by Karen Quinn, Mar 30 2019
Last summer we embarked on a fantastic Interrailing adventure across Europe, hoping to tick off as many countries as we could before Brexit made it difficult (we’re still not sure if it will but better to be safe than sorry!). The trip was exciting and hugely educational for our 7 year old but being restricted to the school summer holidays meant we only had 24 hours in some places. Here’s how we spent our one day in Amsterdam.
We were staying in Utrecht, one of my favourite cities in Holland, so jumped on an early train and after a quick half hour, arrived at Amsterdam Centraal Station at 9am.
Breakfast in Amsterdam and a city stroll
9 – 10
As soon as you exit the train station you’ll be reminded that Amsterdam is a city on water. The river is directly in front of you so take a moment to get your bearings and head across the river into town.
We grabbed a full English breakfast at a café we passed, something we hadn’t found so far on our adventure but in Amsterdam they seem available everywhere. Then continued down the busy streets lined with shops and street art, stopping to take many pictures on the way.
Keep heading South, following the signs to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum and you’ll pass some pretty buildings and instagramable bikes on bridges like these.
Make your way through the Rijksmuseum arch and enter the park on the other side. This is the museum quarter and where we found the famous red and white Amsterdam sign. Another good place for a photo break. The sign has now been put into storage as Amsterdam goes through a period of rebranding but they can still be found at Schipol Airport or at various festivals around the city.
This is a lovely space to just relax in summer, there’s a stunning water feature, some food trucks and plenty of people sat on picnic blankets watching the world go by – I wish we had time to do so but after a quick wander around, taking in the 13 metre tall representation of Klibansky’s Spaceman statue, “Self Portrait of a Dreamer” we headed to our allotted slot at the Van Gogh Museum.
Amsterdam Zuid is well known for its art installations and constantly changing sculptures, what you see here will likely have changed since I visited but I’m sure it will be equally as breath-taking.
Van Gogh Museum
10 – 11.30
This was one of our favourite museums of the whole trip. The Van Gogh museum is home to the largest collection of paintings by the artist in the world. The art is, as you would expect absolutely beautiful and the narrative around it fascinating but it’s also really well set up for kids. You’ll find some real big hitters here such as “Sunflowers” and “The Bedroom” along side lesser known pieces and other artists from a similar era. Temporary exhibits are also worth a visit, until 26th May 2019, they are currently showcasing some great works by David Hockney, another of my favourite artists.
They have a very informative audio tour for grown-ups which is available in 11 languages but if you’re traveling with kids or tweens you can pick up an age appropriate guide targeted at ages 6 to 12. Piper absolutely loved hers.
Along with the child friendly audio tour, the museum also offers a super fun scavenger hunt called Vincent’s Travelling Case which will lead you round the museum, learning about various paintings as you find them and fill in your sheet. Children will be rewarded with a pretty postcard and sticker if they return their completed sheets. I was amazed at how engrossed Piper was in finding her next clue! A fantastic way to get kids interested in art and it’s totally free!
If you’re short on time like we were, I highly recommend buying your tickets for the Van Gogh Museum in advance to save time queuing, it’s one of the most popular things to do in Amsterdam.
Museumplein 6, Amsterdam
9am – 6pm or 7pm during school holidays.
Audio tour prices:
€ 5,00 for adults
€ 3,00 for children 13-17 years
Children aged 6-12 join their parents for free.
You can pick these guides up at the multimedia desk in the museum
On your way back to the Rijksmuseum, grab a drink and a snack from a food truck in the park to keep you going and have a quick look around the pretty gardens outside the museum, there are some interesting sculptures and even a free to use chess board
The Rijksmuseum is Hollands National Art Gallery and covers over 800 years of Dutch history. You’ll see famous pieces by artists such at Rembrandt (the Night Watch actually gave me goosebumps!), Haarlem, Vermeer and yes, more Van Gogh. Although our tween had her fill of paintings by now, she loved the other items on display such as the collections of dollhouses and jewelry.
Just like the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum is very family friendly, we highly recommend you paying the extra €2.50 to rent an audio guide and take part in the Digital Family Game, where you have to solve 8 mysteries around the museum to receive a prize at the end. The game will last around an hour and is recommended for over 7s.
This museum is huge, if you’re tight on time or visiting with kids or tweens, you’re not going to be able to see everything, have a look on the Rijksmuseum website before you travel and pick out the families “must visits”.
Again, to keep your queuing time to a minimum, order your tickets for the Rijksmuseum in advance online.
1071 XX Amsterdam
The Rijksmuseum is open daily between 9am and 5pm.
By now you’ll likely need a bit of a break and to burn off some steam so head East to Vondelpark, the largest park in the city. On a good day you could easily spend half a day here but we covered what we needed in just two hours. There’s a fantastic kids playground at the Amstelveensweg entrance, with a large sand pit and a huge climbing structure that tweens will love.
There are plenty of other places to explore in the park, lovely band stands and fountains to admire. We were all feeling pretty exhausted by this point as you can see.
In the middle of the park there’s an open air theatre which has free concerts and shows over the summer months. Just round the corner you’ll find the delightful Blauwe Theehuis (Blue Tea House) which has a large open air terrace, a lovely place for beer, snack and relaxing read.
If you fancy some sustenance on the go then there are plenty of ice cream or hot dog vans dotted around the park, perfect for refueling on a stroll.
Dinner in Spiegelkwartier
A full day of exploring definitely works up a hunger so now was the time to find a restaurant before catching our train back to Utrecht.
You’ll never struggle to find a restaurant in Amsterdam so feel free to wander at your own pace and pop into one you like the look of. We headed towards Spiegelkwartier (the mirror quarter), home to some delightful narrow streets, antiques stores and art galleries and popped into the Casa di Leo, the first Italian restaurant we could find.
The food was good and just what we needed although they didn’t serve child portions this wasn’t a problem for my hungry tween.
An evening in Amsterdam with Tweens
It was now time to head back to Amsterdam Centraal, full of new memories and a new appreciation of this lovely European City but we couldn’t resist just one quick drink before Amsterdam woke up for the night.
Yes, Amsterdam is a city full of stag and hen dos, hedonism and in part, every parents nightmare but you don’t need to partake in that side of it. Don’t veer down any side streets, even if you think it will be a shortcut and probably avoid restaurants with large groups of people wearing matching shirts or crazy wigs.
We stopped off just outside the station and people watched the revelers start their night, totally happy to be headed back to bed – oh how traveling with kids changes things!
This is the route we took for our day, as you can see, we walked almost 8km! No wonder Piper slept on the train back.
If we were not limited to just one day in Amsterdam with our tween then I would love to have visited:
Anne Franks House – not recommended for younger kids but a chilling and fascinating educational experience for history lovers.
Nemo Science centre – an interactive science museum, perfect if you’re visiting on a rainy day.
Moco Museum – located near the Van Gogh Museum this small museum showcases some of the best contemporary art in the city with pieces by Banksy, Warhol and Lichtenstein.
The Amsterdam Dungeon – One for the thrill seekers and not for the faint of heart, this is a live action tour where you’ll learn about 500 years of Amsterdams dark past.
If you’re not travelling by train like we were then Amsterdam is easy to get to from most European airports then its just a quick train trip into the city.
Check Flights to Amsterdam
More reading on family friendly European cities
If you liked this you may also like some of our other family friendly European destination guides:
10 reasons why Utrecht makes a great base for a family holiday in Netherlands
Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Bologna With Kids
Our Ultimate Guide To Prague With Kids
Ten Epic Things to do in Brussels with Kids
Our Guide to Gdansk – things to do, places to stay and where to eat.
Or for the best way to see Europe with tweens and kids:
The hardest trip I’ve ever booked – Interrailing with kids
Make sure you pin for later if you’re planning a day trip to Amsterdam with kids.
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