Amsterdam has to be up there with one of the coolest cities we have ever been to. Before we had our children I had been there a couple of times, mainly because my old work head office was based there, but inevitably I only really saw the airport and a computer screen before being on the plane back home again. A couple of years ago we went for the first time with the girls and we absolutely fell in love with the city- we couldn’t believe how family friendly it was, and how colourful, vibrant, stylish and fun it was too. We both came away from that trip saying that we have never fallen in love with a city on first impressions as much as we did with Amsterdam. We have been itching to go back ever since, so when KLM got in touch with us to see if we wanted to head there for a weekend to check out the new improved Schiphol airport, and of course the KLM service we jumped at the chance.
Unfortunately as we wanted to be back in time for Mads to go to school on Monday, we only ended up staying in the city for 36 hours. At first a small part of me wondered if we might be a little crazy going there just for a weekend with three young children, but actually as the flight time is so short (it took us 40 minutes from London Heathrow) it doesn’t actually seem too far away. That said we did get up at 2.30am on Saturday morning, but we were in Amsterdam by 9am and ready to begin our adventures. I will be writing a post specifically on KLM and Schiphol airport but first I thought I would show what we got up to in our 36 hours in Amsterdam…
It’s pretty impressive that you can be on a plane and in another city by 9am. KLM flies to Schiphol from 17 UK regional airports so there will no doubt be one near you.
We were staying in Amsterdam Oost or the Eastern Docklands area of the city, more specifically at The Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy. I was so excited to try it out. The hotel is a really unique concept- it has 117 rooms ranging from 1 to 5 stars, so it has rooms to suit every budget, and each is individually designed.
As soon as we walked in and saw the reception being a protective glass panel, I knew we were going to love it for it’s quirky design. Apparently years ago the impressive building was used for many different things, including a prison, a juvenile delinquents home and a place to house immigrants. They have kept many of the original features.
The Observer once said that the Lloyd Hotel was ‘A hotel for the culturally aware and the just plain nosy.’ I love that. Our room wasn’t ready as we arrived so early so we sat down to have a drink and a chill out and I just couldn’t stop walking around and looking at everything.
The restaurant and bar was fantastically designed, we couldn’t wait to find out what our room was like when we checked in later on that afternoon. We were staying in one of the 5 star deluxe rooms.
Even though the hotel was so unique in design, it still was really family friendly. There were lots of toys in the bar area to keep the girls amused. That is one of the big things that we have found about Amsterdam that sets it apart from other cities we have visited- nearly all places cater well for children and they are a lot more tolerant of children in restaurants etc.
I went to the toilet and stumbled across this little indoor garden- look at that random old mouldy chair.
There were so many places in the hotel that I could have taken photos, literally hundreds. Every nook and cranny was another place to explore and take photos, but this isn’t a hotel review. Still I would 100% recommend The Lloyd Hotel, it was utterly fabulous. More on our room a bit later on.
After a diet coke, a coffee for Jon, some juice for the girls and some milk for our baby boy, it was time to head off to explore. It was lovely being back in Amsterdam and seeing water everywhere. The hotel had this view on it’s doorstep.
Our first place to visit was the Amsterdam Noord area of the city. We much prefer to visit a mixture of tourist areas and places off the beaten track. You get to Amsterdam Noord by getting the Buiksloterweg ferry from behind Centraal station. These ferries are amazing, they run regularly and are free. Such a clever way of getting around. We decided to have a little walk about and head to Wilhelmina Dok restaurant for lunch- where we had to guess what to eat as no one spoke English and our Dutch is super limited. Still that’s half the fun and our paninis were very tasty.
After lunch we headed to the A’DAM Tower, a new arrival on the Amsterdam scene since we visited last time. The A’DAM Lookout is a 360 degree observation tower with the added extra of having Europe’s highest swings for those who like a bit of an adrenaline rush. In this photo you can just see them on the left hand side of the tower.
The girls loved having a look out the window at the city below. There are a couple of bars and restaurants in the tower, with a revolving restaurant too. Then you can go up to the top observation deck too.
On the top observation deck- their gorgeous cactus clothes are from Three Bears Threads, they have had them a while and are still one of my favourite outfits they own.
Snuggled in a blanket cause it was really windy up at the top.
I love this photo of them both, they argue non stop but deep down are the best of friends. You could sit on big beanbags and take in the view, there was music playing and a really relaxed atmosphere.
I really wanted to have a go on Europe’s highest swing, where you swing over 100 metres in the air off the edge of the building. It only costs 5 euros extra to have a go and although it is scary it is the BIGGEST adrenaline rush. Here I am on it with a random man cause Jon was looking after the children. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done.
By this point it was cold and windy and we were all super tired so we ended up going back to our hotel. We checked in our room (Room 222 if you are interested as all the rooms are different) and were so excited to see that we had the BIGGEST bed ever. The girls were beside themselves with excitement. The room was crazy, with wood everywhere you looked and a bright green bathroom. We settled in, before going downstairs for some yummy food (where a rather strange gypsy band was playing music) and then had an early night.
The next morning we woke up and had a bit of a slow start to the day, enjoying the fun of our hotel room. We have no idea what this was but the girls took it open themselves that it was a ladder.
We had a lovely evening snuggling all together in the huge bed- I wish we had one at home.
My three little travellers. They are so good at travelling, of course it isn’t plain sailing and they aren’t impeccably behaved on trips, but then they aren’t at home either! 😉
Playing a game on the iPad together.
Putting on her shoes. The hotel room had these big long windows where you could look into the restaurant below which was quite a cool feature.
My happy boy.
Posing for a photo on the hotel steps before we headed off for a day of adventure.
The hotel was about ten minutes from the city centre by tram. I find Amsterdam such an easy city to navigate, even as a tourist. The trams are really easy to jump on and off.
Posing. We were complete amateurs and left our coats at the hotel thinking that it was going to be sunny and then it suddenly went so cold and windy. I wish I had packed some tights! My shirt dress is from Topshop and I am a little obsessed with their matching outfits from Kyna Boutique. I absolutely love finding ways to dress them all the same bit different. I love the reflection of his little smiley face in my sunglasses.
The first thing we did was go on a canal cruise. We had iAmsterdam city cards meaning that we could do this as part of the attractions included in the price of the card. There are lots of different companies we could choose from but we chose Lovers as we liked the name! (you get them all from the front of Centraal station)
I adore this photo of her. Literally adore it. Travelling with young children isn’t always easy but it is incredible to see new places through their eyes.
The cruise was an hour long and really fascinating, you get headphones so you can listen to the guide speak. The girls really enjoyed staring out the window at all the different sights.
A selfie of the three of us. Just as we got on the boat it started chucking it down with rain so it was nice to sit down and out of the rain for an hour.
Beautiful Amsterdam. It truly is a stunning city.
After our canal trip we headed back on the ferry to the N.D.S.M Werf area of the city. This is somewhere we visited last time (you get the IJplein ferry again from the back of Centraal station) and it is such a cool place, it’s just really urban with lots of creative businesses building their homes there and a thriving street food and street art community. We adore street art so decided to head back here again. This amazing Anne Frank mural is a recent addition to the N.D.S.M Werf landscape- done by renowned artist Eduardo Kobra.
Sadly it didn’t stop raining at all so we took shelter on this little bleacher benches and watched the world go by.
I love this photo of my beautiful boy.
Their matching clothes are so cute. We sat there for ages waiting for the rain to stop but it just didn’t. By this point it was about 3pm and we decided to give up and head back to the airport. On the way from the airport the previous day we got a train which takes 15 minutes and is the cheapest option but as we were all tired and a bit grumpy from the constant rain we decided to get an Uber- oops! There was a price surge as we booked and it ended up being 80 euros. Ouch. The Iamsterdam signs are quite a cool iconic portrait of Amsterdam- there are three, one in front of the Rijksmuseum, one at Schiphol airport and one that travels around to different places. We took advantage of the one at Schiphol being deserted and had a photo. If you squint hard enough you can see us!
Our flight wasn’t until 8.30pm that evening but we ended up getting to the airport about 4pm. It is definitely the earliest we have ever been at an airport, but we were all just a bit despondent with the non stop rain. Such a shame that it had to put a dampner (excuse the pun) on our limited time there. Still it was lucky that Schiphol airport had so much to do (more on that in another post) and we ended up actually having a really nice time there. Here are the girls enjoying the AMAZING KLM play area.
It was such a lovely 36 hours and it further reinforced to us just how much we love Amsterdam. We don’t feel like we have even slightly begun to scratch the surface of what the city has to offer families and we really want to go back again and again to see more. I would love to go back in springtime to see the tulips in bloom and also in the summer when people swim freely in the many canals. I can’t explain what an incredibly family friendly city it is- it just seems like Dutch people really love children and we had so many people chat to the girls and coo over our baby boy.
The city is so vibrant, colourful and just oozing culture left, right and centre and I am sad that the rain did sadly stop us enjoying it to it’s full potential this time as we were only there for such a short time. Still we still had a lovely couple of days and even when it was grey and miserable, Amsterdam still managed to capture a little bit more of our travelling hearts. I said to Jon that we need to go back and spent a few days there, as there is just so much more to explore. The flight time with KLM is so quick that it seems a shame not to take advantage of it more.
Here is a little video of our time in Amsterdam…
NB: Thanks to KLM and Schiphol airport for supporting our trip to Amsterdam, we had the best time. All words, photos, videos and opinions are entirely my own. You can follow @klm_uk on twitter, they are really engaged and lots of fun on there!