A family holiday in Amsterdam is a great choice for a multi-generation trip. Just a short hop from London, there’s plenty to see and do in a compact area, with level walking and lovely views. Esther and family, ages ranging from teens to 80s, celebrated a wedding anniversary with a city break to Amsterdam
- the Venice of the North
- a compact city on one level that’s easy to walk
- canals and bridges to explore
- world-class museums and galleries
- delicious Dutch cheese, chocolate and snacks
Who went: Esther 23, her sister Elle 17, cousin Sophie 22, mother, aunt and grandparents.
When and how: the family planned the trip themselves, flying to Amsterdam in August 2017 and staying at the Pulitzer Amsterdam hotel for four days.
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8 Things to do on a Family holiday in Amsterdam
Cruise the city on a historic canal boat
Esther says: We took an early evening canal tour on our hotel’s own vintage salon boat. It was a bit rainy but that meant there was less traffic on the canals so we could see more. The Captain was great, very funny, and we all enjoyed the tour. We cruised the historic centre of the city on the Canal Ring and saw the museums from the water too.
See 15 bridges from one spot
On the canal tour we visited the Bridge of 15 Bridges. It’s a point on the canals where you can see fifteen arched bridges by looking in different directions.
The best view is from a boat but you can see quite a few of the arches from the bridge itself.
Take a walking tour
One morning we booked a walking tour with a concierge from the hotel. He explained a lot about the architecture and history of the historic canal area. We saw the beams and pulleys that were used to hoist goods up to the top floors of the canal side houses.
Some of the old houses were actually built to lean towards the street to make it easier to use the pulley systems. Our guide took us into shops to sample cheese and chocolate and revealed some of the hidden hofjes, the secret courtyards and gardens in the Jordaan district.
Although the tour lasted nearly two hours it wasn’t strenuous and there were lots of stops so the pace was fine for all of us.
Visit the Anne Frank Museum?
I’d already visited the Anne Frank house and museum on a previous trip to Amsterdam. Anne was a Jewish girl who hid with her family in a secret annexe for two years during the German occupation of the Netherlands in WW2. Although she later died in a concentration camp, Anne’s diary became world famous. The annexe and neighbouring house are now a museum and her story is brought to life with audio guides and videos. It’s very moving – but despite that our three-generation visit wasn’t a great success.
Even though we’d booked tickets two months in advance, and had an allocated time slot, we still had to queue in the museum before we could go up to the annexe. When we did go up the stairs to the house itself we had to shuffle through the rooms with a crowd of other people. It was hot and claustrophobic and the stairs, which are very steep, were a bit much for my grandparents. To make matters worse, there’s no where at all to sit down and we were in there for more than an hour.
My grandparents didn’t really enjoy it because it was too queue’y and they had to stand for a long time. Perhaps a hot day in August isn’t the best time to visit with a multi-generation group, I’d suggest you only go if you really want to. Anne Frank house and museum, Prinsengracht 263-267
Get up close to Van Gogh’s sunflowers
By contrast our visit to the Van Gogh museum was brilliant! It’s the world’s biggest collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s work and has one of the famous sunflower paintings too. It was super interesting because it takes you through his very early work. For instance I hadn’t realised he was heavily influenced by Japanese art. They talk about him cutting his ear off too – apparently he cut off much more than was originally thought! There’s a lovely gift shop and cafe and lots of places to sit down.
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It worked well for all of us, we could pick and choose what we wanted to see and anyone who wanted a rest could wait for the others in the cafe. We booked tickets with allocated time slots, a month in advance. It’s special, I would definitely recommend. Van Gogh Museum, Paulus Potterstraat 7
Find cafes with views of the city
The EYE Film Institute on Amsterdam’s waterfront is a two minute free ferry ride from Central Station. It’s a museum and cinema but we thought the best part on a hot day was the cafe with its outdoor terrace and view of the river. EYE, IJpromenade 1
If we’d had time we’d have also gone to the roof top of the NEMO Science Museum. This is another eye-catching building, shaped like the hull of a ship, with a 22m high panorama terrace. It’s free to access either by steps or a lift, separately from the museum, and has a restaurant, lots of seating and views of the historic ships in the museumhaven. NEMO Science Museum, Oosterdok 2
See a traditional Dutch canal house
The Museum Van Loon is a grand private house built in 1691 and once owned by a founder of the Dutch East India Company. It’s comparatively small and quiet so we didn’t need to book in advance. It was also close to our hotel so not far for us all to walk.
We really enjoyed this glimpse of a wealthy family’s life during Amsterdam’s Golden Age – it’s just like The Miniaturist! It has really great artwork from the times and a beautiful garden with seating. Museum Van Loon, Keizergracht 672
Eat the freshest food – in a greenhouse
For a celebratory meal we went to De Kas, the restaurant in a greenhouse.
It’s set in Frankendael Park within a collection of nursery greenhouses that are almost 100 years old. They grow all their own vegetables and change their menu according to what’s in season. There’s one set menu a day but the waiters checked whether or not we liked spicy food and were really accommodating and friendly. It’s a great place for vegetarians! We went in the evening and wished we’d arrived a bit earlier so we could have looked at the park in daylight. Restaurant De Kas, Kamerlingh, Onneslaan 33
Choose a hotel with something for everyone
We stayed at the Pulitzer Amsterdam in the centre of the city. It was the perfect base for us. The Pulitzer is a collection of 25 townhouses, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, along the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals. They link together beautifully with a mix of original features and contemporary design around a large central outdoor courtyard. There’s a little bit of history to read about each of the houses. Our rooms all had interesting individual features – and really lovely shampoo miniatures in the bathroom too!
The staff were lovely and very accommodating and welcomed our grandparents with prosecco and a bowl of fresh berries in their room for their diamond wedding anniversary.
The Pulitzer was especially good for our three generation trip. It’s central so we didn’t have far to travel. We booked both our tours through the hotel which was easy and as they started from the hotel we didn’t have to travel to a meeting point. The staff gave us very good recommendations of places to eat and booked tables and taxis etc for us. But most of all, it has lovely outside spaces to sit and relax. This was especially good for our grandparents who enjoyed the quiet leafy courtyard whilst we went shopping! Pulitzer Amsterdam, Prinsengracht 323.
Our Top Tips for Travelling in a Multi-Gen Group
- Plan each day ahead so everyone knows what to expect
- Split up if necessary so that everyone can go at their own pace
- Avoid places that are over-crowded or short of seating
- Choose a hotel with some outside space to enjoy
Jessica of awanderlustforlife.com, is an expat living in Amsterdam, she has lots more tips on where to go and what to do in Amsterdam. http://www.awanderlustforlife.com/destinations/the-netherlands/
A Family Holiday in Amsterdam
Want more city break inspo?
We think Venice would be lovely for a multi-gen trip: level, compact and brimming with culture and glorious hotels: Venice: City Break with Teenagers Part 1
Or how about Rome? Think of all that pizza, ice-cream and the incredible historic sights Rome with teenagers: where to go, what to do
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All photos, unless otherwise credited, are by Esther and family and are all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce these photos without prior written permission.