This half-term, Flea and I spent a hectic three days in Amsterdam. Today I’m sharing my favourite things to do in the city with tweens.
Although Amsterdam might have a reputation for, erm, “adult” attractions, the flat landscape and history make it a fabulous, family-friendly destination.
Starting Out in Amsterdam
With just a few days to explore, we wanted a central base. We stayed at the very peaceful NH Doelen hotel. This was a real retreat, just a few minutes walk from Amsterdam’s bustling downtown.
Our first stop was to book a tour of Amsterdam’s canals. We found this to be the perfect way to get an up close view of some of Amsterdam’s most famous waterfront buildings. Also it helped us really find our bearings, as well as giving Flea a rest when she was tired of walking.
You can pick up a tour at any of the jetties around the city. Expect to pay around 30 euros for a hop-on, hop-off ticket that lasts 24 hours. Most tours will take you between Centraal Station, the Ann Frank museum, the Rijks Museum and the A’Dam Tower. There are even tours that offer pizza or burger dinners while you ride.
Over the Edge: Perfect Tween Adventure
If the weather is fine, then we recommend that you jump off the boat at A’Dam Lookout. This building is home to Over the Edge, Europe’s highest swing.
Over the Edge is in fact a swing perched on the edge of the building, facing the waterfront. For just 5 euros (plus the building admission fee) anyone taller than 130cm can ride on the highest swing in Europe. It’s a lot of fun and honestly not THAT scary. But it’s cold as anything! Wear gloves and hats!
Food and Shopping in Amsterdam
After visiting A’Dam, we spent an afternoon exploring the canals and side streets of Amsterdam. “The Nines” is a series of streets in Old Town. This area is famed for independent shopping boutiques. As it was pancake day, we HAD to stop for an early dinner at Pancakes Amsterdam. It’s a lovely spot, and we had amazing apple pancakes with Nutella (Flea) and bacon (me).
Eating out in Amsterdam is inexpensive and you’ll be spoiled for choice. There are ridiculously Instagram-friendly coffee shops, pastry shops and pancake houses on virtually every corner.
If you’re visiting museums in the city centre, then you’re very close to The Corner Bakery. This cafe is famous for its freakshakes, and makes for a great lunch spot.
We also really enjoyed dinner at Tasty Asia. OK, so it’s not very “Dutch” but the food was fantastic and great value. We also ordered McDonalds from Uber Eats on our final night in the city which is 100% not Dutch, but was 100% satisfying to my tween.
Getting Our Museum On
With limited time in the city, we had wanted to go to the Ann Frank museum but it’s being repaired at the moment, meaning visitor numbers are limited. If you want to visit, you’ll need to book online, well in advance.
Instead, we headed to Moco, where there’s a fabulous Banksy exhibition right now.
There was a fabulous collection of original Banksy works, some rescued from buildings and walls, others from private collections. Flea loved it, and it’s a fab part of the city to explore.
On a slightly less cultured note, if you’re travelling with kids aged 12 up, then you can visit the Ice Bar. This attraction says it mimics a 16th Century ship journey through the Arctic Circle, and you’ll get to experience this, while enjoying drinks in the Ice Bar.
Honestly, it’s a rather grand description for what is basically a 3-minute video clip and bar tenders dressed as pirates. After a short wait, you’re escorted into another bar, where it’s minus 10 degrees and there’s a polar bear made of ice.
Flea and I will mostly remember this particular attraction as being the place where the pirate bar tender gave Flea her very first shot of vodka, in a glass made out of ice. Needless to say, I didn’t let her drink it. (Meanest Mum EVER). But if you do visit, keep a close eye on what’s served to your kids, is my advice.
Much of the fun of Amsterdam is in simply exploring the streets and seeing the gorgeous rows of houses and canals. When your kids get tired, it’s easy to hop on a boat tour, but it’s way more fun to hire bikes. There are bike hire shops ALL OVER the city, and the flat terrain makes it easy for kids to get around. (Top tip, the grey pavements are for people, everything else is for bikes).