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The Nemo Science Museum in Ansterdam from afar.

How We Spent 3 Days in Amsterdam with Kids

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Are you looking for help putting together an itinerary for spending 3 days in Amsterdam?  Amsterdam is a vibrant city with a rich history and TONS of activities for families.  Oh, and it is SUPER easy to get around with great public transportation options!

It is a PERFECT place for a long weekend, or to spend a few extra days on the way to somewhere else (Amsterdam is a common connecting hub for flights in Europe).  Here is what I put on our Amsterdam three day itinerary when I visited with my 6 year old son.

Some Thoughts About 3 Days in Amsterdam with Kids

  • There are SO MANY things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days.  There is no way that you could fit all of them in and you definitely shouldn’t try, especially if you are visiting Amsterdam with kids.  
  • Trying to fit in too many activities with kids in tow is a guaranteed way to make sure that no one has any fun.  We have learned the hard way that it is better to really enjoy one or two activities and really engage with those places and absorb them than to try to see everything and end up in meltdown mode by lunch time.
  • Pick just one focus activity for each day and check it off of your list early in the day.  For the afternoon, pick another “maybe” activity that you would be ok not getting to, or plan for some playtime in the park and a picnic dinner.  Don’t ever schedule.
  • Another thing to consider – if you are just arriving in Europe and Amsterdam is your first (or only) stopping point, you will arrive jet lagged and tired from a long flight. 
  • While I believe in the strategy of just pushing through the jetlet on that first afternoon when arriving in Europe and getting a full night of sleep to help our clocks adjust, we usually plan a pretty relaxed first afternoon.  Adults can just push through, but traveling with little ones means that we usually just plan to visit a great park with a playground that first night, and have a relaxed dinner and an early bedtime.  

So, without ado, here is how we spent our 3 days in Amsterdam (with some great ideas for things to do in Amsterdam with kids!)

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Our Amsterdam Three Day Itinerary

Day 1 of 3 days in Amsterdam:  Arrival Day

  • Morning: Arrive, check into hotel (Mercure Amsterdam City Center, or your hotel of choice from the list at the bottom of the post)
  • Afternoon: Pick up bike and Amsterdam canal cruise
  • Evening: Dinner at hotel, explore nearby Amstel Park (other other nearby park)

Morning:  Arrive

Most flights from the United States arrive in Amsterdam in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for a little laid back exploring.

Why I Chose This Hotel:

During our short trip, we stayed at the Mercure Amsterdam City Center. Hotels in the heart of Amsterdam are EXPENSIVE!  While we would have loved to have stayed a little closer, we were on a budget.  The had excellent rates, and honestly, it is just a very luxurious feeling hotel. It was close to a nice park (we always try for this when we travel as a family) and it was close to the airport and walking distance from the train station.

The hotel was a little out of the city, but we were planning on renting a bicycle to get for our three days in Amsterdam, and it was an easy 15-20 minute ride down the beautiful Amstel Canal to get into the city.  It would have been equally as easy to pop around the corner back to the train station to get into the city.

The restaurant at the hotel was a little expensive (and there weren’t very many other choices nearby), but we managed to split a pizza on our first night and they had a little grab and go bakery in the lobby where we grabbed breakfast each day, so it worked out fine.

Hotel Mercure Amsterdam City
Our room at the Hotel Mercure Amsterdam City Center

Here are some reviews to peruse on Tripadvisor if you are curious.

Afternoon: Pick Up Bike and Amsterdam Canal Cruise

We dove right into the chaos of Amsterdam and headed into the city on our first afternoon to pick up our rental bike.  Boy, was this a learning experience!  We rode out into the sea of bikes and rode across the Old Town to board an Amsterdam Canal Cruise.  

Renting a bike in Amsterdam was a little scary, but once we got used to riding, it really gave us an authentic experience in Amsterdam that we wouldn’t have had just taking the trains.  

I felt like the canal cruise would be a laid back way to spend the first afternoon.  A note about the canal cruise with kids – I thought that just riding in the boat and seeing the action on the canal would be enough to keep my little one occupied in his jetlagged state, but he got a little antsy a little ways into the cruise.  I had wished that I had brought an activity book for him, or something else for him to do.

If we were doing this again, we would go on the Blue Boat Canal Cruise for Kids (they have a special pirate themed audio guide for kids…he would have had a lot more fun this way). The blue boat cruises also have tops on the boats, so we wouldn’t have been so HOT!

Amsterdam Canal Boat cruise - one of the best things to do when spending 3 days in Amsterdam
Our boat tour of the canals of Amsterdam.
Us on the Amsterdam Canal cruise - a great way to start 3 days in Amsterdam!
The little enjoying the boat tour (before he got hot and bored…poor kiddo!)

Evening:  Picnic Dinner and Exploring the Amstelpark near the hotel

I had planned to eat out on this first night, but that had been over optimistic.  We hit the wall late in the afternoon after the cruise, and crashed for a bit.  I thought that we were done for the night, but around dinnertime, my son got a second wind and wanted to go again!  

We rode our bike down the path to the lovely Amstelpark which was not far from the hotel.

This park had an amazing playground with a petting zoo.  On the weekends, the park has a lovely little train that you can ride around.  Definitely a good place to burn off some energy!

Seen while walking around the beautiful Amstelpark
Seen while strolling around the lovely Amstelpark
One of the playgrounds at the Amstel park in Amsterdam
One of the playgrounds at the Amstel Park. This one would be great for bigger kids…there was another one nearby that was more appropriate for little ones.
The Amstel Park in Amsterdam also has a nice petting zoo!
The Amstel Park in Amsterdam also has a nice petting zoo!

Day 2 of 3 days in Amsterdam

  • Morning/Afternoon: Breakfast at hotel, then the Nemo Science Museum (or alternate below)
  • Afternoon treat: Stop for authentic stroopwafels
  • Evening: Dinner at the Vondelpark and playtime

Morning/Afternoon:  The Nemo Science Museum

The Nemo Museum was at the top of our bucket list of things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days, so we got up and had some pastries and got on our bike the next morning to ride to the Nemo Science Center.

This museum is a MUST if you are visiting Amsterdam with kids.  It consisted of 3 floors of exhibits that were all hands on.  We spent the morning here and were here well into the afternoon.  

My son spent a lot of time at this exhibit where he used a “shield” to block the planet from imaginary asteroids.  We saw other things, but he loved this most (and it gave his tired mama some time to just sit and recuperate!)

On the roof of the Nemo Science Museum is a really amazing tiered splash pad with a cafe and amazing views of the city.  This is free to visit even if you don’t  visit the museum!  We spent a couple of hours here between lunch in the cafe (where prices were pretty reasonable) and cooling off in the water.  They even have a little hut where you can buy ice cream and wine. 

If you are going to go, do what we did and pack some swim trunks and a towel.  Your kids WILL want to get wet and they will be happier to have dry clothes to change back into afterwards.

TIP: Don’t miss the opportunity to walk across the iconic white bridge in front of the museum at the end of your day for some neat photos of the unusual architecture of the museum itself!

The Nemo Museum and the rooftop splash pad should definitely be a contender for your Amsterdam 3 day itinerary!

The Nemo Science Museum in Amsterdam - Exterior view
The Nemo Science Museum in Ansterdam from afar.
The Nemo Science Museum was 3 floors of amazing!
The Nemo museum was HUGE! There were three floors to explore. We spent nearly the whole day here!
My son at the Nemo Science Museum
Playing with the electricity ball!
Having fun on the roof top splash pad at the Nemo Museum!
There is a great rooftop splash pad on the top of the Nemo Museum. It has great views of the city and the best part is that is it free to visit, even if you aren’t paying to go into the museum.

Evening:  Original Stroopwafel Stand and Exploring Vondelpark

A visit to the Original Stroopwafel stand near Albert Cuyp Market is a must!  Stroopwafels are amazing, authentic Dutch treats…my mouth is watering just thinking about them.  These gooey treats will help perk you up for exploring the beautiful Vondelpark.

Vondelpark:  This HUGE park in Amsterdam definitely deserves more of your time, but we just had time for a short visit (especially after getting a little lost on the bike on the way).  

There are 6 separate play areas in Vondelpark, as well as a kids wading pool.  We only got to visit two.  If you are visiting with kids and you only have a short time, there are two main areas that you could focus on. 

We played on the playground in the western corner of the park called “De Vondeltuin”.  It has a little playground with a fun climber and huge metal slide. There is a cafe right next to the playground with the same name.  This would be a convenient place to eat, though the playground was not QUITE close enough to let small children play while you eat.

My son had a TON of fun playing in the treetop playground in the center of the park. It is the second spot labeled “2” from the left edge of this map.  It was a series of interconnected treetop platforms with bridges in between. 

We could have played here for hours had it not been getting dark.  There is only so much that you can fit in to three days in Amsterdam. So much left to explore for next time!

One of the 6 neat playgrounds in the HUGE Veondelaprk
The neat playground in Vondelpark. I wished that we had more time to play here – by the time we got here the sun was starting to set and we still had to ride back to the hotel!
Little one at the bottom of the huge metal slide
Just came down the HUGE metal slide!
The neat tree playground at Vondelpark Amsterdam
The neat treetop playground in Vondelpark. It was a series of “tree houses” connected by net bridges and tunnels! Definitely want to come back here next time.

Alternate Activity for Day 2:  The National Maritime Museum and/or Tony’s Chocoloney Superstore

The National Maritime Museum was right across the water from the Nemo Museum.  You could probably fit both in if you got an earlier start than we did (or if you spent a little less time at Nemo).  

The museum has a replica of a merchant ship from the 1700’s that you can go on to explore.  The museum also has many other exhibits that are designed to be engaging for all ages.  

We can’t wait to visit this museum on a future visit, as this is considered one of the top things to do in Amsterdam for families!

If you are lucky enough to be visiting Amsterdam in the Spring, Fall or Winter, you can plan in a visit to the Tony’s Chocoloney Superstore.  The kids will have fun trying all of the varieties on the giant chocolate machine on the wall (ok, maybe not ALL of the flavors…there are SO MANY!)  

National maritime Museum, Amsterdam
Views of the Maritime Museum (we will have to go here next time…you can tour that big galleon looking thing!)

Day 3 of 3 days in Amsterdam

  • Morning: Magnet fishing in the Amsterdam Canals
  • Lunch: De Carrousel Pannekoeken
  • Afternoon: Return bike, retrieve bags and move to next hotel near the airport
  • Late Afternoon: Explore the Bos Forest a little (pick one or two places…you would need a whole day to see this amazing park)

After Breakfast: Check out of hotel.  Store luggage at front desk.

Morning:  Magnet Fishing Excursion

This was honestly my son’s favorite part of our three days in Amsterdam!  We booked this through Airbnb Experiences…here is a link to this tour.  We met our guide Youri and he took us to a quiet canal in Amsterdam.

He turned us loose with powerful magnets on the ends of long ropes, and guided us on the best techniques for “fishing” for the many discarded pieces of metal that lay on the bottom of the canal.

It is not as easy as it sounds – much of it is buried deep in the mud and is hard to get out.  While we didn’t find anything life changing, my son came away with a bag of little trinkets and although it was waaay too heavy to pull out, I pulled an old street sign up to the surface of the water!

Lowering the magnet into the canal
Magnet fishing in the canal in Amsterdam…lowering down the rope!
Our "catch" from out magnet fishing tour in Amsterdam.
Our little one with some of his “catch” from magnet fishing!

Youri provided rubber gloves, hand sanitizer and plastic bags for our treasures.  The mud on the bottom of the canal is pretty gross, so really do wear icky clothes (and perhaps brings something to change into afterwards, if you aren’t going right back to your hotel).

This really is a unique experience, and a MUST if you are visiting Amsterdam with kids.  This was one of our favorite things to do in Amsterdam in 3 days.   What kid doesn’t love going on a treasure hunt?

Lunch: De Carrousel Pannekoeken

After our magnet fishing adventure, we ate lunch at the nearby De Carrousel Pannekoeken restaurant.  Our goal was to try some of those iconic Dutch pancakes, and we weren’t disappointed.

I tried the a savory version with bacon and cheese.  My son had little pancakes, called Poffertjes, with strawberries and whipped cream. Both were really yummy, and this restaurant is just fun inside for kids. 

De Carrousel Pannekoeken - A fun restaurant for kids
The Carrousel Restaurant where we stopped for authentic Dutch pancakes during our 3 days in Amsterdam
Our pancake lunch
These little “mini” pancakes are a Dutch speciality called Poffertjes.

Afternoon: Return bike 🙁  Return luggage.  Move to next hotel (near the airport, for our last night).

These are a couple hotels that I would recommend staying at if you are planning on visiting here on your last day like we did.  The Bos Forest is closer to the airport than it is to the center of Amsterdam, making it easy to hit on your last day before flying out. 

I hand picked these hotels primarily because of their proximity to the entrance to the Bos Forest.  We made the mistake of staying at a hotel on the other side of the forest, and underestimated how BIG it was.  When you are traveling with kids, you will want to stay close to the entrance because that is where most of the activities are. The entrance is also the only place to rent kid sized bikes, which are a MUST if you are going to see anything in this HUGE park.

Recommended Amsterdam Hotels Near the Airport AND Amsterdam Forest

Spa Sport Hotel Zuiver: 

This hotel can’t get any closer to the Bos Forest (it is literally right on its edge).  The bed configuration is not super friendly for larger families (rooms only offer two twins, but you can get an extra cot in the room for 10 euros per night).  The rooms are simple and we would definitely stay here on a return trip, just for the convenience of being right next to the forest.

Read some Tripadvisor reviews for this hotel here.

Holiday inn Express Amsterdam South: 

I like the consistency of Holiday Inns. The whole Holiday Inn brand was set up to be family friendly.  This particular Holiday Inn Express offers free hot breakfast (all Holiday Inn Expresses do this) and it is a short 15 minute walk from the entrance to the Bos Forest.  They have rooms that sleep 3 (one double with a sofa bed), but we have often had our small kids share a sofa with no problem.  And the hotel is right next to a tram stop to take you straight into the city!  Win! 

Read some Tripavisor reviews for this hotel here.

Afternoon/Evening:  Explore the Bos Forest Amsterdam

We saved this activity for our last day, because the Amsterdam Bos is not far from the airport.  We moved to a hotel that was closer to the airport on our last night so it would be so far to get to the airport the next day (and airport hotels are GENERALLY cheaper than hotels in the heart of the city). 

The Amsterdam Forest has SO MUCH to do, you are only going to get a taste of in in an afternoon.  I suggest renting a bike from this place and riding out to the goat farm (open till 5, closed on Tuesdays).  The kids can explore the farm and  interact with the goats and various other farm animals.  

The farm has a lovely organic restaurant where you can eat a snack, a meal or some ice cream!

The park also has a forest park with zip lines and tree top adventures (minimum height 110 cm for lowest course), small electric boats that you can rent to paddle around and a kids pool in the summer!  Next time we visit, we are going to allot an entire day to hanging out and really exploring this amazing park!

The treetop adventure course in the Amsterdam Bos Forest.

TIP:  If you happen to be visiting the Bos Forest on a Sunday, you can take a special tram in to or from the city to get here.  This would make visiting on a Sunday an easy day trip from the heart of Amsterdam!

Where to Stay for 3 Days in Amsterdam

Finding a hotel in Amsterdam is often a careful balance between staying in the heart of the city, close to all of the action and saving money (hotels in the heart of Amsterdam are not cheap).

If you choose a hotel a little outside of the city to save money, make sure you have easy access to transit or a bike path to make getting in simple and stress free! When you only have 3 days in Amsterdam, you will want to make sure that you aren’t spending all of it just getting to and from town!

Budget Options: 

Easy Hotel Amsterdam City Center: This hotel is in a really central location, just down the street from a train station.  They offer a wide variety of bed configurations (doubles, triples, quadruples) ideal for any size of family.  This is a simple hotel offering clean, simple lodging at great prices.

Read Tripadvisor Reviews for this hotel here.

Amsterdam Botel: We SOOOO would have stayed here had they not been already booked for our visit.  This unique hotel is on a hotel floating on one of the Amsterdam canals.  They have doubles, triples and quadruples at reasonable rates (quad room for summer $200 + tax when I looked).  The rooms are simple, but if you have simple expectations for this unique experience, you should not be disappointed.

Read Tripadvisor Reviews for this hotel here.

Stay Ok Amsterdam Vondelpark:  This family friendly hostel is located right next to the Vondelpark (a really convenient location for families).  We really would have loved to have had some more time to explore this park.  Exploring the park after dinner each night would be a great way to wind down the day.  

The hostel offers family rooms for up to six with an ensuite bathroom in each room.  An extensive breakfast, children’s activities and 50% off of other meals for kids makes an ideal home base for your 3 day Amsterdam itinerary.

Read Tripadvisor Reviews about this awesome hostel here!

Search for Hotels in Amsterdam for Your trip

Moderately Priced Options:

Rent a House Boat:  For a little more money, you could have a totally unique experience and stay on a real houseboat in Amsterdam!  We would have done this had this not been such a last minute trip.  Start by searching Google Maps for “House Boat Amsterdam” and click on them to get to a website for rates and booking.

Ibis Amsterdam Center Hotel:  This hotel is literally right next to the Amsterdam Centraal Train Station, so it can’t get much more convenient.  There is also a Mac’s Bike Rental at the train station, so if you want to duplicate our bike adventure, it would be really easy to start from here.

Read Tripadvisor Reviews for this hotel here

Hotel City Garden Amsterdam:  This hotel caught my eye because it has a variety of room and bed configurations and it is literally right on the doorstep of the spectacular Vondelpark!  They offer doubles, triples and quadruple rooms (they even have one 5 bed room!).  The rooms are a little on the small side, but this is normal in much of the rest of the world, and you really can’t beat the location.  They also have a membership program with which you can get discounts and free breakfast for being a member!

Read Tripavisor Reviews for this hotel here.

Splurge Options: 

Pulitzer, Amsterdam:  When you only have three days in Amsterdam, staying in a central location is definitely a plus, and you can’t get much mure central than this lovely row house right on the Prinsengracht canal.  For a family, their lovely split level family rooms catch my eye, giving everybody a little more space to stretch out (and they include breakfast, which can save you a TON of money for 4 people!)

Read some Tripadvisor reviews for this hotel here.

Are you Planning to Visit Amsterdam in 3 Days?  Did my suggestions help you?  What are your priorities for your Amsterdam 3 day itinerary?

Shanna Schultz

Hello, my name is Shanna, and I am a detail obsessed travel addict on a mission to make planning your own family trips fun and easy! I offer tools, guides and resources to help you through all of the steps of planning meaningful, memorable family vacations. Come over and check out our Facebook community where I share real tools and resources to help you move the needle on your travel goals. Let's start making those travel dreams real, y'all! Life is too short to spend dreaming...let's start DOING!

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