We had already been to Amsterdam in the past, but it was the first time with the children. This new trip to Amsterdam was a multi-generational holiday since the grand-parents joined us there. It was the perfect city trip to have 3 generations interested! As I often say, what I miss the most in our part of England, it’s culture so I really wanted to stay in a city where culture would be highlighted. So we chose Amsterdam for a 3-day week-end. Moreover, we were very lucky because the weather was gorgeous, which is quite rare in February!
Our family strolls Amsterdam
Since we already knew the city and we wanted to adapt our stay to the children, we emphasised on Jordaan neighbourhood and we only spent a few amount of time in the hyper centre. Thus, as a family, we didn’t go to the Red Light District 😉. Another point: even if we avoided the touristic central part, from time to time, we smelled a few fragrances that were coming out of the coffee shops. That being said, the children didn’t even notice.
The canals in Jordaan neighbourhood:
It’s the perfect neighbourhood to wander along the beautiful canals bordered by buildings full of character. It’s strange because there is much less people than in the centre although it’s aesthetically and architecturally richer. Basically, I advise you to follow the Prinsengracht canal all the way, while making shorts in the perpendicular streets and the nearby canals. For example, don’t miss the Eglantiersgracht, Bloemgracht and Brouwersgracht canals. All along the Prinsengracht, you will find an endless choice of little cafés where you will be able to sit on the terrace, and from where you will quietly observe the life on the canal. We opted for this walking + coffee breaks version rather than a cruise on the canals because we wanted to take our time and avoid group visits. Anne Franck House is situated on the edge of the Prinsengracht canal (see below in the list of our visits).
On the North of Jordaan, there is this road that we really liked: Haarlemmer Straat is very active; it offers a lot of very neat shops and food retails. We really take the pulse of the local life. Just around the corner, you can also take a look at the building of the Indies Company (West-Indisch Huis). Moreover, there is a little playground right next to it.
The flower market:
We still got closer to the city centre, particularly to walk through the flower market. We were there in February and then, there were mainly fake tulips…
And a few real ones!
The beguinage (Begijnhof):
A very nice yard that you shouldn’t miss, to see the buildings of Amsterdam beguinage. Be careful: silence is required!
A break in Vondelpark:
To rest, or let the children run around. This big park is in the neighbourhood of the museums. Not far from here, walk through Roemer Visscherstraat street where you can find seven houses representing seven countries.
Finally, while getting to Amsterdam, we quickly past in front of the concert hall on the verge of the water:
Of course, within three days, we couldn’t see it all. In particular, if you have a little more time, I advise you, for example, to go and stroll next to Albert Cuypmarkt market, or even to climb the A’dam Lookout.
Advice to walk around Amsterdam with children: you should be really careful with bikes! There really were a lot of them and cyclists are really fast and ruthless to dreamy tourists who would walk across their way without noticing… It’s easy to walk on a bike path while taking a picture; and sometimes you want to walk on the road because there are so few cars but it’s dangerous! So, hold on to the hand of the children and stay close to each other on the sidewalks even if they often are very narrow. Otherwise, it’s very pleasant, concerning the setting, for a walk in the city. Ticoeur and Titpuce walked between 7 and 10 miles each day. If your children don’t like to walk much, you can shorten the walks with public transport services. The tram is very convenient. But the children pay a full fee from 4 years old and it’s quite expensive! (consider a daily pass or maybe a pass that would cover a couple of days to low the costs.)
Which museums to visit in Amsterdam with the children?
Here are the museums we chose to visit with the family and for each of them I give you my opinion. I listed them in order of our preference:
Our biggest crush! The children loved it and so did we! Until September 2019, there was an amazing exhibition dedicated to Banksy. Really wonderful! The favourite piece of work of Titpuce? The snake that ate Mickey 😉. Another interesting exhibition: the one about Daniel Arsham. In the MOCO, you can also see a few pieces of work from artists like Koons, Haring, Basquiat, Warhol and a beautiful setup created by Roy Lichtenstein representing Van Gogh’s bedroom. Altogether, the visit only takes one hour because the MOCO is quite small but the experiment is intense and adapted for a family visit.
A staple in Amsterdam. It’s the biggest museum in town that allows us to discover Holland painting, but not only. In particular, the children loved the doll house, the blue earthenware and the big library. We saw the exhibition “alle Rembrandt” that enables us to discover the whole Rembrandt collection of the museum, amongst which numerous drawings and sketches. Overall, it’s possible to spend half a day in the Rijksmuseum but since it was a family visit, we opted for a shorter version, selecting the parts that interested the children the most. We spent two hours there. It must be noted that the building itself is really beautiful and there were very few people when we visited (from 9 to 11am on a Tuesday) which made it very pleasant. The staff of the museum is particularly friendly.
Van Gogh museum:
We chose to go back to the Van Gogh Museum because my parents-in-law hadn’t visited it yet and it was a good way to introduce Van Gogh to the children. The best part of it is that we follow the evolution of the artist over time, and we discover the different stages of his work. The children really loved a couple of paintings. On the other hand, many major artworks are not in this museum (you should go to the Orsay Museum in Paris if you are a Van Gogh fan). Titpuce mainly remembered the amazing painting of the flowering almond trees and I approve her choice 😉. We spent 1h30 in the museum, from 9.30 to 11am, on a Monday, and the crowd arrived by 10.30am.
Anne Franck House:
I hesitated before I put Anne Franck House in our program because I didn’t want to traumatize the children. But then, I read that the house was empty and that the hard part of the visit was created by the very moving text that you hear in the audio guide. That’s why we chose to take the children, without giving them the audio guide but we commented the visit ourselves. They were both very interested and very impressed by the hiding place we discover during the visit, hiding place where Anne and her whole family spent two years before they were arrested. Ticoeur and Titpuce asked me many times: “but how did their hiding place got discovered?”… We don’t know! But denunciation, jealousy, blackmail, cruelty were all quite current at the time and it’s not at all obvious to explain the horror of that period to young children. After the visit, Ticoeur asked if he could read The Diary of a young girl, Anne Franck’s journal, but I told him that he should wait for a few years. In the end, do I recommend the visit? Let’s say, it’s more suited for teenagers from middle school. But in any case, what really bothered me was the crowd because it takes off a lot of the emotion of the visit. We were bunched all along. So, to conclude, if I had to do it again, I would take it off the program. Of course, it takes nothing away from the importance of that place, that is without any doubt a remembrance place and it’s our duty to never forget.
Of course, there are still many other museums to visit in Amsterdam!
Amongst the staples we didn’t visit this time, I recommend the Amsterlkring museum (Museum Ons’Lieve Heer op Soldier), the Museum of the Canals (Het Grachtenhuis), Amsterdam Museum and Rembrandt House Museum.
Amsterdam: a romantic evening
The benefit of travelling with the best baby-sitters we could hope for: the grand-parents! So, my parents-in-law had diner at the apartment with the children while Papa Voyage and I went out to finally celebrate my birthday! Since I have often been disappointed by the restaurants I’ve been to in Amsterdam during my previous stays here, Papa Voyage had the great idea not to book in a classic restaurant but a diner in a private home, prepared by a private host. We had already tested this concept in Barcelona and we really enjoyed it. This time, again, it was a beautiful experience. We had diner with our hosts who taught us many things about Amsterdam, and allowed us to discover local specialties. There also was another couple with us: an… English couple 😊. We had a very good meal and it was very pleasant. So I give you the link if, you too, you have the opportunity to go and eat chez Martine. Right next to it: the Red Light District and Amsterdam Chinatown that we crossed quickly before we went home, passing ahead of the impressive central station…
Amsterdam: our good addresses
In Amsterdam, the children loved the pancakes, Gouda, and the little caramel stuffed wafers 😉.
Here are a few good addresses that we tested during our stay in Amsterdam:
- Stefs Bakery: a bakery for a quick lunch (quiches, local apple cake, sandwiches…). Everything was very good.
- Concertgebouw Café: very beautiful decoration with big tulips bouquets. You can enjoy the architecture of the building while sipping coffee.
- Greenswood Keizergracht: that’s where Ticoeur and Titpuce loved the pancakes (they also are salads and breakfasts).
- Worst: as its name implies, it’s a restaurant of… sausages! There are sided by very well-cooked vegetables (we slept right next to it – otherwise, don’t make a special trip there because it’s a little off-centred).
- Yays Zoutkeetsgracht apartements: this is where we stayed. It was perfect: design, comfortable and very well equipped: here is the link. We were there out of season so the prices were really interesting. It’s on the Northern part of Jordaan neighbourhood, in a very quiet area, so it’s a little off-centred but there is the tramway at the end of the street, and if, like us, you like to walk, it’s a 30 minutes’ walk from the city centre. Another idea: it can be very nice to find an apartment (Airbnb or other) by the Haarlemmer street which I mentioned earlier (close to the Indies Company). I really had a crush on this area.
Amsterdam: other practical information
Park & Drive: since we came by car, through the Eurotunnel, we tested and approved the Park & Drive system. It’s really affordable: 1€ per day for parking + 7,50€ for our 4 transport tickets round trip to the city centre. We used the parking of Zeeburg (30 minutes away from the centre). The ArenA parking is even closer (but it was full). Here are all the informations about the Park&Drive.
Cards for museum and transport: you can find the Museumkaart or the I Amsterdam (which also includes transport). For us, it wasn’t worth it but if you visit more than we did, it might be interesting: you have to do the maths! Although, you should note that all the museums that we visited were free of charge for children. Cards only dedicated to transport also exist (ex: 19€ per adult for 3 days).
What about you? Tempted by a family week-en in Amsterdam ?