Amsterdam isn’t all prostitutes, sex shows, stag parties and coffee shops that sell more than coffee. It’s a beautiful city and there’s lots to do with children. You just have to know where to look!
On our recent trip to Amsterdam with my daughter, who is 9, this is what we did.
Boat trip on the canal
This is pretty much essential, whether you’ve got a tween, a toddler or you’re travelling alone. The canals are the heart of Amsterdam and it’s a great way to really appreciate the beauty of the old part of the city. It’s also a good way to get your bearings and work out which parts of the city you’d like to explore.
Boat trips are always on a boat with a clear roof, so you can see everything, whatever the weather. There’s usually a commentary in English too, although some boats give more commentary than others.
In the last few months, my daughter has transformed from animal hater to animal lover. She has never liked zoos, but she requested that we visit Amsterdam Zoo (Artis Royal Zoo). It wasn’t cheap to get in – €19.95 for over 10s and €16.50 for 3-9 year olds, but it was a lovely zoo and was definitely worth the money.
It’s got all of the usual zoo animals in a relatively small space, including my favourites – elephants and giraffes. The giraffes included some very young giraffes – one of whom kept putting his head over the wall and eating the plants right by where people were watching. So people started feeding it. It was the cutest thing ever – I even fed it myself. I can’t imagine that ever being allowed at Chester or Bristol.
My daughter has suddenly developed an interest in reptiles and loved seeing them. She was in awe of the crocodile and said it was her first time seeing one. (It really wasn’t, but it just shows she’s always blocked zoos out as she hated them so much.)
We were lucky enough to stumble across the seals being fed. It was highly entertaining – the seals were all jumping out of the water when they were called to catch their fish. They jumped up onto a high platform and belly-flopped back off it. They gave their keeper a hug and shouted as loud as they could. My daughter thought it was one of the best things she’d ever seen.
Van Gogh Museum
I have a love of art going back to my teens, but my husband has never been interested in either art or museums, so I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to my suggestion of going to the Van Gogh Museum.
The museum has a huge collection of paintings by Van Gogh, plus letters and loads of information about him. I knew that he’d cut his own ear off, but I had never appreciated that he had died so young or that his art career had been so short-lived – just 10 years.
It is a stunning collection and well worth a visit. I’m pleased to say my husband enjoyed it as much as I did – in fact he seemed to read up on all the paintings even more than me! You can get a multimedia headset to enhance your tour for €5, which a lot of people did. The kids’ version, which my daughter had, encourages the children to find particular paintings and answer questions about them.
The museum gets BUSY. It opens at 9am and we got there at 9.15 and had to wait an hour to get in. You can of course book online in advance to save yourself some time (we didn’t), but even people with tickets had quite a wait. Entrance costs €17 for adults and is free for under 18s.
This is a beautiful tall tower, which is part of the church right by Anne Frank’s house. In fact, it was mentioned several times in Anne Frank’s diary – she was even able to see it from her hiding place.
Although part of the church, the tower also has a social and civil function in Amsterdam. The chime of the bells is beautiful and it also plays tunes on the bells twice a week – everything from hymns to Beatles music!
My daughter was particularly keen to go up the Wester Tower as she had read about it before we went to Amsterdam. It costs €7.50 per person (no concessions for children) and only six people can go up at a time. You need to arrive fairly early to book yourself a time-slot.
You climb up six floors and 182 (very steep, narrow) steps to a height of 42 metres – about half way up the tower. As you go up, you learn about the history of the tower, then you get to go outside and see the city from above. The views are stunning.
Be aware – the steps are quite hard going and, as a claustrophobic, I struggled slightly with how narrow and enclosed it was. But my daughter loved it!
Anne Frank House
I visited this with my husband two years ago and decided not to visit with my daughter. She’s only 9 and I thought it might be overwhelming and confusing for her.
Plus, the queues are RIDICULOUS. I have never seen queues like them. You can book online in advance, but you have to book months and months in advance.
Cycling is a brilliant way to see Amsterdam and to get around. You can read more about that here.
Still not enough suggestions for you? There’s even more suggestions from Netherlands Tourism here.
Going to the toilet seems to cost 50C most places – from cafes and restaurants to museums, so it’s always worth making sure you have a couple of coins to hand.