search

Amsterdam – Family holiday guide

Famously family-friendly Amsterdam is one of the fastest European cities to get to from the UK. With flights all year round taking an hour or less, and the historic Centrum district just 30 minutes from Schiphol Airport, it’s good for weekend breaks. And, for longer family holidays, there are seaside resorts, iconic cycling routes, charming towns and villages and legendary theme parks all within easy travelling distance of the city centre.

Explore Amsterdam


Why go on holiday to Amsterdam?

  • Direct daily flights from dozens of UK airports to Amsterdam take one hour.

     

  • The Dutch capital’s one of the greenest, cleanest cities in Europe and has a designated area for testing eco-initiatives in Centrum, known as Climate Street.

     

  • Beaches and forest less than 20 minutes from the city centre have excellent family camping and self-catering as an alternative to hotels in summer.

     

  • You can cycle anywhere in Amsterdam city centre and the famous tulip fields are less than an hour’s flat ride away in spring.

     

  • The historic cities of Delft, Utrecht and Haarlem are about 40 minutes by train from Amsterdam and Efeling theme park is an hour’s drive east.

     

  • Amsterdam hosts over 300 annual festivals and events, many of which are family friendly or completely kid-centred.

     

  • Accommodation in Amsterdam ranges from five star city centre hotels in traditional canal houses to eco-chalets in country parks, houseboats and unique one-to-five-star all-in-one hotels on the city centre’s riverfront.



Where to go and stay in Amsterdam

 

 

Centrum

The historic heart of Amsterdam is the city of skinny canal houses, pretty bridges, cobbled streets and ancient monuments. If time’s short, journey from the medieval quarter (oldest part of Centrum) to the ‘newer’ 500 year old Canal Ring: it’s a snapshot of the city’s heritage and can easily be explored in a day.

  • De Wallen is the infamous Red Light District in the oldest part of Centrum. It’s hectic at night and best avoided with kids. Visit during the day to see Oudekerk and Spooksteeg (the most haunted street in the city). It’s against the law to take photographs of sex workers in De Wallen and strictly enforced.
  • The Anne Frank House is in Centrum. Book online in advance for a time slot, it’s the city’s most visited museum.
  • The Anne Frank House is in Centrum. Book online in advance for a time slot, it’s the city’s most visited museum.
  • De 9 Straatjes is where to look for specialist stores, vintage shops, independent galleries and lovely cafés.
  • Zeedjik (Sea Dyke) is the city’s oldest street, part of Chinatown and fascinating for a wander – look out for the He Hua Buddhist Temple.
  • Don’t miss: Noordermarkt; Vondelpark; De Pijp; the Museum Quarter; Dam Square; the floating flower market; pancake houses; ARTIS Zoo; the 15th century Beguinage; Oude Kirk; Nieuwmarkt; St. Anthony’s Gate; Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic); Zuiderkerk; The Allard Pierson Museum ‘Room of Death’ for all things mummified.

Amsterdam Noord

Hop on the free ferry at Central Station and cross to Amsterdam Noord. The restored docklands is now one of the city’s coolest quarters and a night on the beach at NDSM Wharf is a must with teenagers.

Jordaan

In Amsterdam they say you know you’re in Jordaan if you can hear Westerkerk’s church bells. Alternatively you could just look for the city of your imagination and it’s likely to be this captivating district. Once an enclave of artisans and craftworkers, only the ridiculously wealthy can afford to live in the canal houses here these days. But don’t let that stop you exploring, enjoying cafés, having lunch on sunny restaurant terraces and admiring the famously gorgeous local gardens, galleries and shops.

De Pijp

Like stunning Jordaan, De Pijp is another historic working class district now transformed into one of Europe’s loveliest places to live. It’s right on the edge of Vondelpark and good for interesting cafés and restaurants. The city’s most famous food market, Albert Cuypmarkt is in De Pijp and everyone goes on a Saturday morning. Follow their lead in summer and pick up picnic supplies.


What to do and see with kids in Amsterdam

 

  • ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, Amsterdam Oost
    ARTIS is one of the world’s most respected and innovative zoos. It’s the only one with space dedicated to micro-organisms (Micropia). The extraordinary breeding programme means new-borns are a regular feature. And if you’re around in summer, the zoo’s open at night.
  • NEMO Science Museum, Amsterdam Oost
    Amsterdam’s NEMO museum is a thrill for kids and adults. Over 17,000 exhibits creatively explore every detail of science, invite visitors to investigate. The year-round programme of family events and activities is outstanding.
  • Anne Frank Huis, Centrum
    The most visited museum in the city is organised by time-slot so kids don’t have to queue to explore the teenage diarist’s WWII hiding place and hear the moving story of her short life.
  • Rijksmuseum, Museumplein
    The Netherland’s most important art collection hangs in a remarkable space and you can’t visit Amsterdam without seeing spending at least a few hours here. The daily kid’s tours are excellent.
  • Amsterdam Bos
    From Toddlers in the Wild to Green Weddings, great value camping, fantastic swimming lakes, exhibition spaces, hiking, walking, cycling and playing, Amsterdam Bos is the city’s amazing forest and just 20 minutes from Centrum.
  • Vondelpark
    47 acre Vondelpark is the largest city centre park in Amsterdam and the place for picnics, performance, free theatre, family events and the amazing King’s Day kid’s flea market every year in April.
  • Cat Cabinet, Centrum
    One of Amsterdam’s huge collection of curious museums, this charmer appeared in Ocean’s Twelve and is a rare chance to see inside one of the city’s historic 18th century Canal Houses.
  • Flevoparkbad, Amsterdam Oost
    This fantastic swimming pool complex is a favourite with local families during Amsterdam’s hot summers and only 15 minutes from the city centre.
  • De Pijp Petting Zoo, De Pijp
    Nobody visiting Amsterdam ever needs an excuse to visit its prettiest district, De Pjip, but if you did this adorable petting zoo would do fine. Visit in spring for chicks and lambs.
  • De Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat)
    Amsterdam and pancakes are indivisible and the most fun of all on a pancake cruise – brilliant way to do brunch on a Sunday


Educational value for kids

  • Take a guided cycling tour, there are hundreds of different themes from tulip fields in spring to winter parks and windmills.
  • Vondelpark Theatre has free performance every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night all summer long.
  • Amsterdam has some of Europe’s best markets. Teenagers will love the IJ Hallen flea at cool NDSM Wharf in Noord – the ferry from Central Station is free.
  • The city centre’s only remaining working windmill is also one of its most famous breweries, so you can have a taste tour while kids learn some history.
  • Visit for the King’s Day celebrations (an entire weekend in mid-April) and kids can see their Dutch counterparts being market traders for the day at the huge, children-only flea market in Vondelpark.
  • Artis Zoo has family nights on Saturdays throughout the summer where kids can learn about the animals and be brilliantly entertained by local theatre groups, performers and musicians.
  • Make the journey from the medieval city centre to the 500 year old Centrum area and you can travel through Amsterdam’s entire history in an afternoon.
  • Visit for the King’s Day celebrations (an entire weekend in mid-April) and kids can see their Dutch counterparts being market traders for the day at the huge, children-only flea market in Vondelpark.
  • Artis Zoo has family nights on Saturdays throughout the summer where kids can learn about the animals and be brilliantly entertained by local theatre groups, performers and musicians.
  • Make the journey from the medieval city centre to the 500 year old Centrum area and you can travel through Amsterdam’s entire history in an afternoon.

 

Getting about with kids in Belgium

Amsterdam city centre is compact and easy to walk around, almost all the major museums and family attractions are in Centrum or the ancient medieval quarter just to the east. It’s a famous city for cycling but, unless you’re very confident, save bikes for touring the countryside and parks with kids. Public transport is excellent and inexpensive and you can travel over Amsterdam by bus or train in about 30 minutes. There are fast, regular services to beaches and Amsterdam Bos and the ferry from Central Station to Amsterdam Noord is free and takes a few minutes.