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Amsterdam attractions - Rijksmuseum grounds

Amsterdam Tips for Families: Attractions, Food & Transportation

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Our family spent a few days in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to see the sights and visit friends. There is a lot to see in this picturesque, historic city, and there’s also a few things we preferred our children didn’t see. If you’d like some intel on navigating the city, saving some money and experiencing the best parts of Dutch culture, here are our best tips for families traveling to Amsterdam.

Visiting Amsterdam Attractions

DO: Consider buying an IAMsterdam City Card if you will be in the city for a few days. This tourist pass offers discounts on mass transit and free admission to many of the city’s museums. Check the website for participating museums. For visitors exploring other areas of the country, there is also the Amsterdam Holland Pass which offers public transit and museum discounts in other Dutch cities, such as Delft, The Hague, Leiden and Rotterdam.

DO: Buy tickets online for the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum in advance. The Anne Frank House is extremely popular and requires you to commit to a date and time. The Rijksmuseum does not, and you can use the online tickets anytime during opening hours. When we tried to book online tickets for Anne Frank House three weeks ahead of time for our summer trip, the online tickets were already sold out! Don’t worry, tickets are still sold at the museum entrance, but the wait times can be long.

DO NOT: Wait in the line at Anne Frank House in the morning hours. Check the museum’s hours of operation. It may stay open later than you might think and the lines are much shorter towards the end of the day.

DO: Have a picnic on the lawn of the Rijksmuseum. There are fountains to play in, ducks to feed and great people watching. What’s more, there are plenty of chairs as well as a café to purchase sandwiches, drinks and ice cream treats.

Amsterdam attractions - Rijksmuseum fountains

Our girls enjoyed jumping in and out of the fountains at the park outside the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

DO: Take a walk through Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s “Central Park.” This bucolic 120-acre park has walking and bike paths, playgrounds, and a open-air café where you can get a quick snack and a drink. We saw ducks, parakeets and bunnies during our saunter through the park.

DO NOT: Avoid the Red-light District during the daytime hours. The area boasts some of the oldest and most quaint buildings and squares of the city, situated along picturesque canals. The district is extremely safe and has a strong police presence. We found that the only deterrent to visiting that area with our kids was the sex shops and the uncomfortable conversations that might ensue. By diverting their attention and walking quickly past, we were able to prevent our kids from seeing anything unsavory that we weren’t prepared to discuss.

Amsterdam Food

DO: Try uniquely Dutch street food, including fresh raw herring (rauwe hering), smoked eel (gerookte paling) and my favorite, sprinkles on bread (hagelslag) which is served at breakfast time and comes in licorice and chocolate flavors. Or if you want something a little more familiar, Dutch pancakes (pannekoeken) are delicious!

Amsterdam food - Dutch pancakes

Every culture has their own pancake, and we like Dutch pancakes almost as much as our own!

Amsterdam Transportation

DO: Purchase an OV card for every family member ages three and over, which covers trains, trams and buses – if you do not have an IAMsterdam or Holland Pass already. Children ages four to eleven travel at a discounted price, but an OV card is required to receive the discount.

DO NOT: Buy a train ticket for children under age four, they are free on all forms of transportation!

DO: Watch where you walk on the sidewalks of Amsterdam. Although there are laws requiring dog owners to clean up after their dogs, we still saw plenty of dog waste on the sidewalks. Step carefully!

DO NOT: Be tempted to rent bikes with kids in Amsterdam. Yes, Holland is known for its bikes, but for visitors who are unfamiliar with the road rules and the city, the danger of collision with another cyclist, pedestrian, motor vehicle, or tram is just too high. Especially when traveling with children, stick to other forms of transport.

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Erin is a native Floridian who has resided in Atlanta since 1995. Her husband Mike and she have two funny, smart, active girls and two cats.

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