only do one thing while you’re in Ams­ter­dam, the Anne Frank House should def­i­nite­ly be it. 

 

       

Boat Tour on the Canal

 

boat tour on amsterdam canal

If you want to avoid traf­fic, this is the way to trav­el! Pho­to cour­tesy of TripAdvisor.com.

 

 

Don’t Miss! The Best Things to See in Salzburg in 48 Hours

 

If you’ve seen pho­tos of Ams­ter­dam, you’ve seen the wind­ing canals that snake their way through­out the city, bor­dered on each side by nar­row, gabled town­homes.  It’s one of the hall­marks of Ams­ter­dam and why it’s often referred to as the “Venice of the North”.  If you real­ly want to see the city from a unique van­tage point, you owe it to your­self to see it by boat on a canal cruise.

There are mul­ti­ple options to choose from for canal tours, but we rec­om­mend Ams­ter­dam Canal Cruis­es, which offer one-hour excur­sions around Ams­ter­dam’s many canals.  Tour the city from the water in a large, insu­lat­ed boat that’s per­fect for any sea­son.  While you take in the beau­ty of the archi­tec­ture, the guides regale you with in-depth back­ground and sto­ries on the his­to­ry of Amsterdam.

We rec­om­mend buffer­ing a lit­tle more than an hour for this excur­sion, as they some­times run a lit­tle long, and tak­ing the excur­sion at night to see the city all lit up is a must.  As a bonus, kids under 4 ride free!

Fam­i­lies can eas­i­ly find and book Ams­ter­dam tours through Get Your Guide or Via­tor.

 

 

 

NEMO Museum

 

If you’re look­ing for a muse­um that’ll engage and enter­tain your kids, you need look no fur­ther than the NEMO Sci­ence Muse­um.  NEMO’s mis­sion is to make sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy more acces­si­ble and engag­ing for every­one, but most­ly for kids. 

Through inter­ac­tive exhibits, lab exper­i­ments, demon­stra­tions, and work­shops, vis­i­tors get to expe­ri­ence the won­der­ful world of sci­ence and tech and how it impacts our every­day.  Exhibits range from learn­ing about water and solar pow­er, to how tech­nol­o­gy and logis­tics get your pack­ages from point A to point B.  You can learn about the human body, dis­cov­er the sci­ence behind light and sound, and run exper­i­ments in a lab. 

With over five floors of activ­i­ties, NEMO is a great way to spend the day explor­ing and learn­ing as a family. 

 

Don’t miss “How to Have A Fam­i­ly Vaca­tion in Lon­don With­out Going Nuts”

 

 

Vondelpark

 

vondelpark amsterdam

Von­del­park is a beau­ti­ful place to spend an after­noon. Pho­to cour­tesy of amsterdam-canal-cruise.com.

 

 

If spend­ing time out­side is more your thing, Von­del­park, in Ams­ter­dam’s city cen­ter, won’t dis­ap­point.  The largest city park in Ams­ter­dam, Von­del­park is always a buzz of activ­i­ty, with peo­ple relax­ing in the sun, rid­ing bikes along the paths, enjoy­ing some of the out­door enter­tain­ment the park has to offer or grab­bing an ice cream from a near­by vendor. 

With sev­er­al play­grounds and mul­ti­ple restau­rants and cafes, the park is a per­fect way to spend a low-key after­noon with your kids.  From May to Sep­tem­ber, you can take in a show at the out­door amphithe­ater.  Look­ing for some­thing with a lit­tle more struc­ture?  You can also take guid­ed bike tours or audio walk­ing tours to learn more about the park and its impact on the city of Ams­ter­dam over the years. 

    

 

Rijksmuseum

 

rijksmuseum amsterdam

A cel­e­bra­tion of all things Dutch! Pho­to cour­tesy of rijksmuseum.nl.

 

 

It’s some­times easy to for­get that some of the world’s most famous painters were Dutch — Rem­brandt, Jan Steen, and Vin­cent Van Gogh, to name a few.  But the Dutch take great pride in their artis­tic her­itage.  There were few places where this pride was more evi­dent than in the Rijksmu­se­um.

As the largest art muse­um in the Nether­lands, The Rijksmu­se­um is a nation­al Dutch art and his­to­ry muse­um that chron­i­cles over 800 years of Dutch his­to­ry in its expan­sive grounds.  View the mas­ter­pieces of Rem­brandt and Steen, as well as Johannes Ver­meer and count­less oth­ers.  Amble through the Great Hall to expe­ri­ence the true beau­ty of the build­ing and the stained glass win­dows.  There’s also a stun­ning mul­ti­ple floor library that hap­pens to be the largest art his­to­ry library in the country.

With plen­ty to see and expe­ri­ence, the Rijksmu­se­um is not to be missed.

 

Don’t Miss: A Local’s Guide to Fam­i­ly Friend­ly Florence

 

When You Go

Getting There

 

 

Many inter­na­tion­al car­ri­ers fly from Los Ange­les to Ams­ter­dam-Schiphol Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. A non-stop flight goes about 10 hours. We per­son­al­ly rec­om­mend KLM as we felt their ser­vice was top notch.

We like Tri­pAd­vi­sor to com­pare flight prices between online air­line agen­cies. We also use Booking.com

 

 

Where to Stay

 

For hotels, we high­ly rec­om­mend Hotel De Hallen, a bou­tique hotel next to Food­hallen, which was per­fect for late night snacks.  For a bud­get-friend­ly option, there are sev­er­al high­ly-rat­ed, cen­tral­ly locat­ed hotels, like the Radis­son and Hol­i­day Inn.  If you’re look­ing for some over-the-top pam­per­ing, then the Pulitzer Hotel is def­i­nite­ly the place for you.

Check out this inter­ac­tive map to com­pare prices on hotels in areas you’d like to stay, as well as AirBnB options!

 

 

 

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Amsterdam is a perfect place for a family vacation and has lots of fun things to do with kids

 

amsterdam is a perfect place for a family vacation and has lots of fun things to do with kids

 

Mor­gan is a brand design­er and writer who splits her time between man­ag­ing her cre­ative stu­dio, Atlas + Anchor, and writ­ing about her life­long love affair with trav­el. A wan­der­lus­ter at heart, she’s a big pro­po­nent of explor­ing the roads less trav­eled because they often lead to amaz­ing views, mem­o­rable sto­ries, and the most unas­sum­ing but life-chang­ing restau­rants. Orig­i­nal­ly from Ohio, Mor­gan now lives in the heart of Chica­go with her fam­i­ly and is quite pos­si­bly the only per­son with­in city lim­its who hates deep dish pizza.