Amsterdam is a stunner. Trust me when I say this. The people are friendly and helpful, the city quaint and beautifully woven through canals, the food absolutely delightful and the history fascinating. Not only does the Dutch city is rich in culture but has something for almost everybody. It makes for a fabulous family vacation destination as one can enjoy the city and everything it offers, then head out for day trips which will help you capture picture postcard moments. So get ready for the perfect family trip to Amsterdam with a day-to-day easy Amsterdam itinerary!
The Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is approximately 20 kms away from Amsterdam and is a major hub. The easiest way to reach Amsterdam Central is to take the train. Buy one-way tickets for approx 6 euros. The other ways to reach Amsterdam are by train or bus from other European cities. It's a very well-connected city so very easy to reach. That's the first part of your family holiday to Amsterdam.
It's easiest to explore Amsterdam on foot by walking into small by lanes to discover unique cafes. Or follow the local way on bicycles. Amsterdam has over 800,000 bicycles, more than the number of people! So, hire a bicycle and pedal your way across town. It's safe and probably the best way to see what the city has to offer. Bike hires are reasonable and can be found everywhere in the city.
Deciding on a budget
Europe is expensive no doubt. It's advisable to decide on your budget before the start of your travel. With a family in tow, it's difficult to live on a backpacking budget, so do a mental calculation on the spending beforehand. With five days in Amsterdam, it's advisable to invest in the I Amsterdam City Card, which costs approx 90 euros for 96 hours. You get free entry to museums, canal rides and a host of other things.
How to spend five days in Amsterdam and nearby areas
Head to the square behind the museums to soak in the local flavour. Get along a picnic basket to revel in the merriment as the children enjoy themselves in the playground, watch speedsters try new tricks at the skateboard ramp and definitely don't forget to take a photograph at the iconic 'I Amsterdam' sculpture. It's always nice to start a vacation at leisure instead of trying to do everything in a time-bound manner.
Spend your first day gazing at the treasures the Rijksmuseum holds. The Dutch national museum is dedicated to the arts and history and one can see it from the museum square. It's a treasure trove with sections dedicated to Dutch masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. With over a million objects right from the year 1200 to about 2000, one would take almost a day to soak it all in. It even displays the stern of the HMS Royal Charles. And honestly, it's one of the best curated museums I've visited.
After Rijks, make your way to the Van Gogh museum to pay tribute to the great master. The museum houses over 200 paintings and 500 drawings by Van Gogh and his contemporary Post-Impressionists. Gaze into his famous Sunflowers (one of them at least) and buy yourself a postcard to remember the visit at the museum shop. Buy your tickets online, it's easier!
Finish Day 1 indulging in the best french fries Amsterdam offers - at Manneken Pis. Located near Amsterdam Centraal, it's a small fries shop and extremely popular with the tourists. One pack is more than enough for dinner. As you eat the fries dripping with sauces, reminiscence about your first day in Amsterdam.
Start the day with a visit to the closest Windmill Park. It's a historic open air museum about half an hour away from the city. The traditional houses and windmills offer visitors a glimpse into what living the Dutch life in the 18th-19th centuries look like.
When in Amsterdam how can a canal ride not be on your agenda? Created in the 17th century to keep the sea out, either book a canal cruise from the various types on offer - hop on hop off to romantic candlelight dinners, or use the city card for a free one. With over 100km of canals around, enjoy the ride as you hear the history of the city.
A visit to the flower market should be a must when in the city. It's the only floating flower market in the world and an extremely fragrant and colourful part of the city. In existence since 1862, the market stands on houseboats near the Singel Canal. When visiting, do buy a famous tulip just for the experience!
Holland is one of the countries where prostitution is legal. In the age of the internet, whatever you're heard of the famous Red Light district is possibly true. There are lots of red lights and young women standing in windows to lure customers in. Photography is prohibited but you can go in to one of the houses to see how clean the business is.
Walk or ride around the city and head to Dam Square. It's located in the historical centre of Amsterdam and buzzing with activity. Spend the morning visiting the Royal Palace, the New Church and the National Monument. If you feel hungry, just stop by one of many cafes to indulge in a quick bite. One of the best activities is to observe people and that's best done right in the heart of the city!
Head to the Anne Frank House to see her words come alive. We all know about the Diary of a Young Girl and to visit her secret annex is a heartbreaking affair. There's never a dry eye in the whole group as one visits the diarist's house-turned into a museum. I would suggest buying the ticket ahead of time to save on standing in the line. The tour takes you around where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis but were eventually found out and taken to concentration camps. Father Otto was the only survivor.
The oldest hotel in Amsterdam is one of best even today. But what makes it worth visiting is to see the original wall where Rembrandt painted his famous The Night Watch which visitors can see at Rijks. It originally hung there in the 17th century. Not many know of this place so to visit, just ask the reception. They are usually very cordial and let you see the wall!
It's time to leave the city life and head to the countryside. Take a day trip to Giethoorn from Amsterdam, which is about 2.5 hours away. The famous tourist destination has often been compared to Venice (Venice of the North) and called the Village with No Roads! Ok, to be fair, there are roads but they are more bike lanes. Most transportation is done on water in boats. Just imagine owning a house which is accessible only after a boat ride! Located in the province of Overijssel, it's a quaint village with over 180 bridges. Rent a boat, ride around the waterways to experience Dutch life in the olden days.
Return to Amsterdam in the evening and spend sometime at the Jordaan, Amsterdam's most famous neighbourhood. Touristy and commercial, it starts from Centraal station and arches around the Canal Ring before ending it Leidsegracht. With plenty of cafes to choose from, decide whether to indulge in traditional or trendy food. Hope across to an art gallery after to soak in the Dutch art scene.
Start your last day with another day trip but this time enter the world of cheese not canals! Gouda (pronounced Gowda not Gooda) is the most famous export from Holland. The yellow cheese accounts for 60% of the Netherlands total cheese production and is well-loved world wide. Gouda is about an hour away by train. So, it's perfect to start your last day of the holiday. Don't forget to taste the cheese being sold by vendors or the famous Gouda stroopwafel (caramel between cookies). Walk around the city, visit the cheese markets and architectural marvels.
Come back to Amsterdam and just relax at Vondelpark. It's one of the city's most famous parks and attracts locals and tourists alike. Breathe in the smell of fresh roses, skate around or have a meal at the many restaurants there. Then, maybe walk or bike around the city to keep click a mental picture of the city.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
I prefer to book Airbnbs or hostels rather than stay in hotels but if you want to, choose hotels located nearby Museum square, Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, Jordaan or Vondelpark. Tourist attractions are close by so getting around is not a problem.
What to eat in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a lot to offer for the foodies. The goal is to be adventurous! Start with a raw herring. Yes, you heard me right. It's best eaten in a sandwich with pickles and mustard.
Why not indulge in some Dutch fries? They are absolutely deelish and smothered in a variety of sauces served in a cone, they are perfect to much as you go exploring. I would also suggest heading to the nearest FEBO. Try the vending machines which serve piping hot food, from burgers to croquettes. You need to put some coins into the machines and out comes your dinner! Not only will the children enjoy it, so will you! Last but not the least, Stroopwafel is a must-have as desert. They are waffle sandwiches best described, with a sweet filling.