Toddler Friendly Cities: Amsterdam with Then I Had Twins

Anna is an American who has lived in Europe for years. She raises her twins (now 20 months old) in The Netherlands and has just wrote for us possibly the most comprehensive Amsterdam guide for parents with toddlers. Boy, that twin mama takes those cuties everywhere!

 

Tell us a little bit about your lovely family!

We are an American/ Dutch family living in the suburbs of Amsterdam with our twins, Marcus & Emily who are now 20 months old. After many years of living in the lively city center (more than 20 for my husband!) we made the decision to move our family to a southeastern suburb called, Baarn, where some of his family lives and he partly grew up. Just 30 minutes away from Amsterdam and centrally located in the relatively small country of The Netherlands, our new home allows us to enjoy the benefits of the city and the country and reach just about anything within an hour’s drive. The Netherlands has a mild climate all year round, allowing us to spend a lot of time outdoors in the forest, at the beach or at our favorite playgrounds. Though mild, Holland is also famous for its water-based culture – sea, rivers, canals and… rain! With the right gear we can enjoy outdoor activities even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Many people ask me the best way to handle the rainy days here, my response is always: “Try not to mind too much when you get wet!”

 

How does a perfect day out with your twins look like? 

A perfect day with our twins definitely includes time outside and good food – and coffee for Mom & Dad! In Holland it’s very common to cycle just about anywhere (and in any type of weather) – we have a special cargo-bike which I ride with the kids called a Bakfiets. As a Mom of twins, logistics have always been a bit complex, but biking is really the easiest way to get around in Amsterdam. Riding a Bakfiets takes some practice but you can also rent bikes with children’s seats on the back for a fun family outing – Dutch style! Amsterdam has so many great parks with playgrounds and cafes, it’s hard to choose which one is my favorite! The Vondelpark is centrally located and has a few perfect cafés for families like Grote Melkuis and the Vondeltuin. Both have their own playgrounds and restaurants where parents can enjoy a snack or coffee while the kids play. And in summer months you can also take advantage of the free splash pad and children’s pool at the south end of the park! Once we are finished with the playground and lunch we would likely head to the petting zoo which is always a big hit with our twins! De Dierencapel (on Bickersgracht) is located in the city center and something you wouldn’t expect to find in between the Amsterdam canals – this city farm is very unique and a fun (an affordable) stop for young children. On very special days we would take a trip to the Artis Zoo on the east side of the city – with toddlers you really can’t go wrong with a trip to the local zoo when you are traveling!

 
 
 
 
 
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• T • G • I • F • As mother’s we often put everyone first before ourselves but self-care is so important for our mental and physical well being as mothers (and fathers). While I was staying home with the kids full-time I was feeling extremely housebound and was restless every weekend while Tim just wanted to relax after a long week at work. (I was going stir crazyyyy!) Now I leave the house every weekend for a few hours by myself while Tim spends time with the kids and it has helped me to gain a bit of extra freedom and independence and allows him some one-on-one time with the twins. 🙌🏻We’ve come to realize that parenting isn’t only about taking care of the kids but also yourselves as parents and individuals – happy parents, happy twins!! 💑❤️👶🏻👶🏻 • What do you do for yourself when you have free time?? •

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What are your favorite toddler friendly restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam?

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Amsterdam is often known the Red Light District and ‘Coffee Shops’ that aren’t really meant for ordering a vanilla latte but what many people don’t know is what a kid-friendly city it is. Dutch culture in general is very accepting of children being an important part of society and even the most unexpected places have high chairs and a hidden play area to make being out and about more fun for the entire family. Even though we’ve chosen to transition to suburbia with our little clan, Amsterdam will always have such a special place in my heart, it’s where my children were born and where I learned to be more comfortable taking the twins out on my own. Dutch Mamas have always impressed me with their relaxed parenting style and superwoman moves on their bicycles toting multiple babes, their groceries, maybe a dog and usually with an umbrella in hand to keep dry from the often rainy weather. Their go with the flow mentality has been so refreshing and has helped my very type-A self to take a few deep breaths and worry less about what might go wrong and just jump on my bike and enjoy the day with my babies 🚲🧡 🌷

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It’s happening. We sleep again. Not as much as we did before kids and no, not all night every night because #twins #teeth #growthspurts #nightmares #insomnia #adrenalinsufficiency #hypertoddlers I could go on all day BUT we sleep enough to feel alive again. We have a good routine, an easier one, we’re more flexible, even I’m more flexible (gasp!). We have energy to go out and do fun things together, alone, and with the entire crew. We are more organized, we ask for more help, and therewith we have a better balance. It didn’t happen in one day and it’s not perfect every day but it’s better, so much better. ❤️🙌🏻 . We have a tradition of visiting a few new Dutch towns every year – today we went to Giethoorn – “Venice of The Netherlands” – it’s a tiny fairytale town with no roads, only canals (and many Asian tourists)😁✌️. We ate pancakes and changed diapers instead of sipping bellinis at Hotel Cipriani but we felt like our ‘old’… more like our ‘new’ selves again. We love traveling, exploring, learning together and taking the twins along on our adventures gets easier too! (…except for eating at a full restaurant with two wild toddlers, I’m still waiting for that part to be fun👶🏻👶🏻🍽🙈🤣)

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Vondelpark Cafes

The Grote Melkhuis and Vondeltuin I mentioned before are ideal for families with their own playgrounds and located within the beautiful Vondelpark.

Dignita

With 2 locations, one in the garden of the Hermitage Museum in the city center and another at the south end of the Vondelpark, this is a great place for breakfast, brunch or lunch with toddlers. On a nice day the Hoftuin location at the Hermitage offers outside seating in an enclosed garden and both locations offer a play area inside of the restaurant itself.

Drover’s Dog

Enjoy Australian style brunch at one of the three locations across the city. The relaxed vibe and areas of kids to play in their spaces make it a great place to hang with kids. Located centrally on the Prinsen Canal (Prinsengracht) – this restaurant is conveniently located next to a city playground surrounded by picturesque canal houses and walking distance to one of my favorite streets for shopping and eating in the city – the lovely Utrechtsestraat is a perfect place to stroll and browse on your way back towards the city center.

PLLEK

Located in Amsterdam North, within the NDSM Warf between shipping containers and a beautiful view of the IJ from it’s own ‘beach’. This unique café is perfect with kids with picnic tables outside and cozy couches inside – it’s a special experience to get here via the free ferry from central station and a bit away from the ‘typical’ touristy experience in the city center.

Boederij Meerzicht (Amsterdamse Bos)

If you’re up for a bit longer bike ride you can head to the Amsterdam forest (Amsterdamse Bos) and enjoy delicious Dutch pancakes at Boederij Meerzicht (a petting zoo and playground). This park is the largest in the area and has other activities too like paddleboats, swimming and an open air theatre in the summer months.

De Kleine Parade – De Pijp

If you’re visiting the famous Albert Cuyp Market during your trip (which you should) pop into this cute children’s shop & café for coffee or lunch.

 

 

What would you recommend to a family traveling with young toddlers in Amsterdam? 

 
 
 
 
 
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We are still getting used to suburban life, where everything is closed on Sunday AND Monday 😳🤷‍♀️ as an American this has always been difficult for me to adjust to in Europe, where’s my drive through Starbucks and the option to hang at Target on rainy days when I need it?! 😂🇺🇸❤️ …but then again, there’s about a hundred beautiful estates like this one nearby where we can bike and explore in the woods and eat snacks while pretending we live in the 1800’s. I am always so in awe of the incredible amount of history around us daily and am so excited for the kids to grow up here! (But seriously when will Target come to Europe?! 😆🎯)

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Nemo Science Museum

This absolutely interactive science museum is the best indoor activity for kids in Amsterdam. Every exhibit can be touched and is meant to be a fun learning experience for kids. They have a great café on the top floor with a roof terrace overlooking the city too.

Artis Zoo

Visting the local zoo is always a good idea with toddlers! Artis won’t disappoint, with plenty of indoor exhibits in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, play areas and family friendly restaurants in the area, it’s a hotspot for tourists and local families alike all year round. (Children under age 2 can enter the park for free.)

Zandvoort Beach

It’s easy to forget how close Amsterdam is to the Dutch coast, with many beaches just a half hour from the city center. Zandvoort beach is easy to reach via public transport – just hop on the train to Zandvoort aan Zee at Central Station and you will get off just a few minutes walk from the beach!

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens (March-May)

Holland is known as one of the world’s largest exports of flowers, especially tulips! Every year between March – May the amazing Keukenhof gardens are open in Lisse, just a 30 minute drive from Schiphol Airport. The gardens span for miles and beautiful flower exhibits are created within a picturesque almost fairytale setting, and plenty of space for kids to run around and play. You can also rent bikes to ride around the area with your family and snap some unforgettable pictures between the tulip fields. During the tulip season, special shuttle buses run regularly throughout the day and return tickets can be booked with your entrance to the gardens.

Parks – Vondelpark, Amstelpark, Westerpark, Oosterpark

Amsterdam has many wonderful parks throughout the city, all equipped with playground and free splash pads/ children’s pools during the summer months and kid friendly cafes.

 

 

As a travel blogger living in Amsterdam, do you know of any toddler friendly accommodation?

NH City Center (Dam Square)

Centrally located with family rooms for up to 4 people and connecting room options. Offers a special kid’s breakfast in the morning and walking distance (or via tram right outside the entrance) to many of the city’s main attractions.

Hotel Jan Luyken (Museumplein)

Located on a quiet side street in the Museum Square district, with a small playground nearby and many restaurants in the area. Various room types to sleep up to 3 plus cribs available on request.

Conscious Hotels

With 4 locations throughout the city, each nearby one of the city’s beautiful parks: Museum Square, two locations near Vondelpark and one within the Westerpark, this chain of eco-friendly hotels is a great choice for the sustainability focused traveler. The rooms are simple but the décor is modern and food is 100% organic. If you’re looking to stay in a less touristy area, I can absolutely recommend their Westerpark location, having this beautiful park right outside the hotel is ideal when traveling with busy toddlers! Canal boat tours depart just across the street and the trendy Harlemmerplein is just a few minutes walk with many great cafes and restaurants where you’ll feel like a local.

Air B&B

When we travel with our twins, we often prefer to stay in a flat with a kitchen and a bit more space and opt for booking an Air B&B at our destination. My favorite neighborhoods in Amsterdam for families are: Oud Zuid, Rivierenbuurt, Oosterpark, Westerpark, and of course anything close to Vondelpark is sure to be a lovely spot for you and your family to enjoy all that Amsterdam has to offer!

 
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