Amsterdam - For a European family city break
Is it that time of year when you are thinking about your next family holiday destination? If you are browsing for ideas & inspiration for the next family vacation, here are some surprising reasons why Amsterdam holidays will be great for your family.
If these reasons inspire you, we have suggestions on must visit places when you are in Amsterdam with kids, whether teenagers or younger. Finally, a set of unexpected aspects about Amsterdam if you’ve never been there.
7 surprising reasons for family Amsterdam holidays
European city breaks are probably something you’ve done as a student, perhaps gone back a few times as an adult or even as a couple. For those of us in the UK, Paris is an automatic first choice for a city break because of the Eurotunnel connections to the continent.
1.Multicultural Capital of the World
With people from 178 different countries (there are 195 countries in the world), Amsterdam is a true melting pot of cultures and cuisines. This is special as well because Amsterdam has just over 800,000 people who live within city limits.
People are friendly, warm and speak English and several languages other than Dutch.
2.Amsterdam is safe from crime
If you are like us, safety when you are travelling as a family is important. Amsterdam ticks that box for sure. During our visit, we had such a sense of feeling safe. Well at least when we thought of crime.
You have to get to the end to find out what the danger was that we did miss 😉
3.More Canals Than in Venice
If when you think of canals and waterways, you conjure up Venice. You should reset to think of Amsterdam. This city has more canals than Venice with 165 canals which are nearly 31 miles long.
As a family, walking is a favourite past time of ours, so ambling along the picturesque canals with the sun and flowers everywhere was so relaxing.
4.Museum Capital of the World
If you and your family love museums, Amsterdam is for you. In fact, it has 75 museums in the city. The most popular ones are Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. You will probably want to look at options of jump the line tickets on a couple of these museums since the queues can be pretty long, particularly in good weather.
We'd recommend an early morning visit to get a selfie which should guarantee that you are by yourself with the iconic "I Amsterdam" at the back of the Rijksmuseum on the Museum square. Since this is now seen as an icon for the city, of course this is a must have.
If you aren’t into art and museums in general, we still think NEMO, which is a hands-on science & technology museum is entertaining whether you are five or sixty-five!
5.Tulip Capital of the World Too
If you are hoping to get some photographs of your kids in tulip gardens or farms, then the perfect time for this is to plan a trip between end of March and second week of May.
This is the season when the tulips emerge for a spectacular display. If you are specially making the trip to see the tulips, mid-April is really the very best time.
6.Free Ferry Rides
There are so many water ways in Amsterdam and a nice thing that’s been done to make the city visitor friendly is the free ferry rides between the North and South part of the city.
If you are out on a budget holiday, then walking around absorbing the sights and a free ferry ride does fill up and make for a lovely break.
7. Something for kids of all ages - arts, music & pets
If you’ve got temperamental teenagers, the NDSM wharf might be something they enjoy. The place is an old industrial warehouse that’s been converted to become an arts oriented centre with music concerts. The street art, if you like it, is remarkable and something we enjoyed, and this became a highlight of our trip. We had planned this around some music concerts that were happening, so the whole atmosphere was marvellous.
If you’ve got younger kids, then the De Poezenboot is something different to do. It’s a houseboat where a charity looks after cats. It’s perfect if you are a cat lover and a great way to introduce your young children to cats.
If you and your kids are more classically inclined, there are also free lunch time music concerts at the foyer of the National Opera and Ballet centre
The Royal Concertgebouw is one of the world-renowned concert venues and also has its share of free concerts.
Must dos when in Amsterdam with kids
1. Dam Square
If you are visiting Amsterdam, Dam square must feature on your list of places to go since it’s the heart of this charming city. The Nieuwe Kerk , War Memorial and the imposing Royal Palace surround this large square. It’s a great place to go to, and is bustling with restaurants and bars where you can stop and people watch for a bit.
We loved it as a place to hang out and used it as a place to meet up with some friends who happened to be there too.
2. Find some clogs
When you think of something Dutch, the vibrant painted clogs might spring to mind. We had to go and have a look at these clogs and bought ourselves set as a souvenir of our trip. It’s a spectacle to see many these bright wooden shoes all lined up together, the perfect selfie opportunity.
While it may not be used as much in the cities any more, clogs are still used in rural Netherlands since they are great to walk on muddy roads with.
3. Experience Dutch Cuisine
If you haven’t ventured to South East Asia, Amsterdam is a great place to taste some great Indonesian cuisine. For visitors, it might come as a surprise, until you remember the historic links between the Dutch and Indonesia.
Restaurant Blauw and JUN had some amazing food. The spicy Beef rendang were awesome and the satays are out of this world. We loved it so much that we would recommend trying an Indonesian restaurant for one of your meals.
4. Investigate windmills
Another part of the Dutch heritage is of course the windmills that were associated with the landscape of this country. If you want to explore a windmill, you’ll have to venture out of the city, but it was an experience we loved. Maybe because we’ve kind of dreamt of living in a windmill someday…
The best places to see windmills are The Zaanse Schans or Kinderdijk. The Zaanse Schans is an open air museum with its windmills and is very popular since its close to Amsterdam. There are others who believe or Kinderdijk is the best place to see windmills.
5. Take a trip to a cheese market
Love cheese? Then a visit to Alkmaar is something your family will enjoy when in Amsterdam. Located about half an hour away from the city, this is a 700-year-old cheese market. It’s a fun place to visit to discover Dutch cheese. The Alkmaar cheese market usually functions from end March to end September, though you should check the exact dates and times closer to your visit.
6. Hang out at NDSM Wharf or De Poezenboot
We mentioned the NDSM wharf as a hip happening place for music concerts and just hanging out for young people. It’s easy to use a free ferry ride from the centre of Amsterdam for everyone to pay a visit and view the amazing street art in this erstwhile industrial area. Some people think this place isn’t to their taste, but we loved looking around and taking pictures of the “BOTEL”, a floating hotel.
If NDSM doesn’t seem like your kind of thing, how about a visit to a De Poezenboot ? Translated to English it means Catboat. This is a charity that runs in a houseboat geared to look after cats. The volunteers are friendly and it’s a quaint and memorable experience for cat lovers.
How much for a 3 day family Amsterdam holiday?
In the peak season, which is around the Tulip season (Mid April ) and if it’s over a weekend, then finding a decent room to stay with two kids for under £100 is close to impossible. So if you book early and are willing to travel in, then you might achieve this rate per night.
Add to this, your travel (estimated from the UK to Amsterdam), that’s about another £200 minimum for a family of four.
We’d say that for a three-day Amsterdam holiday with your family of four, you should expect to have to spend between £900-1200 if you are on a tight budget.
For standard hotel chains in the city centre, you should plan to set aside about £170-£200 a night during the peak season for a family of four. Apartments or AirBnB are about the same kind of price range as well.
The best ways to get around Amsterdam city is to use the trams, free ferries or walk if you don’t cycle.
If you’ve never been to Amsterdam, then some things to keep in mind
Coffee shops serve something else that starts with c!
If you are used to a Starbucks, Nero, Costa or your favourite coffeeshop to take a break when you are out with the kids, here’s something you should know about coffee shops in Amsterdam.
Cannabis/Marijuana are legal in Amsterdam. So, places listed as coffee shops have cannabis/marijuana on their menu and it’s perfectly legal and acceptable to smoke them in the coffee shops.
The second thing is smoking tobacco in a coffeeshop is banned. One of the few places in the world where smoking a joint is easier than a cigarette!
Cycles can fly – watch out!
While Amsterdam is safe from a crime perspective, bikes and accidents are a different matter. There are all these pictures of colourful old-fashioned bikes along the canals that is the typical mental picture of Amsterdam.
This is an unusual European capital city, or any capital city for that matter because the town planners have kept the city centre free of offices and cars.
However, even though we are used to cycles, nothing prepared us for the whizzing bikes of Amsterdam. Wonder why we thought that these bikes would be slow & sedate?!
We were blissfully unaware that at one point we were right on an express road for bikes. So after nearly stepping straight in front of a bike that seemed to appear from nowhere, we realised that the locals get around fast.
Listen for the frantic cycle bell, and look in all directions, just in case you are in the middle of a cycle path rather than a quiet pavement. The express cycle lanes are marked out.
If you want to cycle, then don’t do it in Amsterdam
Head out of the city if you want to do a family jaunt on two wheels. This is because the locals use bikes most other cities use cars.
A leisurely holiday dawdle in the busy cycle way won’t be appreciated by the locals trying to go about their business. Finally, just like finding space to park cars, finding places to lock your bikes might be a challenge in the city centre.
In spring and summer, cycling as a family to outskirts to see the windmills or tulips will make a charming set of memories of your family holiday.
When will you plan your Amsterdam holiday?
We started this article with the hope of giving you some ideas and inspiration for your next family holiday. We said we’d give you some reasons on why Amsterdam holidays with your family might be what you are looking for.
Did we manage to persuade you? What did you like the most about the thought of having a vacation in Amsterdam?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and see your Amsterdam family holiday pictures.