Don't let its hedonistic reputation fool you. Amsterdam is jam-packed with family-friendly activities that make it one of Europe's best cities for kids. And their parents!
As a traveller, this amazing ethnographic museum is probably top of your list of places to visit in Amsterdam anyway. Set in a beautiful historic building, it is crammed with artefacts that draw visitors right into the daily lives of the people of the tropics and subtropics. As you'd expect, the collection from Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, is particularly strong.
But what marks out the Tropenmuseum as a great place for families are the selection of themed activities the museum runs as part of its Tropenmuseum Junior program. To celebrate the Football World Cup being held in Brazil, for example, part of the museum was turned into a favela cantina, where kids were decked out in carnival outfits and taught Brazilian dancing and drumming, culminating in a concert for the parents, complete with (non-alcoholic) cocktails from the cantina bar.
Just down from the main railway station, in Oosterdok, Science Center Nemo rises up from the harbour like a stricken ship, sinking after hitting an iceberg.
Inside this striking piece of architecture, is an incredibly interactive science museum offering a range of activities that will keep both kids and adults busy for hours – including a fully-kitted out laboratory where you don a white coat and choose an experiment to complete.
What's really nice about the museum is that it has a very Dutch aesthetic, with a focus on very practical application of science. You can try your hand at using barcodes to run an automated factory, for example. And the floor devoted to devoted to teenage hormones is as blunt and straightforward as you’d imagine. You may want to keep the under-10s away from the gallery of wooden artists' models demonstrating various um, well, you get the drift.
Anne Frank statue (Shutterstock.com)
Chances are, your children will have read The Dairy of Anne Frank at school. This museum, set in the house where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during the Second World War, brings the pages of that book to life.
A visit to the secret annexe, is particularly sobering. With its blacked-out windows and cramped conditions, you get a real sense of the stifling claustrophobia the family lived through.
Something to note: Make sure you book a ticket online before you go. The queues here are probably the longest in Amsterdam, with waits of two to three hours not unknown. Staff walk the line handing out brochures and the museum provides free wi-fi, but it only reaches the front part of the queue.
Moored on a canal in Singel, just down from The Doors coffee shop, this houseboat is a sanctuary for the homeless cats of Amsterdam – a place for them to sleep and eat until they are rehoused to loving new homes. (Sal Bolton visited the boat for Wanderlust. You can read her account here.)
Entrance is free, but any donations for the running costs of the boat are appreciated. Be warned: some of the long term residents are ‘characters’ and not adverse to taking a swipe at unsuspecting visitors.
Covering 47 hectares, Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam. It is also the city’s playground, somewhere you can ride a bike, have a picnic and listen to live bands. Hire some bikes or let the kids loose on the amazing playground equipment. Or pop into the Kinderkookcafé, where you can have a cup of coffee while the kids learn how to cook pancakes.
Rijksmuseum with I Am Amsterdam sign (Shutterstock.com)
Newly renovated and bursting at the seams with Grand Masters, this astounding museum also offers family-focussed multimedia tours and a Picknickroom where kids can play and draw while mum and dad contemplate what they’ve seen. They also have activities for the kids. Don't be surprised however, if the kids have more fun clambering over the giant letters spelling out 'I Am Amsterdam' at the back of the museum.
Are there any places you think families must visit in Amsterdam? Tell us in the comments below.
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