Visiting Amsterdam and the Netherlands

Parent Q&A

  • I'm visiting Amsterdam for a week in December and am looking for recommendations for lodging, things to do, and places to eat. There's lots of info on the web of course but I'm hoping for insights from BPNers who are experienced Amsterdam visitors who know about hidden gems that are off the well-beaten tourist paths. I love art, public art, and architecture, and am happy to walk and bike the entire time. Info on hotels or pensions, restaurants or cafes, and special museums or art walks - all welcome! Thank you!!

    I like this website:

    Also: yes, you should rent a bike! And beware, the cyclists run the city :) I'm from Belgium and used to cycling around but in the NL, they take their bikes verrrry seriously. Enjoy!

    I loved the Estherea Hotel. So pretty and special.

    I'm jealous! Amsterdam is one of my very favorite cities. If you're willing to stay a bit outside the city center, we really liked the Hotel Casa 400 on the east side of the city. It was quieter, but still an easy walk, tram, or bike ride to lots of sights. It's also very close to a train station. 

    The Vondelpark is a beautiful place to walk or run. Sama Sebo is a wonderful Indonesian restaurant - don't miss the famous rijstafel! If you like beer, check out Brouwerij 't IJ (pronounced "het eye") for tasty brews and cheese next to a windmill. 

    All of the famous museums (Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, etc) are likely going to be crowded, but worth visiting. 


Archived Q&A and Reviews

Moving to the Hague for work

Feb 2008

Hi, I am considering a potential relocation to Holland to work in the Hague. My family are not Dutch and do not Dutch speakers. My wife and I have a 3 yr. boy. So, we are interested in issues related to a move and resources for our son. Does anyone have any experience living in this area or experience with preschool/toddler resources there? david

The Netherlands is a great place for families. I lived in The Hague as a teenager, and it changed my life. The Dutch are some of the nicest people on the planet. Most speak English better than folks here, unless they were very bad students in school. Dutch students graduate speaking 4-5 languages minimum, the first among them English. The Hague is a particular clean and decent city in a very clean and decent country. There are incredible social services there, an abundance of the arts, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, since it's the home of the World Court.

Amsterdam, of course, has its share of not-so-family-friendly areas, mostly because of the famous Dutch tolerance. People from all over the world, but mostly America, come to sample the liberal attitudes toward prostitution and drugs, and make certain areas of Amsterdam places you probably don't want to take your children, unless giving them an education in the ways of the world!

The most striking thing for me, as a native Californian, however, was none of this, but the overwhelming cold. I was simply not prepared with my California wardrobe for what the wind coming off the North Sea would feel like. Even during warm months there is still a chill in the air, and during the cold months I never felt warm, no matter how long I stood in the shower! I would recommend buying a few warm items here, but perhaps waiting to get there to get your serious warm things, unless you are already from the East Coast or an area that experiences snowy winters. Otherwise, pack as for Tahoe in January, then add another layer! Enjoy your stay... k kim

We took our family to Holland on sabbatical in 2000 for about six months. My husband visited the Technical University at Eindhoven and we lived two train stops away in a very small town with almost no international feel. Almost a farm town combined with a commute town because of the train stop. We had a fabulous time. Our daughters were 10 and 12 years and we enrolled them in the local school on our second day in town. Everyone was extremely friendly and family oriented. Our children were befriended by most other children. Being so off the beaten path, the language issues were different than in the big cities. There were people who did not speak English, but most spoke enough for us to communicate. Their teacher at school did not speak English as well as our children. By the end of our trip, both our kids understood most of the Dutch.

Riding bikes was a fabulous experience at that age, being able to ride on the street and learning to ride with no hands. It was fun to see parents arriving at school in the morning with one kid on the front and the other on the back of a bike! The education system seemed very similar until about sixth grade at which point the have serious tracking with trade school options, university options and something in the middle which can lead to university through a couple extra years. This is when we might have considered the international schooling option.

Out in the country kids past sixth grade had a 45 minute bike ride to school, which in the winter was done in the dark - it was sort of a rite of passage to make the long trek and at the end of their last year of elementary school the teacher took them on the bike ride to the next schools as field trips.

i recall that when we arrived in June the sixth graders had just finished their placement exams to get into the schools they wanted, the exams seemed a little high pressure to me - not extreme like japan though. Also their school year calendar is very different with than the US - summer break was six weeks, but there were about 3 or 4- two week breaks at different times of the year. Also in the farming town lunch was 2 hours and most kids came home for lunch every day - a couple kids stayed at school, but most moms were at home or made arrangements for their children.

We ran into some issues with our older daughter and what school she should attend in the fall - she was the age to go to the school 45 minutes away, but we were leaving in 2-3 months and they thought it would be disruptive for them, so she spent more time at the local school but it turned out fine. I volunteer in the classroom helping with their halloween activities and worked with a much younger grade -maybe second or first grade. Except that the children hadn't started learning English it seemed very similar to school in Berkeley - same sorts of art and math projects going on. In our small town there was also a Catholic elementary school - we didn't have any experience with. I believe it was adjacent to the the public school. The elementary school is designed for the cold weather with room inside for playing when the weather was bad. Feel free to contact me if this brings up questions. Mary G

Traveling to Amsterdam and Norway with teen daughter

Oct 2007

We are so excited! We have booked a trip to Norway through Amsterdam on some londstanding (over the past 10 years) frequent flyer miles!! We will be traveling the summer of 2008 for 18 days! We will see Anne Frank's Museum/house in Amsterdam. If anyone has any suggestions with regards to other must sees in Amsterdam and Norway I'd really appreciate it. I'm traveling with my daughter who will be going into highschool and she has never been out of the country, but we have travelled all over the US. She is really into museums and nature. Any suggestions, tips, places to stay will be most appreciated! Many thanks in advance. Summer travelling mom

Norway is a great place for nature lovers! I'd recommend taking the train trip between Bergen and Oslo and doing the ''Norway in a Nutshell'' daytrip, which takes you though mountains, on a boat along a fjord and some truly spectacular scenery. Besides that rather sedentary way of enjoying the country (!) there are all sorts of hiking options. Contact the Norwegian Hiking Assoc. before you leave and when you get there and I'm sure you'll get some great suggestions (and maps, etc.)

Even if you stay in Oslo you can do some nice minihikes by taking the commuter train out the end of of the line at various places. The tourist info booths in the main railway station are very helpful (if crowded in summer, so be prepared for a wait) in this regard and can also give you maps.

Oslo has some nice museums (if rather small by continental European standards). The Munch Museum in Oslo is obviously pretty unique as are the Viking Ship Museum just outside the city and the Norwegian Folk Museum. In Bergen Bryggens Museum is a must see as is the Bryggen part of town -- a preserved/restored medieval trading center. Again, the tourist info people can tell you more about other art and culture museums. Last I was in Bergen, about five years back, there was a fantastic arts and music festival on that, I believe, is held every two years. Huge names in contemporary art and classical music, theater, and so on.

I haven't been to Amsterdam for about 15 (!) years but I did love the enormous Rijksmuseum and the modern (well, then...) Van Gogh museum. And kinda cheesy, but it was fun to watch a diamond being polished in Amsterdam. Also, the Netherlands is a TINY country so do make sure to get out to nearby cities. You can get a train to Delft (home of the famous ceramics) e.g. Not much in particular to see except for ceramics painting there but it's a very pretty town. If you like science museums there's also a great medical museum in Leiden. Have a great trip! Vicarious traveler

in Amsterdam, the Van Gogh museum! chris

I lived in the Netherlands for three years and say that I am very jealous of your trip! Here are some thoughts for your trip to the Netherlands, but please contact me if you have other questions!

In Amsterdam: Go to the Van Gough (unless you saw the collection when it came to the US a few years back) on Museumplein. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch Louvre. It is also located on Museumplein. The Anne Frank Huis is a moving experience. Read her diary again before you come. It was not what I pictured as a warehouse at all. We couldn't really 'do' anything after our walk through the house. We ended up walking around the Joordan (the part of the town where the Anne Frank Huis is located) pondering large topics. Also, a canal tour is fun.

Leiden: Fewer than 30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal Station (make sure you are on an Express). This is the town in which I lived for three years (and for whom my younger daughter is named.) This is Holland's Berkeley. It is a cozy university town criss-crossed by canals. Einstein taught here. The pilgrims lived here until they made the decision to head to the new world. You can visit their old haunts. There is a pilgrim museum that can give a walking tour. Also, the town is a typical Euro walled city. You can rent bikes at the train station (Leiden Centraal) to ride out into the countryside. If you are there in April, then you will find yourself in the middle of tulip fields -- just grown for seed. It is amazing.

Den Haag/The Hague: 45 minutes via an Express from Amsterdam Centraal. This is the Netherland's Washington, DC. It is a small city with gems that a town its size usually can't command. The Mauritshuis is my favorite museum in the Netherlands. It is small, but has two of the most amazing Vermeers (he only did 30 or so). The Girl with the Pearl Earring lives here (read the book for fun prior to your visit) as well as his View of Delft. This is located just a few blocks walk from Den Haag Centraal (there are two stations in Den Haag). Across the street is the US Embassy (the ugliest building in the Hague) and across the street the other direction is the Binnenhof, the Dutch Parliament buildings. You can walk through the old part of Den Haag/The Hague which is now populated by lots of Euro chains (Oilily, Marks & Spencer, etc) which is fun as well as lots of local shops. Other things that I like in the Hague:! # The Panorama Mesdag. It is a panorama of the beach town of Scheveningen (officially part of the Hague) back at the turn of the past century. Then catch a street car out to Scheveningen. It is a lovely boardwalk town on the North Sea. Eat at any restaurant on the beach (nothing is great, but the view) and have a drink at Kurhaus (their Hotel Coronado) There is also a Dutch brewpub tucked in by the Scheveningen Harbor.

If you are a WWII buff, then watch A Bridge Too Far (about Operation Marketgaarten) and The Soldier of Orange. The latter takes place in Den Haag/The Hague.

Other random things...most Dutch under 60 speak English (they also learn German and French, but speak them less well) fluently. ..compliment them on it...they are very proud of their linguistic ability (rightfully so)...the drinking age in NL is 15...No one will think you are a bad parent if your daughter is drinking a beer -- the usual Heinekin is served in a 6 to 8 oz size... jan m

We spent one day in Oslo as part of a cruise this summer. We met up with a Norwegian friend of mine who lives in Bergen. It was the one place I wish we had spent more time. Be prepared that Oslo is the most expensive city in the world. The viking museum is a must, and there is also a museum devoted to the arctic explorers all within walking distance of each other. we took the ferry from downtown and they drop you off at the museum stop. The Edvard Munch museum is small and has one (there are 3) of the original ''The Scream'' paintings. We had a salad with smoked salmon on it that cost $25! Since you enjoy nature, just spend more time outdoors. A trip on the fjords near Bergen would be a great idea. Anon

I went to Amsterdam with my family when I was a teenager. I remember mostly the Kuekenhof (spelling?). It's a short way from the city. It's a huge huge huge groomed garden, consisting mostly of tulips. very beautiful. Also, since your daughter is old enough and likes museums, I would highly recommend visiting Dachau. It's also a short drive from Amsterdam. It is a former Nazi concentration camp. I still remember the effect it had on me, seeing this place first hand. Very powerful. fellow traveler

How exciting to be planning this trip with your daughter! I spent a few weeks in the netherlands after graduating high school and what I remember most is the surrounding countryside of Amsterdam. If you can get out of the city for half a day, it is so great to just bike around the small roads and see the canals. In Amsterdam, the Van Gogh museum is great. I also recommend just walking around and getting lost. I am not sure how long you will be in Amsterdam but, if you have a week or so, you might consider a train ride to another city. I loved Maastricht in the south of the country (a 2 hour train ride if I remember correctly). It is an old walled city with great character. Hope that helps a bit

There are a number of EXCELLENT museums in Amsterdam; and the whole city itself is almost a museum as you walk around the middle of it. If you just pick up a good guide book, you will have all the info you need about the museums.

If you want to take a day trip, I would highly recommend Alkmaar. They have a cheese market there once a week that is a hoot. The Alkmaar cheese carriers’ guild is responsible for moving and weighing cheese during the cheese market on Fridays. The guild consists of four groups (vemen) of seven men each.

Each veem has its own colour: red, yellow, green or blue. The head of the four vemen is the 'cheese father', the supervisor. As a sign of his office, the cheese father carries a black stick with a silver knob. The cheese carriers wear the traditional costume: a white suit and a straw hat with a ribbon in the colour of their own veem. An experienced carrier is known as a vastman (a regular). Before then, he is known as a noodhulp (temporary assistant). The oldest cheese carrier in a veem is called the tasman (bagman). He can be recognised by the black leather bag he wears. The tasman puts the weights on the balance when the cheese is weighed. Nikki

I was a student when I was in Amsterdam, and I wish I had 1, spent more time in the Van Gogh museum, and 2, had done my homework on Van Gogh before I went to more fully appreciate him. (Perhaps print out the wikipedia pages on Van Gogh for the plane ride? And the Anne Frank house, too? And see if your daughter is interested in reading the Diaries of Anne Frank?) Seeing the Red Light District is an excellent opportunity to discuss prostitution -- the pros and cons.

Also, when I was a student, we made NO reservations for hotels or hostels, and ended up sleeping on the street. This was in Feb., so I don't know if everything will be booked for you, too. Have fun! a

My husband and I really enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I think it's worth a visit, esp. if your daughter is into museums. Oh, and you also say your daughter likes nature. We loved having a picnic in Vondelpark. Maybe you will too? Have fun!!! Carol

The Kroller Muller museum is about an hour out of amsterdam, but it's worth the drive. It has a sculpture garden so big they give you free bikes to ride around in. In addition to their huge collection of Van Goghs, they have many hands-on scultpures such as a huge Dubuffet you can climb around on It's by far, one of my favorite museums in the world! Enjoy, Fred S

The Kroller Mueller museum is outside of Amsterdam in a wood and has a really magnificent sculpture collection. The collection is kid friendly as it is Claus Oldenburg (giant trowel) and other ones with a sense of humor. The paintings are absolutely world class and you get a real sense of Holland beyond the very touristy Amersterdam view. It took us about 4 hours to do the trip including train rides for 30 minutes each way and the short bus ride to the museum. -- Alan D

Oct 2003

Amsterdam with Kids

Has anyone visited Amsterdam with children? I hear it is a child friendly place, but would like more info. Are there great parks, zoos, children's museums etc...? Also, has anyone lived there before(with kids)? rachberko

Holland is a fabulous country for families. My husband and I returned from living in Holland for three years, albiet without children, in 2002. Many of my friends had children while living there or came with them and really wish they could have prolonged the experience.

Amsterdam is like San Francisco culturally, politically and in size -- it has zoos, museums (check out for lists of attractions), great public transportation, parks, canal rides, ice-skating outside during the winter (though it isn't really cold enough to keep the ice, the electric companies sponsor outside rinks) etc. Children are welcome everywhere as the culture is very pro-family.

You didn't mention the children's ages, but there are a few drawbacks to their ''we tolerate everything except intolerence'' attitude that could impact children, for example, porn is shown on some regular tv stations after 10 pm (it was on the Fox Network when I lived there). I am sure that you already know about the redlight district.

If the children are older, you nay wish to take the train to Leiden (the town in which I lived) for a day. This town has many ties to the US -- the pilgrims lived here before setting out for the New World, John Adams lived there during part of our Revloutionary War. Leiden is 30 minutes via train from Amsterdam Centraal Train Station.

Also, I would suggest taking a bike ride in the country (if you go in April, the tulip fields are amazing). You can rent bikes and childrens seats at many train stations. There is an entire 'bike highway' system set up there so you are very rarely riding immediately alongside any cars unless you are in a major city.

Another 'day-trip' would be a trip to the Hague (Den Haag). It is 15 minutes past Leiden on the train. It is their 'Washington, DC.' There is a wonderful museum there called 'The Mauritshaus' which any child could get through without too much pain. It has an amazing collection of art including two Vermeers (one being The Girl with the Pearl Earring). It only takes about 45 minutes to walk through. Then you could take the street car to Maduradam which is a children's village (all Dutch attractions are created in miniature) and then continue on to the beach on the street car for a meal at Het Brewhuis (a microbrewery).  Jan M

Artis is a fabulous zoo in Amsterdam. see link below J Emerson

Visiting the Netherlands with a 3-year-old

July 2002

We're traveling to the Netherlands and Belguim in late August and I'm hoping for suggestions about places to go, things to do with a 3 1/2 year old. Anyone have recommendations? Jill

There are obviously a lot of great places in the Netherlands to go in general. But specifically for young children I would recommend -

Madurodam ( - Madurodam is a park with miniature versions of many of the landmarks of the Netherlands. Kids tend to love it, and its pretty entertaining for grownups as well.

Keukenhof ( - This is a bulb market, with beautiful gardens surrounding. I've only been there in the Spring, so I can't vouch for how ''in bloom'' it will be. In any case, it's a beautiful place for kids to run around.

Finally, there's always the beaches. Katwijk and Scheveningen are both nice and I'm sure there are others (but in general, the beaches in the Netherlands are not for the prudish! I've never seen anything inappropriate, but topless and some nude sunbathing is fairly common).

Hope you have a great trip. Peter

We spent a month in Amsterdam when my daughter was 4 -- places she liked were Mudorodam (spelling???) which is a kind of very well done park of miniature towns in the Hague, and these huge low wading pools that are in several of the parks in Amsterdam. The natural history/anthropology museum in Amsterdam is also wonderful with several rooms where you can walk through of other countries. There's a large zoo/aquarium in amsterdam which has a decent cafeteria with food from many countries. We managed a number of art museums as well which seems to have had benefits that carried over to her willingness to spend time in art museums at home. There are small climbing structures in most of the parks which were fun and we got to talk to Dutch parents who mostly have very good conversational English. Other kids don't speak English, however, which was confusing for our daughter. It's been two years, and she still talks about the trip, especially Mudorodam. Have a great time! Carol


For Trisha, who is looking for place to stay in Europe. My parents live 20 minutes driving from Amsterdam, in a small beach town called Noordwijk. They rent out rooms in the summer, and breakfast is included. It is a great place for children because the beach is only minutes away. I can give you more specifics if you are interested.