The Best Things to Do With Kids in Amsterdam

African penguins at Artis Zoo, Amsterdam
African penguins at Artis Zoo, Amsterdam | © Nine_Tomorrows / Shutterstock
Photo of Tom Coggins
19 September 2018

Ranging from museums with family-friendly exhibitions to parks equipped with massive play areas, there are plenty of attractions in Amsterdam that are sure to keep kids entertained for hours on end.

Make some feline friends onboard de Poezenboot

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De Poezenboot, Amsterdam
© Linda Kennedy / Alamy Stock Photo

The world’s only floating cat sanctuary, de Poezenboot has been moored to the side of Singel canal in central Amsterdam since the 1960s. Housed inside a custom-built houseboat, de Poezenboot cares for dozens of stray or abandoned cats, many of whom are very affectionate and eager to make new friends. De Poezenboot welcomes cat lovers of all ages abroad several times per week and encourages visitors to play with (some) of its feline residents, partly to help them acclimatise to unfamiliar people. Word to the wise though, de Poezenboot isn’t huge and sadly can’t accommodate larger groups.

Discover the history of cinema with the kids at the EYE Film Institute

Building, Cinema, Museum
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EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam
EYE Film Museum, Amsterdam | © Andreas Rose / Alamy Stock Photo

If you or your offspring are keen on movies, it is worth stopping by the EYE Film Institute while in Amsterdam. This monument to the moving image houses four modern cinemas, which regularly screen family films, and several permanent displays where kids can learn about the ins-and-outs of filmmaking. Children can also follow a self-guided tour around the museum, during which they use tablet computers to access augmented reality exhibits, featuring clips and special effects from classic films including Star Wars.

Let the little ones run wild at Amsterdamse Bos

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Amstelveense Poel, part of the Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam
Amstelveense Poel, part of the Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam | © Dafinchi / Shutterstock

If you want to keep the kids occupied for a whole day, but aren’t eager to traipse around Amsterdam’s inner city, consider heading down to Amsterdamse Bos. Aside from picturesque woodlands, lakes and beaches, this expansive forest features many outdoorsy attractions aimed at families. For instance, there’s a large petting farm located in its centre, where visitors can feed and play with milk-white baby goats. Elsewhere in Amsterdamse Bos, there’s a treetop climbing terrain called ‘Forest Fun’, equipped with ladders, bridges and zip lines. During sunny spells, kids can also explore Amsterdamse Bos’ ‘Play Island’, an aquatic adventure course that trails through a shallow lake.

Introduce the young’uns to Artis’ menagerie

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19th century greenhouses with exotic animals  in Artis Zoo Amsterdam, The Netherlands
© Ger Bosma / Alamy Stock Photo

Considering that Artis cares for a vast menagerie of furry, scaly and feathered critters, ranging from full-grown lions to tiny exotic frogs, it is easy enough to spend an entire day exploring its many enclosures. There are other fun attractions scattered around the zoo that are tailored towards kids, including a play area with a dinosaur-shaped climbing frame and a planetarium that takes visitors on a journey through the solar system. Feeling peckish? Take some time out at Café-Restaurant de Plantage – an adjacent establishment, which serves food throughout the day and features a large terrace that looks onto Artis’ flamingo and spoonbill paddocks.

Pet some friendly farmyard critters at Boerderij Westerpark

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One of the larger petting zoos in Amsterdam, Boerderij Westerpark looks after many farmyard animals, including several larger beasties like Shetland ponies and a giant Yorkshire pig named Motti. Most of its furry inhabitants are friendly and happy to play with the kids. As the farm lies pretty much in the centre of Westerpark, it is close to many other kid-friendly sites, such as Ketelhuis cinema, which screens family films most days, and a popular ice-cream parlour called IJscuypje Westergasfabriek.

Learn about the natural world at the NEMO Science Museum

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Science Center Nemo is a science center - located at the Oosterdok in Amsterdam-Centrum
NEMO Science Museum juts out on the Oosterdok in the centre of the city | © Ivan Nesterov / Alamy Stock Photo
Like all good science museums aimed at children, NEMO balances education with fun, allowing kids to learn by interacting with fascinating multimedia exhibits that delve into biology, physics and chemistry. The museum features many state-of-the-art exhibitions with colourful, eye-catching designs that demonstrate specific scientific theories or practises by presenting them via playful but thought-provoking games. If you’re planning a visit, it is wise to set aside an entire afternoon, as there are a lot of fascinating displays to get through. Kids under four can enter NEMO for free, whereas tickets for older children and parents cost €16.50.

Eat an unlimited supply of pancakes onboard de Pannenkoekenboot

Creperie, European, $$$
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Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake boat) near the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam
© StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

Set sail through Amsterdam’s historic harbour, while stuffing your face with an unlimited supply of Dutch-style pancakes, onboard de Pannenkoekenboot. The boat embarks from NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam-Noord several times per day and serves an endless stream of pancakes, with all the trimmings, during its 75-minute cruises. Kids can create their own sweet or savoury masterpieces onboard by adding toppings ranging from bacon to cinnamon sugar to their pancakes. Aside from its regular trips, de Pannenkoekenboot also offers package deals geared towards families involving longer cruises and even more pancakes.

Keep everyone entertained for the night at Powerzone

Amusement Park
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This neon-lit establishment near Centraal Station contains several fun attractions that appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. First and foremost, Powerzone features a trippy bowling alley equipped with glow-in-the-dark pins and disco lights. Other facilities inside Powerzone include a laser tag arena with space for 20 competitors, an indoor mini-golf course with fluorescent obstacles and a barbecue and grill restaurant with a licensed bar where grown-ups can chill with a beer. Though it is probably not the best spot for younger kids, Powerzone has plenty to offer families with tweens, teenagers and young adults.

Take in some kid-friendly art at KattenKabinet

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Inside KattenKabinet | © Jorge Royan / WikiCommons

Yet another kitty-centric attraction, this delightful gallery exclusively displays artworks portraying cats. While KattenKabinet’s subject matter might sound rather niche, it turns out that many famous artists have been inspired by furry, four-legged muses over the years. For instance, KattenKabinet owns and presents artwork from the likes of Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, to name a few, which depict cats in all their glory. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for real-life cats, too, as several adorable pusses live inside the gallery and roam freely through its halls.

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