My sister and her two and seven-year old just visited me in Amsterdam for three weeks! We had an amazing time hanging out together and discovered a handful of fun, and best of all, free things to do in Amsterdam with kids in the summer.
They might not sound the most exciting, but if you’ve traveled with kids before, you know that traveling with kids is totally different than traveling without them. Nonetheless, for my niece and nephew, these were their favorite activities to do in Amsterdam, which we spent $0 on!
Feed the Pigeons at Dam Square
Dam Square is a top destination for any visitor of any age. Normally, when someone visits me in Amsterdam, we go to Dam Square, take a quick look, then continue walking to Centraal Station or around City Centre, but with the kids, we hung out here for a good hour! The kids were quite entertained and could’ve stayed longer if we didn’t cut it short to go back home.
We first started out by grabbing food and eating on the benches at Dam Square. There are a few benches, which are really wide making it comfortable to both sit on and eat at. If the benches are full, there are steps along the Royal Palace to sit at.
Once we were done eating, we pulled out stale bread that we packed for the kids to feed the pigeons. There’s normally dozens of birds hanging out at the square waiting to be fed by the man who brings rice and other tourists so you won’t have to wait long for a flock of pigeons fly over. They’ll probably be there before the first crumb even hits the ground.
After feeding the birds for some time, Ilius, my seven-year-old nephew, got the courage to feed them out of his hand! On the other hand, Avery, my two-year-old niece, got bored of feeding the birds and wandered around looking at the horses and the people dressed up in costumes. We had bubbles* packed for her too, which she enjoyed blowing while walking around.
Like I mentioned, we were there for a whole hour and the kids could’ve stayed longer if we let them.
Safety Note: Dam Square is large enough for the kids to wander around aimlessly but be careful of the edges of the square. The tram runs along the perimeter.
*Tip: You can get bubbles at Action, a discount store, or Intertoys, a toy store.
Enjoy a Picnic with a View of the City at the NEMO Science Museum
The NEMO Science Museum costs 16,50 euros for anyone ages 4 and over, but you can skip the pricey entrance for this museum by heading right to the rooftop. There you’ll find a spectacular view of the city for you and a handful of fun science-related “toys” with water for your kids to play with.
The fastest way to get to the rooftop is by using the elevator inside the museum. As soon as you enter the museum, take a quick left for the elevator, which will bring you right to the top.
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Once my sister and I got to the top, we found a bench to sat on halfway up the rooftop and unloaded our picnic. The kids immediately took off their shoes, got into their bathing suits, and started playing in the water and with the interactive science installations.
Even though the kids were further down the roof, because of how its set up, we could see clearly where they were at all times. It was really nice to have our own quiet time with the view of the city while still being able to keep an eye on the kids.
Ilius’ go-to activity here was spinning the handles that made a water fountain go higher and higher from manual energy while Avery simply enjoyed walking up and down the stairs and through the water.
Good to Know: The rooftop is covered in wide steps as it’s a slanted rooftop so if your baby is sleeping in the stroller and you don’t want to wake him up, then you can leave the stroller on the first level by the elevator. It’s a very safe place, and you can see the entire rooftop the higher you sit.
Also, if you don’t feel like packing your own picnic, there is an entrance to the café at the top of the rooftop. You can get food and even beer from there and bring it out to the rooftop.
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Ride the Free Ferries Between Centraal Station and Noord
I highly recommend taking an open boat ride around the canals with either Boat Amsterdam or Blue Boat (open air boat is key), but if you don’t want to shell out 10-15 euros a person, then you can go on a free ferry ride from Centraal Station to somewhere in the Noord. These ferries are used as the main mode of transportation between the main part of Amsterdam and Noord neighborhood, but for kids, it’ll be viewed as a fun boat ride on the water.
There are three ferries that you can ride for free from Centraal Station to Noord, which you can find behind Centraal Station. Go to Centraal Station and follow the signs for the ferry. Then look out for these specific ferry signs:
- For a short ferry ride, take the ferry to Buiksloterweg, which only takes about 30 seconds to go across. This is the same ferry you would take to go the EYE Film Museum or the A’dam Tower.
- For a longer ferry ride, take the ferry to Ndsm, which takes 15 minutes. This area is quite hipster and is full of street art so you could hop off and take a look around.
I took my niece and nephew on the short Buiksloterweg ferry. They enjoyed seeing the other boats passing, the buildings around them, and also watching people on bikes load on and off. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a small car called the Canta boarding the ferry. It’s quite amusing!
Go to Vondelpark for These Playgrounds and Activities
The Main Playground with a Shallow Pool
There are so many awesome parks in Amsterdam that have plenty to do for kids.
Out of all the free things to do in Amsterdam with kids in the summer, both Ilius’ and Avery’s favorite activity was going to the large playground in Vondelpark, and my sister and I absolutely loved it too.
Here’s everything this playground had:
- A small toddler sized slide and climbing set for toddlers like Avery
- At two years old, she was able to climb the stairs to the slide and 95% of the time hung out here by herself.
- A large swing set and climbing area great for Ilius’ age
- A wooded area where kids Ilius’ age used the large branches to build teepees
- A sanded area for kids of all ages to play in
- A large shallow pool that was a great size for Avery but kids Ilius’ age also enjoyed
This playground is built in a circle and is completely fenced in. Wherever you’re sitting, it’s really easy to let the kids run around on their own while still keeping a watchful eye on them from afar.
Of course, there are (unmarked) toilets in the black building and a water fountain to refill your reusable water bottle.
A Playground for Older Kids
One day Mike and I were biking around Vondelpark with Ilius and discovered this really cool playground for bigger kids. The playground went almost two stories above ground through the trees. If we hadn’t looked up while biking, we would’ve surely missed it.
Ilius had a ton of fun climbing up to the top and walking along the roped pathways—something he wouldn’t have been able to do if we had Avery with us.
There were even some guys in their 20s up there enjoying this cool playground. Of course, they were super respectful and let all the kids pass before trying out this adventure filled course themselves.
Other Things to Do with Kids at Vondelpark
- There are also other small playgrounds sprinkled around Vondelpark or fallen trees to climb on. Just take a walk around and see what you can find.
- On summer nights, there are free concerts at the park.
- Buy food at Albert Heijn grocery store, and picnic at Vondelpark like the locals.
- See the beautiful roses at the rose garden.
- Keep an eye out for beehives. There are a couple placed around the park.
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Play at Amsterdam’s Many Playgrounds
Amsterdam is really great at making sure kids get out and play. Within a 10 minute walking radius of my house in Oud-West, there are six playgrounds for the kids to play at! Some are good for toddlers whereas others are good for children. Some have multiple big toys to play at while some just have swings and slides, but overall, there’s always space for kids to play outdoors so keep your eyes peeled for a playground near you.
Here are a couple to enjoy near tourist sites:
- By the Ten Kate Market and Foodhallen – had water fountains and a playground and swings (Google Maps)
- By Winkel 43 for the best Dutch apple pie – had fun monkey bars (Google Maps)
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Watch the Boats Go by on the Canal
A couple of days, we bought ice cream at Albert Heijn and posted up at a canal to eat ice cream and watch the boats go by. The kids got excited waiting for boats to come so they could wave at the people on board.
Again, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for docks to sit on, and you’ll probably want to do this outside city center where there’s larger docks away from the street. Here are a couple that I know of:
- by Albert Heijn on Kinkerstraat
- by by Cafe Lennep (there’s also a small playground there for toddlers)
- City Centre
- in front of the EYE Museum (take the free ferry there that I mentioned above)
Check Out the Mouse House at the Central Library
Whether you’re an adult or kid, this is one budget activity in Amsterdam that I always recommend my guests do! I bring them to the children’s section to see this amazingly detailed mouse house built by an author and his family.
After building this mouse house, they created a wonderful children’s book by taking photos of various rooms and showing what Sam and Julia were doing in these parts of the mouse house. I recommend grabbing the book nearby and flipping through each page with your children to see if they can find the rooms in the book.
Besides the mouse house, the Central Library’s kid section has a teepee and fun installations for kids to check out. There’s also a café on the top floor with a rooftop view of the city if you’re hungry or looking to see Amsterdam in a whole new way.
Note: I call it the mouse house because that’s its proper name, but it’s more like a mouse city. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how tiny and detailed parts of this city are.
Take a Photo at the iAmsterdam Sign
There are three iAmsterdam signs around the city: one at the Rijksmuseum, at Schipol Airport, and a traveling one, which you can find by checking out the iAmsterdam website. Out of all three to visit, I’d recommend going to the Rijksmuseum because the building itself is an architectural beauty, and sometimes, there are classical musicians playing underneath the passageway.
Also, there’s a big lawn here where you can hang out and have a picnic. But otherwise, taking a photo here will scream, “Hey. I went to Amsterdam!” Best of all, all you’ll need for this free activity with kids in Amsterdam is your phone or camera.
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Other Cheap to Free Things to Do in Amsterdam With Kids in the Summer
Our favorite budget things to do in Amsterdam with kids in the summer were the ones I listed above, but you could also:
- Walk through Ten Kate or Albert Cuyp Market and eat freshly baked stroopwafels.
- Walk around Jordaan to see this beautiful UNESCO Heritage neighborhood.
- Eat chocolate samples at the Tony Chocolaney store.
- Head to Museumplein and have a picnic on the lawn there. You’ll get a nice view of the Rijksmuseum, Stadelijk museum, and other surrounding architectural beauties.
- Go on the tram for a ride because your kids will love looking out the window and seeing the city pass by.
- Check Groupon to find deals for restaurants, tourist sites, boat rides and more.
- Get an iAmsterdam City Card, which gives you entry to multiple museums, discounts on various attractions, and even includes unlimited use of the tram.
Have you done other research to find out great budget things to do in Amsterdam with kids for the summertime? Please let me know by commenting below. Happy to update my post with great suggestions!
Thanks for stopping by! xo.