Before I became a mother, I never knew there were so many cool children’s museums in The Netherlands. I have a huge list of kids’ museums I still want to go to with our toddler and we’ve already visited quite a few. Since we’re going to homeschool our little boy next year, museums are definitely top of mind. The top 10 list below is a combination of both museums we’ve already been and liked and locations that are still on our bucket list. So, if you’re looking for things to do in The Netherlands with kids, this post will give you lots of inspiration.
Recently we visited the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, which was maybe a bit too challenging for a toddler. But I think he’ll love it in a few months time. He’s still talking about the visit… Our trip to the Children’s Book Museum (or ‘Frog Museum’ as our toddler calls it, due to the ‘I am Frog’ exhibit) was a big hit. We’ll definitely be going there again! Most museums in The Netherlands offer some kids program and it’s very easy to find activities for older children. The museums on this list are fun for older kids too, but I’m focussing specifically on museums that are fun for toddlers.
Bilingual children’s museums in The Netherlands
Most of the museums in Amsterdam are bilingual, also the children’s museums. Although a lot of people in The Netherlands speak English and we have many expats, museums outside of Amsterdam are mostly only in Dutch. Of course, Google Translate helps a lot while checking the museum’s website for visitor info. And I recently got a tip about the Google Translate App. It now offers instant camera translation and you can use it offline. Just point your phone’s camera at a piece of text and you can instantly see the translated text on your screen. I think your kids will enjoy a museum visit a lot more if you can tell them what they are seeing. This would have been great when we visited the natural history museum in Milan recently, as all the information was only in Italian (and although we try, our knowledge of Italian is virtually non-existent).
Kids museum card
Most museums in The Netherlands offer free entrance for kids up till 4 years old (so we need to hurry and visit a few before our tot turns 4!). Check the museum’s website for pricing details, a lot of museums that are specifically for kids have different tariffs. In general museums in The Netherlands are quite expensive, even for kids you often pay €10-20 for a ticket. So after our toddler turns 4 I think we’ll buy a museum card for him and ourselves (€32,45 for kids, €59,90 for adults at the time of writing, June 2017). Just a few visits and it’ll already be worth it. This might also be a good option if you’re visiting The Netherlands and plan to visit a good few museums or if you’re an expat living in The Netherlands.
The website Museum Kids has info about the museum card, but also a lot of info about children’s museums in The Netherlands.
Best museums for toddlers in The Netherlands
1. Archeologie Museum / Archeology Museum – Haarlem
Our little world traveler calls this the ‘underground museum’ because you have to go down a flight of stairs to reach this museum in the cellars of historical building De Vleeshal (‘meat hall’) in the center of Haarlem. Of course, archeologists’ findings are also ‘under the ground’ so the name fits quite well. The museum is really small, which makes in perfect for toddlers. All the display cases are low and kids can easily see what’s inside. Play archeologist at the small digging pit, where you’ll discover pieces of old pottery and bones. Or find out what people used to eat by sorting various food residues (egg shells, fish bones, fruit pits) at the determination table. Be amazed by all the small bones in a human skeleton and discover how hard it is to piece a vase together from all the small pieces of pottery.
If you’re doing a day trip to Haarlem with kids, the archeology museum is a great place to include. Overall Haarlem is a nice city to visit with (or without) kids. It has a lot of child-friendly lunch places and some nice petting zoos. Sometimes Haarlem is called ‘little Amsterdam’. It has the architecture and the canals, but it’s a lot less busy than Holland’s capital.
2. Kinderboekenmuseum / Children’s Book Museum – The Hague
Our toddler loves books, so this awesome museum has to be in the top 10. There are two exhibitions for kids age 0-6 ‘Ik ben Kikker’ (I am Frog) and ‘ABC met de dieren mee’ (ABC with the animals) and one for ages 7+ called Papiria. The I am Frog exhibition is both in Dutch and English. Each book character has its own little space. Crawl through various fruits and food like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, jump like Frog, patch up Elmer the Patchwork Elephant… the museum’s exhibitions are highly interactive and fun. Kinderboeken museum is easy to reach by public transport. The National Library building that houses the museum is located right next to Den Haag Centraal (The Hague central train station). The website of the Children’s Book Museum tells you more about how to get there and what you can expect.
Watch the video we made below or check the review of our visit to the Children’s Book Museum. Our son keeps asking when we’re going back to visit Frog, so I would say it was a success and we’ll definitely go there again.
3. Nijntje museum / Miffy Museum – Utrecht
Did you know there’s a whole museum dedicated to Miffy? How cool is that! The museum is meant for kids between the ages of 2 and 6, but I think it really depends on your child. A friend of mine who went said her 4-year old probably wouldn’t find it very interesting anymore in a few months. We haven’t been yet, but it’s on the agenda.
They recommend you buy tickets online as availability at the museum itself is limited. For safety reasons they work with time slots (so the building doesn’t exceed maximum capacity). Your booked time slot indicates when you should enter the museum. Once inside you can stay as long as you like. Check the Miffy Museum’s website for more info & prices.
4. Naturalis – Leiden
Naturalis is an awesome museum with a vast natural history collection. The aim of Naturalis is to increase enthusiasm for and knowledge of the amazing diversity of nature. Unfortunately, the museum is closed for renovations and expansion until the end of 2018. They do have very interesting but smaller exhibitions in one area of the museum. Check out the Naturalis website for more information and the calendar of events.
Leiden is a nice city to visit. It has a beautiful historic city center. We were there recently and our little one loved The Burcht, an 11th-century shell keep. Great to spark his imagination. Incidently my two favourite museums are in Leiden. The Rijksmuseum van de Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) and Museum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) are awesome to visit with kids of any age.
5. Spoorwegmuseum / Railway Museum – Utrecht
Discovery and experience are paramount at this museum where 175 years of railway history comes to life. This museum is great for kids of all ages (and parents too!). Videos, explanations of the various trains on display, a theater performance by a French chef and a lady traveling the Orient Express, a simulator of a mad train ride where the kids can push buttons and man the steering wheel…. You’re not only looking at old trains, but the museum does its best to animate history, making it a lot more interesting for kids. Our toddler really enjoyed it.
The Railway Museum is housed in an old train station, a beautiful historic building dating from 1874, within walking distance of the city center. Of course, the coolest way to get there is… by train! There’s a train service between Utrecht Centraal and Utrecht Maliebaan. You exit the train inside the museum. More information can be found on the website of the Railway Museum. Kids 0-3 have free entrance.
6. Villa Zebra – modern art kids museum Rotterdam
Villa Zebra is a children’s museum for modern art. Their exhibitions are aimed at kids ages 3-12. The two permanent exhibitions are ZELF (‘self’) for kids 3-6 and Diep in het bos (‘deep in the forest’) for kids 7-12. ZELF consists of 5 play and art installations that were developed by artists, especially for young kids. Going on holiday, camping, starring in the circus, experimenting in the laboratory or creating tangram images, it’s all possible at Villa Zebra. If you visit ZELF your kids can also do a small workshop. The museum has limited opening hours, so don’t forget to check Villa Zebra’s website to see when you can visit.
7. Veiligheidsmuseum PIT / Security Museum PIT – Almere
Veiligheidsmuseum PIT is the national security museum. Here you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about the emergency services (police, fire brigade and ambulance) in The Netherlands. The museum, located in the center of Almere, offers a good mix of historical items and vehicles, and interactive games and activities. It’s both entertaining and educational. Kids and their parents learn all about safety in their own environment and how the emergency services help keep Holland safe. At the moment our 3-year old wants to be a fireman when he grows up, so I’m guessing we’ll be visiting this museum soon! Museum entrance is free for kids 0-3. Take a look at the website of Veiligheidsmuseum PIT for more information, opening hours and ticket prices.
8. Archeon – Aphen aan den Rijn
This awesome place is still high on our museum bucket list. It’s an open air museum dedicated to Prehistoric times, Roman era and Middle Ages. Every day and especially during the weekend and holidays they have various shows, such as a gladiator fight, temple ceremony. Kids can learn sword fighting, archery, making fire and lots of other things. For an additional fee you can buy an activity pass, so kids can do numerous arts and crafts projects. But even without that there’s enough to see and do. Visit a Prehistoric hunter-gatherers camp, check out a Roman bathhouse and wander through a small Medieval town called Gravendam. I’ve only been there once myself, many years before our son was born. It really sounds like an awesome place to take your kids. Very educational too, so great for people that homeschool. Kids up and including 3 years have free entrance. Check out Archeon’s website for more info.
9. Watermuseum – Arnhem
Did you know that less than 1% of the water that’s treated and purified in The Netherlands is used for drinking or cooking? Or that per person per year we use 12300 liters of drinking water to flush the toilet? This and other interesting info about the use of fresh water in Holland can be learned at the Dutch Watermuseum. The Dutch Watermuseum is an interactive museum about all aspects of water, Dutch dike management, ground water management, drinking water production and the use of water in The Netherlands and around the world. We all know most kids love to play with water, so this is a perfect place to take them. The museum is housed in an old 15th century water mill. Unlike a lot of other museums in The Netherlands the entry fee is very reasonable. For kids 4-12 years old you only pay €6,50 and adults pay €9,50. You can find more information about the museum at Watermuseum’s website.
10. Oertijdmuseum / Prehistoric Museum – Boxtel
Dinosaurs! Need I say more? This museum about the Prehistory is the largest geological museum in The Netherlands. It’s founded by a Dutch geologist who found his first fossil as an 11-year old boy and then kept on collecting. In this museum you can relive the past, and especially prehistoric times with fossils and dinosaurs. The collection is displayed both inside and outside. Inside you find a large collection of impressive dinosaur skeletons. The outside area consists of 2 hectares prehistoric forest where you can see numerous ‘living fossils’, trees that have also been found as fossils. Between the trees there are lots of dinosaur statues. The museum also has some moving dinosaurs. We visited the Dinopark when we were in Prague and our son still talks about it. I guess we need to make our way to the South of The Netherlands some time soon! Honestly the Prehistoric Museum’s website doesn’t offer much information, but you can check prices and opening hours.
Accommodation in The Netherlands
Now that you know how many cool children’s museums The Netherlands has, why not plan a visit with your family? Check Booking.com for hotels in The Netherlands or take a look at the suggestions below.