Travel with kids: Visit Amsterdam for the weekend! With the kids..?

I was in Amsterdam recently and intrigued to find out what it would be like as a destination to take your children. True, it doesn’t have the most child-friendly reputation but I discovered it actually offers a lot in the way of entertainment. If the idea of Disneyland Paris fills you with dread then consider this short-haul alternative.

Getting Around

This may seem a strange subject to start with but, as I’m sure you’re aware, children often seem to enjoy a journey on the tube or train as much as their time at the destination itself. If your little ones find novel forms of transport exciting then Amsterdam may be the perfect city for you. It’s also pretty compact so no journey takes too long.

Trams

They run on tracks on the road. What more do you want?

Canal boats

Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and the most scenic way to get around the city is on a boat. There are lots of options from hop-on, hop-off canal buses to arranging your own tour. There is even a canal bike that four people can pedal (suitable for slightly older children).

Bikes

I have never seen so many bikes and I live in South-West London. There are 600,000 in Amsterdam – they cover every bridge and line the canals. If you and your kids are confident cyclists then this is the ideal city to hire some bicycles and get exploring. As you would expect everyone here is used to cyclists and there are lots of cycle lanes (pretty sure Boris is jealous).

Things to do (once you’ve reached them…)

Van Gogh Museum

Firstly, you might want to get a Dutch person to say ‘Van Gogh’ and then try and copy what they’ve said. This could take hours. I’m not really sure how to write it phonetically but there’s definitely a throaty-c sound going on. In all seriousness, this museum has plenty of activities (treasure hunts, colouring pages, workshops) to keep your children entertained and you can enjoy learning about the famous painter as well. Plus, you can feel suitably smug when your little darlings tell their teacher where they went this weekend!

Cinekid

This is the world’s largest media festival for children and is held in Amsterdam annually. You will find films, animations, documentaries and workshops all aimed at kids. Find more information at www.cinekid.nl

Kinderkookkafé

This café basically does what it says on the tin. Drop by and children can don chef hats and aprons and cook something that they can then enjoy! There is also food available for adults.

Anne Frank’s House

If your children are ten or older then this is a highly-recommended museum. The website (www.annefrank.org/en) has lots of information about the time in which Anne Frank lived and practical information on visiting with young people. As well as the artefacts and informational films that are permanently on display there are temporary exhibitions about related subjects.

Flower Market

Amsterdam’s world-famous flower market may interest your children. If they are not that way inclined but you wish to visit it yourself then think up a couple of games to keep them entertained while you have a quick look around. You could count how many different colours of tulip you can spot or try and decide on your favourite species of flower. Why not pick out some bulbs and then plant them together when you get home?

Nemo (Science Centre)

If you happen to be visiting during a particularly rainy weekend then Nemo could be a welcome option for the family. There’s lots to do here – with five floors of interactive displays, games and workshops. Also, from the outside the building looks like a ship. You can check out the English-language website here: www.e-nemo.nl/en/?id=1

Vondelpark

This park is a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon if you’ve been sightseeing all morning. There’s a playground, an open-air theatre that has a range of shows throughout the summer months and a couple of places to grab some food.

Amsterdam Zoo

Artis Royal Zoo has a reptile house, butterfly pavillion, aquarium and, of course, those crowd-pleasing exotic mammals. If your kids are animal-lovers they’ll be ecstatic. For more information look on their website: www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo

Food in Amsterdam

If your children are unadventurous eaters then they should be fine here. Chips and pancakes are both Dutch specialities. Croquettes are a favourite too and you could probably pass then off as chicken nuggets while consoling yourself that they’ve tried some Dutch cuisine. It goes without saying (but I’ll write it anyway) that as there is a large range of restaurants and cafés to choose from you don’t have to eat Dutch if you don’t want to.

Christmas Traditions

If you are visiting in the run up to Christmas then a great way to keep your kids engaged on the journey is to tell them about Dutch Christmas. They do things a little differently there. Sinterklass actually visits much earlier in Holland, on December 5th. Instead of living in the North Pole, Dutch children believe that he lives in Spain and travels up by boat. Many people go to see him arrive at the docks in Amsterdam. Dutch families often eat letterbanket which is a cake made in the shape of the initial of the family’s surname. Now there’s an idea for a Christmas holiday project! Instead of stockings Dutch children leave their shoes by the fireplace for Sinterklass to fill with presents.

Markets

Amsterdam has an abundance of neighbourhood markets during the festive period. Alongside the usual food and gift stalls the central market also boasts an ice-rink.

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