Canals & Anne Frank House

Our favorite part of Amsterdam is the old canals - Singel, Herengracht ("Gentlemen's Canal"), Keizersgracht ("Emperor's Canal") and Prisengracht ("Prince's Canal"). The canals are lined with beautifully preserved 17th century narrow houses, each with different shaped gables.

Canal bikes - Rent pedal boats called "canal bikes" and pedal your way around the canals. This is a fabulous way to see those wonderful old canal houses and uses up a lot of energy (let your kids do the pedaling). The "bikes" seat four and have canvas awnings in case of rain. My kids voted canal biking as their favorite thing to do in Amsterdam.
There are four rental locations - in front of the Westerkerk, and also at the Leidseplein, in front of the Rijksmuseum, and on the Keizers-gracht near the Leidsestraat bridge.
Walk along the canals - Walking along the canals is a must-do, crossing back and forth along bridges, checking out houseboats moored alongside (you might even see one with grass growing on the roof), watching the boats chugging through the canal, ducks and swans gliding by. Here's a good walk down one of the oldest canals, the Singel. Start at Prins Hendrikkade, check out the locks, before walking down the Singel. The house at No. 7 is the narrowest house in Amsterdam, as wide as a door. Walk down the canal as far as the kids like, you can keep going all the way to Muntplein. Along the way, stop into a cafe for a sweet snack.
Woonbootmuseum (Houseboat museum) Prinsengracht 296 - Ever wondered what it's like inside a houseboat? Visit the Woonbootmuseum. The houseboat is very homey and cozy, especially nice on a rainy or gray afternoon. The museum has a children's play corner (kids can color pages of houseboats), and a cafe with coffee, hot chocolate and soft drinks.
Climb up the tower of the Westerkerk - The tower of the Westerkerk church on the Prinsengracht is a landmark in Amsterdam. Climb up the church tower to get a panoramic view of Amsterdam from the observation deck. The kids liked looking at all the comings and goings in the city below, like a living miniature city.
The Westerkerk itself is a lovely spare church. The schedule of free concerts in the evening is posted outside.
Anne Frank House - Down the street from the Westerkerk is the Anne Frank house, sandwiched in among other houses along the Prinsengracht. It's a rare experience to walk into the small rooms where the Frank family went into hiding in World War II. Anne Frank did not survive, but The Diary of Anne Frank, a record of her teen years in this house, is tribute to the youthful spirit of hope amidst the destruction of war. From the attic, she could see the tower of the Westerkerk.
There are small playgrounds, near the Noorderkerk, (slides and swings) and Frederick Hendrik Plein (sandbox and jungle gym) in the Jordaan.
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