What to do with children in Amsterdam – our reviews and top tips
Amsterdam isn’t just for hen and stag dos, it is a family-friendly city with lots for children to do. We had a great time with our two, here’s our video and lots of information below about what we recommend.
NEMO Science Museum
This is a fantastic hands-on museum. NEMO looks like a giant ship rising from the harbour where it is situated. Inside there are four floors of interactive activities.
Floor one demonstrates how science works with pulleys, the chance to create electricity and an hourly show which is great fun, showing how a chain reaction works. One young volunteer gets to set off a reaction which spreads around the stage.
Floor two explains everyday technology such as how water is purified – children can collect water in a bucket and tip it in and out of various systems. There is also a great perspective room with altered height ceilings and angles where you can make children look like giants and turn the adults tiny.
The third floor has a display about planets and a brilliant science lab. The whole family put lab coats and goggles on to create their own experiments showing how rockets can fire and how sun cream works. It is hands-on learning at its best.
The fourth floor was closed when we visited but will be all about the human body.
There is a fifth floor with a nice cafe – the food is good quality with a wide variety. And don’t miss the roof terrace, especially on a sunny day – take your food out there to eat. There are panoramic views of Amsterdam and children can play in various water features.
*Entrance to the museum is free with an I amsterdam card or book tickets via their website.
Hunter Street house
The popular Nickelodeon children’s series Hunter Street is set in Amsterdam. The actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands but the exterior of the Hunter house is a real home.
It is at Singel 140-142, a small canalside road just outside the heart of the city.
It is best reached via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and is then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal. Our children enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!
This is a great way to mix a river cruise, meal and a soft play.
De Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat) is moored across the IJ river from Amsterdam Centraal Station (catch the free NDSM ferry 906 from the far left pontoon at the station).
It is a 75-minute cruise along the river past Amsterdam Central Station. Once on board you can eat as many proper Dutch pancakes as you want (the record is a huge 15, which considering how filling they are is barely believable). There are three types of pancake – plain, with apple and one with bacon – plus lots of toppings you can put on.
About 30 minutes into the cruise, they open a big ball pit with slide in the bowels of the boat, which kept our daughter entertained for most of the rest of the journey.
Tip: There are two levels – the top deck is cooler and has better views but the pancakes and ball pit are downstairs. But once you have eaten you can sit wherever you want.
Cruise times vary but there are at least four a day in high season, book via their site
This glorious zoo in the centre of Amsterdam is a tropical delight to walk through. It has some of the usual animals you see at English zoos such as elephants and giraffes but other species you don’t see very often.
I liked seeing the armadillos – having only ‘seen’ one before when Ross dressed up as the holiday armadillo on Friends!
Little Fennec foxes with huge ears and a black jaguar were other highlights.
We also felt we could get much closer to the animals than usual. There are a few areas under cover, great for hot or rainy days, including a big space to watch the sea lions underwater.
Entry to the zoo is free with an I amsterdam card or book via the zoo’s website.
Van Gogh Museum
This popular museum houses the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world – over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letters.
It is a wonderful collection including famous paintings like Almond Blossom, Sunflowers (which was on temporary exhibition) and my daughter’s favourite there, The Bedroom.
But it is not ideal territory for a lot of children, you may have to work hard to sustain their interest.
The museum is fairly spacious and if they are old enough, we would recommend the audio guide (5 euros for adults, free for children aged 6 to 12) to keep them interested for longer.
Once they have seen enough of the artwork, the Van Gogh Museum does have a couple of good areas for little ones. They can pose in front of a giant sunflower picture in the entrance hall and also the shop has an easel where they can sketch their own portrait.
Children can enter for free so if they get fed up it isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t a huge museum, so you can get around it in an hour.
Book a time slot in advance – if you have an I amsterdam card, book through their link not on the museum website.
Pirate Canal cruise – Blue Boat Company Kids Cruise
You have to do a canal cruise in Amsterdam and this was the only company we found which specifically catered for children.
Despite being a 75-minute journey, our two were entertained throughout.
Every passenger gets a new set of headphones to plug in and listen to a commentary in a language of their choice. But there is also a great children’s Pirate commentary to select (in English).
And children are given an activity pack including binoculars and an activity book with answers to be heard within the commentary.
Plus, our captain was very accommodating and happy to chat and answer questions and also pointed out places of interest along the route.
Most tables are under cover, there is also space to sit at the back in the open, plus there’s a toilet on board.
The cruise is a great way to see life in Amsterdam.
This cruise is free with an I amsterdam card which offers one free standard canal cruise per ticket. Or book via the website.
There are lots of parks to enjoy in Amsterdam to stretch young legs, including the largest, Vondelpark.
It is the most popular park in the Netherlands and has a great children’s play area. The main areas for children are in the centre of the park.
Many of Amsterdam’s parks have small petting zoos, one of the largest Amstelpark, to the south of the city centre also has a small train to ride.
I amsterdam cards
The simplest and most cost-effective way of getting to around Amsterdam’s attractions is with an I amsterdam cty card. You can buy then in 24 hour periods for as long as you need.
The card includes one free canal cruise, public transport around the city centre and access to more than 40 museums.
We used a 72-hour card for two adults but not for our children as a lot of museums are free to children and a public transport ticket is only four euros per day.
We found that three was the magic number to save money. If you are going to visit more than three attractions on the I amsterdam list (all major attractions are included except the Anne Frank House), then you will definitely save money.
*Read the full review of our stay in Amsterdam here: Is Amsterdam child-friendly? We take a family trip to the beautiful capital of the Netherlands to find out
*Read about our journey to Amsterdam via mini-cruise: We review a mini-cruise from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS ferry operator
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Have you been to Amsterdam with children? What did they enjoy most?
Disclaimer: We were given I amsterdam cards, entry to Nemo Science Museum and a discount on the Pancake Boat for the purposes of this review. All opinions as always, are our own.