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8.30.2016

Travel Tuesday: What To Do on A Long Layover in Amsterdam

 
On our way to Kenya for our amazing safari experience, we chose a flight with long layover in Amsterdam.  We figured it would be a nice way to break up from a long travel day from Houston to Nairobi, and give our whole family the opportunity to see a new city. 

Our layover was about nine hours.  In doing some research, I learned that since Amsterdam's Schiphol airport is centrally-located and has easy access to public transportation, that nine hours was enough time to see some of the city's sights. 

Here are the things we did with the kids during our long layover in Amsterdam.  I hope it inspires you for your quick visit to Amsterdam too!

Getting out of the airport
We were able to leave our luggage in lockers at Schiphol, then take a bus into town.  There is a big bus and train stop at the airport.  You can learn more about public transportation to and from Schiphol here

Based on our timing schedule, we decided to take a bus to town (getting off at the Museumplein stop), then a train from Amsterdam Centraal train station back to the airport later.

Me with the kiddos on our bus from Schiphol airport into Amsterdam.

Museums
The two main things I wanted to do in Amsterdam were to visit the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.  We were able to do both, but were not able to take photos inside, so don't have much to show you visually. 

To go to the Van Gogh Museum, we exited the bus at the Museumplein stop.  We purchased our tickets online in advance, which I highly recommend.  Not only do you not have to wait in the line for tickets, but it is also a big time savings if you have limited time to explore Amsterdam like we did.

The museum was well worth the visit.  They have a huge collection of pieces, including some of Van Gogh's most famous works, like Sunflowers, The Bedroom, The Potato Eaters, and more.  They even had pieces by Monet, Gaugin, and Toulouse-Lautrec.  It was unforgettable to be able to see these pieces in person. 

G walking across the Museumplein park square on our way from the bus stop to the Van Gogh Museum.

The Museumplein park square was lovely, and several people were relaxing in the park and enjoying the day.

I couldn't resist the urge to take a photo with this cool mirrored structure next to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The only photo we could take in the Van Gogh Museum was at the gift shop.
 
I have always wanted to see the Anne Frank house, so a visit to the Anne Frank Museum and secret annex was a must.  You should note that the lines for the museum are incredibly long (can be hours long).  I highly recommend that you purchase your tickets online in advance, so you can have a specific entry time and avoid the line.  Though you should also note that the online tickets sell out in advance, so I recommend purchasing at least a month in advance. 

Visiting the house was a powerful and significant experience.  Since our young kids (ages 4 and 6 at the time of the visit) hadn't really heard about the holocaust much yet in their young lives, we tried to prepare them in advance by having conversations about it.  We also read the Who Was Anne Frank children's book (affiliate link) as a family before the trip.  These books are great at educating children on people and subjects in a way that is easier for young kids to understand.  We read the one about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before our visit to the Lorraine Motel/National Civil Right Museum during our Southern US road trip this year. 

Even having read the book, it was easy to become overwhelmed by the reality and reminders of the holocaust when at the Anne Frank Museum.  It was an emotional visit, but one that was well worth it for both us and the boys. 

Other activities
Canal tours were recommended to us as well, but since we were tired and travel-weary, we decided to spend the rest of our time walking and exploring the canals, and taking stops for rest.  We would have easily had time for an hour-long canal tour given that we didn't have to wait to get into either of the museums, but chose not to.

We had fun just walking around the canals and stopping when we felt like it while working our way towards Central station.  The hubs and I love just wandering around and exploring on our own when we travel, so it was fun to be able to do this with our kids too.

The boys found a place to play for a few minutes.  Luckily it was in the shade, as it was a hot day!
 
We stopped into a McDonald's for some shade and a cool drink.  The boys were tired, but were troopers!  I think it helped that we stopped as much as we needed.

S and his daddy crossing one of the canals in Amsterdam.

The canals, and the buildings on them, were beautiful!

 

This is a tower at a church near the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam.

The Basilica of St. Nicholas as seen on our walk to Centraal train station.
 
View of the city with the Ronde Lutherse Kerk (or Koepelkerk) in the background.
 

Statue of author Multatuli in Amsterdam.

While walking the canals, you come across a lot of interesting things!  For example, this cow museum and rubber duck store:

Cow Museum in Amsterdam.


Star Wars rubber ducks on sale at the Amsterdam Duck Store.
 
We stopped for a quick meal for some kebab wraps (we love hole-in-the-walls and street food).  It was pretty good!

  
The boys chilling.  I love S's pose.


S had fun chasing pigeons in the town squares on the canals.

To keep our energy up, we stopped for coffee (and I do mean regular coffee, not one of the euphemistic "coffee shops" for which Amsterdam is famous).  We had to try the famous Dutch stroopwafels.  Yeah... I see what all the fuss is about.  Letting one sit on top of your cup of coffee melts the caramel filling nicely!  We ended up bringing some home, but were also pleased to discover that they sell them in the international foods section of our local HEB!

The boys asked for lemonade, but ended up getting lemon-lime soda instead.  Since we don't drink much soda, this was a surprising treat for them!
 
We made our way to Amsterdam Centraal, where we got our tickets for the train back to Schiphol.

  
On the train back to Schiphol airport.  Even though I was exhausted, I was rather impressed with how my hairstyle held up through all of this, especially since it hadn't been styled since before we left Houston the day before.

Schiphol
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is a great airport in itself.  Even if you just stay there, there is a lot to do and see, and that includes nice ways to not do anything: the airport includes powernap stations, meditation zones, and a "park" (an indoor green space).  There's even a museum there, though it's currently closed for renovations.  Of course, there are lots of restaurants in every shape and size, too.

I was intrigued by the Starbucks at Schiphol airport.  They had an "evenings" menu that included wine.  The Starbucks staff were really sweet to us, and even gave the boys complimentary chocolate coins with their hot cocoa. 

While we didn't end up buying them, I have to at least get a photo of one of my babies in some Dutch wooden shoes!  S was happy to pose for me.

 
It was a very quick trip, but I was happy with how much we were able to see in our short time in the Netherlands.  We will be back someday, and look forward to getting to spend more time in Amsterdam in the future.