We had the most wonderful summer trip to the Netherlands, travelling around with our children, visiting the beautiful cities of Utrecht and Rotterdam and staying in some gorgeous Landal parks including Esonstad and Coldenhove. As part of our travels we headed into the capital, one of our absolute favourite cities as it’s so perfect for families, for a history packed day trip to Amsterdam for kids.
Just walking through the streets of Amsterdam is inspiring. The architecture is beautiful and the city is made for walking (or cycling) with canal side paths and little boutiques to browse as you go. It is such an evocative place, the history just oozes out of every brick and it’s one of the few cities I don’t mind the hustle and bustle, with trams trundling past and the constant tinkling of bicycle bells adding to the character and appeal.
A history packed day trip to Amsterdam for kids
We started our day at the Rijksmuseum. The last time we were in Amsterdam was as part of our spring trip to the Netherlands a couple of years ago when the wind blew so hard with icy chills wrapping around us we found it hard being outside for long. We made it to the Rijksmuseum just as it was closing and it was always a regret that we hadn’t had chance to explore it, so this time it was our first stop.
The art and history here is as impressive as you would expect and I was most taken aback by the reaction of all of the children. At 10, 8 and 5 they loved going from hall to hall, enjoying the paintings on display, offering up their own interpretations.
With over 8000 items on display it is a feast for the eyes and a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours. You can take guided tours here, especially for families or take interactive multimedia sets around with you but we were happy to wander and discover whatever came our way.
We stopped for lunch at the gorgeous cafe at the Rijksmuseum. The children loved the toast with sprinkles, peanut butter and jam while we tucked in to truly delicious and adventurous meals. We finished with some lovely carrot cake and strong coffee. It was a great meal.
All fed we headed outside to take a few photos around the iconic I Amsterdam sign which the children loved playing in and out of. This has become a symbol of the city, bringing together residents and visitors.
We then walked lunch off by heading over to Verzetsmuseum, the Resistance Museum, situated in the Plantage neighbourhood and telling the story of the Netherlands in the Second World War. It’s somewhere I’ve wanted to visit before and now there is a whole section of the museum just dedicated to and for children. Don’t expect sugar-coating here though, the history is still hard to hear, although perhaps even more important to make sure you do.
The museum imaginatively follows four children through their journey in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, including a daughter of a local Nazi leader and a Jewish girl, living on the same square as Anne Frank. With audio in English amongst other languages, it was perfect for allowing the children to explore the museum, hearing the stories as they opened doors and looked in to rooms.
The Resistance Museum is so incredibly well done, but even I couldn’t stop the tears and the words caught in my throat as I tried to explain to my ten year old why the Jewish girl whose story we were following had been forced in to cattle carriages and sent away. He looked at me wide-eyed, taking it all in, not even knowing the full horror but getting glimpses that were enough and listening intently.
We emerged at the end to find out the real fate of the four children we had learned about. If you’re heading to Amsterdam, don’t miss this wonderful museum.
We decided to stop then for pancakes, what else when visiting Amsterdam? We found Pancakes Amsterdam in the centre at Wesermarkt which looked out over the canals and lovely houses. It was the perfect place to regroup and indulge in their delicious pancakes while reflecting on the very different museums we had visited.
As the end of the day beckoned we knew it was time to head out of the city but we had one last stop to make. I have read so much of Anne Frank and now started talking to the children about her and I find her real home, the place she lived from December 1933 until July 1942 when they were forced in to hiding, to be somewhere so evocative.
Here at 37 Merwedeplein it is so moving. You can’t go inside but just seeing the building and the normality of it all, of life still going on makes my heart hurt.
I can almost imagine the children of the past playing out the front in the square and I just feel devastated for all the families who never came home.
This was quite a serious history packed day trip to Amsterdam for kids and there are lots more lighter places to visit and enjoy, you can check out our top 10 things to do with kids in Amsterdam here for more ideas of ways to spend time in the city. We are a family that loves history and spending time at all these places helped us get a real insight into the lives of people in the Netherlands.
For our visit we parked at P1 parking, right in the centre of Amsterdam who really do offer amazing prices for city parking.