Off the Beaten (Bike) Path with Kids in Amsterdam
A cultural capital, and picture-perfect walking town filled with cafes, shops and restaurants, Amsterdam is certainly not wanting for things to do. But perhaps you’ve visited the city on multiple occasions and are looking for something different or you want to experience the city like a local. Below is the Holiday Sitters guide—tried and tested by hundreds of our charges—to the spots that will take you off the beaten path and into the heart of Amsterdam.
Het Woest Westen
A green oasis in the city (you can see NS trains passing by behind the tall grass), Het Woest Westen is an adventure playground in Westerpark where kids can fish, swim, bake bread over an open fire, and climb about a small ropes course.
The definition of Amsterdam cool, the Ton Ton Club is an arcade in Westergasfabriek (there is also another location in the Red Light District, so this is the more family-friendly destination). It has an eclectic mix of Japanese arcade games, pinball machines and a battle royale Pacman machine that is perfect for a family face off. If you prefer your games analog style, there is also an enviable collection of board games behind the bar that you may borrow.
If you are traveling by bike on Marnixstraat you will pass by Marnix Bowl, which in addition to being a beautiful picnic spot on the water, features a skate park, playground and basketball court.
Near Central Station
Nemo Roof & Basement
If you’ve done your research, you likely know about Nemo, the science museum shaped like a giant ship rising from the water. Nemo is a great spot for kids 6-16, but on warm days the roof is the place to be. Entry is free to the largest terrace in Europe. Grab a snack from the cafe and find a place to sit and enjoy one of the many life-size games. The basement, included in the price of entry, features rotating hands-on activities that will keep your child occupied and engaged.
Klimmuur (Climbing Wall), Powerzone, Library, Hanneke’s Boom
Across from Nemo you will find even more to do. Take your pick from the Klimmuur (climbing wall), Powerzone (where you’ll find bowling, laser gaming and glow-in-the-dark mini golf) and the library, which in addition to being an architectural treat houses an inviting children’s section on the lower floor. If you fancy some outdoor fun, pop over to Hanneke’s Boom, a warm-weather destination for drinks by the water.
NDSM Wharf (NDSM Werf)
To travel to the North (noord), go to the back of Central Station (the IJ side), and take the ferry from the docking station labeled NDSM Werf (NDSM Wharf). If you are on bike, you can bring it on the ferry. A former shipyard located on the banks of the IJ, the NDSM Wharf has transformed into an cultural hotspot in recent years with a vibrant artist community and a growing collection of bars and restaurants. The expansive area plays host to festivals, exhibitions and Europe’s largest flea market, IJ-Hallen (check the website for dates).
Made from old shipping containers, Pllek is a deceptively open and airy space. Once you are done checking out the interior and if the weather permits, enjoy a drink and snack on the beach out front while the kids play in the sand.
A stone’s throw from where the ferry lets off, Noordelicht Cafe offers a relaxed vibe, plenty of organic menu items, a stage for young performers to mess about and a beach on which to dig and play.
Housed in a gorgeous building overlooking the IJ, the newer-to-Amsterdam EYE Museum has quickly become a destination for events in its beautiful restaurant. In addition to classic films and kid-friendly fare showing daily, there are lots of interactive exhibits to take part in if you’re not in the mood for a movie.
An amazing adventure playground that lets kids explore and create, Jeugdland is one of the best spots to visit with children in the Amsterdam. Ask inside the reception area for hammers and a bucket of nails so your kids can build huts from wood pallets and other recycled materials. When they want a break from building, there is a playground with lots to do, including a zipline, and when they want a break from playing, there’s plenty of green space to set up a picnic blanket.
The newest Dignita location is situated in the pristine gardens of the Hoftuin, behind the Hermitage Museum. Enjoy a fresh, locally sourced and inventive meal on the sunny terrace or inside the glasshouse-style restaurant. There is also a separate children’s corner inside and plenty of room for children to play safely outside so everyone can have a good time.
Frankendael is one of the of the most bucolic and verdant parks in Amsterdam; so much so that it’s difficult to believe it is situated in such a bustling city. Full of gorgeous greenery and flowers, the park is home to an orienteering center, a ropes course and a wooden playground. Look above to spot the main attraction of the playground—the storks that live in the tower that sits between the play structures.
Roest means “rust” in Dutch and it is so relaxing you may gather rust sitting there. Situated on Oostenburgereiland, Roest is popular with the younger set and families, owing to the fact that it has a large beach, terrace, live music and restaurant. The mixed grill is packed with delicious meats and veggies and goes perfectly with the beach vibe.
Fort Island Pampus was built in the late 1800’s as the defense line of Amsterdam to protect against potential attacks conducted from the River IJ. The fortress was built on Lake IJmeer on a sandbank called “Pampus”. To get a feel for life in the fortress, kids—equipped with black lights to uncover clues—can embark upon a scavenger hunt that wends throughout the underground structure. The boat ride to get to the island also makes the experience.
Garden at the Andaz Amsterdam Hotel
Brunch at the Andaz Amsterdam is a memorable affair. Kids will be bowled over by the massive dessert buffet, and run off any attendant sugar rush in the Alice In Amsterdam-inspired garden. Designed to delight, the whimsical garden is designed by Marcel Wanders and is free to all restaurant patrons.
If you have kids who are crazy about cats, the Poezenboot (cat boat) is a must visit. The only animal shelter in Amsterdam is you guessed it, on a houseboats. Volunteers take care of the cats and visitors can pop in for free Sunday-Wednesday between 13.00-15.00.
UJ Klaren Speeltuin/Carousel Pancake
Right across from the Heineken Brewery sits the UJ Klaren speeltuin, one of the best playgrounds in the city and a popular spot for locals and tourists. The space is completely fenced in and boasts a track to bike around (you can borrow one of the ride-on toys for free if your child isn’t with bike), trampoline, sand pits, a football court, large climbing structure and plenty of picnic tables.
Combine your visit with a bite at the Carousel Pancake House, where—you guessed it—traditional Dutch pancakes are the star of the menu. Poffertjes are also a favorite amongst the younger crowd. If you are not in the mood for pancakes, you can also get other breakfast food or a burger or sandwich.
Climbing Tree at Het Sarphatipark
A short walk from the Carousel Pancake House, het Sarphatipark is a small, local park that also attracts visitors to the Albert Cuyp Market. Grab a bite from the market or along the many take-out places in the surrounds and head over to sit in the grass. To really feel like a local, go to the klimboom (you can’t miss this climbing tree which was featured on Eurovision 2016 in the intro for Douwe Bob, the Netherland’s entry for that year) and shimmy on up as high as you can go.
Stedelijk Familie Lab
If you are traveling to Amsterdam, you must know about the Stedelijk, the world-class modern art museum. You may be excited to tour the exhibitions but for ambivalent museum goers who want a more hands-on experience (read: our children), there is the Familie Lab located near the entrance. The Lab features different art-centric activities that change every so often. Volunteers are there to help with providing materials, supplies and advice.
Scavenger Hunt at Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum
Both the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum offer fun, interactive scavenger hunts that take children through the museums in a fun, purposeful way. Stop by the gift shop after for the free present that comes with deciphering the clues.
Gardens at the Rijksmuseum
When you are done touring the inside of the Rijksmuseum, be sure and visit the sculpture garden which features pieces from such renowned artists as Alexandre Calder, the hide-and-seek fountain, and a small but fun playground and space to run around.
Skate Ramp and Playground
Museumplein is also home to the iconic iamsterdam sign that is the photo opp spot but it also features a skate ramp, basketball court and playground that are good for hours of fun … you can keep an eye on the kids while you enjoy a drink on the Cobra Cafe’s terrace.
It’s a bit of a trek via public transport but with go-karting, bowling, laser gaming, a large indoor play space that includes a small sledding hill, roller rink, Race Planet is worth the trip and all but guarantees hours of family fun.
To break up the trip either coming or going to Race Planet, stop by the Foodhallen, the extremely popular food hall situated in an old train depot. With food stands offering all sorts of international cuisine (our favorite menu item is the soft shell crab sandwich from Le Big Fish), there is something for everyone. Depending on the time of day, be prepared to hunt for an unoccupied table.
In addition to paddling and full-size public pools throughout the city, there are also lots of spots to swim and picnic on the Amstel and IJ if you dare to brave the cold water. There is a dock close to the Amstel Boathouse restaurant where you can dive (or jump or cannonball) and along the Weesperzijde. In the Noord, you can swim in the IJ from De Ceuvel, a city playground that includes a restaurant, dock for relaxing and sunbathing, and hammocks for swinging.
An annual festival that showcases plays from local authors, small rides, food and other activities that include a silent disco, De Parade is truly an Amsterdam institution. This year’s edition takes place from 17 august – 2 september. Definitely worth checking out if your visit falls during the event.
This rotating outdoor market is held at various parks around the city throughout the spring and summer. In addition to food from around the world, you can browse handmade gifts and other items as you make your way through the stalls.
So you want to go off the beaten path and are planning on trying a few of our suggestions. What better way to relax after a busy, fun-filled family day to enjoy a quiet dinner with your partner or friend at one of Amsterdam’s many fantastic restaurants. Maximize your experience in the city and book (and get to know) a certified, reliable sitter before you go. Enter the date and find here the perfect match for your family today.