Amsterdam may have something of a reputation as an adult playground – thanks, in no small part, to liberal laws concerning nocturnal debauchery and bacchanalian pursuits – but the city has just as much fun to offer families and younger visitors. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, Amsterdam remains a world-class destination, with plenty to keep inquisitive young minds and restless limbs occupied no matter what the time of year. Here then is the best selection of things to do when visiting Amsterdam with kids, by our expert guest writer on this topic, Derek Robertson; father of a lovely daughter.
1. NEMO Science Museum
An absolute mecca for families, NEMO is one of the best interactive science museums anywhere. There are a number of fascinating exhibits concerning topics such as Energy, The World Of Shapes, and Life In The Universe, and kids don mini lab coats and goggles before working on experiments in the Laboratory. Teens can learn about hormones and puberty, while the spacious roof offers incredible views, sculptures and installations, and – if the weather is nice – the perfect spot for an al fresco picnic. Best of all; the rooftop is free to visit and open to the public during the opening hours of the museum!
2. Speeltuinen (playgrounds)
Amsterdammers love fresh air and being outside in all weather, something having a family doesn’t change. The city’s speeltuinen are testament to this – there are literally hundreds dotted all over, in parks, housing estates, and in hidden nooks and crannies. Where are the best? The epic climbing bridge complex in Oosterpark, the huge treehouse in the centre of Vondelpark (one of many playgrounds there), or the wide open spaces of Flevopark. Just be sure to bring some spare clothes, as The Netherlands’ unpredictable weather might make it a muddy few hours! If you have no shortage of time and the weather allows it, we can most definitely recommend a visit to Gaasperplas recreational area or Amsterdam Forrest. Both areas offer lots of playgrounds and space for long walks. This tip is also great when you’re on a budget; you can easily spend a whole day while barely spending any money.
3. THIS IS HOLLAND!
If you have children or teenagers that love thrilling rides, this is one not to miss out on! THIS IS HOLLAND! is one of the newer attractions in Amsterdam. It opened its doors in October 2017 and cost a staggering 18 million Euros to complete. During the 5 dimensional ride, you’ll literally fly over the Netherlands and see the country from a bird’s eye perspective. You will see some of the major landmarks of this country that you otherwise probably would have missed on your visit to this tiny country below sea level. The stunning footage exclusively made for this attraction is accompanied by different smells and special effects such as fog when flying through the clouds. All-in-all a really cool way to see the country in just 60 minutes!
4. Ballorig (indoor playground)
Sometimes, kids just need to run wild, and Ballorig is the perfect place to let them do exactly that. This huge, indoor play centre – they have two locations, one at Amsterdam Arena and one at Gaasperplas – lets kids climb, run, scramble and jump, in comfort and in safety, all year round. It’s a veritable paradise for children up to the age of 12 (there are special toddler mornings on weekday mornings, and a separate space for the youngest), with a number of special packages available for parties and school holidays. Parents won’t get bored either; there’s a great café, a reading corner with magazines, and working Wi-Fi. Ballorig has two locations in the South East of Amsterdam; one at Gaasperplas and one at Bijlmer ArenA.
5. Artis Amsterdam Zoo
Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Europe, there’s plenty here to keep all ages entertained. With original buildings from 1838 and a modest size, kids can get closer to the animals here than at other zoos, and there are a number of educational tours that take advantage of this. Add in a planetarium, aquarium, insect house, and a small petting zoo – not to mention the Micropia museum next door – and there’s enough fun-filled adventure for the best part of a day.
5. Cook Your Own Pancakes at Kinderkookkafé
The Dutch love their crepe-like pancakes, and at Kinderkookkafé, located near Vondelpark, the kids take over the small restaurant by cooking their own – as well as serving and clearing up! And it’s not just pancakes – they can make cookies, pizzas, and more, as well as exploring the vegetable garden and playground. Kids aged 8 and up can also come on Saturday evenings to make a three-course dinner – perfect for parents who’d like a little role-reversing pampering.
6. The Eye Film Museum
You will find the Eye Film Museum located in a spectacular building dedicated to the world of cinema – reached by a free ferry ride from Centraal station – houses a number of brilliant exhibitions, but those with kids should head downstairs to Panorama. A permanent presentation with a number of interactive installations, kids can learn about green screen technology, marvel at a 360-degree space of film clips, and even act in their very own scene. It all adds up to a fascinating few hours for young and old alike.
7. Kinderboerderijen (petting zoos)
Despite the city’s increasing urban sprawl, nature is never far away, and a great thing to do in Amsterdam with kids is visiting one of the many kinderboerderijen (children’s farms) and petting zoos dotted around the city. There are the cute care animals and bees at Stadsboerderij Zimmerhoeve, craft workshops, pony riding, and pigs at Kinderboerderij de Pijp, or the hundreds of goats to pet and feed at Ridammerhoeve. And for a more farmyard feel – think sheep, cows, and rare Dutch breeds – Speelboerderij Elsenhove, near Amstelveen, has you covered.
8. BODY WORLDS Amsterdam
An entirely different type of museum, Body Worlds has one goal – to take you on a miraculous journey through the human body in search of the things that make us happy, and the effects of those on our health. Educational as well as entertaining, the 200 actual human bodies on display show how complex and vulnerable we are, as well as the effects of common diseases and habits. It’s also the only exhibit in the world based on a donor program – yes, you can, if you wish, sign up to donate your body after death for scientific and medical use (and display) by the museum.
9. Jump Square Amsterdam
We all know kids are little bundles of energy, so if they need to let off some steam, why not take them along to Jump Square, in Amsterdam Zuid? Based around the wonders of trampolining, there are several different areas in which to practice and improve technique – a trick area, sports area, big airbag, and even a slackline. Classes and lessons can be booked, and for those under 9, there’s Mini Jump, dedicated sessions to help them learn the principles in professional and safe surroundings.
10. Get Out Into Nature
Top of anyone’s Things To Do In Amsterdam With Kids list should be a day spent exploring ones of the city’s outer parks, particularly come summer. Amstelpark is something of a wonderland – there’s a train ride for kids around the park, a petting zoo, race cars and bumper boats, as well as a huge playground – but Amsterdamse Bos goes one better with its own climbing park complete with zip wires and rope bridges. There are also two cheese farms, horse riding, an open-air theatre, and canoes and pedalos for rent. In the South Eastern part of the city, you can also easily spend the day at Gaasperplas park as well.
11. Take a (pizza) canal cruise
A leisurely cruise around Amsterdam’s canals might not seem like the ideal activity for those with restless, easily bored kids, but this 90-minute tour has an ace up its sleeve; pizza! Delivered to the boat halfway through – orders are placed before you set off – alongside Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, there’s also plenty of bread, olives, and unlimited drinks (beer and wine for the adults, coke for the kids). With two sailings – 6pm and 8pm – it’s the perfect way to keep parents and kids happy while seeing the city in a unique and enjoyable way. Do you want to make it even more exciting? If the weather allows it, you can also rent a boat and make the apple of your eye a captain for a day!
12. Marionette Theatre
A fast disappearing skill, this former blacksmith’s in the heart of Amsterdam is keeping the ancient art of marionette puppeteering alive for a new generation of fans. The marionette theatre holds regular performances with its wooden actors, covering opera, musicals, and drama – and a number of shows specifically for kids. Everything may be in Dutch, but there’s something universal to marionettes that makes this a wonderful cultural experience from a bygone age.
13. Explore A Museum
When it comes to museums, visitors to Amsterdam are spoilt for choice, and no less so when you have the kids in tow. At the Van Gogh Museum, there are painting workshops, a treasure hunt, and hands-on assignments with Vincent’s Travelling Case, while over at the Rijksmuseum families can indulge in a digital mystery-solving game or try their hand at Rembrandt’s Challenge. The Tropenmuseum goes one further, however, with an entire building dedicated to introducing children to new cultures in a playful way that sparks their curiosity. The Maritime Museum allows you to feel like a sailor man for a moment on its replica of an old sailing vessel ‘The East Indiaman Amsterdam’.
14. Het Muizenhuis (The Mouse House – kids department of Amsterdam Central Library)
“Education is the passport to the future,” said Malcolm X, but it’s not just knowledge that’s on offer at Amsterdam’s central library. The children’s section is home to the famous Mouse Mansion, a dollhouse-like city created by author Karina Schaapman as a set for her series of children’s books about the adventures of two mice, Sam and Julia. The series has become an international bestseller – there’s a dedicated shop in the city centre – and has been turned into an animated TV series. Alongside this wonder, the library also has a teepee and various interactive installations…oh, and books – lots of books!
At the height of summer, there’s nothing like a bit of aquatic relaxation, but if the coast is too far away for you – or the North Sea is somewhat unappealing – then this swimming pool complex in trendy Oost is the perfect place to cool off. At the Flevoparkbad there are three pools here – an Olympic sized pool for laps, a shallow pool for kids, and a toddler’s wading pool – alongside plenty of green space for sunbathing, numerous cafes, and a large playground. Turn up early though – by 10 am the queue to get in is pretty huge, and keeps growing all through lunch. Also, check out our blog post on places where you can swim in open water in Amsterdam.
16. Amsterdam Dungeon
While not suitable for younger children or those of a nervous disposition, older hard-to-impress kids are sure to be thrilled and shocked in equal measure at the Amsterdam Dungeon. A combination of history and entertainment, there are twelve different interactive shows using live actors, special effects, separate stages, and cutting edge storytelling to delve into the city’s gruesome and perilous past. Learn about ancient torture methods, the fate of witches, and the legend of Black John through a serious of hilarious and shocking tales.
17. Play glow in the dark golf at Powerzone
It happens quite often that you get caught by bad weather in Amsterdam. However, there are plenty of indoor activities with kids here as well. At Powerzone Amsterdam, for instance, you and your kids can spend a couple of hours playing laser tag, glow in the dark golf or a game of bowling. This way, you can have fun while not being bothered by the rain.