Breathe easy: you've landed in one of Europe's most kid-friendly cities. The famous Dutch tolerance extends to children and Amsterdammers are cheerfully accommodating to them. You'll find that virtually all quarters of the city – except the Red Light District, of course – are fair game for the younger set.
Green spaces, parks and canals galore provide plenty of fresh-air fun for the little (and not so little) ones.
- Parks & Playgrounds
A hot favourite with kids of all ages is the vast play space of the Vondelpark, with leafy picnic spots and duck ponds, as well as cool space-age slides at its western end and a playground in the middle of the park. Westerpark also has a terrific playground, while Sarphatipark and Oosterpark shouldn't be overlooked as great open spaces to let the kids run free. Canoeing, a tree-climbing park, paddle boats and a goat farm are among the fun activities in the huge, forested Amsterdamse Bos.
- Winter Magic
Kids will love the skating rinks that spring up in public spaces such as the Museumplein. Don't miss uniquely Dutch festive season treats such as poffertjes (small pancakes) and gingery-cinnamon speculaas (cookies), traditionally eaten around Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas' Eve; 5 December), which are served up at rustic market stalls.
Take to the canals on a unique pedal-powered ride with Canal Bike.
- Artis Royal Zoo
The extrovert monkeys, big cats, shimmying fish and dazzling planetarium will keep young eyes shining for hours at Artis Royal Zoo, while teenagers and adults will love the beautifully landscaped grounds. You can also peek inside Micropia, a building on the premises that is a 'zoo' for microbes. It's way more entertaining than you think, with exhibits that show how bacteria exchange when you kiss and what microbes live in the poop of anteaters, lions and other animals.
Amsterdam has plenty of museums that are accessible, educational and, above all, fun.
- NEMO Science Museum
A tailor-made, hands-on experience, NEMO Science Museum is useful for answering all those 'how' and 'why' questions.
- Het Scheepvaartmuseum
The children's section devoted to exotic locations at the Tropenmuseum is a winner in any language.
- Joods Historisch Museum
There is a great kids' display on Jewish life in Amsterdam at the Joods Historisch Museum.
A section at the Verzetsmuseum known as the Verzetsmuseum Junior puts the Dutch Resistance into context for kids through the experiences of four children: Eva, Jan, Nelly and Henk.
- Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum provides a free treasure hunt for kids to search for items in the paintings and displays. A small prize awaits those who complete the hunt.
Beaches & Castles
- City Beaches
Urban beaches pop up on Amsterdam's outskirts each summer around the U. While most cater to adults (complete with cocktails and DJs), some are more family-friendly – check with the tourist office for locations. The only one you can swim at is Blijburg, which also has a water-sports centre.
- Muiden Castle
Just outside Amsterdam, the Muiderslot is a 700-year-old castle straight out of a fairy tale, with a drawbridge, moat, hulking towers and battlements. It offers special activities (like falconry) for kids on certain days. Combine it with a visit to the atmospheric fort on the nearby island of Pampus.
It's prudent to have a rainy-day plan in your back pocket. In fact, it might be so much fun that kids will hope the sun doesn't come back out all day.
Set 'em loose for a romp in the underground, all-round pleasure centre TunFun.
- Indoor Pools & Saunas
The recreational Zuiderbad is a good place to take the kids swimming on a rainy day. Adults will enjoy the palatial vintage interior.
- Centrale Bibliotheek Amsterdam
The city's stunning, contemporary OBA: Centrale Bibliotheek Amsterdam has a whole floor dedicated to children's activities, including comfy reading lounges and the amazing Mouse Mansion, with 100 incredibly beautifully detailed rooms, designed by artist Karina Content. Check out the weekly story times (some in English) for younger visitors.
While Amsterdam's foodie scene continues to explode with adventurous and sophisticated offerings, you can still find plenty of fare that junior diners will enjoy.
- Sandwich Shops
A broodje (filled bread roll) or tosti (toasted sandwich) always hits the spot. Scores of shops throughout the city specialise in these staples; try Broodje Bert.
For true pancake aficionados, a trip aboard De Pannenkoekenboot, is definitely in order. Brunch and evening cruises depart from the NDSM-werf in Amsterdam Noord, reached by a free ferry.
Fries slathered in mayonnaise or other sauces are favourites with all ages. Local institutions include Vleminckx near the Spui and Wil Graanstra Friteshuis by the Anne Frank Huis. Frites uit Zuyd fires up crispy beauties in De Pijp.
- Ice Cream
- Cafes & Restaurants
Kids love browsing the markets for both familiar and exotic treats. Try the Albert Cuypmarkt for stroopwafels (syrup-filled waffles), smoothies, sweets and fresh fruit. Or pick up ingredients here and take a picnic to the nearby Sarphatipark.
Dozens upon dozens of shops cater for children, who will adore deliberating over toys and sweet treats.
Check out Knuffels for stuffed-animal toys, Joe's Vliegerwinkel for kites, Mechanisch Speelgoed for nostalgic wind-up toys, and De Winkel van Nijntje for merchandise related to Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna's most famous character – the cute rabbit Miffy (Nijntje in Dutch).
Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje has jar after jar of Dutch penny sweets.
Need to Know
- Admission prices 'Child' is defined as under 18 years. But at many tourist sites, the cut-off age for free or reduced rates is 12. Some sights may only provide free entry to children under six.
- Bike seats Most bike-rental shops rent bikes with baby or child seats.
- Babysitting Many higher-end hotels arrange babysitting services for a fee.