Bicycling around Amsterdam, as local does
In Amsterdam, let’s do like Amsterdammers! Almost everybody rides a bike. It is impressive to watch what Dutch people can do with their bikes: carry one, two, even three children, shopping bags, umbrellas, and even a couch on a trailer! It is truly a great European city for biking: short distances, bike lanes almost everywhere, and cars accustomed to all the bikes around. And it’s so much more fun for kids than walking! You can easily find rental bikes. We liked Mac Bike , located in the train station and other city points. They have a great choice: adult and child bikes of course, bike seats for babies and children, and even “bakfiets » (box bikes). We loved to explore the Jordaan area by bike. It used to be an old popular area, and turns into a hype district. There you can stroll in small quiet lanes, along the canals with beautifully flowered barges, then rest on a nice terrace close to the water… What a lovely area, away from the crowds!
Jordaan: northwest of downtown, streets and canals perpendicular to Prinsengracht, about Noordekerk to Westerkerk
Discovering the canals’ belt by boat
An alternative to bicycling is to explore the city by boat, from the canals. You will certainly enjoy to be seated for a while, and cruising can be a nice activity on a rainy day. The “Highlights cruise” last one hour. The part in the small historic canals is awesome, and it’s the best place from where you can take pictures of the beautiful mansions’ facades. The other option, “Canal bus”, allows making stops (hop-on-hop-off) to the main attractions and museums, which is really convenient.
If you are missing bicycling, you can even rent a “canal bike” to make your own sightseeing tour through the canals! Kids might love it!Canal Highlight cruise daily from 9:00am till 06:00pm every 30 minutes, departure from Prins Hendrikkade 33A Canal Bikes : 3 rental piers in Amsterdam’s city centre: Leidseplein – Rijksmuseum Westerkerk (Anne Frank House)
Exploring a ship of the Dutch East India Company VOC
In front of the National Maritime Museum stands a large three-masted ship. It is not the “real” one used by the Dutch East India Company, because it sank in a storm on the southern coast of England, three centuries ago, but an exact copy you can explore with kids. From the vessel’s holds to the upper deck, everything in this replica has been restored accurately: the cannons, the small captain’s bedroom, the roast chicken still on the table, the storage full of food (mostly cheese!), the powder barrels, the sailors’ hammocks… Welcome on board for an eight months’ journey! Funny and educational, it’s like being on a life-size Playmobil’s pirate ship!
The VOC is docked directly at the National Maritime Museum quay: Het Scheepvaartmuseum Kattenburgerplein 1 – Open daily 9am-5pm.
Climbing up the Westertoren
The Westertoren is the bell tower of the Westerkerk (the Western Church), the biggest and most famous church of Amsterdam, built in the XVII century. Standing 85 meters tall, the bell tower remains the highest structure in the old centre and is considered as a city symbol. Climbing to the top means to reach the sixth floor by steep stairs, 186 steps to be exact! But it worth the effort: once at the top, you will be rewarded by an awesome panoramic view of the whole city in miniature! The visit run from April to October (of course it’s better on a sunny day), and is open for kids over 6 years old only. What you can’t miss, even if you don’t climb to the top, is its set of tuned bells, playing a short medley every 15 minutes!
Westertoren: Westerkerk, Prinsengracht 281. Monday to Saturday, guided tours only, every 30 minutes, from 10 am- 5:30 pm (11 am – 4 pm in October)
Having fun at the Vondel Park
Vondel Park is the largest park in Amsterdam’s centre. You can just walk or ride bikes through the park. It’s full of Dutch children on weekends, riding their bicycles, rollerblading, and even riding horses. There are also several playgrounds, and a lovely place to rest, where you can enjoy a nice warm ‘latte’: the “Melkgroothuis”, a café with a large terrace shared with a playground with slides, swings… Such a nice way to spend an afternoon with the kids and take a break from sight seeing!
Vondel Park: South of Leidseplein, close to major museums. Free entrance.
Admiring Van Gogh’s masterpieces
The Van Gogh Museum houses the richest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, and his tormented biography can fascinate children. Over 200 paintings are presented. This could be a lot for kids, so may be it is better to go straight to the Arles, Saint-Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise period. The collection highlights, not to be missed, are on the first floor. You can also ask the Information Desk for “the Treasure Hunt” (free): answering the questions while visiting the museum is a great way to increase the kid’s attention. We recommend to purchase your tickets online on the museum website to avoid waiting in line.
Van Gogh Museum. Museumplein 6. Free for children up to 12 years. Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Eating Dutch pancakes
After all this climbing, biking and walking, everyone deserve to be rewarded! For a lunch or a snack, we enjoyed the “Pancake Bakery”, an institution located along a beautiful canal. It offers a large choice of delicious sweet or savory pancakes, with ingredients of your choice. Especially for little ones, check-out “the pirate”, “the fireman”… And don’t forget to try the Dutch specialty, the “poffertjes”, kind of tasty mini- pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar: so yummy!
The Pancake Bakery: Prinsengracht 191
Virginie Auguste-Dormeuil is a French native living in Rome. Mother of 3 and former French teacher, she combines her passion for writing, traveling and discovering world with kids on her website. You can read her family travel reviews on http://travel-with-my-kids.com
Twitter: @trvlwithmykids https://twitter.com/trvlwithmykids