Amsterdam was the last stop on our first trip to the Netherlands. So far, this has also been our only trip to the Netherlands, but we hope to return because we really enjoyed it. Also, as I’ll discuss more below, we didn’t give ourselves nearly enough time to see everything we wanted to see in Amsterdam. But first, let’s look at some pictures of the famous Amsterdam canals!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Hotel Aalders which was a lovely, family-run, small boutique hotel in the museum quarter. Its location was very convenient to the museums we visited and Vondelpark. The service was great and the room was lovely. The only challenge with this hotel is that there is no on-site parking and the recommended parking lot is not close or easy to get to. Still, I recommend Hotel Aalders if you want to stay in this part of town!
What We Did
On our first afternoon, we spent time in Vondelpark. We found a playground for our son which he enjoyed. He also loved the duck pond. The park is great for all the things you’d want to do in a park – walk, run, play, picnic, relax! Fun fact, we learned that Vondelpark is home to many Rose-ringed Parakeets. We saw a bunch while we were there, so keep your eyes out for them!
The Van Gogh Museum has a great electronic museum guide with a special program for children, so we all really got to spend some time learning about individual paintings and observing them. Our son really enjoyed it (he was six years old at the time), and so did we! It was amazing to see these famous works of art in person.
The Rijksmuseum has similar electronic guides but we did not make use of them because it was nearing the end of the day. We were getting close to closing time and our son was running out of steam. We just used a site map to locate some highlights, including Rembrandts and Vermeers. It was nice to see the Vermeers since we had just been to the Vermeer museum in Delft a few days earlier. And of course, the Rembrants were stunning and impressive.
At some point when we were near the Rijksmuseum, I let my son take pictures and he captured some images I really enjoy. I have found that letting him take pictures can be a fun way to keep him involved when we travel. It also helps ward off his cases of “I’m bored.” A worthy sacrifice, even if it does make my husband tense up with concern over the well-being of our camera.
A great way to see the city, which was much bigger than I realized, is to take a canal cruise. We took our canal cruise with the Blue Boat Company. They provided a children’s activity pack for our son that gave him extra activities to do during the ride. They accommodate many different languages by giving every passenger a set of ear buds with which they can listen to pre-recorded tour information. You plug into outlets at every seat (our boat had table seating, 6 people to a table) and select your language. This is a great system, except that I sat on the end of the table farthest from the plugs, and my wiggly child kept inadvertently yanking on my cord and pulling my ear buds out of my ears. Personal problem, I know. Still, the ride was relaxing and gave us a chance to sit for a bit and see a lot of the city.
We spent the next day wandering a bit more and squeezing in a few more sights, as well as a trip to the zoo. On our way to the zoo, we passed through the Bloemenmarkt, a popular floating flower market along one of the canals. Had I needed some fresh flowers, wooden tulips, or cannabis starter kits, this would have been a great stop. However, I didn’t need any of those things, so it was just fun to look around on our way through.
I was a little disappointed that there were more bulbs, seeds, and tourist items here than there were fresh flowers, but maybe I had set my bar too high after having just been at Keukenhof. I envisioned a more picturesque scene based on what I had seen online, but I suppose we all just share the best of what we see. Which is what I will also do here.
ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo
We spent at least half a day at the ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo which was definitely fun for our son. I have mixed feelings about zoos. I love animals and love to be able to see them, I also see the value in the roles zoos can play in animal conservation and public education, but I always find it sad to see wild animals in captivity. But I won’t go into that debate here. As zoos go, this was a lovely one and was a fun outing for our son.
After the Zoo, we passed through Dam Square. Our son chased pigeons for a bit and I anxiously counted the minutes until we could move on. I hate crowds and overly touristy spaces that are easy targets for bad things like pick-pockets or terrorist attacks. Still, I snapped a few pictures and we crossed that must-see destination off our list.
Wandering back to our hotel and in search of a place to eat dinner, we found a nice area with high-end antique shops on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. It was a Sunday evening sonone of them were open, but it was fun to window browse.
What We Ate
Pannenkoeken at De Vier Pilaren. Pannenkoeken are traditional Dutch “pancakes” that are more like crepes than what Americans would call a pancake. This was a family-friendly, tourist-friendly spot with a canal view. They served both sweet and savory pannenkoeken, good for any meal, I suppose! For us it was a light dinner.
Gourmet burgers at Lombardo’s. We stumbled upon this place on a Sunday evening and jumped at the chance to eat because it can be hard to find restaurants open on Sundays in Europe, and our son loves burgers. These did not disappoint! We had to squeeze into a limited seating area, but it was worth it. There was a lot of take-out traffic coming in and out. This place seemed popular among locals and I can see why. The food was great and the staff was very friendly.
Italian at Ristorante Pizzeria Piccolino. Located in a restaurant-heavy area, we opted for lunch here one afternoon because it looked inviting and we were sure to find something on the menu for our son. It was great, authentic Italian. Portions were huge!
Traditional Dutch cuisine at De Blauwe Hollander. We try to eat traditional cuisine wherever we travel. Dutch food is very similar to traditional Belgian food which is widely accessible to us, so it didn’t seem as pressing on this trip, but still, we had at least one regionally specific meal, and it was great!
What I Wish We Had Done
With only a few days in town, I know we barely scratched the surface of what Amsterdam has to offer. Fortunately, it is an easy trip for us to make, so we can return again while we are still living in Belgium. Here are some things I found in my preparations for this trip that I hope to do on future visits:
- Kid-friendly play breaks in Amstelpark and/or Amsterdam Forest.
- Shopping at The Nine Streets.
- Eating and shopping at any of the places recommended in this video by Dutchified, especially De Hallen.
- Visiting other museums including the Tassen Museum (a museum of handbags and purses!), the Hermitage Museum, and for our son, the National Maritime Museum and the Nemo Science Center.
- And of course, the Anne Frank House and Museum. We purposely left this off our agenda this time around. We want our son to be older and more mature when we visit so that he can more fully understand and appreciate the significance.
So, see you soon, Amsterdam!