All-time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam for Teenagers: a critical look

When in Amsterdam has realised that every website associated with Amsterdam travel has a top list of things to do in this city. However, there are very few for teenagers. To be honest most of the list of things and activities for teenagers in Amsterdam were just adapted from generic Top 10 or 5 Lists.

When in Amsterdam could provide our own list but honestly there is no Top 10 list. Teenagers are a difficult bracket. We all know because we have all been there. No longer children, yet not adults. Young adults but not the rights to all activities. There are dramatic differences between 13 and 17, male and female. We have done our best to balance the analysis listed below with the cool factor listed in the Alternatives section. Updated November 2015.

So we are going to give you the All-time Top 10 list of things to do in Amsterdam for Teenagers: a critical approach

Our approach is simple: 

  • Collation
  • 100 web pages were analysed.
  • Search Terms were “top things to do in Amsterdam for teens”, ‘Amsterdam activities for teenagers", " top 10 things in Amsterdam for young adults’
  • To qualify the page needed to have in its title teens, teenagers, young adults, activities, Amsterdam top things to do in Amsterdam. For Example: Top 5, Top 10, Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam.
  • We have also disqualified activities for 18 and 19 year olds because they are adults. They are allowed to drink alcohol and visit Cannabis Coffeeshops and sex workers.

We collated the results then ran a critical look at the list to provide you with an alternative.
Counting down from 10 to 1.

Paradiso live music venue
(Source: IAmsterdam facebook)


10. Go to a Concert
Amsterdam is the heart of the country for cultural events. There is always someone of substance playing in the city. A wide range of tastes are catered for, you have to determine if it is for you. There is nothing cooler than a teenager saying they saw their music hero in Amsterdam. 

Check out Amsterdam's main live music institutions to see if they appeal:
  • Understanding Teenager music tastes is always hard for the older generation.
  • Be pro-active and look up on YouTube and show the clips of what is playing to your teenager.
  • You can also look up the IAmsterdam website for other events and festivals going on in Amsterdam

Alternative:
  • Look for street performers on the main squares of Amsterdam such as Dam Square, Leidseplein and also Vondel Park underneath the bridge.

Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum
(source: wikicommons)


9. Museums
Most Amsterdam Museums have a program for youngsters. The museums that came out as being interactive for children and teenagers were:
Critical look:
  • Museums might not have the cool factor that hormonal teens are craving.
  • Many of the programs are more aimed at children under the age of 13.
Street Art at Wijdsteeg, Amsterdam
(Source Eliran Totham G+)


Alternative:
  • See if the museum has an app or audio tour. Teenagers love and know technology.
  • Do a walking tour before the museums so they have more context to connect to what they are experience in the Museums.
  • As a compromise visit Wijdsteeg in conjunction with museums for some amazing street art. Those teenage selfies and social media postings needs will be met and you can educated them as well. Update 2015, there is still some art despite construction.

Amsterdam largest street market: Albert Cuyp
   8. Shopping
Amsterdam is a cool place to shop for all agers not just teens. There is a wide range of places, something for all:

Patta: Amsterdam streetware
(source: Patta facebook)


Critical look:
  • Not all teenagers want to shop.
  • What parent who has paid for their teenager to come to Europe wants to spend money on shopping?

Alternative:
  • Find that niche Amsterdam/Dutch specific item that screams cool back home. Patta for street wear (very trendy with older Amsterdam teenagers). Miffy is dutch and there is a dedicated store at Scheldestraat along with other cool stores.

7. Go to the Park 
Amsterdam is a bit short on green space with 1/5 of the city's surface area being water. The large green spaces are an oasis for all, including our teenagers. 

Amsterdam's main parks:
  • Vondel Park - for people watching
  • Amstel Park - for younger teens
Critical look:
  • Most of these top 10 lists for teenagers are written by parents or people that don't have teenagers. What teenager wants to go sit in a park with their parents?
  • The weather is not always good for a park visit.



De TonTon Club from voordekunst on Vimeo.


Alternative:
  • Go to the Movies at Tuschinski Cinemaan old Art Deco period cinema. All movies are subtitled
  • Go rock climbing and make a fool of yourself in front of your teenagers.
  • There is new skate park on Museumplein in front of the Rijksmuseum. If they don't have their gear they can just watch.
  • If the weather is bad there is a 80s style old school arcade in the middle of the Red Light District. It is called the Ton Ton Club. This defiantly has the cool factor that all teens want to talk about when they get home.This place is appropriate for all ages and is a non-smoking environment. Or try the Ton Ton Club second location away from the Red Light at the Westerpark. 

Hot Tug in front of Hotel d'Europe


6. Canal Cruise
The iconic Amsterdam canals are suitable for all ages not just teenagers. The beauty, buildings and canals will overpower any teen.

Critical look:
  • The recorded messages will put most to sleep.
  • Few boats have toilets. Make sure you go before you go, if you know what I mean.
  • A lot of the boats are covered, which is not great for the selfie mad teenagers.

Alternative:




sightseeing Amsterdam bike
Amsterdam bike
5. Bicycling 
Amsterdam is famous for a number of icons and bicycles are one of them. There are more bikes in this city than people. Some call Amsterdam the bicycling capital of the world.


Critical look:
  • Most anger from locals towards visitors is about biking or walking in bike paths. 
  • Many Amsterdammers believe that visitors should take a test before being allowed to rent or ride a bike in Amsterdam.
  • Riding a bike in Amsterdam City Centre traffic is not for beginners.
  • Parents never ending quest for their child's safety results in this activity being so far down the list.

Alternative:

  • Walk smaller areas and take Amsterdam trams in between – bike riders don’t mess with trams.
  • Take a guided walking tour of Amsterdam's Old City Centre  with a small tour group company so the teenagers can engage instead of being bored.
  • Take a countryside bike tour or a neighbourhood bike tour and enjoy Amsterdam where the bike paths are good and the traffic relaxed. Dutch biking the way it is supposed to be, enjoyable.


Amsterdam was the centre of the Maritime world for 100 years. The replica 17th Century ship is a magnet for families wanting to play pirate and privateers. The museum is large with a treasure trove of maritime artefacts.


Critical look:
  • This is on the list because it is close to another attraction highly rated from our analysis, Nemo Science Museum.
  • Unless they are into shipping, maps and geography this will not be a hit.

Alternative:

  • Take them to the Red Light District and show your teenagers what sailors past and present are really like. They will have to learn about it sooner or latter. It might be best to do it under parental supervision and from an historical point of view. Their friends are going to ask about this neighbourhood when they get home whether you like it or not.
  • Take a guided walking tour of Amsterdam's Red Light District with a small tour group company so the teenagers can engage instead of being bored. The company listed takes a maximum of 4 people.
  • Take the free ferry to North-west Amsterdam and catch a glimpse of the real port and see some cool buildings along the way. This ferry departs from behind Amsterdam Centraal Station.



3. Dutch Pancakes 
Dutch pancakes are thin like crepes but the size of a large plate. Toppings are sweet, savoury or both. You can have them for breakfast, lunch, or all three.

Local's enjoy the mixture of bacon, cheese and topped with syrup on one pancake.


Critical look:
  • Pancakes are very simple to make so there is no great or bad place to visit.

Alternative:



Amsterdam's Nemo Science Centre
(Source: Nemo Museum)


Nemo is Amsterdam penultimate premiere activity for young people. The mixture of hands experiments and learning makes it a list topping activity, almost. Teenagers can learn about hormones in a fun and interactive manner. Understanding why they sometimes give their parents problems. Centrally, located and close to other attractions this is a must on all lists.


Critical look:
  • Not to much to say against Nemo. It knows its market, children and young adults and hits the mark. 
  • Allocate enough time to this attraction as it is fun and even the adults are entertained in this learning environment.

Alternative:

  • Amsterdam Dungeon would be a good alternative if your teenager likes vampires, blood and guts. A modern form of a Haunted House. Live actors in Medieval costume jumping out at you while trying to teach you Amsterdam history.
  • If you active sporty teenage boys a trip to Amsterdam Ajax Museum and Stadium Tour would be a good alternative. We are talking football (aka. soccer). The club and city are world famous(except in the US and Canada) for their youth program and once world powerful club.

1. Anne Frank Museum
Of course one the the 20th Century's most famous teenagers tops the list. The location of the Jewish Frank family hiding place during WWII. Teenage Anne documented her experience from the annex of this Amsterdam house during Nazi occupation. The book has become one of the world's most widely read. This popularity accounts for approximately 1 million visitors a year to this museum.

anne frank house sightseeing
Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.



Critical Look:

  • For a small museum there are a lot of people at certain times. 
  • The museum has a difficult job balancing the broader context of the period.
  • It is more of a pilgrimage than a museum.

Alternative:
  • Avoid the long lines and buy on lineGo late in the evening or arrive early before it opens and the school groups arrive. 
  • Resistance museum provides you with a greater snap shot of World War II in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Rated one of the best museums in the Netherlands don't expect long lines here maybe just a school group now and then.
  • The Jewish Historical Museum provides detail on the Jewish community's influence on Amsterdam through the centuries. Ticket to this museum includes entrance to the Portuguese Synagoge and nearby Deportation centre.  
  • If your teenage daughter knows of Anne Frank she probably knows of TFiOS. That is teenage speak for the book (later adapted to movie), The Fault in Our Stars. A best selling book for young adults over the last 3 years. Combine the activities of Anne Frank House and visit locations from the book and movie. More information can be found at our blog; Amsterdam The Fault in Our Stars.

Not a bad list for a city of almost 800 000 people?

Live music, museums, shopping, 10, 9, 8. Outdoor activities of Park, Canal Cruise and bicycling at 7, 6, 5. 

At 4 and 3 we have shipping and pancakes, which make sense for a maritime city that is flat. 

Science and learning is at number 2. This also makes sense for a country that invented the microscope and has one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in the world. 

Of course the top ten list for teenagers could have no other number 1 than the most famous teenager of the 20th century, Anne Frank.


When in Amsterdam....enjoy!


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The Jordaan Festival


The Jordaan Festival has been running for 40 years. It celebrates the famous World Heritage Neighbourhood of Amsterdam and the music that emanated from here and the city in the 1920s-1940s. Expect lots of locals singing along in great numbers. Don't worry if you don't know the songs a few cold beers and you be swaying and hugging just like the locals.

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10 Things To Do With Under-13s in Amsterdam

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Lisa and her family came to Amsterdam in August (summer) and the activities are useful for children to the age of thirteen. Thanks again Lisa.


We were recently in Amsterdam for four days with our two boys, aged 7 and 10 years old. Amsterdam is one of the most child-friendly cities we’ve been to in Europe, and we’ve been to a quite a few!  We could easily have spent longer enjoying the city with the boys.  We’ll definitely go back again sometime soon. Here are 10 activities we discovered while there that we and our kids really enjoyed doing.


Amsterdam canal boat tour
(source: wiki commons)

1.  Take A Boat: Go on a canal tour.  There are a range of companies, all fairly similar, so there is no need to shop around (and drag your kids around after you!). The 1 hour tour gives you a good view of the city and is short enough that the kids don’t get bored. Be warned: there were no toilets on the boat we went on!

Amsterdam Tram 4 goes to RAI and the Amstel Park
(source: Wiki Commons)


2.    Park yourself in Tranquility: Take tram 4 to RAI, then cross the road and enter into Amstelpark. This sward of green is a paradise for children! The playground is large, with different structures for different ages. There is also a minigolf course, which is a little expensive, but very well-kept. For children who like animals, you can find wallabies and alpacas, and for the treasure-hunters in your family, there are egg sculptures hidden throughout the park. There is also a miniature train that you can go for rides on.

Amsterdam's Amstel Park
(source: Wiki Commons)

Amsterdam's Parkcafe Zomers
(source Parkcafe Zomers)


3.     Feed Yourself and the Ducks: In Amstelpark, go to eat some Amsterdamsche bitterballen (a delicious kind of croquette) with mustard at Parkcaf√© Zomers. Sit outside on the terrace near the lake and enjoy the view while the kids feed/chase the ducks. The staff are very friendly and there is lots of room for the kids to run around.

Amsterdam's Nemo Science Centre
(Source: Nemo Museum)
4.    Find Nemo: The Nemo Science Museum is located near Amsterdam's Central Train Station. It is a hands-on experiment mecca for kids. Be warned, it will be difficult to get them out of here!  The beautiful building has an oasis of sanity in the form of a roof-top garden, which has a beautiful view of Amsterdam. Important note: if you want to see one of the demonstrations that happen at the museum during the day, get your place at least 15 minutes before it starts or the kids won’t be able to see anything and you will have crying fits on your hands (learnt from hard experience!).

Amsterdam's Prisengracht bordering the Jordaan
(Source: Wiki Commons)
5. Talk a Walk: Take a tram to Dam Square, then go for a walk in the West of the centre along canals and down tiny streets of the Jordaan. The bonus is that if the kids are getting hungry or tired, there are plenty of caf√©s to choose from.  Just don’t go into a place that calls itself a “coffeeshop”, as they deal in another kind of “pick-me-up”! Note: In the weekends there are many groups celebrating stag and hen parties.  With children, it is better to walk around this area in the morning or early afternoon. Avoid walking into the North-eastern part of Amsterdam from the Square as that is where the Red Light District is situated.

Pancake House Amsterdam: De Carrousel Pannenkoeken
(Source Carrousel Pannenkoeken)

6.     Eat in a Merry-Go-Round: A short walk from the Museumplein and infant of the old Heineken Brewery there is a fantastic restaurant called De Carrousel Pannenkoeken that serves Dutch pancakes.  It has been set up in a converted carousel building.  Some of the horses are still in place. The service is fast, and the food is delicious. Even better, you can relax with an end of lunch coffee while the kids can go to a small area where there are comfy chairs a TV playing cartoons, and a blackboard on the wall for them to draw on.

Zaanse Schans, Amsterdam day trip
(Source: Wiki commons)

7.     Feel the Wind in Your Hair: Take bus number 391 from just outside the Central Station in Amsterdam to the unpronounceable Zaanse Schans and see fabulously restored windmills in a beautiful setting.  The bus takes 40 minutes, but drops you right at the gate of the park. You can enter the park for free, but if you want to go inside any of the windmills it costs you a small amount.  I think it’s worth it to go inside one of them to see the vanes and mechanisms from close up. You can catch a little passenger ferry across the river Zaans to the quaint little village, or just walk across the bridge. Don’t eat in the actually park if you can avoid it.  The food is really not that good. A perfect place for lunch is a restaurant called De Vijf Broers, just across the bridge from the park.  It has fantastic outdoor seating next to the river, a wonderful view of the windmills, and best of all, a giant sand-pit with toys in it, walled in on three sides so children can’t flee to the water! You can also catch a train from the tiny station of Zaanse Schans, which only takes 15 minutes to get to Amsterdam.  We caught it only on our way back to Amsterdam, as we didn’t want to have to drag the kids around the enormous Central Station looking for a train.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Source: Wiki Commons)

8.    Soak Up Some Culture: There is, of course, the famous Van Gogh museum.  We didn’t even try to go in as there was a two hour wait outside, whether you had already bought ticket or not. The museum is small and fills up very quickly. We did go to the Rijksmuseum, which was excellent.  To avoid any queues, buy the tickets for the adults in the family online before you go, and then go to the reception desk in the middle of the beautiful entry atrium (NOT the ticket windows) to pick up free tickets for any children in the family under 18. Start on the fourth floor and snatch glimpses of the masterpieces as the children pull you past.  Our boys loved a room on that floor where there is a huge replica of a battle galleon, and paintings on the walls of ships.  Just after that, there is a room full of enormous dollhouses, which I’m sure girls would love!  The museum provides a brochure for kids with a kind of treasure-hunt for them to follow.  They need to look for particular parts of paintings in different rooms. I suggest you limit your visit to an hour to avoid the worst of the “museum fatigue” that sets in quickly when children are present.



De DierenCappel, Amsterdam Petting Zoo
(Source: De DierenCappel Facebook)


9. Go Farming: Visit the farm/petting park that is situated right in the middle of Amsterdam.  The farm is called De Dieren Cappel and is within walking distance of the Central Train Station on the western side.  They have all sorts of farm animals, such as goats, pigs, sheep and rabbits that the kids can pet.

Amsterdam's Het Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum)
(Source: Het Scheepvaartmuseum Facebook)


10. Sail The Seven Seas: Well, the boat doesn’t actually set sail, but you can get the sea expeience by going to the Het Scheepvaartmuseum (my kids think the name is hilarious!). This Maritime Museum is next to the Central Station. You can explore a real-life replica of a sailing ship which sunk in the 1700’s, plus inside the museum there are lots of hands-on activities for kids, plus different tours you can take around the museum.  Check out their website for details.

If you are planning to hit more than three museums or more, look into getting some kind of museum pass like theAmsterdam and Holland Pass or a museum card, at least for the adults.  The children often get in free up to a certain age, so it’s less interesting to get one for them.

When in Amsterdam...enjoy!

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Things to do in Amsterdam: local tips from famous Amsterdammers

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