This is my last Amsterdam post. I have noticed that I could just go on and on and on with this topic, because Amsterdam is so lively, full of great places to eat, play and explore … and because I miss Amsterdam. Always when I see a picture or a video from there I cannot help but thinking that I want to live there again. I’m happy to be back in Finland and Helsinki, it feels right, but I’m afraid Amsterdam has stolen a piece of my heart for the rest of my life. I will just have to learn to live with it. Oh life! So here it goes…
The first destinations of this tour are not in the east, but actually in the centre, although they are on the way to the east from the Central Station. You should start your day visiting the famous OBA Central Library. The Central Library has a fantastic children’s department in the ground floor (or more like on the -1 floor). There are of course lots and lots of books to read, big armchairs were you can sit down, a tiny tepee where to play, small exhibitions for kids and last but not least the fantastic Muizenhuis – a miniature mouse house – that you could stare at for hours and hours taking in all the beautiful details. Upstairs in the Library there is a cafeteria La Place with nice lunch options (you will definitely find something for your kids from here as well, the selection is so big) and a terrace with cool views over Amsterdam.
One of the greatest museums for kids in Amsterdam is the Science Center Nemo. My two year-old learned to recognize the ship-shaped building from far away very quickly and would always point at it: “I want to go there”. It is really designed for kids, so there are a lot of things they can do themselves (build dams in a metal trough, make massive soap bubbles, construct windmills or sailboats etc. – the activities change). I have spent there 1,5–2 hours easily with a two year old and for older kids there is even more entertainment. Because the place is so awesome, it does get crowded during weekends and holidays. However, I would go there anyway. In the summertime you can enjoy the sun at the “ship’s” top terrace and there is a paddling pool with toys for kids. It’s Heaven on Earth!
If you continue a little further to East from Nemo, you will come to the Maritime Museum. I thought (my bad, I know) this would be a very boring place to go and went there for the first time with my friend, because I knew there would be booze and a Museumnacht party. We ended up spending a couple of hours there just exploring the exhibition. Later I went there several times with my girl to see the basic exhibition again and especially the old ship they have in front of the museum and once to a whale special exhibition. The Maritime Museum is maybe not as obviously fun as Nemo for kids, but it is definitely worth a visit and better than you would think.
After running in museums you will need some easy, relaxing time and food. Continue even further to east to a beautiful bohemian restaurant and city beach called Roest. At the back of the city beach area they have a combination of a jungle gym and swings. It’s not any standard plastic jungle gym, but a self-made wooden gym with ropes, swings and hanging car tyres (see the top picture!). Very entertaining both for adults and kids! If you have some shovels and buckets with you, you can easily spend an entire afternoon playing, eating and drinking here.
I assume this would be day two or three already when you hop on your bike and go to see the Amsterdam Artis Zoo. There are plenty of things to see here, but what I especially like about it is that it is not too big. I have been to Artis so many times, both in the pre-child and post-child eras, that I now know the place like my own pockets. If you are hungry already when you step in, on the right side of the entrance there is a small petting zoo where you can buy poffertjes (tiny pancakes) before starting off. At the back of the zoo there is a huge jungle gym with long slides that your kids will love. There is also a place where they can play with water (there is a water pump they can use). This said, if you plan to go there – and you will if they see the place – take a pair of boots or/and an extra set of clothes with you. In front of the playground there is a restaurant with a terrace called Cheetah. It’s also ok to eat your own food at the terrace. At least I’ve done that several times and no one complained. In general Dutch always have their own sandwiches with them and they eat them wherever they want. It’s like a basic human right in the Netherlands: the right to eat your lunch sandwich wherever you want whenever you want (can also happen while biking). My favourite places in Artis are the Butterfly and Monkey Houses.
Very close to the Artis Zoo is the Botanical Garden. It is not a big place, but it’s beautiful and cosy with a little cafeteria where you can go get breakfast and lunch. It’s definitely a good place to start your morning or have a little rest during the day.
If you are dreaming of a little beach holiday, your dreams come true further away in the east on a bohemian city beach called Blijburg. I always recommend biking, but you can get there by tram as well. In the summer time there is at least one restaurant at the beach to serve you drinks and food.
However, if you are dreaming of beaches on a bigger scale, then I would recommend you go to Zandvoort aan Zee. That’s NOT East Amsterdam, but it is a little town by the North Sea to the West.
The train from Amsterdam takes about 40 minutes, and the walk from the train to the beach 5-10 minutes. The beaches are endless and clean and hardly ever crowded and the restaurants offer nice food. Check out beach club Far Out for a chilled out beachfront terrace with good music. Like I said in the beginning, I could go on and on with writing about Amsterdam and the fun things you can do there and in the nearby areas and yes, now I find myself writing about Zandvoort. I simply cannot NOT mention Zandvoort, because I’ve been there soooo many times and spent there such historical moments as my last “childless” holiday and my girl’s first birthday. Anyway, it has to be my last tip for this series…. for now. J Go to Amsterdam! Go and enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions!