Despite Amsterdam’s reputation for cannabis smoking in the coffee shops and its notorious red-light district, there are plenty of family friendly things to do in Amsterdam. It’s small and walkable, with most sights within easy reach of each other. Its architecture and canals are eccentric enough to beguile kids, and it has plenty of cafés for pancake breaks from sightseeing. Buy an I Amsterdam card from the tourist office for reduced admission charges.
Book online to avoid the ever-present lines at the tragic Anne Frank House, with its hidden apartment and claustrophobic proportions, which always intrigue and horrify youngsters in equal measure. Combine it with a trip to the Children’s Museum at the Jewish Historical Museum, where kids can bake kosher bread, paint, and dance.
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The Science Center NEMO in the Oosterdok was built for kids, and a visit reveals enough interactive display and activities to distract a family for several hours. The scale replica of East Indiaman The Amsterdam is moored next door; it’s perfect for clambering all over and the deckhands, dressed in traditional costume, are happy to answer all questions.
Escape to the Hortus Botanicus, just south of Oosterdok. Amsterdam’s botanical gardens contain over 4,000 species of flora, including carnivorous plants, giant water lilies, and a butterfly house. The Netherlands’ largest zoo, Artis, is a step away, with zookeeper talks for kids, aquarium, planetarium, and petting zoo along with 900 species of animal kept in fine conditions.
Few kids will resist the chance to explore Amsterdam’s canals by pedalo; they are available at landing stages all over the central canal ring. So climb aboard and pedal to the Rijksmuseum, home to The Netherlands’ premier collection of decorative art – it also houses The Nightwatch, Rembrandt’s huge and most famous painting. Until its long-awaited reopening in April 2013, the museum is only displaying its very best pieces, which makes it of suitable concentration chunks for children.
Amsterdam has a fantastic selection of children’s boutiques: Imagine in Amstelveenseweg sells retro toys, Knutsel Frutsel on Hoofddorpweg has arty bits and pieces covered in glitter, plus Tinkerbell on Spiegelgracht is full of dressing up costumes and model kits. On Scheldestraat there is a branch of Miffy and this is reasonably close to the Amstelpark, where kids will find a serious playground and a mini petting farm. Other green spaces include the Amsterdam Bos, where the Fun Forest has rope bridges running through the trees as well as an adventure playground.
- Contributed by Sasha Heseltine