Amazing Amsterdam

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We are Tracy and Marc. He's from Amsterdam, I'm from London. Though we live in the UK we often visit family and friends in The Netherlands with our young sons - mini Dutchies Oscar and Zac. This blog is not comprehensive and its in no particular order. Its simply a list of places we love. There are many restaurants and cafes we have been to that haven't made the list.  There are many others we are yet to try. This is mostly a guide to great food (where possible places that Amsterdamers know and love) and suggestions for how to occupy kids. Amsterdam is small - walk, cycle or take a tram to anywhere in the centre (and indeed further afield). Let us know if we have missed anything wonderful - and enjoy this incredible city, nothing makes us happier than sharing its wonders.


As we usually stay with family and friends we tend not to be the hotel experts.  However, there are a few we can highly recommend and some that just look wonderful:


The College Hotel
If you possibly can, stay at the College Hotel. Its in a stunning 19th Century brick building, it's cosy, beautiful, atmospheric and run by students learning hotel management. The very important Dutch word "gezellig" can be completely understood after spending some time in this wonderful place.  We had our engagement party here, and we absolutely love it. We've been lucky enough to stay the night a couple of times, but we're happy even just to come for tea as there's something so special about it.

The Hoxton Hotel
The Hoxton Hotel has recently opened in Amsterdam and has quickly become the sceney place for advertising types.  There's everything you'd expect at a hipster hangout with Soho House associations (the restaurant is run in partnership with the Soho House group and the "Apartment" has five "membership-club" style rooms for hire for daytime meetings or nighttime events).

Morgan and Mees
Morgan and Mees is another new opening in a renovated historical building in the Jordaan which is a great area.

Pulitzer Hotel
Another favourite of many travellers with a few euros to spend is the beautiful Pulitzer Hotel.  Located in 25 connected canal houses on the amazing Keizersgracht canal, its a traditional, central and stunning place to enjoy the Amsterdam experience.

Of course there are literally thousands of hotels to choose from.  Lots of traditional classics, boutique hotels in canal houses and a sudden explosion of International arrivals such as the new W.  At some point in the next few years there's plans for a Soho House Amsterdam too.


If your budget doesn't quite stretch to some of these beauties, don't despair, forget your preconceptions about grungy dives, here are some more affordable options that are reinventing hostelchic:

Generator Hostel 
This hostel is located in the East of Amsterdam but we've heard it's pretty amazing.  Located in a historic university building which dates back to 1917, it has been reinvented as a high-ceilinged design-driven experience with great bedrooms (shared and private) as well as hallways full of art and creative design touches such as glass fronted elevators and a former lecture hall turned into a chillout lounge and bar.

Cocomama Amsterdam
Pitching itself as the first boutique hostel in Amsterdam, Cocomama is located in a former brothel. They say: "Taking the cleanliness, professionality and boutique style of a high end hotel and combining this with free internet, a fully equipped kitchen, a movie corner, open informal atmosphere and organised hang-outs of a hostel you will find yourself in the perfect spot to explore a new city".  Sounds interesting to us!

For other ideas, check out the iAmsterdam guide to unusual hotels:

Street Food

The best herring in Amsterdam (not to mention the best stroopwafels and poffertjes!)
Marc reckons the best herring can be found at the Albert Cuyp market though in truth pretty much all herring stands are utterly reliable and I have my own favourites.  It's one of the things he really misses about not living in The Netherlands. And before you turn up your nose at the idea, it's basically sushi (ok, brined but similarly "un-fishy") and is buttery soft and utterly delicious. Order it in a "broodje" (a soft or chewy roll) with pickles and onions for the ultimate sandwich on the go, or for a true Amsterdam experience have it served on a paper plate, sliced into bite sized pieces, sprinkled with onions and pickles and eaten with a Dutch toothpick flag. Elsewhere in the Netherlands they grab the (filleted and headless) fish by the tail, dip in onions and lower it straight into their mouths though perhaps give that a miss for your first experience!

Once you've finished your 'Hollandse nieuwe haring' at the Albert Cuyp market, make sure you grab yourself a warm freshly made stroopwafel at the stall across the way (which bears little resemblance to the 'caramel waffles' sold ubiquitously in Starbucks) before hunting down someone with a cast iron pan making fresh poffertjes - these mini cloud-like puffed pancakes are served warm with butter and a drift of icing sugar. Dig your toothpick into the snowy mountain and enjoy...

If you're after other Dutch specialties buy some spiced speculaas biscuits or the ubiquitous "drop" - a strong licorice that comes in every shape and flavour including salty (yuck).  For breakfast the Dutch are obsessed with Hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles served on top of white bread spread with butter (!)  At Christmas stop for Oliebollen from the trucks that pop up all over town - they are a kind of very heavy (cannonball-like) doughnut with raisins or candied fruit, dusted in icing sugar and eaten warm.  If you are lucky enough to be there in December you'll get to enjoy Sinkterklaas which deserves a whole post in itself.  Food-wise it means chocolate letters for kids and heaps of pepernoten and kruidnoten - hard or chewy speculaas-flavoured mini biscuits which are available everywhere. 

Not really street food but not something that fits neatly into any other category here either, the Dutch love to go out for "borrel" - essentially a drink after work with friends accompanied by (mostly fried) snacks.  Although the weather in Amsterdam is basically the same as in London one of my favourite things about the city is that almost every restaurant, cafe and bar has outside seating.  On a sunny evening you'll see groups of friends enjoying a selection of the following snacks along with a couple of beers or a glass or two of wine:
  • Bitterballen or Kroketten - The best are Van Dobben brand and are basically a mixture of a kind of soft mashed potato and veal ragout, breaded and fried.  Bitterballen are round, kroketten long (the picture below is a classic kroketje)
  • Kaasstengels - Filo-wrapped deep fried sticks of cheese
  • Loempia's - Deep fried spring rolls
  • Frikandel - I suggest you avoid this at all costs.  It is basically minced meat rolled into a long sausage-shaped hot dog and yes, you guessed it, deep fried
  • And because by now you're almost certainly deep-fried-out you can order a few non-fried items including cubes of cheese and the 'super-lekker' (ie: delicious!) Ossenworst, a type of lightly spiced and sliced raw sausage

Saté and Surinamese food
Due to the rich history of the Dutch East Indes, ethnic food in the Netherlands is ubiquitous and authentic.  Many of the restaurants in the main list do standard International fare but if you find yourself in a good market (or some restaurants) you might be lucky enough to experience Indonesian or Surinamese specialities.  Chicken Saté is the most common.  Touristy restaurants tend to serve a sickly sweet, tar-like sauce from a tub but if you find yourself in a real Dutch cafe or at a stall make sure you order kipsaté.  It can be absolutely fantastic and the Dutch love it - or for another local speciality, order your chips (at a stall rather than a restaurant) with saté sauce along with mayonnaise.
Surinamese food is even more exciting.  The Dutch brought labourers from Indonesia, India and China to work on the African plantations and naturally the cuisine (and indeed the people) reflect this mix.  If you get to the market at the Westergasfabriek (see Shopping below) or are in Amsterdam for the extraordinary annual Kings Day then make sure you stop by a vendor to taste something a little different.


G's Brunch Boat
If you're in Amsterdam over a weekend you can't do much better than kicking off on G's Brunch Boat  (particularly if the weather is looking good).  Not your typical tourist boat - and SO MUCH the better for it - G's offers a two hour ride round the canals of Amsterdam (it sets off near the Anne Frank House) and provides great food, Bloody Marys and stellar music.  In fact I'll leave it to them for the best description:
"the Gs brunch boat. the only brunch boat in the world. drake on repeat. amsterdam by water. bloody marys. mimosas. eggs benedict. blts. ibiza salads. sun. roof down. friends. family. love. weekends. need any other reasons to jump on?"

For quite the most amazing steak (and I consider myself a bit of an expert) in a great setting, you simply have to try Loetje.  There are now four branches in Amsterdam, though this is no chain, and one on the Amstel river at Ouderkerk which really isn't that far to get to and absolutely worth the trip for the gorgeous canalside village location which looks like something out of a Dutch painting.  They have recently started taking bookings at the Ouderkerk branch which is highly advisable as you'll almost certainly have to wait at least half an hour if not substantially more for a table even on a Monday night.  Most branches have seating inside and out, an awesome atmosphere, cosy, buzzy, friendly, unpretentious and very Dutch and untouristy.  If you order the regular steak (biefstuuk ossenhaas - a kind of beef tenderloin which comes with a very delicate sauce/gravy) with chips and onions you will be certain to start dreaming about your next visit.  Indescribably good and in Ouderkerk, a magical location.  The website doesn't even remotely do it justice - do not base your decision on it!

Hotel de Goudfazant
We really love this hugely buzzy place.  Situated in the middle of nowhere, this unlikely location hosts a cavernous-restaurant on the docks based in an old warehouse and which, despite the name, has no hotel attached.  Great food, vast and beautiful room, trendy, hugely vibrant atmosphere every day of the week and still buzzing later than most Amsterdam restaurants.  It has a really extraordinary private room (the warehouse is so big there are old cars parked inside it with a classic porche in front of the private room).  We hired this space for a wonderful dinner for 25 but probably could have seated 100.  This is one of the few places where you'll either need a car or need to get an Uber.

The Duchess
The new W Hotel is still under construction in Amsterdam but its breathtaking restaurant is already open for business and creating a huge amount of buzz.  Redolent of London's Wolseley and other Corbin and King extravaganzas, The Duchess is located in the historic KAS bank and retains all that's best of its extraordinary architecture. Food-wise, they've somewhat annoyingly opted for a policy of sharing plates.  Although the portions are the right size for one, the justification is that "not everything will arrive at the same time" which hints more at kitchen issues than a dining theme.  That said it shouldn't put you off - the quality of food is superb, the atmosphere sensational, the room to die for and the Chocolate Explosion dessert pure theatre.  This is THE sceney place to dine right now.  (There's also Mr Porter - a steakhouse at the top of the hotel.)

Mazzo is part of a restaurant/design group which includes the famous Supper Club as well as a number of other great places in Amsterdam. This gem is all about affordable Italian food. A simple list of a handful of pizzas, pastas and mains, the design is awesome, its full of beautiful people and feels a bit like London's Electric Brasserie, but based in an old nightclub.  Also great during the day or early with kids as they have toys, a blackboard and low, slightly out-of-the-way seating at the back with a kids' menu and kid-friendly opening hours.

Julius Bar and Grill
Julius Bar and Grill, another IQ restaurant, is centered around a huge charcoal grill and the smell as you walk in says "eat me".  The menu is based on "modern and light barbecue dishes" and the steak is highly recommended.  A great spot for a meaty dinner without paying through the nose.

One of our favourites in the IQ group was the wonderful Spanish restaurant Mercat housed in a church/warehouse in the newly cool Eastern Harbour district.  In April, the space was repurposed to house HappyHappyJoyJoy - a restaurant they describe as organised, eclectic chaos delivering Asian streetfood.  It's definitely on the list for our next visit so we'll update you as soon as we've been.

If you become as obsessed as me about the IQ Group restaurants, check out the others which seem to change on a fairly regular basis so I won't list them here - the link is more reliable.  

We love the IJ-kantine.  Opposite Nemo on the other side of the River IJ it's another warehouse space that's beautifully designed.  Large, flexible, colourful and with a great menu -the sun dazzles through the vast windows over the water which makes it the perfect place to read the papers on a Sunday morning, hang out for lunch or even stay for dinner.  It also has private areas and rooms for meetings or working lunches.  Lovely little play area for children, kids menu available but notwithstanding that it's a grown up and cool place to while away some time.  It has it's own dock, so on a summer day why not take the ferry over for lunch.

Cafe Amsterdam
Right at the end of the Haarlemmerstraat (which has got lots of really fab little shops and cafes). Cafe Amsterdam used to be a factory and and is now a vast, industrial-designed restaurant. The menu is fairly simple, quite a few Dutch things on it. It has to be said that the last time we went the food wasn't that great but I think they've recently updated it and we really love the atmosphere there. There's outside seating as well. Easiest to get to by car

If you love Asian food give the ubiquitous sushi or Asian-fusion a miss for once (lets face it you can get that anywhere) and give the authentically Dutch rijstafel (literally rice table) a go instead.  It's one of the most famous foods in the Netherlands due to the country's colonial past and consists of up to forty side dishes (ranging in texture and spiciness) served in small portions, accompanied by rice prepared in several different way.  There are lots of traditional eateries serving this but I would highly recommend Blauw. Its modern, has incredible food and is perfect for sharing. One of my favourite restaurants there.  

If it's North African food you're after, head to Bazar in the middle of the Albert Cuyp Market. Huge plates, wonderful interior (high celings, upper gallery and masses of tiling) and the freshest orange juice in town.  Features in lots of tourist guides but you should find some locals there too.

Located in a lovely central area, on the Spiegelstraat (which is behind the Rijksmuseum and has lots of antique and art stores) and right on the Herengracht canal, Red is a wonderful restaurant that only does steak and lobster. Make no mistake, this is no high concept Burger&Lobster type food factory but rather an upmarket if unpretentious location for a special dinner. It's the kind of place where you have to book in advance, particularly for all the theatre goers who eat there before or after a show.

De Kas
How do you even begin to describe De Kas? An astonishing luxury restaurant in a vast greenhouse in a park. The fixed menu is designed around whatever has been picked that day (whilst not a vegetarian restaurant its not for veggie-phobics) you are though given the option of telling them if there are things you absolutely don't eat. Book way in advance - its an eating experience. Not a cheap one, but it does have the wow-factor.

Restaurant As
This is another quite high-end place to eat though I've seen that children are welcome and in Summer there is an outdoor terrace with room to run around.  The menu is heavily organic, seasonal (often homemade/grown or reared) with limited choice as a result - "farm to table style".  Whilst the food was mostly good, the very limited choice can be challenging unless you eat just about everything.  The best thing for us though was the extraordinary space.  Though its a little off the beaten track its worth a visit to sit in a former chapel with long tables arranged spoke-style around a central hub of open kitchen with wood-fired oven, all set in the middle of an working organic farm.  We went in Winter - a dark night with a candle-lit walk up to the entrance.  I suspect the atmosphere is very different at lunchtime or in Summer when the glass doors to the outside are opened up.

If you're after an intimate Italian dinner with quite simply fabulous food this is the place to come. Yotam Ottolenghi (who, little known fact, lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years in the 90s) sites it as one of his favourite all time restaurants, and if its good enough for him..

The Lobby
Another of Amsterdam's newer hotels is called Hotel V and is located on Nes, a small though central back street.  They have a lovely restaurant called The Lobby where we had a good breakfast and have heard that lunch and dinner are great there too.  Its smallish with a wood fire, a library and a little terrace and as its part of a hotel tends to have a mix of visitors as well as locals.

Vis aan de Schelde
This is a high end but unpretentious fish restaurant near the convention centre.  Think J Sheeky or Scotts in London, but with a bit more colour.  The food is amazing.  Creative without trying to be postmodern - there are Asian influences mixed in with French and the quality of everything we ate was out of this world.  As well as a la carte they do an excellent set menu which changes monthly and you can choose 3, 4 or 5 courses.  Its very busy, and booking is essential, but we ate exceptional and beautifully presented food and for a special evening out I would highly recommend it.

Yam Yam
This great little trattoria/pizzeria is a good and affordable bet.  Some say the best pizza in Amsterdam.  The food is incredibly fresh (daily specials as well as a strong regular menu), the atmosphere cosy and friendly and if you like Italian food you could do a lot worse than head here.

For drinks or dinner in a really nice neighbourhood bistro try Carter.  It's small and low key but with a great vibe and situated in the elegant Old South part of town.  For similar also check out Franklins and Americano in The Pijp on the Amstel River.

Cafe George is a small collection of restaurants based on the concept of "A French Brasserie in New Amsterdam".  Each branch has its own look and feel - and menu (this is no chain) but they are hugely reliable and popular and have expanded outwards from Amsterdam to Laren and Zandvoort (see the "By the Beach" section later)

Other ideas (we haven't been yet so can't vouch for these directly)

Bakers and Roasters
For weekend brunch, start queuing early at this ever popular spot the Pijp.  Billed as a New Zealand style cafe with a dose of Brazil, it's loved by many and from what we hear, rightly so.

Cafe Panache
Right at the top of my list for an evening on our next visit is the wonderful looking Cafe Panache.  Everything about it ticks boxes for me - the stunning room with parquet floor and eclectic but cosy lighting, fab sounding unpretentious menu of seafood, steak and chicken, cooked over charcoal, hip cocktail bar, buzzing space for larger groups, open plan kitchen, converted warehouse off the beaten track on the West side of Amsterdam...tick, tick, tick.  It looks like Shoreditch or Williamsburg but with the best of Amsterdam thrown in.  I hesitate to recommend it in case you get there before I do!

Momo and Izakaya
Hmmm Momo and Izakaya. These two restaurants have the same owner and are much loved by upmarket tourists and ex-pats. And I guess that's my problem with them. Sure, I've heard the food is great but for some reason it seems such a shame to come to Amsterdam and eat Japanese food with a load of other tourists. If you want a Zuma-like experience then Momo's your thing. Izakaya is at least in the cool Sir Albert Hotel and you get the benefit of some great cocktails and a DJ with your sashimi. But I urge you, if you'd think twice about eating sushi in Madrid or Rome and would sooner have a more authentic experience, do the same in Amsterdam. Go for rijstafel if you want Asian or check out The Duchess if you want to hang with Amsterdam's finest. If all you want is top tier global sushi though, both are probably great options

The fabulous Camilla who now lives in Amsterdam has made the following awesome-sounding recommendations.  If you go, let us know!

  • Marius is a sweet little french restaurant that only cooks food from the market, really delicious and a fun wine bar next door (Worst). 
  • There's also Greetje, Hugo's, Hidden In Plain Sight (great cocktails), The Seafood Bar, Lion Noir, Mati Hari and Anna in the red light district.

Another impeccable resource is a blog called Little Black Book Amsterdam which is full of up-to-the-minute suggestions for shopping and all the latest and greatest restaurant openings (and its all in English)


The Pancake House
Amsterdam has a large man-made wood with a huge rowing lake running alongside it. At one end is the terrific Panenkoekenhuis. With a little farm and playground for kids. Most people come here after a good walk or cycle for some of the best pancakes in town. There's parking as well if you're feeling lazy and what feels like hundreds of seats both inside and out. Its a popular place and deservedly so!

College Hotel
See Hotels above. Coming for a tea or coffee here is wonderful, especially in Winter.
Our favourite place for breakfast. One long central table and a space at the side for a cluster of others. Great open sandwiches, cosy and cool. We tend to head for the Amsterdam South branch but I also adore the interior of the much larger Western branch near the Westergasfabriek (see shopping later)

Winkel 43
Winkel 43 does the best apple pie in the world (if you disagree Marc might have something to say!). There's loads of outside seating. It's located right next to a small market called the Noordermarket and with the "9 Straatjes" nearby, it's a lovely and "uniquely Amsterdam" area to walk around.  The Dutch love their apple pie so this is a busy place!

Pompadour is a small chocolatier/patisserie/tearoom in the "9 Straatjes" where they sell wonderful Belgian chocolate.  It has a little cafe at the back which is great for posh cake and coffee and is reminiscent of the small cafes and tearooms which used to be so abundant across Europe.

Blauwe Theehuis
Another wonderful place to head in summer is the Vondelpark - at 120 acres, the Dutch version of Central Park.  The main cafe has lots of outside seating, its certainly not fancy but if you're cycling through the park look out for the spaceship-like cafe.  With a lovely relaxed and typically Dutch atmosphere its perfect on a sunny day when locals stop off for a beer or a coffee and perhaps a slice of apple pie.

Pisa ice cream
Fab semi-permanent (Summer only) stand selling outstanding homemade Italian ice cream.  Summer afternoons and evenings expect to queue.The Caramel Yoghurt is amazing but if you're feeling fruity give the Pink Grapefruit a go.

Hotel-cafe American
A special recommendation from Marc
"It's only because I'm such an old fuddy duddy that I really like Cafe American (even my parents think it's a bit old fashioned!). It's located right at the Leidseplein, another quite touristy area in the centre of Amsterdam. Great for having a coffee and cake (I'd recommend their champagne cake any day)."

Bagels and Beans
There are numerous branches of Bagels and Beans around town and its a great place to stop for a coffee or one of their awesome juices or special hot chocolates.  Eclectic, organic, a whole lot nicer than sitting in Costa or Starbucks (not that you'll find many of those in the Netherlands)

Things to do

Anne Frank House
It has become insanely difficult to get tickets for the Anne Frank House due to its extraordinary and enduring popularity (and of course its small size).  Tickets go in the blink of an eye, and unless you've planned your trip months in advance and managed to book online you can end up queuing from dawn for up to 3 hours.  Save yourself this pain by making a note of the following:


This info is not widely advertised and kept extremely quiet not least by the Anne Frank House itself.  Make sure you get online just before these times as even these tickets disappear in a flash and can sometimes be available 10 minutes before the advertised slot or up to 10 minutes after.

If you fail to secure any this way, the House is open until 9pm in Spring and Summer (though last entry is 30 minutes beforehand).  Don't try to get there before it opens which is what everyone else does (in Summer people have been known to start queuing from 6am!), go late, say after 6.30pm or even later which is about the only time the line dies down.  As someone on the wonderful Amsterdam Mamas group commented: "Tourists go early. Locals go late. Do as locals do."


Almost certainly, the best place to head is the nine little streets (‘negen straatjes’). These narrow streets intersect the main canals between the Leidsestraat and the Jordaan district, and are dotted with great restaurants, cafés, art galleries, jewellers, boutiques and vintage stores.

I also really like The Haarlemmerstraat. It's a really cool fairly long street with boutiquey shops and cafes. You'll find everything from shoes, independent labels and second-hand clothes to food, interior design and collectables as well a divine arthouse cinema called The Movies (most films are in English and subtitled so it's a great tip for a quirky evening out and do grab a bite at their dark and cosy restaurant after).  Also on the Haarlemmerstraat (and popping up all over town) is Marqt - a trendy organic supermarket with bread freshly-baked four times a day - and on your way out the door, be sure to buy a bar of the best named confectionary of all time - Tony's Chocolonely - which tastes just as good as it sounds.

Marc's top tip is the Copa Football shop near Central Station for the coolest football-inspired tshirts on the planet!

The newest area for quirky indie shops and small concept stores is the Gerard Doustraat behind the Albert Cuyp Market.  Here you'll find a cluster of lovely little places tempting you to part with your Euros.  Check out Anna and Nina, Miuse and the pop up burger bar.

If browsing markets is your style, head to the Westergasfabriek on the first Sunday of every month.  Craft stalls, food stalls, clothes, homeware, you name it - stylish sellers in an awesome setting that seems to go on for miles.  If its a sunny day, be ready to spend a few hours browsing, shopping and of course eating!

Finally, if you're after a shopping centre, head out to the newly refurbished Gelderlandplein or go a little further to the Winkelcentrum in Amstelveen.  Loads of shops, a big square with restaurants and cafes, a huge branch of Albert Heijn supermarket, a flagship Zara and my favourite place for cheap kids clothes, toys and sundries - HEMA (this branch has a cafe with a sweet little play area for children)

Places to eat by the beach

Many tourists are unaware just how near Amsterdam is to some wonderful beaches.  The wide and duny stretches of sand are reminiscent of Norfolk but atmosphere-wise are far more trendy and hip.  Definitely worth a visit in Summer but also worth considering on a bright Spring or Autumn day.

Take a train Den Haag followed by a short tram ride to Scheveningen. You'll get off at a tram stop next to a landmark hotel called the "Kurhaus". When you turn left from the hotel, along the promenade on the beach, you'll find dozens of temporary pavilions where you can sit and have food. Some of these places have 'fire tables' which means that even if the weather isn't great you can still sit outside. More like Ibiza than Brighton. Its great here and definitely family friendly.

Zandvoort - Strand Zout
Another great beach with a wonderful beach restaurant/cafe that looks more Cape Town than Amsterdam, Zandvoort is a real favourite of ours.  On a sunny day go early, the beach is huge, they sell herring and other fish straight from trucks that pull up on the sand, or have cocktails and lunch at this laid-back and incredibly cool restaurant/beachclub.

Zandvoort - George No 5
We recently discovered this gem which sits somewhere between Zandvoort and Bloemendaal. With its own little pool, a cool restaurant and a hip vibe, its another great place to head on a sunny day (though don't expect to have it all to yourself!)


Basically, call and ask us!  There is an astonishing amount of great stuff for kids to do in Amsterdam and around.

City Farms
For younger children there's the gorgeous children's farm at Elsenhove or the amazing goat farm in the Bos (children can clamber into the goat pen and hand-feed the kids milk from baby bottles) it's very laid back and with organic products on sale too.

Artis Zoo
For bigger animals head to the phenomenal central-Amsterdam zoo Artis.  Basically a huge park, with stunning historic buildings, a wonderful butterfly house to walk through, a forest house where monkeys swing from the trees overhead, an aquarium, planetarium, big animals, noisy animals, insects, free carts to pull the kids around...I could go on.  Basically we just love this place.

Park Life
Then there's a large number of parks such as the Amstel, Vondelpark, Oosterpark and others all of which have fantastic facilities for kids.  As well as excellent playgrounds at just about all of them, the Amstelpark has a ride on train in Summer which does a 20 minute tour, a little "farm, a maze, mini-golf and even a kids boating lake and rides.

Splash Pools
If its hot head for huge paddling/splash pools with stepping stones in the Bos or the Beatrixpark or even the little fountains at the Amstelveen shopping centre.  All parks have a variety of cafes and restaurants.  

Out and about
Hire bikes with children's seats or a wheelbarrow-style Bakfiets and cycle through town, head to the Miffy shop and get ice creams at Pisa.  

Pancake Boat
And if that doesn't offer you enough sugar for the day, how about booking a trip on the pancake boat - the kids sessions also have a ball pool in the hull if you can drag them away from the "make your own pancakes".

For a bit of culture, surprisingly the Central Library is astonishingly great for kids with wonderful interactive exhibitions and a fab cafe or how about the phenomenal Scheepvaartmuseum.  Based in an extraordinarily beautiful building, this place has a stunning full size replica of a famous Dutch East India Company ship (climb-on board-explore-and-shoot-the-canons!) as well as dozens of state of the art super child friendly exhibitions (The Tale of the Whale and Circus at Sea amongst our favourites). And if you need to recover from the sensory overload, it has a beautiful restaurant in which to catch your breath as well as a fabulous shop and some of the best public toilets anywhere!  It's hard to overstate how incredible this museum is.  The other star in the Amsterdam museum crown is Nemo - the most amazing interactive science museum for kids from about 3 years and up which also has the biggest roof-terrace in Amsterdam with an incredible interactive water feature for kids (why not follow it by a hop across the river Ij to the IJ-Kantine for lunch, see Restaurants above).

If planes are more their thing, head to the Panorama Terrace at Schipol which is brilliant for budding pilots.  As well as a vast terrace with an extraordinary view of the planes, it has an old aircraft to clamber on board as well as an indoor play-area and child friendly if somewhat un-nutritional restaurant/cafe.

If its rainy, there are a number of softplay centres - namely TunFun, Ballorig and ChimpieChamp (be warned, they can be hell!) or more excitingly why not try the newly opened Vrog - a parkour and trampoline centre for adults and children (only open Wednesday, Friday and weekend afternoons)

Transport lovers
Finally, if you'd prefer a slightly more leisurely afternoon, then how about taking the historic tram through the woods (Bos) on a Sunday and then go to to the Pancake House at Meerzicht (see cafes).  Cycling is obviously a great way to access these places.  In Summer there's also a "Bos-Bus" which goes through the woods stopping at all the key destinations.  
In truth, our kids simply travelling on the regular tram or double decker train and are generally thrilled simply spending an afternoon on public transport!

Out of town 

Visit the vast and simply awesome Train Museum (including an extraordinary if slightly overwhelming Chuggington event every Autumn half term) followed by the newly renovated "Miffy/Nijntje" Dick Bruna House.  This is the perfect museum for very young children.  Ten rooms themed around a series of miniature worlds based on the world famous picture books, including Miffy's House, a visit to the doctor and a trip to the zoo.

Head for lunch to historic Haarlem and stop off at Meneer Paprika - a child's dream: a toyshop with cafe and a giant train table running throughout waiting to be played with.

Scheveningen (Den Haag)
Kids big and small absolutely adore the world-renowned model-village Madurodam near Scheveningen, ours want to go every time we visit the Netherlands (and watch YouTube of videos of it when we're not there!).  Moving planes, trucks, boats, trains - its got it all and its a hugely popular tourist attraction.  Spend the morning there then head just down the road to the food pavilions at the beach for lunch.  If the lure of the wide and endless sand doesn't tempt you (or weather prohibits) spend the afternoon at the lovely hands-on aquarium.

Further afield is the huge and brilliant and aeroplane museum (Aviodrome) at Lelystad.  As well as a vast indoor area packed with things to see, there's also a wonderful outdoor space with playgrounds and rusty old planes for kids to clamber on board

Or how about the gorgeous Fairytale theme park Sprokjeswonderland in the same area (particularly great for younger children);

Other suggestions
Head for Europe's biggest playground Linnaeushof

Or see Dutch life of the past recreated at the beautiful ZuiderZee Museum - an open air museum on an island.

There's also Efteling which is a huge fantasy/fable/folklore theme park close to the Belgian border and is the oldest theme park in the world, predating Disney.

For older kids, other than the obvious cycle rides, boat rides, Anne Frank house (see above) etc... there's the astonishingly brilliant interactive Science Museum NEMO, and of course a trip to AJAX (tours specifically aimed at 5-12 year olds run at weekends and in school holidays, do book), not to mention the brilliant Kinderkookkafe where under 12's get to make their own meals (and yours!)

For a fantastic, comprehensive list of places, activities and recommendations which you can sort by child's age, area or day of the week (and all in English!) check out

You can also join the Amsterdam Mamas Facebook group where hundreds of expat mums will tell you everything you need to know and so much more

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