5 Family-Friendly Amsterdam Tours
Think traveling overseas with kids is painful? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, we’ve had a lot of fun with our girls. The key to avoiding smirks and eye-rolling while earning cool points at the same time? Plan ahead to create an itinerary with primary points of interest for everyone.
Our family had a great time visiting Amsterdam together recently. The beautiful and historic city had our entire family begging for more — a difficult feat with a family of four!
Check out these kid-approved Amsterdam tours:
1. Bicycle Tour of Amsterdam
Everyone in Amsterdam rides a bike, and I mean everyone. From old ladies to little kids and men in suits to fashionable women dressed to the nines, they all ride to work on two wheels. Guided by a young man eager to show us the sights, our four-hour bike tour included views of the famous Amsterdam canals, the historic old city, the parks and museums and the colorful flower market. Our kids loved it. Amsterdam is mercifully flat, so bikers of all abilities can enjoy an easy, breezy ride.
Tip: Contact We Bike Amsterdam for more information on bike tours. They were wonderful and accommodating for our entire family.
2. Amsterdam Art Museums Tour
Some of the world’s greatest works of art are in Amsterdam and displayed in some of the most impressive museum collections in Europe. We arranged for a guided tour of the Rijksmuseum to view the Old Masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, and the ever-so-patient guide made the tour fun for our girls by pointing out all the quirks and mistakes in the paintings. Hint: Kids love to hear that adults aren’t perfect, and those masterpieces are packed with stories and interesting anecdotes that don’t show up in most guide books.
The Van Gogh Museum offers special kid’s workshops that allow them to paint their own masterpieces on canvases and take them home. Our kids could choose whether to recreate a famous Van Gogh or produce their own interpretation based on his unique perspective. It was pretty epic.
Tips: Contact the Rijksmuseum in advance to schedule a guided tour for families. The Van Gogh Museum kid’s painting programs take place the last Saturday and Sunday of every month.
3. The Shopping Tour
Amsterdam is a very stylish city. We’ve visited other places known for fashion — Paris, New York and Milan — and they’ve got nothing on the Dutch! Just sit at a sidewalk café, sip a coffee and watch the locals whiz by (on two wheels of course). To echo their style and bring home some Dutch chic, stroll the little shops around The Nine Streets neighborhood in the Canal District for clothes, accessories, jewelry, home decor and even eyeglasses.
We took our kids to a bead store where they could make their own jewelry. Once they had collected their beads and bangles, the kind girl behind the counter helped them figure out what to make. Back in the hotel room, we relaxed while they got crafty and made bracelets, key chains and gifts to bring home for their friends.
Tip: Peruse the area near Keizersgracht and Wolvenstraat streets for Dutch specialty shops. The bead store is in this same area. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants located nearby if you need shopping sustenance.
Bigger Tip: My eccentric aunt had a motto: “You see it, you like it, you buy it.” Many of these items are one of a kind, so don’t fool yourself into thinking it will be there the next day after you’ve obsessed about buying it. (They were gone, and I was sad. No trendy eyeglasses for me after all.)
4. A Sports Tour
For those die-hard sports fans in the family, Amsterdam offers a long list of both mainstream and more unusual spectator sports. The city hosts a huge calendar of tournaments including football (soccer to us), both ice and field hockey (check out Damfest), archery (they love this sport so much there is a dedicated Archfest tournament), rugby (of course), cycling (all those bicycles have to be of some sporting use too) and much more.
The most famous sports team in Amsterdam is Ajax, the celebrated football champions that trace their roots all the way back to 1883. Having collected multiple trophies from the World Cup and other honors, Ajax has a regular play schedule throughout most of the calendar year. Games are announced in several languages, and players are far more accessible than we’re typically used to in the U.S.
5. Amsterdam Canal Tours
Amsterdam was built on marshes, and it originally had canals instead of roads, just like Venice. A port city known for its trade in spices and treasures from the East since the 1600s, Amsterdam needed its canals to transport goods into warehouses and shops. Now these canals are picturesque reminders of those historic times, and they make for a puzzle-pieced city best seen from the water.
There are dozens of tour boat operators, and all are good. Don’t bother with the meals offered on the canal boats (most are sub-par), but definitely do this twice during your visit — once midday, and another at night. The daytime view of the architecture, colors and sights is dazzling, and the tours offered in English and other languages ensure you learn some history while you cruise. While at night, the city comes alive with lights that give a glimpse of what Amsterdam may have been like 400 years ago.
An added treat: Residents in the fine houses that line the canals have a custom of not closing their curtains. You can see right into their homes, witness their everyday lives, and ogle their impeccably designed living rooms. We took pictures.
Tip: Sit on the left side of the boat (that’s the port side for you seafarers). You’ll get a better view without those darn tourists’ heads in the way.
We’ve covered Amsterdam on foot, on two wheels and on four, on bikes and on boats. Now it’s up to your family to decide. Let us know what mode of transportation was your favorite Dutch treat!
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