When the kids are too old to be enticed by ice-cream shops and petting zoos, but not so big they can explore cities on their own, family holiday destinations need planning with care. 

Step forward Amsterdam, where a mix of history, culture, fun and excitement, combined with a relaxed atmosphere and compact centre that’s easy to get around, make this city ideal for travel with teenagers.

A line of stately row homes along the river with boats and a reflection in the water
Wander the canals, check out the museums, ride bikes, ride boats - your teenagers will love the instagram-worthy photo-ops as much as the experiences ©

Southern Canal Ring

Fascinating fact: Amsterdam has more canals than Venice. And the Canal Belt the best place to see the city’s trademark waterways – especially the southern area, where a stroll along the cobbled canal-side streets is an easy and entertaining introduction to the city. 

Every house is different, and many lean at precarious angles. Flower-bedecked bridges, quirky shops and decorated boats complete the scene. For sustenance, numerous cafés overlook the water. Sure, they’re touristy, but burgers and pizzas placate gastronomically-unadventurous teenagers while parents enjoy coffee and waffles, then everyone can sit back and take in the view.

amsterdam canal 3.jpg
Who doesn't love a boat ride? And you can hire your own to navigate the canals and enjoy your family © David Else / Lonely Planet

Boat tours

When teenagers tire of strolling canal-side streets, re-engage interest with a boat trip. Large passenger vessels cruise in loops between the city’s main sights (many with hop-on-hop-off services), but smaller self-drive boats are more fun.

Mum and dad can make arrangements on the spot at various jetties around the city – no licence needed – while teenagers with a sense of responsibility (and direction) will delight in taking the tiller. Those with energy to burn can go for a pedalo or canal bike

Van Gogh Museum

Amsterdam is justifiably famous for museums and galleries, including the immense Rijksmuseum, but the whole gamut can be overwhelming for teenagers, so consider a smaller place with focus on a particular theme or artist. The Van Gogh Museum displays a stunning and accessible collection of the eponymous artist’s works, from early sketches to world-renowned masterpieces, clearly illustrating Vincent’s own creative journey. After admiring the real thing, Sunflowers postcards and posters are available at souvenir stalls outside.

Moco Museum

In striking contrast to galleries displaying Rembrandt, Vermeer et al, the Moco offers modern and contemporary art. Permanent exhibits inside include works by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, remembered by yesterday’s teenagers for their soup tins and comic book style, while for today’s teenagers perhaps the most recognisable items are by graffiti artist Banksy.

Anne Frank Museum

Of all Amsterdam’s museums, the tiny Anne Frank Huis is best known among teenagers. Many will associate with Anne herself, who was just 13 when she and her family hid for two years from Amsterdam’s Nazi occupiers during WWII, and many more will know The Diary of Anne Frank, for decades a best-selling book and often studied in schools.

The museum’s sobering highlight is the achterhuis (rear house, usually called the secret annex, which appears unchanged since 1944) but gaggles of youth groups can create a disrespectful atmosphere. Obviously, your child won’t be need to be told this isn’t the place for selfies. 

amsterdam museumplein 1.jpg
With wide open spaces, well-placed public art and picnic supplies close at hand the Museumplein is a great stop for a rest © David Else / Lonely Planet

Museumplein

To refuel flagging teenagers between museum visits, take a break on the grassy expanse of Museumplein. There are great views of the area’s three main museums, and a few bits of public art dotted around. Buy drinks and snacks from the open-air cafes at the northern end of the park, or go to the supermarket (partly hidden under a ‘hill’) at the southern end and get supplies for a picnic.

A’Dam Lookout

Perched on a tower block (former HQ of the Royal Dutch Shell oil company) the A’Dam Lookout provides spectacular views across Amsterdam and beyond. Part of the fun is a photo booth set-up where visitors appear to balance far above the city; teenagers will be delighted to know the pics can be downloaded to allow an instant boast on Snapchat. For genuine bragging rights (and an extra fee), brave kids can go Over The Edge, billed as Europe’s highest swing, projecting from the top of the building, a dizzying 100m above the ground. Doting parents, don’t worry; they are strapped in.

Heineken Experience

For more than 150 years, the original Heineken brewery has sat proudly on a busy road junction in the old part of Amsterdam. No longer making beer, it’s now the Heineken Experience, a light-hearted insight into the brewing process that’s interesting and entertaining for adults and kids alike. Walk around at your own pace then reward your efforts with a free tipple, included in the ticket price. Under 18s cannot have beer (remarkably, not even the zero percent variety) and so receive soft drinks. 

Bloemenmarkt

What is the Netherlands famous for? Tulips and windmills. You can buy them both at the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s historic Flower Market, along Singel Street, west of Muntplein. Sometimes called the ‘floating market’ because many stalls stand above the canal beside the street, there are tulips and flowers of every description, as well as local cheeses and other foodstuffs, plus a wide range of souvenirs, from ‘I heart Amsterdam’ mugs and fridge magnets to painted clogs and – of course – model windmills. It’s the perfect spot for teenagers to spend a bit of pocket money without breaking the bank.

Vondelpark

When it’s time to escape the narrow streets and alleyways, Vondelpark offers plenty of space - although not necessarily peace. This is Amsterdam’s version of Central Park, a green lung in the heart of the city, with lawns, lakes, footpaths and cycle-ways, and exceedingly popular on sunny days. Choose a café, or bring a picnic and find a space to relax among local families or partying groups of friends, but note there are more than a few folk in this park who definitely do not keep off the grass.

Colorful Tulips for sale in Amsterdam
Keep it short, go in the off season and look for deals - traveling with teens in Amsterdam will be easy breezy © Gabriel Perez / Getty Images

Top tips for travel with teens in Amsterdam

Keep it short

As one of Europe’s greatest and liveliest cities, Amsterdam has enough sights and attractions – not to mention bars, clubs and restaurants – to keep visitors entertained for weeks. But for families with teenagers, the key to success is a short visit, mixing fun (boat rides) with more formal stuff (museums), targeting a few highlights and not trying to pack in too much.

Get ahead

Many of Amsterdam’s museums get very busy in high season, and the number of visitors allowed each day can be limited, meaning you usually need to buy tickets in advance, either on-line or from one of the many booths dotted around the city. 

Buy clever

When buying tickets, look out for special family deals, and also for combo tickets giving entrance to two or more sights plus a boat ride in between.

Do your bit

As Amsterdam sees an ever-increasing number of visitors, over-tourism is a high-profile issue. Reduce your impact where possible by visiting the city outside peak season, eating and drinking at local cafes rather than international chains and being respectful to residents; if a house or market stall shows a ‘no photos’ sign, put your camera down. 

Related content: For more advice on Amsterdam with children, see here.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Explore related stories

936167298
45 to 49 years, 6 to 7 years, 8 to 9 years, both male and female, boy, female, leisure, male, mature woman, mixed age group, oruro, parked, peaceful scene, place of interest, recreational vehicle, tranquil, transport, travel destination

Family Travel

11 of the best things to do in Bolivia with kids

Apr 22, 2024 • 6 min read