Our very first stop on our first trip to Europe with our kids was to Amsterdam and it was a great way to initiate ourselves into international travel. Our girls were 2, 5, and 7 at the time. Our visit was short, but memorable, and we can’t wait to visit again. In this post I’ve pulled together some of our favorite activities from our time in Amsterdam and then also included some recommendations from some of our friends. We’d love to hear what else you’d suggest as must-see-do activities in and around Amsterdam.
Just from some background, we stayed in a wonderful Airbnb in Haarlem (just outside Amsterdam) and we used public transportation to get around. We also rented bikes for exploring. We stayed for 3 days.
Things to Do:
1. Explore Vondelpark. This is a wonderful green space where kids can run free and explore. It has three amazing playgrounds and a treehouse. We used it as a place to run out energy in between museum visits and meals.
2. Rent Bakfiets. We rented a bakfiet (cargo bike) in Haarlem, just outside of Amsterdam. Haarlem doesn’t have the crazy bike traffic of Amsterdam so it was easier to navigate. The kids loved exploring the city on bike. The bike took some getting used to because it is heavy, but such a cool way to experience the dutch life.
3. Stop by the NEMO science museum. We have heard from our followers that this museum is awesome. It is an interactive science museum where kids can playfully experience science and technology and would be great for a rainy day with kids. We can’t wait to go on our next visit!
4. Visit Haarlem. This medieval city outside of Amsterdam is the perfect day trip from the city (just 15 minutes by train). We loved wandering Grote Markt, exploring the Frans Hals Museum (it had some kid-friendly exhibits, and visiting the De Adriaan Windmill (also next door to the windmill was a great playground). We also spent a lot of time in Haarlemmerhout (the oldest park in the Netherlands and a great green space with a playground, petting zoo, and walking paths).
5. Ride a canal boat. Amsterdam is a city of canals and one of the best ways to experience the city is by boat. A lot of companies have 1 hour boat rides that are perfect for kids. You can also rent your own boat through Boaty and customize your own canal tour. We’ve heard great things about these boat rentals!
6. Enjoy an art museum. Amsterdam has a wealth of art museums, but our favorite was the Van Gogh Museum. This museum has a family guide, treasure hunt, and hands-on activities. We loved learning more about Van Gogh’s impressionist paintings. We also loved the Anne Frank House (although we went without our kids).
7. Visit Keukenhof. If you time your trip right (between mid-March to mid-May) you can see the tulips in bloom in one of the world’s largest flower gardens. It is very accessible by train or bus from Amsterdam. Of course the tulips are the best part of Keukenhof but it also has a giant playground, petting farm, and a maze for kids.
8. See the windmills in Zaanse Schans. This is one of the activities we are dying to go back to Amsterdam to experience. Here you can visit a working windmill, see clogs being made, and go cheese tasting, and go back in time to see what life was like in 18th and 19th century Holland.
We also loved just wandering Amsterdam, eating pastries and local delicacies, and exploring. When we travel with our kids we try to mix in playground visits, treats, and more grown-up activities so that everyone has an enjoyable time. We have found that travel with kids is best when it isn’t just checking off a list of sights to see, but is spent at a slower pace. If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, we hope these ideas are helpful! And if you aren’t, we hope you are inspired to add Amsterdam to your list.