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Amsterdam with kids: 2 day itinerary for a family city break


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 there are many things to do in Amsterdam with kids as well. We spent 2 days in Amsterdam on a family trip in fall. Art, history, parks, activities for kids, fine dining, cafe culture, creative vibe….so many reasons to love this city, so many things to do in Amsterdam for families.

And, if you have more time to spend in the Netherlands, do consider one of the several day trips from Amsterdam. You could also visit Rotterdam, the second-largest city after Amsterdam. There are many interesting things to do in Rotterdam.

Walking on footpaths by century-old canals, wondering if someone really takes a dip in that water.
Seeing people on cycles whiz past you, figuring if you could peddle that fast without hitting someone! (Photo credit: Sumit Kumar)

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.

Amsterdam for families: 7 reasons to go on a family trip

Here is why I think this urbane destination is great for 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. We had visited the city in autumn: here are tips for choosing the best time to visit Amsterdam.

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.

Walk everywhere and explore Amsterdam.

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! There are plenty of other museums to go to, check out this post on the best museums in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a heaven for art lovers.

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.

I loved the old-style ‘Brown Bars’ in Amsterdam

5. Things to do in Amsterdam with kids

Older kids would love cycling or walking food tour of the city. A boat tour may be more convenient for younger ones.

NEMO museum is a must-do for families.

NEMO Science Center would keep kids ages 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, is a must in Amsterdam for families. If you have more time on hand and are visiting in the spring season, a day trip to Keukenhof Gardens is not to be missed.

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! Cheese is definitely one of the best souvenirs in Amsterdam to take home.

Cheese artfully displayed on an antique cycle…Dutch love both!

Amsterdam 2-day Itinerary

If you have just a day or 2 days in 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.

Day 1 of Amsterdam Itinerary

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 but couldn’t manage to visit it during our 2 days in Amsterdam. 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 also opt for a canal tour and listen to the history of this unique city.

The historic canals give this city its uniqueness.

Visit an art museum

Chances are high that you won’t be able to take in more than one art museum while visiting Amsterdam with 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.

Rembrandt’s most famous painting – The Night Watch – displayed in the Hall of Fame at Rijksmuseum.

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.

Day 2 of Amsterdam Itinerary

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. There are so many cycling routes in Amsterdam to try. 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 the 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. If you are looking for something offbeat but fun, visit this Cat Boat, a floating sanctuary for stray cats in Amsterdam.

Fun time with kids.
What a view from the top of the Giant Wheel!

Food and stay recommendations

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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