Love at first sight
Some cities grow on you slowly and steadily. And some are love at first sight.
Amsterdam, for me, falls in the latter category.
Most travelers think of Amsterdam as a destination for adults, but I think it is a great for a city break for families as well.
Amsterdam is more a town than a metropolis. It has more bikes than people – roughly 850,000 bikes as against 835,000 people. Home to people from 180 nationalities, there is a reason why this cosmopolitan city welcomes more than 17 million visitors each year.
Art, history, parks, activities for kids, fine dining, cafe culture, creative vibe….so many reasons to love Amsterdam, so many things to do in this city for families.
7 reasons why families would love a city break in Amsterdam
Here is why I think this urbane destination is great for the discerning families looking for a quick getaway –
1. City entwined with water
No, I am not talking about Venice!
Amsterdam’s Canal Ring has grown to be a unique urban landscape. Whether you take a cruise through the UNESCO World Heritage canal district or just admire them and the elegant houses lined up on foot, this is an experience like no other.
2. Walk everywhere
Stay in the city center and walk around to the parks, restaurants, museums. Most of the top attractions are accessible on foot. And if you like to cycle and can follow rules, rent a bike.
For families with young kids though, sightseeing in the city on cycles can be tricky. It is better to explore the countryside via a cycling tour.
3. Treat for art lovers
The Dutch gave the world famous painters as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh.
For an art lover, no place in the world as Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum – a vast treasure trove – is a must-visit. And for the serious Van Gogh lover, there is the Van Gogh museum. For those inclined to contemporary art, there is the Stedelijk Museum. All 3 museums are within easy walking distance, so the serious art lover doesn’t have to choose!
Spiegelkwartier, an area immersed in Dutch art and antique trade for over 80 years, is a great place to visit for the art connoisseur. More than 70 specialized dealers offer a wide variety.
4. Food coma
The cosmopolitan nature of the city translates to good food, from gourmet fine dining to street carts, and everything in between.
Try the local dutch treats – Stroopwafels, kroketten.
Great steak joints, lounges with international appeal, breweries with craft beer taps, good oriental food restaurants – the city has it all. Get away from Centrum into some of the local neighborhoods, where immigrant eateries serve everything from Israeli mezze to Georgian dumplings.
5. Activities for kids
Older kids would love a cycling or walking food tour of the city. Boat tour may be more convenient for younger ones.
NEMO Science Center would keep kid ages between 5-12 enthralled for a few hours. It is very informative and educational. Kids would also like Tropenmuseum – it has exhibitions to display art, objects, photographs, music, and film, giving an insight into the daily lives of the people from non-western cultures. TunFun is huge 4000 m2 indoor playground for children from ages 0 to 12.
6. Green with envy
So you have walked along the canals, been to a few museums, had a lovely dinner. All you want to do now is to relax outside in the sun. What I liked about Amsterdam is that there are parks everywhere.
Vondelpark, the most famous park in Amsterdam has a lot to offer for families and kids.
7. Did someone say cheese?
The Netherlands produces a variety of tempting cheeses, but the most typical and best known are the hard or semi-hard cheeses. Gouda is amongst the best-loved cheese here.
Truffles, cumin, red pepper, pesto, so many tastes and flavors. The Dutch have a visible passion for good cheese. Try a cheese tasting tour in Amsterdam, you won’t be disappointed. And bring back loads for the trip home!
Amsterdam for families: a 2-day itinerary
If you have just a day or two to explore Amsterdam, stay in the city center like we did. Most of the top attractions and the century-old canals are in the heart of the city and it is easy to walk everywhere.
Start with a good breakfast or brunch
I recommend The Pancake Bakery to load up on a carb-heavy delicious breakfast to begin your day – savory or sweet pancakes with an astonishing variety of toppings.
We passed the Anne Frank Huis on our way to breakfast. Morning queues looked reasonable so you could stop by, if interested. I am told that the lines are the longest between 11 am – 3 pm.
Rent cycles at Vondelpark or take in a canal tour
Stop at Vondelpark, rent cycles and burn off some of those calories consumed for breakfast.
You could opt for a canal tour and listen to the history of this unique city.
Visit an art museum
Chances are high that you won’t be able to take in more than one art museum while traveling with your kids. In most travel forums, you see the question: Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh. Here is my opinion – Van Gogh museum only if you a series lover of his work. Else Rijksmuseum has a better collection from a varied set of artists and would be my recommendation.
Take the audio guide and the Hall of Fame tour for a 1.5 hr visit at Rijksmuseum. You can even spend half a day here, the collection here is vast and interesting.
Try a different cuisine
For a city that is home to people from 180 nationalities, it is reasonable to have restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. It was interesting to note a large number of Indonesian restaurants.
Cycle/walk around the city
We chose to take the Sunday morning food walk to enjoy some of the local stuff at small cafes and restaurants. Read more about our Amsterdam Food Tour here.
If a food tour doesn’t excite you, take a Cycling or Segway tour around the city. Walking around a local neighborhood – like Jordan or De Pijp – to enjoy the sunny day is another appealing option.
Great with kids
My daughter had a fun time at NEMO Science Center. A delight for any kid from 4 – 14, this museum across 4 levels is something I recommend for all families.
We also had a delightful time at the Dam Square.
Food and Stay in Amsterdam
We stayed at the very stylish W Amsterdam in the heart of the city. No better place to be walking distance from all the main attractions.
There are good cafes in every corner – de koffiesalon for great coffee and Ijscuypje for ice cream are my recommendations. We enjoyed dinner at Mana Mana – an Israeli restaurant in the De Pijp area.
For more information and travel planning on Amsterdam, do visit this local website.
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Which is your favorite experience in Amsterdam? Share with us in the comments below.
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