A few weeks ago we took the fast train from Frankfurt to Amsterdam for the weekend. We were visiting friends, and absolutely fell in LOVE with Amsterdam. It is a fascinating, vibrant, and fabulous city. I would move there in a second!!!
Where we stayed...
Our friends recommended we stay near to the main museums and the large and lush Vondelpark, at Hotel Mosaic City Center. This is not in the canal district, or the red light district, but is a great central spot to access the entire city.
What do do?
1. EXPLORE on foot!
Amsterdam is an amazing city to explore on foot. It is full of little boutiques, restaurants, museums, trillions of bikes, and the CANALS. It's gorgeous and fascinating. We marveled at house boats, snacked at cheese shops, bought street art, gawked atsoccer madness, noted all things ORANGE (the national color), and even snuck some covert peeks at the various marijuana bars, prostitutes, and sex shops.
Amsterdam is very well known for it's pot and prostitutes. We read in various guidebooks that the red light district is completely safe and very touristy, so we decided to wander through. It's in the middle of the historic canals and is a beautiful part of the city. However, the sex shops and prostitutes are visible. Our kids (ages 3, 6, and 8) giggled at some merchandise but were otherwise unfazed by the lewdness. There are Dutch families who live in the Red Light District, and we did see many children out and about with their families, so it was not uncomfortable that we were there with children.
2. The Van Gogh Museum
It's always a delicate balance while traveling with children - exposing them to art and museums while not being boring. The Van Gogh museum does this perfectly. The children each got a scavenger hunt booklet that directed them around the museum with clues to answer a secret message. We learned a lot about Van Gogh and had a very enjoyable morning. They are now "Van Gogh experts!"
3. Vondel Park and KinderKookKafe
Vondel Park is the central park of Amsterdam. It is a beautiful park with playgrounds and various gardens. It also contains the Kinder Kook Kafe. This small restaurant was a HUGE hit with our three little ones. At this restaurant when one orders a meal, they receive a platter with all the ingredients for the meal, which is prepared by the children. We loved this!
4. Poffertjes! YUM!!
Amsterdam is full of restaurants advertising poffertjes, tiny, sweet, delicious Dutch pancakes. It's worth a stop to find a canal-side restaurant and indulge!!
5. CANALS...by boat!
We did two boat tours while in Amsterdam, we went on a guided boat tour and also rented a paddle boat. We drove by sights such as Anne Frank's house (which needs to be seen with reservations, and only by children older than ours), peeked in the windows of house boats, and enjoyed the beauty of Amsterdam. The paddle boat was my personal favorite!!
6. Katten Kabinet
I had read about a privately run museum containing artwork related to cats, in a canal-side mansion, so we decided to check it out. It was an interestingly random way to see art, but we enjoyed it. We even caught sight of a few of the cats that reside in the historic mansion and some chickens in the back yard.
There are so many famous sculptures and squares dotted throughout the city. Some, like this one, can really be enjoyed up close and personal!!! Next time, I would like to go to the Rijksmuseum to see the actual painting!
8. Flower Market
The Amsterdam Flower Market is extremely famous, and is a worthwhile place to walk through, especially with children. The colors, smells, and myriad of bulbs, seeds, and other flower-related items are incredible. We bought some black tulip bulbs here!
9. Enjoy and have FUN!!
Dutch people are so nice, the food is great, and city is gorgeous, and the museums and public squares are fascinating. Amsterdam is an incredibly fun place to visit!!