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Museum strategies and tips 2 days in Amsterdam

Hello! We will arrive at Amsterdam Centraal around 5:30 pm and will head directly to our hotel. We then have the next 2 full days to explore the city. It's 4 of us including my son (almost 15) and daughter (12). We will have already spent 9 days in Prague and around Germany before these last few days in Amsterdam before we head back to the US. Our trip is at the end of May.
I will try to get tickets to Anne Frank Huis in a couple weeks because we all want to see that (fingers crossed). My daughter also wants to see Van Gogh and my son wants to see the Rijksmuseum, I am up for all of it. Any suggestions on how to best do all 3, such as how to break up the days and which ones to see in the morning vs. afternoon/evening? Or nay other tips/suggestions for how to best enjoy the city in our short time. Thanks!

Posted by
21281 posts

No strategic tips because I haven't been to Amsterdam recently, but I really enjoyed the Dutch Resistance Museum and would recommend it if you aren't totally museumed-out.

Posted by
1199 posts

If you don't get into Anne Frank, I wouldn't worry. I have been to Amsterdam many times and have never gone to Anne Frank. It was recommended to me to go to the Dutch resistance museum, which I really enjoyed. I understand the appeal of Anne Frank, especially for kids who have read the book, but just giving options.

Because I am a morning person, I like to do major museums in the morning. I entered the Van Gogh right when it opened and not only is it a relatively small museum (4 floors) and organized in an unfolding display as you move up that covers his life/career, but the crowds were so thin first thing that it I felt like I got to take in the works and story in a more intimate way. By the time we left (after maybe 2 hours) it was getting a lot more crowded and I was glad we'd come early). The Rijks is far bigger. Again, I say do it first thing. So maybe one of these on each morning of the two days. Then Anne Frank, and other museums/sites in the afternoon. I highly recommend the Old Church in the Attic. which is in the center of town. Read about it...

And one thing I recommend to most everyone, but especially if you have kids that age, is to rent bikes. There is nothing comparable to riding in Amsterdam, and it gives you an experience of the city, and an experience period, that you won't have otherwise. There are MANY bike rental places (Ive used Blackbike, and Mac bike). They give you the bike for any number of days with a lock. So we rented ours for several days at a time and rode everywhere. I would give my kids paper maps, and they would navigate us from one end of the city to another. You can also ride around Vondelpark, which is a great place to people watch from your bike and mix with all the others visiting and living there. Yes, biking there can be hectic at first, but you get the hang of it quickly, you can cover a lot of the city in a short time and really immerse yourself in it, my kids loved it (I have done this with 12 and 13 yo's), I loved it. Its just exhilarating, and a little frightening ;p

The NEMO museum is likely too young for your kids, BUT, you can access the roof-top deck without entrance to the museum. It is a neat totally cambered roof with fountains and a great view of the entire port area.

Foodhallen for lunch or dinner is an experience. Its one of those indoor food halls. This one has a dj and ping pong on the weekends, and the food is really good.

Posted by
21281 posts

I liked the canal cruise. It's a nice option for later in the day if you develop weary feet.

If your kids are at least moderately adventurous eaters, they'd probably enjoy a rijsttafel dinner, or at least a meal in an Indonesian restaurant. I'd seek local input here, to try to avoid the seriously overpriced tourist joints, of which I assume there are quite a few.

Posted by
292 posts

You can buy tickets to both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh online, which will save time at the ticket window (though the lines at the Rijksmuseum cloakroom can be long too). I visited the Rijksmuseum in the morning with an online ticket, then had lunch, and then went to the Van Gogh. Avoiding mid-day works best with both museums, but my recollection is that the Van Gogh wasn't anywhere near as crowded as the Rijksmuseum. Also, if by any chance you're arriving on a Friday, the Van Gogh stays open till 9 pm on Fridays.

Anne Frank Huis stays open late (till 8 pm, I think); perhaps you could get tickets for a later admission there and then have dinner somewhere in the Jordaan neighborhood (which is where the house is). That would leave more of your day for outdoor activities.

I agree about the Dutch Resistance Museum; I enjoyed it very much. It's a little out of the way from other sights but easily reached on the tram.

A canal boat tour is worth doing in order to see the city from the water. And save some time for just walking. It's a very walkable city with lots to see. And the suggestion above about renting bikes is a good one too.

Posted by
441 posts

Thanks all! I love the suggestion to rent bikes, and the canal cruise. Totally going to do that, hopefully the weather will be decent. And I also like getting there before the crowds arrive, so we will aim to do that, too!

I have thought about the Dutch Resistance Museum, and we may add that one too, if the kids aren't already museum-ed out.

Appreciate the feedback! :)

Posted by
35 posts

I guess I will be the dissenting vote here but I would strongly advise against bike riding in Amsterdam. The people on TripAdvisor that live in the city will all advise against it as well. There are also threads on this forum that address riding bikes. Try watching some youtube videos to get an idea of what you would be dealing with. I was there last April and there are bikes, motorcycles, cars, trams, pedestrians all crammed into the same lanes that all look alike. Anyway, have a wonderful trip and have fun no matter what you decide.

Posted by
441 posts

Thanks nolanani, I had not heard this about bikes, sounds scary. I’ll do some more research.

Posted by
3936 posts

I was worried about the bikes and we were just walking! I think biking around Vondelpark might be fun (as someone walking there and trying to get across the road when people were heading to work - there were so...many...bikes. Took me a good minute to get an opening to dash across.

If you do want to attempt biking (keep in mind turning vehicles and trams and tourists who may not know to watch out for the bike lanes) - I'd keep it to mid-morning or mid-afternoon - after everyone gets to work. Just like rush hour in a big city, unless your kids are really proficient bike riders, keep to the less busy times.

Posted by
441 posts

Thanks Nicole-great advice! I was thinking we would go North to the countryside, or perhaps to Haarlem if we rented bikes. I am sufficiently concerned about getting myself run over that I do not want to ride in the city.

Posted by
1005 posts

I would do one museum and Anne Frank on one day, and the other musuem the following day. Two major art museums in one day may be too much. The Anne Frank House is a completely different type of experience, and the visit really doesn't take that long, so you could do it in the evening.

Posted by
1353 posts

Ferrin, I agree with a few other posters in that I would NEVER ride bikes IN Amsterdam. We've ridden bikes in a lot of places all over Europe, but a lot of locals use bikes there for everyday commuting, and I found that we really had to watch out for them as pedestrians. They ride fast and they mean business:)

One more suggestion to add is the Amstelkring museum. It is in the red light district, but when we were there with my 11 yo we were able to easily navigate our way there without seeing anything too unseemly.

If you manage to get tickets to the Anne Frank House - (which I highly recommend) have your kids watch the diary of Anne Frank before you leave. It will make it much more meaningful for them.

I don't think you'll have any trouble seeing everything you want to see in two full days. Have fun!

Posted by
292 posts

I agree about not biking in central Amsterdam, but the original suggestion mentioned the Vondelpark, which is a different atmosphere from the city streets.

Posted by
2829 posts

Take them to the Stedelijk, if they are mildly curious about visual art and design in general. Teenagers with some curiosity towards art usually digest well the 'weird' and 'w.t.f.' contemporary and modern art in a way most adults are pre-conceived against.

Another cool place to take teens is the Grachtenhuis museum. It is a compact museum of the canals with animations and other multi-media display. You can easily visit it in 40-45 minutes and its location is very convenient.

The Rijksmuseum is very, very large. A suggestion I give is this: go early, head up straight to the masterpieces gallery (which end at the Night Watch, actually I suggest heading to the Night Watch and walk your way back on the masterpieces gallery) the earliest possible. Afterward, decide what to see elsewhere. It is likely impossible to visit the whole museum in a half-day visit, so check their website the days before to see what temporary exhibitions are going one, whether they interest you or not, so you arrive already knowing what to see or not.

Go to the A'dam Tower rooftop (where they also have a swing) sometime. It provides great views of the city. Do it only on a fair-weather day.

Another park that is interesting is the Westgasfabriek, which has some old industrial buildings (repurposed) and a park. They have micro-brewery, shops, a Tony-chocolate concept store etc.

Posted by
201 posts

We used Mike's Bike Tours in Munich and they have a location in Amsterdam. Looks like they offer a city tour via bikes or a countryside tour. We were very pleased with our tour guide and the quality of the trip. It was the easiest to arrange for me with two kids.

Posted by
441 posts

Thanks Dana-I will check out the tours-that may be a good option.

And just to update, I was able to get Anne Frank Huis tickets for our preferred day/time-yay!

Posted by
2926 posts

Last week I found the best time to visit the Rijksmuseum was between 9 and 11. By 11:00 the mobs have consumed the Dutch Art floor, (2nd floor). We did floor 2 in two days, 2 hours and then 1 hour the next day. The rest of the museum was wonderful because most people want to go to the Dutch of the Golden Age art only. Your kids might like the MOCA, between Van Gogh and the Rijks. Check to see if Banksy is still the exhibit there. He's a street artist who has much protest street art that is very recognizable. The MOCA won't take long.

Ann Frank was much better than we expected, and with new space purchased, it will only improve. I also agree that the Dutch Resistance Museum is worth a look. However, with only 2 full days, unless it is pouring rain, you'll want to spend some time roaming the canals, etc. so you'll need to pick your museums carefully and return someday. Amsterdam has amazing museums.

Rick has a nice walk from Dam Square to the Ann Frank house. He times it as a 90 minute walk, but it only took us 30 minutes, FYI.

Posted by
104 posts

I was there last month and visited the National Maritime Museum which also features a replica of a Dutch East Indies trader ship docked outside, complete with cannons, that you can wander thru that was very interesting.

I also visited the Zoo which was surprisingly complete with elephants, giraffes, buffalos, chimpanzees, gorillas, jaquar, leopard, an aquarium, reptile house, insect house, birds, butterfly enclosure, and the list goes on.