Despite its reputation for grown-up fun, Amsterdam is fast becoming a hot spot for family-friendly city breaks. With plenty of festive charm (and a host of weather-appropriate activities), winter is the perfect time to visit.
Lucky little Amsterdammers get two reasons to celebrate. A few weeks before Christmas, Sinterklaas – the Dutch Saint Nicholas – paves the way for a season of sugary treats. Give your kids a taste of edible Dutch traditions: pepernoten (small spiced biscuits), chocolate letters and oliebollen (Dutch donuts). The icing on the cake? When temperatures plummet, local kids strap on their skates for a whizz on the frozen canals. Whatever the forecast, there’s no shortage of winter fun to be had. Here are our top picks.
Get the whole family into the full festive spirit with a visit to Amsterdam Winterparadijs. Winter activities abound with ice skating, tube sliding and curling, plus traditional Dutch games. If you want a more gezellig experience (think cosy comfort), settle into the winter cinema or toast marshmallows on an open fire. Finish your day with a ride on the Ferris wheel to see the city from on high. From 21 to 30 December 2018.
If you’re visiting Amsterdam in winter, it’s wise to prepare for a spot of rain. And what better indoor activity to have up your sleeve than a scientific playground? NEMO Science Museum hosts hands-on exhibitions that explore tech, chemistry, anatomy, the universe, and everything in between. Don’t miss the Chain Reaction live demo that brings the Mousetrap board game to life.
Ward off any hangry meltdowns by staying within reach of one of The Butcher’s rightly popular burger joints. If you’re planning ahead, book at the Albert Cuyp speakeasy-style branch. Upon arrival you’ll be asked for your password and escorted to the secret room out back. Or take the ferry to the A’DAM Tower for ping-pong and pinball with your grub. Wherever you end up, there’s a kids' menu on offer.
Amsterdam’s annual Light Festival sees its streets and waterways illuminated with enchanting light installations from around the world. Teasers for this year hint at inflatable structures stretched over canals and 3D blueprints. Take a self-guided tour on bike or foot or book a boat ride to get a view from the canals. Either way kids will be captivated by the bright and the beautiful.
Covering almost 1,000 hectares, Amsterdamse Bos is a welcome retreat from the bustling city centre. Spot Highland cows and birds of prey, or take the kids to meet kids of another kind at the goat farm. There’s an outdoor playground to burn off excess energy, too. Snow forecast? Join locals sledging down de heuvel before refuelling with Dutch pancakes at Boerderij Meerzicht.
Image credits: © Amsterdam Light Festival; © Amsterdam Light Festival; © Winterparadijs; © NEMO Science Museum; © The Butcher; © Amsterdam Light Festival; © Alphons Nieuwenhuis; © Alamy; © Eurostar; © Shutterstock