Visiting Amsterdam with a baby, toddler, or little kids? This guest post’s got you covered with great recommendations from ex-pat mom of twins + 1 Farrah Ritter, who now calls the Netherlands home. Farrah blogs about her family’s adventures in parenting (with multiples!) and travels in her blog The Three Under.
For many people, Amsterdam comes to mind as a historic and beautiful city filled with bicycles and vibrant nightlife. It might not be the first city one thinks of when deciding to vacation or visit with their kids! Push the rumors you heard from your college heyday out of your mind, there is so much more than the notorious Red Light District! We have found Amsterdam to be a great place to take our three boys: twins age 3 and oldest 5. As with many cities I’ve encountered in Europe- the younger set is absolutely catered to and kept in mind for entertaining parents as well as children.
1. Best Outdoor Activity: Artis Zoo
Our first trip to Amsterdam was in a freezing February and we still loved Natura Artis Magistra. The beautiful old wrought iron gates, winding gardens and 19th century architecture in Amsterdam is spectacular to see. Included in the 900 species of animals, you’ll find a fantastic aquarium which was a big hit with the boys who at that time were only 3 and 2. Downstairs in the aquarium is a gigantic sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. The exhibits do not have animals in cages, they’re open enclosures where several of the animals are separated by a moat, which makes you feel closer than you actually are. The Royal Artis Zoo turned 175 years old in 2013, and is one of the most frequented attractions of the city.
2. Best Fine Museum for Kids: Rijksmuseum
The anticipated reopening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is a must see on any museum lover’s agenda. What’s so great about it is that it absolutely treats even young children as valued patrons- and offers special tours, programs and scavenger hunts just for them. In addition to the wonderful works of art, there are also seasonal workshops where kids can create their own masterpieces.
Tip: If you plan on seeing several museums during your stay, consider purchasing a Museumkaart. This little treasure allows for admission to not only museums, but also certain exhibits and even castles in the Netherlands. You make your money back rather quickly, even after just a few visits. Additionally, you can enter via an ‘express entrance’ at some museums (including the Van Gogh) without having to stand in line. Perfect for people with kids who don’t exactly love to wait.
3. Best Place To Eat: Try a pancake house.
A safe bet for anyone who comes to the Netherlands: go to a pancake house. Our kids love them and we know that there will be something for everyone. The guys love the poffertjes (mini pancakes covered in powdered sugar), but the menu has so many options it will blow your mind. They make combinations with every fruit that you can imagine and beyond! Typically there are play areas indoor and seasonally outdoors as well. A couple of options to try are ‘De Carrousel Pannenkoeken‘ which is next to the Heineken Museum (how convent!) and has a huge playground in the back. Also there’s ‘Groot Melkhuis‘- the playground cafe. It’s located in in the middle of Vondelpark.
4. Best Places To Go Indoors: TunFun Indoor Speelpark & Imaginarium Toy Store
The Dutch know how to keep kids entertained during rainy weather. We have spent many rainy Saturdays and Sundays at an indoor ‘speelpark’ (playground) such as TunFun Speelpark with slides, bouncing structures and ball pits galore. These indoor play places have areas specifically for babies and toddlers as well as ‘bigger kids’. When your monkeys are finished climbing, rolling, bouncing and crawling- pop over to the beautiful Imaginarium Toy Store. With high quality unique toys and and eye pleasing decor, this is one toy shop you won’t mind passing an afternoon browsing.
5. Best Science Center: NEMO
We visited NEMO when the boys were very young. The recommended age is 6 and up, but being hands-on, all of our kids still had fun. For a huge science center set in the harbor it’s easily accessible by walking from the centrum. From their cool science interactive displays to the ever popular ‘water works’ features, your kids don’t even realize that they’re learning while they play. My then four year old seemed to enjoy it a bit more than his younger brothers- but overall it was easily a place where we all felt comfortable with much to see and do.
Thanks so much for sharing your insider tips with us, Farrah! You can find more of Farrah’s tips on family travel in and around the Netherlands on her site: The Three Under.
More travel planning help:
If you’re planning a trip to the Netherlands with babies, toddlers, and young children–or anywhere else in Europe, remember these resources:
Directory of Baby Gear Rentals in Europe (including rentals in the Netherlands)
Other 5 Best with Kids Under 5 features you might enjoy:
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
PSSST! Have you seen my new blog yet? FamilyTravel411.com