Until recently I thought of Amsterdam as home to tulips and clogs, drunken stag and hen parties cruising down the canals on party boats and of course the infamous coffee shops. It wasn’t somewhere I particularly thought of to take children, with other European cities being higher up my list of destinations to go as a family.
However a recent trip to this beautiful city has changed all that. Flying in from Norwich airport took just 35 minutes (check out KLM for flights from 15 other regional destinations) and was quick and efficient. My opinion has completely been changed and I would go as far as to say this is the most child friendly city I have been to. A fabulous capital city, full of quaint crooked buildings, picturesque rows of canals and cosy cafes, restaurants and amazing shops, apparently the culture here is very much bring your children along.
We only spent just under three days in this gorgeous place, but here are some things you can do with your little ones if you are planning a short break in Amsterdam.
1 Hire a bike
Hire a bike from one of the numerous bike hire shops and really explore. The beauty of Amsterdam is there is such a variety within the city landscape, from the crowded tourist area with its canals and umpteen eateries, to the peacefulness of wide open spaces such as Vondelpark, and the urban grit and creativeness of areas like the NDSM area of Amsterdam Noord. At first glance cycling may seem scary as there are literally hundreds of them whizzing around in all different directions, but actually apparently it is one of the safest cities in Europe to cycle in. Helmets are not the norm, in fact we didn’t see one person in one the whole time we were there, but do ask as they will supply them to you. We used MacBike who were efficient and friendly.
2. Get pancakes
Treat yourself to a naughty delicacy. What child doesn’t love pancakes? And did you know that pancakes are a Dutch speciality? There are numerous places to pick one up in the city centre but one of the best is Pancakes! Amsterdam. A not so secret little restaurant tucked down one a side street, we queued outside for an hour to get a table. But was it worth it? Most definitely. Share a savoury one and a sweet one, we had ham and cheese, followed by whipped cream, Nutella and ice cream. Or perhaps try something more adventurous like chilli pepper, bacon and banana. Delicious and a perfect family lunch.
3. Amsterdam Noord
Head over to Amsterdam Noord, an up and coming and super hip area of the city. You have to hop on a ferry which go from behind Centraal Station, but they are free and run every 20 minutes 24 hours a day. Make sure you get the one going to NDSM, they take about 10 minutes. It’s not for everyone but this area is very creative, with a real urban grittiness about it. You will see talented street artists creating masterpieces on huge, old shipping buildings, graffiti everywhere you look, and lots of hipster types milling around. Indeed MTV Europe refurbished an old building and now have one of their European headquarters here. It’s totally worth the trip to get away from the overly busy tourist area and see where creative locals hang out. It’s also perfect for letting little ones run about and let off some steam.
4. Buy a waffle in Dam Square
For all the occasional wanting to escape the typical tourist areas, you should also embrace it too. The canals area of Amsterdam is beautiful with quaint streets full of cool interior shops, fashionable cafes and well renowned restaurants. Yes it gets busy, especially at the weekends but it is worth going to for picture perfect photos. Visit Dam Square, head into one of the cafes or street vendors, buy a waffle or a Stroopwafel (another Dutch delicacy- a waffle made from two layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup centre) and sit and watch the world go by.
Head to one of the open spaces in the city to let your little ones run around and let off steam. The area behind the Rijksmuseum is home to the Iamsterdam letters, which have fast become an iconic symbol of the city, and a fab photo opportunity. Indeed if you sit and watch for a while you will see visitor contort themselves into all manner of positions in order to get a photo! Vondelpark is also in the area, perfect for a more relaxing pace of life and some greenery. There are other I amsterdam signs throughout the city, one at the airport and a scaled down one that travels around the city, popping up in different locations- indeed we found one in Amsterdam Noord in front of The Eye Institute. A little bit silly, but fun for children.
Head over to Mummy Daddy Me to see Katie’s full account of her recent family trip to Amsterdam and see below for a video of their adventures.