I visited Amsterdam recently with my ten year-old son. We had a great time and it’s definitely somewhere I’d recommend for families. Here are some ideas for things to do with kids in the Dutch capital.
Make a splash
Just in front of the famous Rijksmuseum is an attractive, formal garden with manicured hedges and grassy areas displaying sculptures. The garden is free to enter and at its centre is an intriguing modern water sculpture called Hide and See(k) by Danish artist Jeppe Hein. Water shoots up every so often in different formations from ground level. If you’re brave enough, you can stand in between the water jets and not get very wet. Or you can just go for it and get wet. There are chairs and benches to sit on in the garden and a stylish kiosk selling drinks and snacks.
Play on some letters
There are some solid, giant red and white letters spelling I Amsterdam which sit on Museumplein in front of the Rijksmuseum. The letters are part of a city marketing campaign and are just waiting to be climbed and sat on. This is a great place for a photo stop.
Explore the canals
Amsterdam is famous for its network of canals and is home to around 2500 houseboats. The 17th century canal ring is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you can wander along its bridges and streets for free. Houseboat dwellers may have families, pets, gardens and hobbies and children find it fascinating to see everyday life on the boats. For a different view of the canals take one of the many boat tours on offer in the city. It’s easy to find one with commentary in English although tours can also be good with no commentary at all as there’s so much to see.
Pancakes are a traditional Dutch dish and both savoury and sweet versions are on offer at pancake restaurants in the city. The friendly Pancake Bakery sits in a wonky old warehouse building on the Prinsengracht, the city’s longest 17th century canal. Its chefs make delicious pancakes to order in an open kitchen which are somehow light and filling at the same time. Look out for street sellers in places like the Albert Cuypmarkt making delicious, tiny pancakes called poffertjes.
From trying to fit inside a giant, soapy bubble to using real laboratory equipment to thinking about alien life forms the NEMO science centre encourages visitors of all ages to learn about science and technology by getting involved with a range of activities. From theatre shows to workshops to demonstrations to interactive exhibitions, the activities on offer are constantly changing and range over five floors. The centre is housed in a beautiful, modern, ship-like building which offers fantastic views of the port and city from its popular roof terrace.
Visit Amsterdam Arena
Amsterdam Arena is home to the famous Ajax football club as well as being the venue for other sports, concerts, and Dutch national events such as a celebration of Prince (now King) Willem-Alexander’s wedding. The biggest in Holland, the stadium seats 53,600 and has a roof which can open and close. The fascinating one hour stadium tour takes you behind the scenes to places such as the press room, dressing rooms and control room as well as to sit in the stadium itself. The guides speak excellent English and are skilled at engaging with kids.
Family travel lowdown: For more information about Amsterdam go to iamsterdam.com. Thanks to holland.com for arranging our trip to the city and to KLM for providing our flights from Kent’s Manston airport.