Amsterdam, Netherlands might be associated with canals, coffee shops, and tulips, but there is much more than that. The Netherlands has the highest percentage of part-time workers in Europe, the royal family riding bikes as the rest of the population, simplicity and modesty are deep-rooted in Dutch culture.
In this post: how and where locals live, property prices, typical playground (in the center of Amsterdam!), local cinema theater, swimming pool, children’s paradise, etc.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Explore How Locals Live
1. Amsterdam: houseboat living
With so many canals in Amsterdam and Holland, living on a houseboat is popular. There are around 2500 boathouses in Amsterdam, from modest to the ones selling for $1.5 million. Pictured below: many of the houses moored in the center of the city, our favorite with a lawn on the roof, on the left:
2. Amsterdam, Netherlands: ordinary living
The typical dutch house is usually around 1000+ sq ft, comes with a spiral staircase and a small, but “everything you need” backyard:
The backyard traditionally is gated by a nicely trimmed hedge. If you are interested in Holland culture, living, and have small kids, get Jep en Janneke’s book. Guess, where Jep and Janneke first met? Right, at the hedge 😀
Prices (both for buying and renting) in Amsterdam depending on many factors, but the main is location. A 3 bedroom house with a garden on the outskirts of the city is possible to buy for 350,000 euro. The most desirable neighborhoods in the center of Amsterdam are selling for 1M or more:
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands: a passion for beauty
If you look closely at the picture below, you’ll notice that there is hardly any space to grow flowers. In spite of that, from Spring to Fall, Amsterdam is abundant in blossoms, especially roses and wisteria. Often, they grow from a tiny (as wide as a brick) piece of land:
4. Playground in the center of Amsterdam (Jordaan Amsterdam)
Jordaan amazed us: extremely expensive land at the center of Amsterdam could be already developed. Nevertheless, between narrow streets, gardens and playgrounds exist and full of life. Kids liked Konijnenren Slootstraat a lot:
There are some interesting facts we discovered about Netherland’s playgrounds:
- They aren’t always mentioned on Google Maps. We mapped at least 3 during our trip.
- Playgrounds usually are gated: small children won’t run into the street. Dogs are forbidden. (Cats are free to roam around in the Netherlands)
- Playgrounds often have a sandpit, chicken coop, ride-on toys:
5. Amsterdam’s canals are a big draw for tourists, but…
… they aren’t as attractive as look in the pictures. The water is dirty. It isn’t smelly but definitely isn’t the one to accidentally fall in or swim in:
The most common debris isn’t bikes but plastic. More than 18,000 people went fishing plastic in Amsterdam organized by Plastic Whale, the local environmental company. In total, Amsterdam has more than 100 km (60miles) of canals. Most are navigable by boats.
6. Amsterdam. Locals are exhausted from tourists
Before Covid-19 Amsterdam hosted nearly 20,000,000 visitors per year. For the city of 800,000 residents, it was a little too much. The city tried to limit visitors by a strict short-term rental policy, but it didn’t help. (As well as the fines for consuming alcohol)
By excessive noise and littering, tourists are making life for locals unbearable. Plus, property prices skyrocketed and many stores, services converted into “tourist-oriented”.
Public male bathrooms helped a little with urinating on the streets
and I hope urine doesn’t flush down the canals:
P.S. It is against Dutch law to urinate into canals unless you’re pregnant.
7. While restrooms were hard to find…
… and often aren’t free, but once you find one, you might enjoy a real towel in it:
While boys can use the male bathrooms (smelly, but better than nothing) in the center of Amsterdam, but girls better plan “restroom break” ahead.
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands: the further you get from the center…
… the more “real” Amsterdam and Holland you’ll see around instead of tourists traps. We were surprised, but locals here were talking Dutch to us. And expected to hear it too. In the city center, everybody was talking English, and by this fact, we assumed that tourists rarely go so far.
The picture below was taken in 30 minutes bike ride from the center of Amsterdam:
9. What the heck is Brommobielen?!
Brommobielen’ is a vehicle that travels at a maximum speed of 45 kph (28 mph). A driving license is required and the driver must be at least 16 y/o. Those moped cars are strange to see on bike paths and pedestrian streets but are popular in the Netherlands:
10. Exciting places to feel like a local in the center of Amsterdam
Zuiderbad, swimming pool
If you love swimming, try Zuiderbad, the swimming pool behind the famous Rijksmuseum. It was built in 1912 and a National monument now.
Swimming and water safety in the Netherlands
Swimming is taking seriously in the Netherlands and there is almost no way a child can skip it. Exams are focused on swimming and survival skills: to pass the first level, kids jump in the water dressed, with shoes on, no goggles, swim, and dive through a 3 meter pipe. In the Netherlands, you are surrounded by open water, and it is a great prevention from drowning.
Pathé Tuschinski, Art Deco movie theater founded in 1919
Also in the center of Amsterdam, you can visit one of the most beautiful cinemas ever, outside and the inside, Pathé Tuschinski:
11. Play Island, Amsterdam, Netherlands
For kids from 4 y.o. who are confident swimmers, there is a very special place in Amsterdam: Play Island. It was absolutely uncrowded during our visit and is the #1 attraction in Amsterdam for our kids. There are no rules and lifeguards, total freedom and fun:
Tiny boats for tiny people
At Play Island you can rent an electric, kid-size boat. The only question we were asked if kids passed level A swimmimg exam (more about it above). We answered that we are visitors, kids are confident swimmers and got a boat. Erika and Artem were very happy to handle it by themselves:
12. It’s not widely talking about…
… but Netherlands and Amsterdam are family-oriented and very kid-friendly. Dads often work 4 days a week and are serious about “Papadag”, the whole county has dinner at 6 pm, and a new mom gets a professional helper for 8 days after delivery provided by the government.
There is no custom to smile at a strange baby and say how cute he/she is, but kids are very welcome. Welcome ride bikes without helmets on, wander around unsupervised, play a lot, and take risks.
13. If I could describe Amsterdam by one word…
… it would be “cozy”. Sorry, no! There is a very special Dutch word for it: gezellig. “Cozy, snug, convivial, and intimate”. For me this picture describes it best:
All our favorite places in Amsterdam on My Maps
- Best time to go: May through September
- Time we enjoyed and recommend: July/August because of the warmest weather and summer activities (swimming, etc.). There are plenty of tourists, but they mostly are in the center of the city
- How long to stay in Amsterdam if coming with kids? 3+ days
- Book accommodation in advance, especially for June-August
- For the last minute booking, we use Priceline
- Pack jackets and rain gear even for the summer months. Nights could be chilly and rain occurs throughout the year
- Swimsuits, especially for kids. Lightweight blanket, quick-dry towel
- Snacks and water
- Best books about Holland we love and recommend: Two Kids from Holland and The Happiest Kids in the World:
Thanks for reading, friends! We are happy you are here 🙂
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