This Monday, we’re very happy to meet a large family from Amsterdam downtown. Sanne, 36, and Wim, her husband, have four children : two boys, Ole (almost 8 years), Hannes (almost 6 years)… and two girls, Pippa (3 years) and Kaatje (6 months).
Sanne is now a stay-at-home mum since she has just had her fourth child. Originally she was an Historian, and she’s been working as a freelance copywriter. Wim is an art-director and has his own advertising agency.
They’ve been living in Amsterdam for about 15 years. They now live in a beautiful historic building from the 17th century, which they restored and built apartments in.
Sanne tells us all about their daily family life in Amsterdam, at home and in the city.
IN THE CITY
What do you like in your city?
What I really love about Amsterdam is the combination of its rich history, which you can really feel everywhere around you, while at the same time it’s a breeding ground for creativity. So much is happening in advertising, fashion, design and culture.
Is it easy to live here when you ‘re a family?
I believe Amsterdam has a lot of nice things to offer for children. Every neighbourhood has its own playground, there are a lot of museums and theatres for children, and a lot of the restaurants and cafes are child friendly too.
In general, I think Amsterdam is an easy city to live in as a family. The city is not too big and easy to get around in. We recently even sold our car! Living in the centre of the city really only requires a very good ‘bakfiets’ (delivery tricycle), which we do have. We use the bakfiets every day, to bring the kids to school, to do shopping, even to go out to a restaurant.
The only thing that isn’t easy for the children if you live in the middle of the city centre, is playing outside without parents. It’s just far to busy on the streets. But on the other hand, after all these years we are used to it and we always find ways to play outside.
What do you like doing with your kids in the city ?
Artis, the zoo, is always a nice place to go to. It’s very close to where we live, so, after school, we often just drop in to walk around for a bit and enjoy the diversity of plants and animals. A new museum, attached to the zoo is Micropia. This is rather spectacular, since it’s the first museum in the world that displays the world of microorganisms.
The Hortus Botanicus is a place we all love to go to. It’s one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. A very beautiful and intimate place with gorgeous plants and a lovely terrace.
If the weather isn’t great, the children love to go to Tun Fun, an indoor playground practically around the corner from our house. Lately, we haven’t been there that often because I don’t like to take baby Kaatje there, but that time will come back again.
But to be honest, we are taking things a bit slower these days, since we have our little girl with us all the time. And that is also fine. What we do most these days is stick around after school for a while, the children attend a really wonderful Montessori school with a great playground next to it. There are lots of trees, so the boys are often busy building their huts or climbing. When we walk home from school together, we enjoy the architecture, the shops we pass and have an occasional ice cream from a very good pastry shop called Van Soest. So long walks through the city are our number one activity at the moment, and that suits us all really well.
In which museums do you go with your children? What do you like there?
A very interesting museum is Nemo, where younger and older children can discover a world of science and technology. They are able to do experiments in the laboratory and discover all kinds of things. My children all really love to go there. On Nemo’s roof there is the largest roof terrace of Amsterdam, where you can overlook the city. Very cool!
Another museum I would like to mention is the Tropenmuseum, since they have so much fun stuff to do, even for younger children. It’s the biggest anthropological museum in the Netherlands. For adults it’s interesting as well, they always have different exhibitions going on.
And I shouldn’t forget to mention the Scheepvaartmuseum, where you can explore the Dutch maritime history. There are special exhibitions for families and children. My children love to go on board of the East Indiaman Amsterdam, an exact replica of the original ship.
Which places are family friendly in your city?
A very child friendly place is the Amsterdam public library. I mean the one next to Amsterdam Central Station, that one is the biggest. It’s such a spacious place and so much is happening there that is interesting for children and their parents. We visit the place every few weeks, to get new books, but also to do crafts, listen to music and listen to writers read out to the children. And there is a theatre as well!
Another place Wim takes the biggest three every now and then, is cinema Tuschinski. There are a lot of pleasant cinemas in Amsterdam, but this one happens to be around the corner from our house and is by far the most beautiful one. It was built with characteristics of the Amsterdam School, Art Deco and Jugendstil. To us this place is special because we also got married here!
In which restaurants or coffee shops do you go with the kids?
In general, I feel that the many restaurants and cafés in Amsterdam are very welcoming to families and children.
A very nice bar/ restaurant is Nel which is located on, what I believe is one of the most beautiful squares of Amsterdam, the Amstelveld. This is a place very near to our house, where a lot of children from our neighbourhood and school are playing, and where their parents can enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the meantime. They serve a special children’s menu as well, if you want to stay on a nice summer evening.
But Amsterdam has a few more lovely places to go to with the children. Across from the school there is a charming cafe called Frederix. When we play at the school playground, we often get some juice or a cup of coffee there or one of their delicious homemade cakes.
De Plantage is such a lovely surprise next to the zoo. A stunning place, which is both beautiful and very child friendly. They have a very large terrace with a big fountain, in which they allow children to play during sunny days.
What are your kids usual activities in Amsterdam?
With Pippa, I go to ballet classes at de Toverfluit on Saturdays in the most fantastic historical building. We both love doing this together.
The boys love to go swimming in one of the many swimming pools in Amsterdam. They go to the Zuiderbad or the Mirandabad. In the summer, we often go to a little outside pool for smaller children, in the Vondelpark. Ole and Hannes also still love this one, so it’s a nice thing to do as a family.
That’s another great thing about living here : all those fantastic parks. Our favourites are the Vondelpark and the Oosterpark. Both have so much to offer : great playgrounds, little swimming pools, a lot of space to cycle, roller-skate or just to laze about in the grass.
What are your favourite shops for children?
My favourite children’s brand is Gray label : I love its minimalist design and its organic materials!
What is your favourite and easiest meal with children?
Strange as it may sound, we often serve homemade fries! It’s easy, delicious and fast. The secret is double-frying the potatoes. Here’s what you do in a nutshell: cut the potatoes, soak them, dry them, fry them (140 degrees, 4 minutes) and drain them, and then fry again (180 degrees, 6 minutes).
Next to that, our children love some vegetables, and salmon is a favourite of all three.
When the weather is bad, what do your children do at home?
The boys are close in age, and they are very close together. They can play for hours in their shared room. Pippa sometimes plays along, but also loves to do some crafts with me.
A thing we all love is playing games. Chess, card games, memory, monopoly, we all love it!
What books do your kids love?
We love all the Chris Haughton’s books. a bit lost is such a beautifully illustrated book, and so is Shhh We have a plan
Another beautiful book we love is The Lion and the Bird, written by Marianne Dubuc. It’s about a special friendship between a lion and a bird. Very heart warming.
We are all really in love with the Dutch writer Joke van Leeuwen. Everything she writes is funny, clever and just brilliant.
Many thanks to Sanne for this interview with loads of tips, places to visit, restaurants to stay! … Nearly a whole family city guide for Amsterdam!!
I just want to add that I’m totally in love with Sanne’s charming family photos! You can follow her on Instagram @sannehop.
Have a wonderful week,