We’ve been traveling a lot lately! A few weeks ago, we got back from a wonderful family trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands. We really enjoyed our visit and I wish we could have stayed longer! There is so much to see and do in Amsterdam, and in all the surrounding smaller towns. We were there for a week, which was just about the perfect amount of time for our family, but even then, there was still so much more we wanted to do! Hopefully we can visit again sometime, because it was one of my favorite cities we’ve been to!
When we originally planned this trip back in the fall, we didn’t really think about the fact that it would be spring, and spring in Holland means TULIPS! We were there during peak blooming time, and the tulips were gorgeous! We opted not to visit the popular fields and gardens that are swarmed with tourists for a variety of reasons (mainly, it’s not a straightforward excursion when it involves a bus, a train, walking, and two little kids!) but we saw plenty of gorgeous tulips all around Amsterdam. So stunning!
We opted to spend most of our time exploring Amsterdam, finding new places to eat each day, admiring canals, and visiting a few of the private courtyard gardens. We viewed the Anne Frank house from the outside (we opted to skip the tour), walked through De Jordann, visited 7 Bridges, and ambled through Vondelpark. We took the boys to the Van Gogh Museum one day and learned very quickly that they aren’t quite museum-ready yet. They did pretty well, but Soren (16 months old at the time) was over it pretty fast. We got a lot of sympathetic glances when he had a total meltdown right in front of Van Gogh’s sunflower painting – lol! After that experience, we decided to divide and conquer for any future museum visits. Two days later, I visited the expansive Rijk Museum (one of the largest museums in Amsterdam, and an impressive collection of Dutch master paintings) in the morning while Jerod took the boys to a local playground, and then we switched places in the afternoon. It worked perfectly and we both had the opportunity to see the museum at a leisurely pace with far fewer interruptions!
Other highlights from our trip include a day trip to Haarlem for a flower parade display (lots of pictures below!) and a visit to the windmill. They happened to be celebrating the 20th anniversary, and so admission was free! Plus, a fun little historical reenactment outside the mill had the boys intrigued. Soren even tried a bite of herring! Our day trip to Haarlem was one of my favorite parts of our time in Amsterdam. It was a quick train ride from Amsterdam Central (we had a bit of an issue getting our tickets…) and we were there in less than 15 minutes!
And of course, I can’t share about a family trip without talking about the food! After talking with several Amsterdam locals, it became apparent that Amsterdam doesn’t really have a local specialty. There’s a few comfort food items that we tried (bitterbaellen, the fries, and of course, stroop waffles) but in terms of Dutch entrees….there really aren’t many. Instead, there are LOTS of Indonesian restaurants/takeout places (think about Dutch colonial history for a moment and this starts to make sense) that are incredibly delicious. We enjoyed Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican (it was actually pretty good!), burgers, and of course, some pancakes! I was pleasantly surprised that both of our boys at well at nearly every restaurant we went to – hooray!
A few brief notes for those looking for family-friendly travel tips:
- We opted to stay at an Air BnB in the De Pijp area, right along the 4 tram. It was a great neighborhood, easy to get most everywhere we needed to, and there was a great playground in the large Sarphatipark nearby. Other great playgrounds we found: a very fun one right across the canal from the Heineken Experience, an amazing climbing structure near De Jordan at Frederik Hendrik Plantspoen, and our older son loved the esplanade and fountains at the iAmsterdam sign in front of the Rijks Museum.
- We walked many places in Amsterdam, but we also became quit familiar with the tram. The trams are a great way to get around Amsterdam and very accessible for strollers. My only word of warning is that sometimes some of the tram operators won’t let you on if they are crowded with other people in the stroller/wheelchair area. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent policy on this though.
- Be mindful of bike traffic. There are lots of bikes in Amsterdam, and the bike lanes are not a free for all. They are for bikes only. Best to keep a very good eye on wandering little ones when you are on busy sidewalks close to the bike lane!
- A canal tour is a great way to see Amsterdam when you are traveling with little people that don’t want to walk all day. Our 4 year old wasn’t overly impressed with the experience, but the included audioguide and some color books did the trick to get us through it.
Other random travel tips:
- Be prepared to be perplexed but the completely inconsistent payment methods required at various establishments. Some places only accept cash. Some places only accept PIN. Some only accept credit cards. Some accept a random combination of two of these options. As you get closer to the city center, you’ll find more places that accept credit cards. Most takeout places only accept cash. The main grocery store chain in Amsterdam, Albert Heijn, only accepts Dutch credit cards or cash (this was very common). It was slightly maddening. Mostly because we didn’t come prepared with enough cash, and have had issues with our ATM cards recently. So…come prepared, and you’ll likely be far less frustrated than we were!
- The Netherlands is a small country and very well connected via train. While there is more than enough to keep you busy in Amsterdam, I definitely recommend exploring some of the other cities and towns!
- Locals speak very good English. This was true in nearly every single context we encountered. Don’t be like the group of American tourists I stood next to on the tram who complained about the Dutch for 10 minutes without realizing everyone around them knew exactly what they were saying. Yikes.
Finally, before you go to Amsterdam, make sure you stop by this AMAZING travel blog that is full of resources and tips! We followed a lot of her recommendations, and adapted as needed. It turned out to be an amazing trip!
Now…for ALL the photos! I’m just going to share them all at once interest-style. Enjoy!