Living in Amsterdam now for more than a decade, we’ve come to really love the city. Even as a non-native I feel at ease. It’s no surprise though: Amsterdam is one of the top 10 most multicultural cities in the world!1 Not only are there loads of things to do and see for adults, but there’s so much to do with your kids, too! The best part is that you don’t really have to spend much money at all. Some of my kids’ favorite pastimes are simply taking a picnic to the park or playing in one of the many playgrounds sprinkled throughout the city. So, are you planning to visit Amsterdam with kids soon? You should! And you won’t have to empty your pockets to do it.
I’ve sat down with Oscar and Casper to create this list. It’s 100% kid-friendly!
Picnic in the park
Our kids love to have a picnic in the park. Amsterdam has several fantastic parks. They all family friendly; as soon as you enter, you’ll find many families having a picnic and playing together. In the evening, when the weather is just right, the parks are packed with people sitting on the grass, playing games, and barbecuing. Yes! That’s right: Barbecuing! They are communal grills so you don’t need to bring your own. All you’ll need to bring are some charcoals, which you can buy in the supermarkets. You can also grab a bottle of wine and buy some bread with nice cheese. This trend came here from France but is definitely adopted here.
Play in the fountains
If the city is hot and crowded and your kids are in need of cooling down, look no further than the fountains! Our kids truly LOVE the water and always are so happy when playing in it or with it! Our favorite fountain is the one in the gardens of Rijksmuseum. As a challenge try and walk together through the fountains without getting wet. And if Mom and Dad are looking to chill out while the kids are playing, you can enjoy the beautiful garden and have a coffee in the shade.
Swimming in the paddling pools
Our kids are crazy happy when they can play in paddling pools. And because there are so many of them in the city—every big park has one—it’s very convenient to have a break and let them play. The paddling pools are shallow so there is no need to worry about your kids, even if they are not good swimmers. Buy an entertaining magazine, grab a fresh ice-cream, and enjoy watching your kids play.
Listen to the Concert in Concertgebouw
What? Is this activity on this list too? Yes, Concertgebouw is one of the best concert halls in the world. It’s famous because of its well-constructed acoustics and phenomenal schedule. The tickets for the concerts are not even close to cheap! But every Wednesday afternoon there is a free lunchtime concert. The concerts are usually rehearsals by the Royal Concertbebouw Orchestra or chamber music performance by young up-and-coming artists. These concerts are free of charge for everyone!
Listen to the street music
Amsterdam is a very cultural city with several wonderful concert halls and opera houses. But the city is living and breathing the music on the streets. In fact, there is ALWAYS classical music in the passage under the Rijksmuseum where the acoustics are really great. Check it out here.
If you’re coming to Amsterdam, I suggest visiting some of its world-renowned art collections and museums. Unfortunately, all museums have different admission fees. But the good news is that some of the greatest museums like Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum, Stedelijk Museum or Amsterdam Historical Museum are free for kids. What’s more: Each of these museums have a special activity book or a scavenger hunt that will keep the kids busy for some time. Meanwhile, you can take-in the Rembrandt paintings.
Visit the most beautiful churches
Avoid queuing and paying at the entrance of museums and visit some of Amsterdam’s most wonderful churches. The biggest like St Nicolaas church and the Krijtberg, are almost museums on their own. If you’re looking for something really special, try to find one of the Amsterdam hidden churches like Begijnhof Chapel or the Papegaai. Throughout the year many churches organize concerts with choir and organ recital of evensongs. Admission to these concerts and evensongs is free of charge.
Enjoy the city canal life
If you can afford it, I would recommend you to take a cruise boat down the iconic canals. Amsterdam looks so different from the water. But don’t worry if you can’t! The walks down the canal streets are equally as lovely. Try to walk to the Jordaan District and search for Egelantiersgracht, Bloemgracht, and Leliegracht. They’re gorgeous as far less touristy than the main canals like Herengracht or Singel. Are you not getting enough of the canals life? Go there again in the evening. The canals are so charming in the dark.
Visit a food market
If you want to see and learn something about the local culture of Amsterdam, you should try to visit some of the open-air markets. Amsterdam is famous for being multicultural and here you can see, breathe, and taste this in the stands of the markets.
Our favorites are Noordermarkt in the Jordaan (open: Sat 9-3 pm) and the Sunday Market in Westerpark (open every first Sunday of the month).
Have a break in the Amsterdamse Bos
Are you visiting Amsterdam in the summer, and you need a break from the busy city center? Take some towels and a picnic to the Amsterdamse Bos. The kids can play there, have a swim in the lake, or visit the goat farm.
Wander through the little shopping streets
Want to get your shop on? Forget the busy and expensive streets, like Kalverstraat near the Damsquare, or the PC Hooftstraat mear Rijksmuseum. Instead, have a stroll through the negen straatjes near the Jordaan. These nine picturesque little streets lie in the beautiful canal belt and are full of quirky shops and delicious little eateries. I can walk for hours with the boys and browse the store windows.
Read books in the Public Library
Are rainy days in the forecast? Don’t worry! The Public Library next to the Central Station has a huge collection of books and journals. They also organize lots of activities; most of them are for kdis and free of charge. Visit this huge building and I’m sure you will stay for more than an hour. There are many English kids books available, too. Don’t forget the roof terrace with astonishing view of the city skyline.
Take a ferry to the North Amsterdam
For a few years now, North Amsterdam is getting very popular. There are ferries leaving from the Central Station (back end) to the different parts of Amsterdam. Our kids truly love crossing the river by ferry—and taking in another gorgeous view of the city. We usually go by ferry to the IJ-kantine, where the kids can have a typical Dutch lunch: a slice of bread with hagelslag or jam. There is even a kids corner with great games and drawing sets.
So here is OUR list of things to do for FREE! Surely by now you’re convinced to visit our wonderful city? Not yet? You should! Amsterdam is not only kids-friendly but also has so many attractions even if you are on a budget. And guess what: the kids won’t even recognize the difference between a paid attraction and a free attraction. It’s all about spending and enjoying the time together.
Are you searching for a free accommodation? Let’s swap our house! We are always open to new, interesting destinations. And if it fits our schedule, we are happy to do it. Seriously!
Photos by Wendy van Bree Photograpy