A boat tour of Amsterdam sounds like a lovely idea, but can the kids handle it? Here are five recommendations for tours well-suited to children.
The Netherlands excels at handling water. Whether it's the integration of canals into the architecture of almost every city, the dykes, the irrigation systems, or the building of new lands under sea level, this country is proud to display the spectacular things you can achieve when interacting with this element. So why not also use the water as a way of discovering new places in Amsterdam?
Here are some of our favorite family-friendly boat trips and tours to try out. On a practical side note, traveling with kids in a wheelchair or in a pram may be tricky as many boats have no ramps and there are often a couple of steps to be managed upon entering. Contact the tour company to check. Where possible, bring a foldable stroller or wheelchair.
To make the regular Amsterdam tour cruise extra fun for kids, the Blue Boat company provides young guests aged 5-12 with a special pirate-themed audio guide (in Dutch and English), a booklet, and a pair of binoculars. The boat trip thus becomes a super exciting pirate adventure which the little ones can enjoy while the adults listen to the regular information. The boats leave daily every half hour between 10:00 and 18:00, with the exception of the Amsterdam Light Festival period (throughout December and January). Good to know: although the company does provide headphones for the children, for a better fit, kids are advised to bring their own.
A great food-and-sightseeing mashup for kids fond of pizza. Every day (from mid-March to early November) - starting at 18:00 and leaving from Damrak - you can enjoy a delicious pizza, free drinks, and some Ben & Jerry's ice cream, as you cruise through the beautiful Amsterdam canals. Kids under 3 are free of charge and those under 12 benefit from a special price. While the tour itself contains slightly less information than the regular canal cruise, it does offer an incredible 1.5 hours experience and quite possibly one of the best ways of enjoying a pizza!
Mixing the 'business' of sightseeing with the pleasure of eating pancakes, can provide a (literally!) fulfilling experience. Departing from Amsterdam Noord, the boat will take you on a lovely tour of the Ij that features the Eye Filmmuseum and Central Station. Most importantly, you will be able to enjoy as many pancakes as you can eat. Kids under 11 can also enjoy the ball pool below the deck. The boat tour takes place on the weekend, every 1 hour and 45 minutes, starting at 12:30 and ending at 17:45. From April to September, the trip is also available on weekdays at 16:00 and 17:45.
In case of allergies, bring your own mix which the chefs can cook separately.
The tour also has an extended 2.5 hours version every 2nd Sunday of the month, starting at 13:00, as well as an evening version taking place every 2nd Saturday of the month, starting at 20:00. Special boat trips are organized on special occasions such as Father's Day, Pinkster and Christmas. You can also arrange to have your child's birthday party there.
A day out with kids normally needs flexibility. This boat tour lets you step out and see things at your own pace. Hop on and off between the seven pit stops the tour offers, walk around the landmarks you choose to explore, hop back on and relax on the boat once you are finished with sightseeing. A great way to experience Amsterdam in more depth, while still benefitting from a somewhat guided tour. You can use the boats between 9:30 and 19:00. You can also purchase 24 hour or 48 hour tickets. In high season, it might prove challenging to find enough free places at a specific location, possibly resulting in long waits.
It's the most basic of tours but, for this reason, also the most convenient - especially if you're only in Amsterdam for a couple of hours. The trip lasts around 75 minutes and you get to see where Anne Frank lived, the City Hall, Rembrandt's House, the Skinny Bridge and lots of other landmarks.
The audio guide is available in multiple languages including Spanish, French and German. The information provided is not only focussed on buildings and history, but also on fun facts about Amsterdam and Dutch people, like why they have the hooks on top of the houses or why the walls are not straight. Passing under the very low bridges, turning the boat around, entering the Ij, as well as seeing the big restored ship in front of the National Maritime Museum can be interesting highlights for little ones.
Throughout the city, there are lots of companies that provide these types of tours. There are very small variations in terms of prices and program, but the ones right at the Central Station do tend to be slightly more expensive and shorter, so you might want to pick one closer to the inside of Amsterdam (like for instance the ones at Singel or close to the Heineken Experience). From April to September, the tours run from 10:00 until 17:45, while in the other periods they stop at 17:15.
Families with older children might like to try Blue Boat Company's evening version of the tour. From March till October, the boats leave at 20:00, 21:00, and 22:00 from Central Station. In November and February there is a 20:00 departure only. The tour also offers one free drink.
Maria Dicieanu is Multimedia in Human Form. Media researcher. Journalist. Filmmaker. PR and Social Media Mind. Cinephille. TV Shows aficionado. Books Lover. Music Video guru. Mother of the sweetest daredevils: Aiden and Colin. Twitter: @ricutza
photo credits: Header - Deborah Nicholls-Lee, Pannenkoekenboot - Wikimedia