Exploring Amersfoort, The Netherlands
Exploring Dutch towns is one of my favorite pastimes. I never tire of the beautiful houses perched along the canals with markets overflowing. I once thought that seeing one small town here was just like seeing them all but I’ve come to appreciate the subtle differences in each town. Although I still maintain that Delft is the cutest of the Dutch towns, we loved every moment of our day trip to Amersfoort (one hour east of Delft by car).
Our Amersfoort day trip was conceived when my sister landed an 18 hour layover in Amsterdam on a work trip. We had to be able to have her arrive by train since our car only seats our family of five. A quick look at train schedules and we settled on Amersfoort. Jeff and I drove with the kids and my sister stored her bags at Schiphol Airport, hopped on the train and met us in the Amersfoort town center.
I always love to start our city visits with a cup of coffee and my sister, having just gotten off an overnight flight from the United States was also in need of some non airplane food. Most things in Amersfoort don’t open until eleven on weekends. The exception is Corazon Bakery, which is open at 9am on Saturdays.
You will have no trouble picking out something delectable and fresh baked from this adorable place. Seating is limited though. Three doors down is the Corazon Coffee Shop, which opens a bit later (10am on Saturday) but features a full menu and ample seating.
We stuck with the bakery and found a seat on the back prep table. The kids loved peeking into the kitchen and watching the bread bake in the ovens. They each chose a pastry and my sister and I enjoyed some much needed coffee before setting out to explore Amersfoort properly.
We took advantage of the empty streets to walk around and enjoy Amersfoort’s beauty. Later in the day we would find the streets crowded as everyone headed out to enjoy the sunshine and the shops.
In the quiet morning hours though you can peek into houses and enjoy the beauty of the quiet town. We did not have much of a plan for our visit and as a result made the mistake of not grabbing boat tour tickets early in the morning. When we poked in later in the day they were completely sold out. Pop into the TI across from the boat dock early to pick up your timed tickets.
Instead we opted to walk around the park that follows the medieval moat around the city.
Playgrounds were a bit hard to find, but we happened across an open school playground with a few families playing and stopped to get some energy out. The boys most enjoyed the family game of twister.
In a few places you can walk up on the gates of the old wall and get a view into many of the canal-side gardens that would otherwise remain hidden.
We even walked all the way out of town to see the bull statue. The statue was once made of wood, but was set on fire by vandals in 2009. Thanks to a wealthy donor it was replaced with the help of the artists by a steel copy.
Having worked up an appetite from our city stroll, we popped into the market for more treats. You can’t resist the sights and smells of a European market. We stopped by the bakery and got some pastries for everyone to share. Our Big Little wanted to make sure my sister tried all our favorites from cheese filled croissants to pecan broodjes.
While the boys shopped for some produce to take home, I perused the flower stalls. I try to soak up all these beautiful and affordable flowers as I know they will be one of the things I miss the most about life here. I just can’t get enough!
The Middle Little couldn’t resist a visit to the cheese stand. If like us your little ones love cheese, you can ask them to cut the cheese to eat right then. They will cut the rind off and cut it into little squares, perfect for snacking.
Bellies full, again, we headed to the Mondriaanhuis. The Mondriaanhuis is Piet Mondrian’s birth home and a museum focusing on his life. The Mondriaanhuis is a Museumkaart member so our visit was free.
The museum is small but very well organized with delightful exhibitions. Your visit starts with a video showing Mondriaan’s work as it evolved over the years.
After watching the video ask the front desk for the kids activity. They give each kid a metal loop and your kids go around the rooms collecting works of art to put on their loop. At the end the works of art are a puzzle of Mondriaan’s last unfinished work. Please note parents that the piece is diamond-shaped and takes some time to piece together. When your kids complete the puzzle they get to take home a post card and stickers.
There are also plenty of interactive exhibits to keep the kids entertained. They loved learning that Moondrian’s modern art was never really popular and he mostly got by selling paintings of flowers.
The museum does not house any of Mondriaan’s modern art, but they have a decent collection of his more traditional work.
Upstairs you are treated to another delightful presentation highlighting Mondrian’s work. This film takes place on a cube and his work dances around on this screen. Even the Little Little was delighted, clapping and watching the colors dance to the music.
The real highlight for the kids though is the workshop room full of Mondriaan themed projects.
The Lego wall was a family favorite.
This light up thing that played music while displaying colors was also a big hit. There were tables full of Mondriaan inspired coloring sheets as well. We could have easily spent an hour just in this little room.
Lunch was unfortunately a bit of a disaster. Cafes were crowded and the kids were tired which meant sitting through a European lunch is hard. There is a cafe just behind the Mondriaan house that we should have gone to as it provided outdoor seating and plenty of room on a closed street for the kids to run around. Instead we headed to a lovely little cafe with good food but incredibly slow service. You’ll have no trouble finding food in Amersfoort though as the streets are lined with great looking cafes.
Amersfoort is also known for its great shopping. They have every European store you can think of in all price ranges, but they also have a great collection of independent stores. I couldn’t resist a visit into a few of them. The kids wanted to poke into SpeelBoek Amersfoort.
This kids book and toy store had all our favorite high quality European toys and also an amazing kids book section. I found a few books for the Big Little. We are trying to help his Dutch reading along and also stock our personal library with some Dutch language resources before we leave the Netherlands.
Overall you can’t go wrong with a visit to Amersfoort. Jeff took the Big and Little Little back by car and the Middle Little, who is a train enthusiast, and I escorted my sister back to the airport by train and then made our way back to Delft.