AMSTERDAM – Take your Children off the Beaten Path

Posted on October 9, 2013


The Netherlands seem to be the ideal destination for teaching children the differences between tourists and travelers, between “kitsch” and “chic” and between healthy and less healthy behaviors… everything inspires fun, excitement and discovery for all age groups, starting by little ones. Below are 10 suggestions for your trip if you have young children (based on our recent experience).


1. Windmills: Zaanze Schans

The Windmills of Zaanze Schans (20 minutes bus ride from Amsterdam Centraal) offer a good opportunity for children to see Dutch landscapes with windmills, tulips, brooks and ducks. We strongly advise to visit Zaanse Schans during the winter time even though the windmills are closed… It is much easier to picture how used to be the windmills, the millers and the overall landscape in the romantic winter peace than during high season implying thousands of tourists and long waiting lines. You may miss the kitsch costumes and souvenir shopping but you will most likely better appreciate the windmills and the landscapes. Besides, when it’s closed, it’s free and you can still walk along the riverside and close to the windmills.

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2. Markets: Waterlooplein Markt

Great for teaching children to look through vintage articles and to distinguish junk from authentic and precious stuff! During our visit a spontaneous “kitsch or chic” game was invented in which children were having great fun labeling shiny purple dresses, old leather suitcases, broken plastic watches, etc… Not sure how much fun this can be for parents considering that the “kitsch” or “chic” label is generally shouted in front of the stand and obviously in front of the stand owner… What makes this market great is also the real bazaar prices with useful and pretty articles which can cost as little as one euro and rarely more than 30 €.

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3. Apartments: get one!

For those of you who are used to travel with children you have probably noticed how much easier it is to rent a house or an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. In Amsterdam, getting an apartment is generally a particularly rewarding experience since locals have a very good, urban and modern taste! Apart from the general comfort an apartment provides and the optimal taste of the hosts, the fact that most hotels are expensive, often booked and do not provide parking facilities make the choice between the two even easier. We got lucky enough to get an unforgettable view on the canals, a beautiful two-bedroom apartment, a Jacuzzi and a very well equipped kitchen at a significantly lower price than what would have cost two rooms in any hotel. But you can also easily find deals where the host lends you bicycles, prepares meals for you or simply shows you the city around. We obviously recommend airbnb!

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4. Museums: Nemo Museum

This is not exactly an “off the beaten path” activity but it’s really worth a visit if you have children. The Museum is full of exciting and educational activities and the pirates’ boat outside the museum will impress any child. It’s expensive (13.5 € for both adults and children) but it is rich of emotions and dense of information. You can easily spend a day there but bring your own sandwiches if you don’t want to be further ruined in the bar/restaurant.

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5. Pubs: all of them!

Contrarily to coffee shops, smoking is not allowed in pubs. This makes it a great place to relax with a beer or meet up with friend even if you’re accompanied by your children. After having satisfied her curiosity about the type and effects of the beverages we each chose, out little girl was happy to watch a movie with (or without) headphones while sipping on her unique apple juice! Below is a decent guide of Amsterdam Pubs by a local (the one we used).

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6. Madurodam: just for Children!

A charming little city… I really mean little since it’s a miniature of the Netherlands. This is definitely a touristic attraction but if you go late in the afternoon you will find it less crowded. Most trains, cars, boats and planes are in motion making it impressive also for adults but for children it is a unique opportunity to put together in their little minds everything they visited during their holiday (the windmills, the museums, the canals, the center of Amsterdam, etc…).

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7. Bicycles: Yes!

Amsterdam is a biking city! No cars, lots of bikes and strict biking rules to be respected by bikes, cars and pedestrians. Even if you don’t end up getting a bike you will have to respect these rules since bikers have absolute priority over all other means of transportation and they will run you over if you inadvertently happen to be in the middle of a biking path. In other words, you will be more respected and better treated if you’re on a bike rather than on foot. Besides, the center of Amsterdam is small and biking paths are particularly well designed. Bikes cost around 10 € per day but children seats are free and you get reductions according to the number of days you decide to rent the bike for. You will find below the site of the place where we got our bikes from. It’s right in the center, they’re very helpful and they also provide other useful services!

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8. Finger Food: Gouda Cheese and French Fries!

Bababa, bababybel ( … French and German children, or should I say most European parents definitely know the song and the little round red and yellow cheese competing with “La vache qui rit” to conquer the heart of young cheese lovers! Fortunately there are numerous kinds of Gouda cheese available for all tastes and this is a great opportunity to initiate children to flavors different than the plastic Babybel feel and taste. However the round shape, the Babybel looks and the wax colored cheese skin generally make children eager to taste walnut, pepper and many other types of local cheese. French Fries are just everywhere and they’re delicious!

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9. Souvenirs: Clogs and tulips

They are definitely touristic. Nothing you can do about that one. They exist in all colors and all materials… sleepers, boots, plastic, purple, wooden, green… It’s kitsch, it’s cheesy, it’s useless and ugly but no matter how much you resist, your children will convince you to get a pair! Oh… and they will also convince you to take a picture of them in one of the numerous wooden ones available for children to climb into… Tulips too are difficult to avoid if you have a grandma somewhere waiting to see what you got her back from Amsterdam. The good news is that the tulips bulbs are cheap (10 for 3 €) and easy to transport.

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10. Ice skating: Try it!

The Dutch are crazy about ice skating. They often have their own blades and skate on iced lakes. Of course we do not recommend to take this type of initiative (alone at least) but children can have great fun right in the center of Amsterdam. Assuming that adults are not interested in this activity we recommend Museumplein where the rink is very small giving the opportunity to parents to check on children easily without having to rent a pair of blades (and without having to make fools of themselves on the ice). Each pair costs 15 euros.

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Posted in: Europe Travel