It’s almost impossible to find anywhere in Europe as easy-going and fun for families as The Netherlands.
It’s also one of the prettiest and most historic countries in the world and small enough to explore a lot, even on a short holiday.
Base a break in Amsterdam and there are dozens of other fascinating cities nearby, you can cycle round tulip fields and along kilometre after kilometre of canal and hundreds of festivals are made for families, all year round.
Opt for Rotterdam and wonderful North Sea beaches are half-an-hour’s drive from the city. Eindhoven’s very cool for design-conscious teens. And places to stay are just as wide ranging and interesting, whether you’re looking for a family hotel, an eco-beach house or a houseboat.
Direct, low cost flights to Amsterdam from the UK take just over an hour, all year round.
Over 90% of Dutch people speak English fluently.
The Netherland’s coastline is over 290km long and known for sandy beaches and the dramatic dunes at Texel National Park.
Amsterdam hosts dozens of children’s events every year including the King’s Day kids’ market, KinderBevrijdings in May and the arrival of Sinterklaas at Chrismas.
From May to September theatre, music, kids’ shows, cabaret and comedy is free to enjoy, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark.
Rotterdam is under an hour by train from Amsterdam, Delft is 40 minutes away and both Utrecht and Haarlem are under half-an-hour from the Dutch capital.
The Netherlands has 20 National Parks including traffic-free Schiermonnikoog, one of the country’s Frisian Islands, famous for beautiful beaches and rare seabirds.
Where to go
The Dutch capital lives up to everyone’s expectations. It’s enchantingly pretty and good fun, very friendly, easy to get around and almost all major attractions are in the centre or very close. One of the best cities in Europe for a short break, Amsterdam works just as well for longer holidays and as a base for exploring a bit more of The Netherlands.
Hotels in Amsterdam centre range from historic canal houses to international brands. For better value family hotels and self-catering, look at Amsterdam West or South.
Don’t miss: the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Artis Zoo, Nemo Science Centre, Anne Frank House, Jordaan and De Pijp.
Rotterdam’s a stunning modern city, home to some of Europe’s greatest contemporary architecture and less than half an hour from The Netherland’s wonderful North Sea beaches.
Try Hoek van Holland and Maasvlakte for broad, sandy beaches and water sports in summer.
Don’t miss: Rotterdam Waterfront, the Erasmus Bridge, De Markthal, Delfshaven, Rotterdam Zoo, the Katendrecht district, Kunsthal Rotterdam and Withkwartier.
Design capital and one of the oldest cities in The Netherlands, Eindhoven’s great for older kids and teenagers. It’s famous for festivals, fantastic museums, shopping and cycling.
Lively city with a young atmosphere, plenty of hotels to choose from and significantly less expensive than Amsterdam.
An hour’s drive from Rotterdam, Amsterdam or Antwerp.
Don’t miss: Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Cycle Path, Roundabout Design Route, DAF Museum, Evoluon, Van Abbemuseum and Genneper Parken.
Famous for blue tiles and Vermeer, Delft’s one of the prettiest towns in Europe. It’s also less than an hour from the centre of Amsterdam.
Visit for the 17th and 18th century architecture, canal side markets and dramatic medieval town square.
Don’t miss: the Vermeer Centre, Prinsenhof de Delft, Hortus Botanicus, Eastern Gate and Agneta Park.
Just 20 minutes south of Amsterdam, Utrecht is the birthplace of Miffy and one of The Netherland’s most historic cities.
Visit for the 13th century shipyard streets built at canal level, views from the majestic Dom Tower and lunch on Ledig Erf.
Don’t miss: the Miffy Museum, Archeolab, Dom Under, Trajectum Lumen and Binnenstadt street markets.
The northern city of Groningen is a lot like Amsterdam only less busy and touristy. This is where you really can skate on the canals in winter and cycle all over, any time of year.
Groningen hotels are less expensive than Amsterdam but you can visit the capital in under two hours by train.
Don’t miss: Groningen Museum, Nederlands Stripmuseum, Grafisch Museum, Kinderboerderij Stadspark, Noorderlicht and Goudkantoor.
What to do
Efteling Theme Park, Kaatsheuvel The Netherland’s best loved theme park is a magical fairy tale for younger kids and plenty white-knuckle fun for older ones.
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Amsterdam’s most visited museum and an unmissable experience for older children. Always book time slots in advance.
The Miffy Museum, Utrecht Hometown of Miffy creator, Dick Bruno, Utrecht’s where to find the adorable Miffy Museum packed with playful surprised for younger kids.
Kunsthal, Rotterdam Another stunning piece of Rotterdam architecture, Kunsthall stages over 25 different contemporary art exhibitions every year so there are always new things to see.
Dolfinarium, Harderwijk Europe’s largest marine mammal theme park is an up-close experience of dolphins, sea lions, walruses and seals, with a little more distance between kids and the likes of sharks and stingrays.
Corpus, Leiden A weird and wonderful journey inside a building constructed to exactly replicate the human body on an enormous scale. Want to know about the brain? Climb around in a head.
Wildlands Adventure Zoo, Emmen An wild safari adventure which takes kids travelling from Arctic wastes to dry Savannah and deep into the jungle.
Adventurepark Hellendoorn Scaled down on everything but fun, this exciting theme park’s designed for under 12s. Hellendoorn’s also good for family camping and self-catering holidays.
Nemo Science & Technology Museum, Amsterdam Part of Amsterdam’s exciting dockland development, Nemo’s five floors of science and exploration can easily fill an entire day.
Flevoparkbad, Amsterdam Oost 50m pool for serious swimming, masses of water play for younger kids and a great, green space where local families come to cool down in summer.
Educational value for kids
Take a 75 minute Spido cruise round Rotterdam harbour area, it’s the best way to see the city’s amazing modern architecture – including the spectacular Erasmus Bridge.
Visit Zaanse Schans, half-an-hour north of Amsterdam, to see historic Dutch villages, heritage museums and working 17th century windmills.
Delightful Delft looks almost exactly as it did in the 17th century when Vermeer lived and worked here. It’s a fascinating city to explore with kids and just an hour south of Amsterdam.
Go to Amsterdam for King’s Day in April and join the huge, all-inclusive weekend of festivities on and off the canals – don’t miss the traditional Vondelpark children’s flea market where local kids sell their outgrown stuff.
Amsterdam has over 300 festivals every year many of which are family events or designed just for children.
Don’t cycle in Amsterdam city centre unless you’re confident. Hire bikes and cycle the self-guided canal routes and out to the tulip fields in spring – definitely not an experience just for stuffy old gardeners.
The Rijksmuseum is one of the loveliest buildings in Amsterdam, it was completely redesigned in 2013 and its daily kids tours are excellent. Most museums in The Netherlands have children’s tours and innovative year-round event programmes.
Getting around with kids in the Netherlands
Don’t drive in any of the cities, parking’s impossible and public transport’s very good everywhere. Hire bikes to see the countryside round Amsterdam: flat and made for cycling. The Netherlands is a fantastic country to tour around because it’s so compact. The roads are excellent and even renting a car for a few days lets you see a lot here.