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The Fault in Our Stars Amsterdam Walking Tour - Historic canals

The Fault in Our Stars Amsterdam Walking Tour

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As Triton and I planned our recent family trip to Amsterdam, we needed to find a fun and interesting way to engage our two tween girls in this beautiful and historic city. Exhausted by the constant eye-rolling and audible groans (ANOTHER Walking Tour? This Church is OLD! Art Museums are BORING!), we needed something special STAT…or risk our parental sanity.

That’s when it hit us: using our daughters’ favorite film, The Fault in Our Stars to guide the way. The very popular teen lit book and subsequent movie are both fan favorites in our house and both girls have a “Bieber-esque” crush on the young male star in the film, Ansel Elgort.

Needless to say, the girls were sold. Parental Victory!

The Officially Unofficial Walking Tour of the Amsterdam sights in The Fault in Our Stars


Several pivotal scenes in this tearjerker take place in Amsterdam, which provides a Hollywood-perfect backdrop for heavy teen angst. Our girls were beside themselves as we retraced the steps the star-crossed teenage characters take in the movie.

There were plenty of wistful sighs as our girls sat on the bench – THE BENCH! – where the characters profess their undying love. (Hint: the bench is located at Leidsegracht 2 in the Canal District.) Meanwhile, as parents, we got to take in the iconic canals adjacent to said bench sans teenage complaints. Once again, victory!

The Fault in our Stars Amsterdam Walking Tour - The Bench

The girls were beside themselves to find the actual bench where the stars declared their love in The Fault in Our Stars in Amsterdam.


We were on a roll. It didn’t take much to get the girls to the world-class Rijksmuseum, where the characters walked hand-in-hand through the museum’s archways. A quick trip inside the museum, although not in the film, was a happy sidebar for all (and the real reason for our visit). The Rijksmuseum is filled with Old Masters paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others. Standing in front of Rembrandt’s famous masterpiece The Night Watch was something we grownups will remember forever, and hopefully the kids will appreciate one day. Tick, tock.

Directly outside the Rijksmuseum, we ducked into a museum eatery, Café Cobra, to avoid the impromptu rain shower. We sipped hot cocoa and enjoyed a Dutch pastry. Sophia, 13-years old and utterly star struck, excused herself to stand outside in the rain looking for Ansel Elgort, who was rumored to be in Amsterdam at the time. Shockingly, he didn’t show. To combat her obvious disappointment, we walked through the nearby Museumplein park and took a family selfie on the curve of a giant “S” in the outdoor art installation spelling “I am-sterdam.” All was right with the world.

The Fault in Our Stars Amsterdam Walking Tour - Sign

Art installation of giant letters spells out “I am-sterdam” in front of the Rijksmuseum in Museumplein Park.


Winding down the day, we headed off for a fantastic dinner at Restaurant Max, which specializes in Indonesian cuisine and is frequented by locals. Very popular in Holland because of the early Dutch spice trade, Indonesian food is like a cross between Thai and Polynesian food, with sweet and spicy sauces topping delicious dishes made with meat, fish or vegetables. We sampled the famous rijsttafel (pronounced “rice-toffle”), which was like a sampler platter of all their best dishes, served family style with plenty of kid-friendly choices. Everything was so delicious we had to go back another night to try it all again!


Picking up from our movie theme success the day prior, we visited the Anne Frank House. (Hint: if you plan to visit, buy your tickets early – and I mean VERY EARLY. Like three months early.)

The Anne Frank House is incredibly popular with visitors from across the globe, and the entrance line wraps around the building and down the street. The house is small, so only a few people are admitted at a time.

Those who buy tickets in advance for the Family Tour Program enter from a different door, bypassing the line and going directly into a private room for a quick and interesting lecture on the life and history of Anne Frank. Geared toward kids, this experience includes an experience where kids can enjoy a hands-on experience while the guide narrates in the language of your choice. This family tour ticket is 14.50 euro for adults and 10 euro for kids — a bit pricier, but highly worth the savings in time.

Now, back to the movie theme. Before our trip, we watched the black-and-white 1959 movie version of The Diary of Anne Frank. Although a bit corny in that old Hollywood way, the story remains poignant and important. We wanted our girls to truly understand the tragedy that befell the Frank family and so many others. The movie educated them well.

To the girls, more important than the historical aspect of the Anne Frank House was the fact that scenes from The Fault in Our Stars were also filmed at the Anne Frank House. The lead characters toured the historic home, and our family — you guessed it — walked the VERY same steps the characters did in the movie. The girls were beside themselves in anticipation.

Then something strange happened, and it was the coolest thing about our trip in this Dad’s eyes. When we entered Anne Frank’s bedroom, the girls realized the true gravity of the moment. They understood they were standing in the very room that Anne Frank had occupied during those fateful years, and they were sincerely moved. When we passed into the attic where Anne Frank’s actual diary is on display, they visibly teared up. We realized quickly we need not drive home the very real historical relevance of what they were seeing. They got it. Big time.

When we returned to the ground floor, we entered the video room where world leaders and movie stars like Nelson Mandela, Cate Blanchett and Oprah have recorded their thoughts about Anne Frank and her courage. Around the corner, there are two computers where you can type a message to Anne Frank, leaving your thoughts to her memory for all time.

Engrossed in the video, Triton and I lost track of the girls. We found them typing messages to Anne, and peering over their shoulders to read their sweet and profound statements, we both choked up. And in that moment it dawned on us, that our daughters were writing to Anne Frank as a peer, another teenage girl, with hope and dreams and fears just like them. Only Anne was a girl who led a very different life.

The history and significance of our trip to Amsterdam had actually sunk into their young teenage minds…and more importantly, into their hearts.

That one moment made the whole trip worth it, teen movies and all.

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A Cali boy his entire life, Jon prefers to be near the water at all times. He grew up in San Francisco and now lives in San…

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