I was claiming that after the move I will rise from the northern piles of powder snow stronger and more productive than even, but no, no, no – it was not me rising but the little devil called influenza. Now that the all family influenza camp is over and before I let all my thoughts go towards our new exotic home city of Helsinki, I will first finish my Amsterdam series for traveling parents. So here goes my main advice: go to Westerpark, you will not be disappointed!
Now Vondelpark is the one Amsterdam park which dominates the tourist guidebooks – it’s beautiful and there are a lot of activities for kids and I highly recommend you go there as well – BUT I dare to claim that for families Westerpark has even more to offer.
In the summer months there is a nice, big paddling pool and it is not quite as busy as the Vondelpark pool. From the kiddie pool you can continue to a playground called SamSam (Gosschalklaan 6-8, there is a daycare that carries the same name), which is just a couple of minutes’ walk away. Samsam has two separate sections: one for bigger kids and another one for toddlers. I used to go a lot to the toddler area as they have tiny swings the kids can try out on their own, as well as a small slide and trampolines (= your toddler won’t need your help all the time, but can explore on his/her own and you can have a coffee… having coffee is so important). The cherry on top are the clear fences around the playground, so a successful escape attempt is highly unlikely.
There are also plenty of restaurants in Westerpark. In the summer Westergasfabriek has an IJscuypje ice cream shop (Gosschalklaan 7), that in my opinion sells the best ice creams in Amsterdam. For food I usually go to Pacific Parc: it is easy to enter with a pram, there is lots of space and interesting deco that your kids can look at, and good music. In the winter they can have a natural fire in a stove inside which feels so sweet and is nice to look at, but you might not want to sit next to it if you have kids that are still in the age when being drawn towards the self-destructive forces of Thanatos is their major daily activity. Pacific Parc also has high chairs and a diaper changing station in the toilet.
Westerpark also offers a De Bakkerswinkel bakery café where I went regularly already before having a kid, but even more after having a child. At least two of their locations (West and Centre) have got a kids’ corner with toys and pens and paper for drawing. It sounds a bit boring, but you should go for their sandwiches where you can pick your spreads and fillings yourself. Actually: in general you should always go for sandwiches when in the Netherlands as the Dutch know how to make them. And never leave a Bakkerswinkel without buying a jar of their passion fruit curd. It is possibly no less than the most delicious jam on Earth.
Westergasfabriek is also home to one of the nicest Sunday markets in the city. They sell different kinds of foods and handicraft and the market is always filled with families and kids running around. And you think this was it? No, no, no. If you continue deeper into Westerpark, you will find a nice petting zoo (Kinderboerderij Westerpark, check opening hours, not necessarily open every day!) with a small playground. Opposite to the petting zoo there is an entry to the Westerpark Natuurtuin where you can take a walk with whole family, see birds and read a little about the nature and animals in the area.
Finally, the last place around Westerpark is such a treat that I recommend you make a separate trip there or at least make sure you have 1-2 hours to play and relax. Buurtboerderij Ons Genogen (Spaarndammerdijk 319, ) is a little piece of heaven just on the other side of the railway track from Westerpark: there is a cafeteria/restaurant, beautiful terrace and garden with tables surrounded by fields where horses and sheep run around. They organize different kinds of events and you can rent the place for parties. We had our daughter’s second birthday there so it goes without saying that I have so many good memories of the place. They also have a small charity shop where you can bring your own stuff and take something with you for free.
These are my favourite activities in Westerpark. Hope you enjoyed. There will be more tips soon on a few new areas – and after that I’ll start focusing my writing on life in Helsinki (and visiting the city with kids of course)!