Day two of our Europe road trip with kids was an entire day in Amsterdam! We did not travel anywhere in the car today, only by foot, boat and tram to explore the sights of Amsterdam. We literally had one full day in the main city of Amsterdam so had pre-planned what we wanted to see and do. This included:
- Walking on foot to see the architecture
- Having a picnic in Vondelpark
- Going on a canal boat tour
- Finding vegan food for dinner
We sort of managed to do all of this, though we ended up eating our picnic by the canal and going to Vondelpark after this. Everyone was hungry before we made it to the park!
We also managed to go to the library as it was recommended to us by the staff at our campsite and visit two vegan eateries instead of one. Yum!
If you missed day one then catch up here: Europe family road trip day 1 – England to Netherlands / UNESCO World Heritage Kinderdijk / Camping Vliegenbos
Table of contents
Free ferry in Amsterdam
After getting showered and dressed at the campsite, and the kids and Ben eating breakfast, we walked to the free ferry. It’s a 15 minute walk, but with the kids it took a little longer. They are four and seven years old so walking can be unpredictable.
Sometimes they are fine and other times they whine their legs hurt the entire way and keep stopping! It really depends if they are in the mood to walk or not. Today we had lots of walking to do so we made sure to pack them lots of snacks which we could offer to distract them from the walking!
The free ferry is great. One pulled off just as we arrived, but the next ferry arrived no more than ten minutes later! These free ferries in Amsterdam are totally free to hop onto to get across the water at various points around the city.
OBA (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam) – Amsterdam public library
When we asked at the campsite for directions to the free ferry, they noticed we had the children and asked what our plans were for the day. We told them and they said there are a couple of places the kids might enjoy. Thankfully they told us this as we went to the OBA in Amsterdam soon after we arrived as it was a short walk from the free ferry. They’d recommended this for the children to play and to see the view of the city from the top floor café.
It’s a public library so it’s free to enter and they have a huge children’s section with towers of books, but lots of art, installations and toys for the children to play with.
After they had a little play and explore, we headed up to the café.
It was on the sixth floor and the café had some great choices of food and drink. I’m not sure there was any vegan food there as we didn’t eat, but I did see some amazing looking stone baked pizzas and overfilled rolls being ordered! We had a soy milk latte each and went on the balcony to admire the view across Amsterdam before exploring it for real.
We had planned to picnic in Vondelpark, but by now it was almost midday and the children were getting hungry. It was a long walk to the park, so we sat outside the library instead down by the canal. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic with oversized wooden benches right by the water with views of the typical Amsterdam rows of houses and boats whizzing along the canal. This part near the library was very calm by the water and probably the least crazy part of the whole city with what we saw!
It was the calm before we entered the city and spent the rest of our day dodging bikes, cars, people, trams and other traffic in the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam centre.
After lunch we decided to take the tram to Vondelpark as we only had three hours before our boat tour and it was probably a one hour walk to the park with kids in tow from where we were. We simply hopped on a tram and bought a ticket from the on-board conductor. She said we could also pre-buy tickets and they are cheaper for the kids if we do that. She let us off anyway which was kind and told us both the kids were age four (wink) so they could travel for free!
The people in the Netherlands have seemed so friendly and giving like this so far. On first arrival we received a refund for unknowingly overpaying for our camping, then we were recommended a great place to visit with the kids and next we were given free tram rides for the kids!
Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam and the most famous park in the Netherlands. It was a beautiful large park with lots of paths, lakes and fountains as well as a picturesque bandstand in the middle of one of the lakes. There’s an open air theatre that apparently shows free concerts throughout the summer.
It would have been the ideal spot to picnic, but as we had already eaten we just had a stroll and a quick sit down in the shade as it was a boiling hot day. We were very lucky with the weather for the start of our trip, but it was a bit of a heatwave in the 30s which is very hot for the kids to be walking around all day long!
Flagship Amsterdam canal tour
After Vondelpark we went on foot through streets of Amsterdam and along the canal to the Anne Frank house which is where our tour started. I love just wandering through streets exploring, taking in the sights and having a look around!
There was lots of dodging people on bikes who are everywhere! The city is filled with so many bikes – apparently most people own two bikes, plus all the tourists hiring them! I’ve never seen so many bikes in one place.
We arrived around 45 minutes early to the Anne Frank house, so we looked for a café to sit and have a drink in some shade. We walked a short distance and popped into Café Sandro which had a table next to their huge open front window available for us. We ordered drinks, people watched and stared out at the canal for a while.
Our canal boat tour was with a company called Flagship Amsterdam. They are a new young company and I definitely recommend them.
They stood out to me when looking as their boats are open, so no being stuck under a canopy and they have lots of comfy padded seats and cushions! It’s also only a small group of people on each tour, so it’s not overcrowded.
As an added bonus, I booked our tickets in advance using the Viator link on Top Cashback so we’ll get around 4% back. Here’s the link to get cashback if you ever book experiences with Viator who are a Trip Advisor company: https://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/victoriasully/viator-a-tripadvisor-company
I loved the boat tour. Not only was it a great way to explore Amsterdam from the water and see a different view of the streets, but we also got to learn some great facts about Amsterdam. Here’s what I can remember:
- Most residents have two bikes each – one shiny nice bike for work and another for getting around on days off.
- Bikes always fall or get pushed into the canal, so much so that there are ‘bike fishermen’ who pull around 15,000 bikes a year out of the canal!
- You are not allowed to swim in the canal, but you can swim in the River Amstel.
- Amsterdam was originally called Amstel River Dam, due to there being a dam built on the river Amstel, but it was too long and was shortened to Amsterdam over time.
- The iconic houses of Amsterdam are narrow and tall because houses were originally taxed because of their width. They were also taxed based on number of stairs outside their property and windows. You can tell the wealthy houses by the height of the steps to the front door and width of the house.
- If someone didn’t pay their taxes then the top and bottom step would be smashed. This would prevent them from getting business as people would know they haven’t been able to pay their taxes.
- Some of the houses are leaning to the side as they were originally built on wooden beams on swampland which rotted.
- The canals are lined with trees, but they are all the same type of tree. They can’t plant normal trees as the roots spread out and would cause the canal walls to crumble. Instead they plant elm trees as the roots grow downwards strengthening the walls of the canal.
- When the warehouses and houses were built there was no such thing as house numbers or names and many people could not read. Instead there would be an image of what the person did, for example a shoe for a shoemaker. The residential houses had different patterns above the doors instead of house numbers and they could draw this pattern or describe it to someone in order for them to find their house!
After the boat tour of Amsterdam, everyone was pretty hot and bothered! It was a scorching day of full sunshine and we decided to find somewhere to grab a drink and food! We went to Vegabond which is a plant based café and grocery store. There’s a small café at the front with a few seats inside and outside, plus a lot of yummy vegan food that we recognised on the shelves of the shop at the back.
We arrived quite late and the kitchen was closed, plus the blender was broken so we couldn’t try their food or smoothies, so instead we grabbed a water kefir and ginger kefir from the fridge as well as a slice of raw hazelnut cake for three of us and a vegan chocolate cupcake for Bella.
The kids were pretty excited to be eating some dessert before we went and found some main meals!!
The kefir was super tasty. I love ginger kefir as it’s like a ginger beer, but stuffed full of probiotics.
The cake was divine! The raw hazelnut cake was so rich and creamy, it was almost like a cross between a vegan cheesecake and torte.
Vegabond is definitely a great little stop for vegan cake and drinks. If we ever go again then I’d love to try a smoothie and some of their delicious sounding plant based food. It’s also ideal to stock up on vegan snacks if you’re running low! Luckily we stuffed the campervan full of vegan snacks and food from the UK so we didn’t need to buy anything this time.
Vegan Junk Food Bar
My original plan for food was very naughty. I’d read about Amsterdam having a McVegan burger in McDonalds and so I wanted to try one! We never go to McDonalds at home and I sort of hate what they’re all about, but I was intrigued to try one whilst we were there. We walked to the closest McDonalds and they didn’t have them. I searched on my phone and all the articles I could find about the McVegan burger were from 2017, so perhaps they trialled it and stopped or something. I don’t know, but now I was really craving a vegan burger!
I searched for ‘vegan burger near me’ and the Vegan Junk Food Bar came uo and it looked amazing! There were even three locations in Amsterdam so we walked to the closest which was just over 1km away. By this point the kids were really hungry so we did grab them some fries in McDonalds to keep them going. They were pretty sick of walking by this point too so we had to coax them with some fries!
I am so glad that Maccy Ds did not have a McVegan as the Vegan Junk Food Bar was AMAZING!
This chain should take over the world and boot those golden arches out of the way replacing them with their neon spray paint pink logos instead!
Their burgers are next level.
It was the best vegan chicken burger I have ever had.
I couldn’t decide between their original burger which is a vegan cheeseburger or their McChickie burger which is like a chicken burger, so we ordered one of each and Ben and I had half of each.
Ben’s favourite was their ‘original’ burger and mine was the McChickie.
The McChickie came in a pink and blue bun and was oozing with toppings – perfectly instagrammable!
Not only did it look great, but it tasted incredible. If I ever go back to Amsterdam then I’ll be back for more. Hopefully they’ll spread further than Amsterdam and to the UK!
Finally it was time to head back to the campsite to get ready for bed and get some much needed sleep! We had walked over 14km so the kids were exhausted! Reuben is four years old so it was a lot for his little legs. He’d even fallen asleep shortly whilst we were on the canal tour. It was towards the end though so we had to wake him up to get him off the boat so his slumber was interrupted!
Amsterdam we love you! We had the most amazing day in Amsterdam and managed to see a lot by boat, foot and tram even though we only had one day to explore. There is so much to see and do there that you could easily spend a whole week exploring the city and museums, but for one day I’m very pleased with what we did. It was all about soaking up the city being outdoors for the day.