This post is part of a collaborative project by 19 family travel bloggers. Justin Mussler of the Great Family Escape came up with the brilliant idea of linking local expertise to global visibility. 19 traveling families have launched a blog post with their local Top 5 of places to explore with kids. On this blog you can read my own Top 5 for families that want to visit The Netherlands. There’s a big bonus as well. Below this post you will find links to all the other Top 5 lists! So without further ado, here is my Top 5:
1. De Haar Castle in Utrecht
Knights and princesses, kings and queens, which child has not fantasized about living in a real medieval castle? De Haar Castle is situated in the center of the country and dates back to the 14th century. It has been completely restored some years ago and it offers daily tours. In weekends and during holidays there are special tours for kids guided by a baroness. You can also wander around the 135 acres of French-style and English castle gardens.
A visit to the Netherlands would be nothing without a visit to Amsterdam. Kids will love the canal tours that provide a view of the city from a totally different angle: the water. They will be surprised by the vast number of living boats (of which some own gardens and terraces). There are even boats that act as shelters for stray cats and boats that have turned into bicycle storage platforms.
The Nemo science museum is great for younger kids. If you travel with older kids, don’t miss out on the Scheepvaartmuseum, Rijksmuseum or the Anne Frank House . As I do believe in sharing personal stories, here’s a link to a post from Michelle Brideau about her recent visit to the Anne Frank House.
Amsterdam is one big open air museum. The historic buildings and narrow streets offer a peek into history (although some alleys might be crowded with tourists). For a relaxing view of history, please go to the Begijnhof, a small hidden square in typical old Dutch style, founded as a religious community back in 1150. And don’t worry about the weather, even in winter Amsterdam is a great place to visit: Snow in Amsterdam.
3. Rotterdam, Madurodam and the beach
Rotterdam actually is the largest city of the Netherlands but lacks the historical buildings and atmosphere that you encounter in Amsterdam. The reason is tragic as Rotterdam was bombed heavily during World War II. Being completely destroyed however, it did ignite entrepreneurship and the strong will to reconstruct the city. And that sense of craftsmanship never disappeared. Today, Rotterdam is known as the city of modern architecture and building design. Next to that it owns the second largest harbor in the world (after Singapore) which is a great activity with your kids. You can book various boat trips that will take you into the heart of the harbor activity. For sure you will encounter some huge container ships!
Another nice activity is to go up the Euromast, a 185 meter high tower that offers beautiful views of Rotterdam and the harbor. The top part is exciting where you twirl around the tower up in the sky. Through glass floor parts you can actually look down (quite scary for some!).
Close to Rotterdam you must visit the miniature city of Madurodam. Madurodam is Holland in the smallest possible way. They have rebuild all the major and famous parts of the country, in miniature style.
Close to Madurodam you can drive to the beach to end a wonderful day out. Dutch beaches are famous for being very wide and clean. You will also find sand dunes that offer wonderful hiking opportunities.
Interested to learn about more activities in the city of Rotterdam? Please read the post about “Spectacular things to do in Rotterdam“.
4. Hoge Veluwe
We now move away from the busy Western part of the Netherlands into the more rural areas. First stop is the Hoge Veluwe. This is the biggest national park in the country and great for a day trip. Next to the beautiful landscapes, the impressive Jachthuis estate and the famous art museum (including a large garden with outdoor art objects), you and your kids can borrow the well-known white bicycles to get around and have some fun. At each entrance of the park you can find hundreds of white bicycles. Just pick one for free and start biking! There are tours available in different lengths. At some point you will take a rest in one of the restaurants or visit the museum. Just park your bicycle but don’t be surprised if someone else took it when you return! You cannot lock the bicycles as they don’t have an owner. The great thing is that you just pick whatever white bicycle you can find to continue your trip. The park offers special kids activities in school holiday periods.
If you are in the area of Hoge Veluwe National Park, you can also visit the Royal Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn!
How typical Dutch can you go? Next stop: Giethoorn . Giethoorn is an unique place, a small village crossed by canals. Not like in Amsterdam, but more in a typical rural style. You can rent so-called whisper boats (electric boats that hardly make any sound) and navigate whatever route you like. Don’t worry if you get lost in the networks of canals, there are many people out there to help you.
You will pass cows in meadows, beautiful farm houses, bars and restaurants and one big lake. Try to stay during the evening when most of the tourists have left the village. Have dinner on one of the terraces and enjoy the relaxing evening atmosphere.
I could have picked a dozen more great family trips in the Netherlands: the enchanting Efteling amusement park, the traditional Open Air Museum in Arnhem, the UNESCO protected Wadden islands (Dutch-Frisian-Islands) in the North, the surreal Radio Kootwijk, the city of Leiden with the amazing Naturalis museum (Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity; check the picture below) and the close-by Noordwijk Space Expo (Europe’s first permanent space exhibition). Or what about my historical hometown of Deventer? Our country is not that big (I refrain from using the word small…) and many trips can be done within a day. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any specific questions about visiting The Netherlands. Another option is to visit this Dutch site offering guides to all major cities.
Hope you liked the shortlist! Now that you have discovered great places in The Netherlands, start clicking on the links below to read about other fabulous Kids Travel tips from around the globe!
Europe & the Middle East
5 Things to do with kids in London – Theodora Sutcliffe – Travels with a Nine Year Old
5 Activities for kids in Fethiye, Turkey – Renee – ramblecrunch
The Holy Land: our Favorite Family Things to do – Israel – Gaby Klaf – Nomadic Family
5 Things to do with kids in Brisbane, Australia – Tracy – OurTravelLifestyle
Chiang Mai for toddlers, Northern Thailand – Barbara – The Dropout Diaries
Central Australia for families – Jarrad Page – Wandering Photographer
South Australia for families – Amy Page – Livin On The Road
My top 5 things to do with kids in Boston, USA – Justin Mussler – Great Family Escape
Our New York City family favorites, USA – Diya Luke – A Minor Diversion
5 Favorite places to visit with kids in Washington, D.C. U.S.A. -Susan Verbeeck – Grow in Grace Life
5 Favorite places for kids in Seattle, WA, USA- Keryn Means- Walkingon Travels
5 Favorite places for kids in Sunset Coast, Michigan, USA – Jessie Voigts – WanderingEducators.com
5 favorite winter activities for families in Vancouver, B.C. Canada-Jess Farrugia – With 2 Kids In Tow
5 Favorite places in Kingston, Ontario, Canada-Jennifer Miller- EdventureProject.com
5 Best places for kids in Costa Rica- Mary-Bohemian Travelers
5 Great activities for kids in Lake Chapala, Mexico – Alisa – Living Outside of the Box
Fun kids outings in Antigua, Guatemala -Lainie Liberti – Raising Miro
Activities for kids on Ambergris Caye, Belize – A King’s Life
More stories about family traveling will be posted on this blog in the coming weeks. Follow the ‘Family’ tag on this blog to read them all.