Amsterdam Insiders' Guide
By Daisy Allsup
The Dutch are notoriously liberal, and this laid-back attitude spills into parenting. Children are brought to everything, you’ll see them happily eating in grown- up restaurants and trendy boutiques have wooden toys to occupy little hands when you shop. With a thriving start up scene Amsterdam is full of hip cafés and concept stores whilst retaining its rich history with gabled Golden Age houses lining leafy canals.
Rent bicycles The Dutch go everywhere by bike. The school run might involve Dad plus up to 8 kids in a bakfiet in front. Head to Otto Bikes on Overtoom where you can hire children’s bikes, helmets, bak ets and baby seats. Plus it’s next to Vondelpark so you can find your legs before hitting the cycle lanes.
Lunch Foodhallen is great fun. It’s a giant tramshed that’s been converted into a cool street food market. Keep an eye out for the tiny dollshouse in the wall as you enter De Hallen. With tinies, Blender is a kids’ concept store with a café and baby-friendly menu.
Kids love Dutch pancakes; get yours at The Happy Pig Pancake Shop. Another favourite is the apple pie at Café Winkel; worth the queue.
Evening: Loetje is an Amsterdam institution serving up steak frites. Pesca is a fun concept where you choose your sh at the ‘market’ before it’s served. La Perla is great for pizzas. Mana Mana is a mouthwatering Middle Eastern.
Things To Do
Take a Boat Tour Nothing beats seeing Amsterdam from the water. Cruise the canals on an electric boat with Those Dam Boat Guys who can arrange a private tour (up to 10 people) or join their daily group trips.
Ferry Take the short ferry from Central Station to the North and visit Pllek, a hip hotspot with a great café and views over the river. Every Sunday there are free activities for kids from yoga to painting.
Museums You could spend an entire day at the brilliant, fully-interactive NEMO Science Museum.
Art The huge Rijks Museum that houses the Dutch Masters is formal and not particularly family-friendly. The Van Gogh Museum is one of my favourites; book well ahead and choose the rst slot of the day or expect to queue. The Houseboat Museum gives a good feel for what it might be like to live on the water. With older kids who might have read the diary, the Anne Frank House is a must.
Parks If you get good weather, Vondelpark is the prettiest park and has several children’s playgrounds and nice cafés.
3 Favourite shopping streets: Gerard Doustraat in De Pijp, Haarlemmerdijk and the lovely Nine Streets.
Where to Stay
Make like Mick Jagger and check into The Amstel, but expect the price tag to match. The Pulitzer occupies a prime position on the canals, and has new Family Rooms (see our full review online). For those on a budget, try the eco-friendly Ecomama Hotel in the centre of town. Air BnB’s are everywhere, opt for Jordaan or De Pijp or for choose from their wide selection of houseboats.
PS A Word on Packing It rains A LOT. Make sure you pack raincoats and wellies for little ones.
Postcard from Stockholm
By Annie Reid
Early May is proving to be an ideal time to visit Stockholm. It feels like we are giving our lungs the ultimate detox, so clear and clean is the air – what does that say about where we live! First cultural stop on a neighbouring island was – by ferry, you travel everywhere by boat here – to the Vasamuseet, the 17th-century Vasa warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Left undisturbed on the seabed for 300 years, the ship is exactly as it was all those years ago. Incredible.
We are staying on the island of Skeppsholmen, ideal for both the reluctant and avid art lover as the tiny island houses one of Europe’s best modern art museums. Feast your eyes on an eye-boggling collection of works including Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Matisse. You can walk around the whole island, having a nose into all the boats and houseboats, in about 30 minutes. Hotel Skeppsholmen, where we are staying, is an historic building (300 years old) with a thoroughly modern feel. We are interspersing visiting all the cultural sites and shopping with chilling on deckchairs in the garden.
The main shopping island is just a ten-minute stroll over a bridge with lots of interesting shops including Svenskt Tenn design shop, which exclusively stocks Josef Frank fabric. Tomorrow we are off by ferry again up the fjord (about 30 minutes) to Fjaderholmarna, where we’ve booked a table on the terrace (forecast to be 20 degrees and sunny) at Fjaderholmarnas Krog.
I am looking forward to some langoustines. There is a small glass-blowing factory on the island. We have been to wonderful seafood restaurants; B.A.R. on the main island has been our favourite. Yesterday we walked up the hill to Sö- dermalm, where the main character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo lived. It’s full of independent, quirky shops selling vintage clothes and fabulously designed homeware and the ubiquitous coffee shops to get your ‘fika’ (coffee and cinnamon bun)
NEED TO KNOW
Stockholm is made up of 14 islands and has just under 1 million inhabitants
• It’s all about boats • Fika • Vintage and design shops • Seafood, meatballs and great lager
• Fly Norwegian airways and short taxi/bus from the airport
• Buy bulk Djurgards- farjan ferry tickets from your hotel or from Slussen dock
Postcard from Copenhagen
By Emily Turner
The Little Mermaid symbolises Copenhagen and while it is not an overly impressive statue it makes a nice starting point for a central Copenhagen walk. From here we strolled along the water, taking in the new opera house and the theatre, the Skuespilshuset. Our Danish cousins like to take the yellow boats or the walking/ cycling bridge and enjoy great street food at Papirøen. We passed the Gefion Fountain, a bronze statue depicting the Norse goddess plowing the sea with 4 oxen.
Then on to Queen’s Winter Palace. The changing of the guard takes place daily and is charmingly immediate. From here walk down Nyhavn, a wide touristy canal but lined with red-roofed, shuttered houses, it is everything you would expect Copenhagen to be.
This takes you up to the big open square of Kongens Kytorv and the shopping streets of Østergade and Laederstraede. The narrow streets along the water of Christianshavn are fun and there are are several cafés. Close to Torvehallerne is the Botanical Gardens and the National Gallery of Denmark. Yesterday we went to Hamlet’s Castle, half an hour north of Copenhagen in Helsingør (=Elsinore, who knew it was a real place?) It is wonderfully atmospheric, there is even a massive stone Viking in the cellar waiting to come out and take on the invaders if Denmark should fall. We drove up there via pretty Danish shing villages but you could easily take the train. Don’t miss the award-winning Maritime Musuem just outside the castle. The story of the sea and some excellent temporary shows.
NEED TO KNOW
• Kong Arthur Hotel is a family-friendly boutique hotel overlooking the lakes in the old part of the city arthurhotels.dk
• Gorgeous kids’ fashion and lifestyle at Karrusella
• Don’t miss a sweet treat from Conditori La Glace – it’s been going since 1870!