Family Vacations to Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands
AMSTERDAM: A city filled with beautiful architecture, gardens, museums, and bicycles (David Lloyd)

Amsterdam, Netherlands Highlights

  • Pedal your own boat on Amsterdam's canals.
  • Bicycle through the city like a local.
  • Admire many works by Rembrandt and Van Gogh at museums.
  • Visit the real house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis.
  • Smell the flowers at the Botanical Garden and at the floating Flower Market.

Amsterdam has all the items kids conjure up when they think of Holland—windmills, wooden shoes (clogs), canals, and tulips. The city also blooms with lots more: world-class and specialty museums, a palace, art, and a bicycle culture that's fun to join.

Miles of canals lace Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands (Holland). Beat the traffic and board one of the many canal boats that glides under bridges and past gracious 17th-century gabled buildings, take the Museum Boat for an easy way to get from one facility to another, or rent a pedal boat and explore the canals on your own.

Get a real feel for the city, and harness 'tween and teen energy, by cycling the city. There are more than 600,000 bicycles in Amsterdam, a city whose population is only 750,000. It's not unusual to see the locals rolling along in the well-marked bike lanes, small pooches sitting in the handlebar baskets, or big dogs panting alongside. Several outfitters offer urban as well as countryside bicycle tours.

Among Amsterdams' many museums, two stand out: Rijksmuseum ( and the Van Gogh Museum. Although the Rijksmuseum, famous for its works by Dutch Masters, won't complete a renovation until 2009, a wing of the facility showcases about ten of Rembrandt's paintings along with works by Vermeer and Frans Hals. If construction allows, check out the Rijksmueum's garden. The flower beds are beautiful and the garden displays Gothic pillars, city gates, and other items from former Dutch buildings.

The Van Gogh Museum, just across the Museumplein (square), possesses the world's largest collection of Van Gogh's works. In the modern, well-lit facility, view Sunflowers, The Potato Eaters, Irises, as well as works by other artists. The helpful audio highlights tour points out key pieces and provides succinct background information. At the end of your tour, enjoy the Museumplein with its reflecting pool, grassy spots, and café. Across the street Coster Diamonds and other dealers lure people with free tours showcasing diamond cutting and polishing.

For gradeschoolers who've read Anne Frank's diary, a tour of the house where she and her family hid from the Nazis is a highlight. The Anne Frank House uses quotes from Frank's diary to tell her poignant story. Not far away is Dam Square, the heart of central Amsterdam. Kids like feeding the pigeons and watching the puppet shows (typically offered Wednesday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., May through October. Check with Puppet Theatre Pantijn).

Flanking one side of Dam Square, Koninklijk Paleis (the Royal Palace) opens several rooms for summer tours. For fans of wax museums, Madame Tussaud's is also along Dam Square. Along with Rembrandt, Peter Stuyvesant, and other famous Dutchmen, kids can pose with Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and come aboard Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate ship.

Stroll among acres of flowers and through a butterfly enclosure at the De Hortus Botanical Garden. The Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) floats on houseboats tied up at the Singel Canal. It's a pretty place that also sells bulbs. Among the several mills still existing in and around Amsterdam, the Molen (windmill) van Sloten is popular because it can be toured.

And clogs? You'll find them at most souvenir shops.

Tip: With the I Amsterdam card, receive one, two or three days of free admission to 30 attractions, free public transportation plus discounts at additional sites and restaurants.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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