Sprinkled with winding canals, pockets of green space and power-packed cultural centers, Amsterdam is much more than its red-light district and coffeeshops – it's also surprisingly awesome for the wee ones, thanks to a deluge of kid-friendly museums and fun-filled attractions.
Here's how to make the most of a family-oriented trip to the Netherlands' capital.
Rent a bike and pedal around Vondelpark
Amsterdam’s version of New York’s Central Park – a hodgepodge of picnic spots, lakes, outdoor cafes and a summer concert ground – Vondelpark is the best place in the city for kids to run. Rent a bike to weave your way around and enjoy lunch at one of the many family cafes: Het Groot Melkhuis is a hot favorite, with a glorious outdoor deck by the pond and a big adjoining play area, and Kinderkookkafé will satisfy any little one's dream of whipping up their own pancake or pizza.
Go on a voyage of discovery at NEMO Science Museum
Housed in a prominent green building in the eastern docklands, NEMO is a hugely popular spot to go in Amsterdam with kids. Its five floors are filled with demonstrations, workshops and constantly updated exhibitions, and everything is interactive, so they can experiment and learn in an engaging way. Anyone can join in, regardless of age – that means you too!
The museum's biggest surprise is its sloping roof. Designed by Renzo Piano as a sort of elevated piazza, it encompasses an outdoor cafe, flowing water fountains and fantastic views of Amsterdam’s city center.
For sky-high thrills, head up to A’DAM Lookout
Poised on the top floor of A’DAM Tower in Amsterdam Noord, this observation deck reveals the best panoramic views of Amsterdam – spot the city’s historic center, its pulsating port and the unique Dutch polder landscape.
Even if the kids aren’t too excited about the view, they'll surely be impressed by the swing on the sky deck. Called Over the Edge, it's Europe’s highest swing, giving daredevils the chance to swing 100m (328ft) above the ground, back and forth over the edge of the tower. This is not for the faint-hearted! The minimum height for the swing is 120cm (47in), and the maximum weight is 150kg (331lb).
Hop on a cruise to explore the canals
To truly explore the network of canals criss-crossing Amsterdam, you've got to get on the water. Buccaneer-wannabes will love the canal cruises run by Blue Boat Company, which include a special pirate-themed audio guide, a booklet and a pair of binoculars for young guests aged 5 to 12. Bringing you out of the canals to the banks of the IJ River, another kid-friendly boat trip comes courtesy of De Pannenkoekenboot, which offers an all-you-can-eat pancake buffet and a ball pit below deck.
Play with cute goats at Amsterdamse Bos
Nature-loving families cannot skip out on a trip to Amsterdamse Bos, a 1000-hectare forest and nature park on the southern fringe of the city. It has a slew of outdoor play areas for kids, including De Ridammerhoeve, a working farm where kids can feed, milk and play with ridiculously cute goats, and Boerderij Meerzicht, another farm with deer to be fed, plus a restaurant and massive playground. Located just at the entrance, Fun Forest climbing park is a hit with kids six years and older.
Stay in the city's best neighborhoods for kids
Colorful and hip, De Pijp is a bohemian neighborhood perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in Amsterdam without being overwhelmed by the tourist crowd, yet still stay within walking distance of most the city’s attractions. Outdoorsy kids will love the playground in Sarphatipark, and the culinarily adventurous can try quintessentially Dutch stroopwafels (classic caramel-syrup-filled wafers) and all sorts of cheese at the open-air Albert Cuypmarkt.
On the east side of town, De Plantage is an elegant, family-oriented district that houses many regal gardens and the beautiful Artis Royal Zoo. Next to the zoo is Micropia, a fascinating museum perfect for bigger kids who are interested in biology. (Online reservations are currently mandatory, so be sure to book in advance.) The district is also home to Hortus Botanicus, a lush botanic garden, and Dignita Hoftuin, a local-favorite brunch spot.
How to get around Amsterdam with children
The tram system in Amsterdam is fast, efficient and easy to navigate, even for families with prams or strollers – each tram has a spot designated for buggies at the back entrance. There are counters on every tram where you can buy tickets and day passes; children four and under travel for free, while those ages four to 11 travel on reduced fares. (Amsterdam has a metro system too, but accessibility for those with strollers isn't as good.) You can also rent bikes, but helmet rentals are less common, so you'll need to research your options beforehand if that's a priority.
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