Amsterdam for Families

Amsterdam is filled with fun and exciting things for children to see and do, making it an ideal place for a family holiday. Much of the centre of the city is pedestrianised, and the lack of traffic adds to the enjoyment of its parks and playgrounds, child-friendly museums and galleries and, of course, the famous canals. Here are some great things for families to do in Amsterdam.

Parks and Playgrounds

The most centrally-located park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark, offers children a chance to let off steam and run around in its 120 acres, while parents can relax at one of several restaurants, bars and cafes or enjoy the open air theatre. There is even a Kinderkookcafe where children can have fun cooking under expert supervision. The Vondelpark has a large children’s wading pool and there are several playgrounds for both younger and older children. There are several other green spaces in the city, including the Westerpark, the Rembrandtpark and the Amstelpark.

Artis Zoo and Children’s Farms

The Natura Artis Magistgra, commonly called the Artis Zoo, is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands. It includes a planetarium, an aquarium and several museums, as well as hundreds of animal species. It runs free guided tours at the weekend and features special children’s evenings on Saturdays in the summer months, when it stays open until sunset. The zoo has a special kinderboerderijen, or children’s zoo, which contains farm animals that can be petted and fed. There are several of these kinderboerderijen in other parts of Amsterdam, including the Ridammerhoeve Goat Farm in the Amsterdamse Bos Park and the De Buiktuin petting zoo in north Amsterdam near the d’Admiraal windmill. 

Museums

Housed inside a huge green boat hulk, NEMO is a stimulating science and technology museum that is spread over four floors. It is filled with interactive exhibits and gadgets with information in both Dutch and English, from chemistry labs and computers to giant soap bubbles and robots, and will keep the whole family entertained for hours. NEMO also runs daily shows and demonstrations for children, and in the summer months the sloping top deck of the museum is transformed into a sandy beach. Another popular children’s museum is the Tropenmuseum Junior, which is based near the Oosterpark area of the city and created for children between 6 and 13. As well as interactive and colourful exhibitions that explore non-Western cultures, the Tropenmuseum holds daily workshops and activities for children. The National Maritime Museum is also a favourite with families, with life-sized ship replicas to board and explore.

Getting Around

Just travelling around the city is a fun family experience. Bicycles and tricycles can be rented for all ages, with many adapted for carrying toddlers and babies. Cycling lanes are everywhere, and the terrain is flat for easy pedalling, while for those who prefer to walk it is very easy to get around this compact city on foot. Alternatively, a trip on Amsterdam’s famous canals in a glass-topped boat is the perfect way to view the city’s bridges, locks and canal houses. There is a hop-on, hop-off canal bus that stops at most of Amsterdam’s main attractions, or visitors can choose from many canal cruise operators. 

Amsterdam is one of the most child-friendly European cities, with not only many attractions designed to appeal to families, but quiet streets that are largely free from traffic, beautiful waterways and plenty of green spaces. It’s a relatively cheap place to fly to, even if you’re taking the whole family, so why not try out the Dutch capital for yourself!

Pauline Ford is a freelance travel writer

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