Both James and I had been keen to visit Amsterdam for years before we finally took the plunge this year. From the first time I read about the place at least ten years ago, it did not strike me as a particularly child-friendly city break destination. With its coffee shops and sex shows, red lights and generally seedy reputation, I was a little nervous when we booked our family holiday. I needn’t have worried though. From the moment we left the imposing Centraal Station, we felt safe and welcome.
We stayed in Entrepotdok, a 15 minute (ish) walk from the station. Being so close to the city centre, we hadn’t expected anything so quiet and residential. We almost felt as though we had taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in a small village. In Paris, we stayed roughly the same distance from the city centre and there was traffic and noise literally 24/7. Not so in Amsterdam.
It’s no stretch of truth to say that everyone we met last week was friendly and welcoming, and all spoke English. On the day we arrived, we had trouble locating the owner of the apartment we were renting for the week and so popped into a tiny cafe a few doors away to ask for help. We didn’t expect much, in all honesty. In fact, I had a horrible feeling that afternoon that we were in real trouble. But the owner of the cafe was incredibly helpful, as was the man who lived next door to where we were due to stay, allowing James into his home and calling our landlord on our behalf. I could not imagine having the same result in many of the other cities we have stayed in!
As well as being safe and friendly, Amsterdam is beautiful and offers a lot to see. There are huge numbers of bikes, and canals. More than I’ve ever seen before, of either! We didn’t get a chance to hire bikes during our stay, but we did head out on a canal cruise, which was fun. It’s definitely a great way to see the city, and the children loved it.
Apart from the Zoo and the Nemo science museum, both of which were brilliant, the kids’ favourite place was a soft play centre called Tun Fun. Situated on the site of a disused underpass, of all places, Tun Fun is the biggest, most amazing indoor park we have ever been to. It was here that we first recognised the creativity and resourcefulness of the Dutch.
Amsterdam amazed and delighted the four of us day after day, hour after hour. We can’t wait to go back, we’re hoping to fit in another trip next summer. Have you been as a family? Is it somewhere you would consider taking your children? If you have any reservations at all, I am sure you would be pleasantly surprised!