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A couple crossing the bridge towards het Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ.
Image from Jan de Ridder

Things to do with your parents when they visit Amsterdam

Showing your parents around the city you live in is a treat, but as much as we love them, coming up with ideas for things to do can sometimes be tricky. We’ve compiled a few pointers for parent-appropriate corners of Amsterdam to take them to. They’ll leave feeling thrilled and inspired and you’ll earn some covetable hosting brownie points.

Swot up before they arrive

Oude kerk square in De Wallen Red Light District
Image from Lars van den Brink

It’s always satisfying when your parents remark on how clever you are, and we’ve got just the thing to impress them. Memorise as many facts and dates as you can from these themed walking routes and lead them on a private tour of the city’s architectural heritage or maritime history. Of course it’s customary to tip the guide, and the more fascinating details you can recall, the more likely they are to buy you a coffee. Most routes include suggestions for pit stops along the way, but we’d recommend De Koffieschenkerij - a hidden tea room in the cloister garden of Oude Kerk.

Judge other people's homes

Villa mansions at Vondelpark
Image from Koen Smilde

Surely an unspoken rite of passage in older life is becoming obsessed with the property market, because wherever they go, parents seem to love looking at houses. Start with some serious interior design inspo at some of the city’s spectacular canal house museums - many of which have impressive secret gardens to snoop in. Then, lead them on a stroll past the mansions surrounding Vondelpark for some in-real-life property porn. When you’re done eyeing the manicured lawns and sprawling facades, walk along pretty much any stretch of the canal ring to rate the houseboats. You can even pay a visit to the Het Woonboot Museum (The Houseboat Museum) to see how the Dutch really live on the water.

Help them feel down with the kids

People sitting in Brouwerij Kleiburg Brewery during 24H Zuidoost
Image from Irina Raiu

Not everyone has parents hip enough to bring to an underground techno party during ADE. However, Amsterdam still offers a brilliant array of bars and cafes that are the perfect balance of lively and parent-appropriate. Get the conversation flowing at one of the best wine bars in town, or soak up the sky-high views from a rooftop terrace. Alternatively, pulling up a stool at one of the city’s many breweries will be a sure-fire hit and an excellent opportunity to show them Amsterdam’s trendy, craftier side.

Pull out all the stops

Café-Restaurant de Plantage in the evening with sparkly lights.
Image from Maarten van der Wal

If your parents are firmly in holiday mode, this is your opportunity to go all in with them and splurge on a swanky dinner. Amsterdam has one of the most exciting gastronomic scenes in Europe, with dozens of Michelin-rated establishments, gorgeous restaurants and standout lunchrooms in exquisite and unique settings. The view from the lakeside terrace at Aan de Poel is as breathtaking as the Franco-inspired dishes. Or, impress your in-laws with a knock-out meal overlooking the flamingos in the elegant conservatory of Cafe-Restaurant De Plantage. Alternatively, the expansive dining room and high ceilings of Café Restaurant Amsterdam never fail to delight - housed in the former engine room of a 19th-century pumping station.

Take them on a cruise, of course

CTA Open Boat Tours Skipper is a local guide
Image from Stromma

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that parents love a good cruise. Exploring the canals by boat is a leisurely way for those not so swift on their heels to get an overview of the city’s iconic sights. This dedicated page includes the most popular canal cruises to book with and some more alternative options. Might they enjoy drinking bloody marys along the way courtesy of G’s Brunch Boat or some added comedy from Those Dam Boat Guys?

Expand their culinary horizons

People sitting at terrace at 't Nieuwe Diep in Flevopark drinking jenever
Image from Koen Smilde

All out-of-towners should experience some traditional Dutch cuisine on their trip. There is a variety of fantastic typically Dutch restaurants to try and the city’s street markets are some of the best places to sample herring, eel or kibbling. Proeflokalen (tasting bars) like Wynand Fockink or ’t Nieuwe Diep in Flevopark are an atmospheric place to slurp jenever (a clear spirit flavoured with juniper berries). But it’s not all bitterballen and booze in Amsterdam; the city has a diverse culinary scene with restaurants like Lalla Rookh and Aarti 2 serving mind-blowing Surinamese roti. Whilst, Kantjil & De Tijger or Hotel Jakarta are great spots to tuck into an Indonesian rijsttafel (a selection of small dishes from all over the Spice Islands). It is definitely advisable that the uninitiated go easy on the sambal (a very spicy chilli condiment).

Go retro

Image from Martin Kuijper

Oldies are always keen to indulge in some nostalgia, and Amsterdam has plenty of options for “back in my day…” conversation starters. See if your parents can still manoeuver the joysticks like they used to at TonTon Club - an arcade gaming paradise for adults with locations across the city. Parents love a bargain, and they’ll be sure to bag one at IJ-Hallen - a colossal monthly flea market for vintage clothes, furniture and records from decades past. There couldn’t be anything more old-school than a night at the movies, and Amsterdam’s independent cinema scene is strong. You could even send them off on a date night to Pathe Tuschinski - an exquisite Art Deco film house that still has retro love seats for them to cuddle up on.

See some typical (and less typical) Dutch scenery

A couple is walking on a sunny day in the winter at the Zaanse Schans.
Image from Pauline Arkesteijn

From national parks and nature areas to scenic cycle routes, taking a day trip into the Amsterdam Area is the best way to show your parents some essential Dutch countryside. The spectacular Zaanse Schans Open Air Museum is a massive parent trap, with all the windmills, old-timey houses and lush greenery they could hope for. Likewise, Naarden is one of the best-preserved towns in Europe if they fancy absorbing some military history walking around the unique star-shaped fortifications. In Spring, the rainbow-hued tulip fields of the Flower Strip are a must-visit. Or for something they perhaps might not expect, head into Zuid Kennermerland National Park to witness the windswept dunes and a thriving bison population - no, seriously.

Have a jolly day out on the water

A couple on a boat in the water of the Groene Hart
Image from Koen Smilde

Before your parents go full midlife crisis, buy a boat, and retire to the coast, test out their sea legs by renting one yourself. As they argue about who gets to hold the map (hopefully not upside down), keep shouting “are we nearly there yet?” with this list of the best waterfront bars to moor up at. Even thought it's always amusing watching them trying to find a spot to park, if the canal belt is too busy, you’ll find numerous quieter lakes and rivers ideal for boating outside of the city where you can rent a sailboat, motorboat or even a canoe.

See some quirky exhibits

Museum Tot Zover exhibition room
Image from Museum Tot Zover

The culture never stops in Amsterdam, with unusual museums hiding in all manner of unexpected locations. Even on your metro transfer, you can peek at dozens of archaeological finds in Rokin station’s Below the Surface exhibit. They'll undoubtedly love this fascinating collection excavated during the construction of the North/South line - just pray that it doesn’t inspire them to buy their own metal detector. For something a bit different, Artis Micropia is an entire interactive museum dedicated to weird and wonderful microbes and is honestly great fun for all ages. Or, if you’re feeling a bit cheeky, take them over to Museum Tot Zover (The Funeral Museum). Located in a cemetery, it’s the perfect setting for an uncomfortable conversation about your inheritance.