Amsterdam: It’s not exactly the destination that springs to mind when thinking of a family break. But look beyond its reputation as an adult playground, with its abundance of coffee shops and the notorious red light district, and you’ll find plenty to keep the kids occupied - as I discovered on a weekend break with my five-year-old daughter, Jessica.

Within minutes of departing the Eurostar, we step into the city, and it doesn’t take long to realise why it’s famed for its love of bikes. Dodging them at every turn, we take the 15-minute stroll to our lodgings for the next couple of nights, the Pulitzer Hotel.

Tucked away beside the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, in one of the most chic neighbourhoods of the Dutch capital, you would never guess this five-star establishment is made up of 25 interlinked 17th and 18th century canal houses.

Dinner that evening is at Jansz, the hotel’s restaurant, which serves up a menu of modern classics and local fare.

We begin the next day with a treasure hunt around the hotel. Taking us through the hotel’s warren of canal houses, we discover the many rooms and courtyards we have not yet uncovered. The jewel in the crown is the tranquil inner gardens - an unexpected hideaway in the centre of the hotel.

This is followed by a leisurely canal trip on the Pulitzer’s very own boat. With the jetty right outside the hotel, we don’t have far to go to board.

Seeing the city from the waterways allows us to observe buildings which, had we walked, wouldn’t have been as easy to notice. We even see giraffes and elephants as we cruise past Artis Zoo!

We disembark at Hannekes Boom, a colourful waterside shack across the water from the NEMO Science Museum on the banks of the Oosterdok. Blissfully hidden away from the tourist track, it makes for a charming hangout on a warm July lunchtime.

When we finally manage to prise ourselves away, we reach the highlight of Jessica’s trip: The NEMO Science Museum. With five floors of interactive activities, experiments and demonstrations for children of all ages, you could easily spend all day here.

Heading to the museum’s impressive rooftop square - the biggest in Amsterdam - I relax with a drink and take in the panoramic views of the city, while Jessica enjoys the interactive water exhibition Energetica, having lots of fun splashing around in the fountains.

There is just enough time on our final morning to take a stroll around the neighbourhood and pick up a few souvenirs before heading to Amsterdam’s famous pancake house by Central Station.

It’s a great way to round off our Dutch experience.

5 ways to please kids

Learn the science of play

NEMO’s mission is to bring science and technology closer to the public in an interactive and accessible way. And with five floors crammed full of exhibitions, experiments, demonstrations and workshops, the museum certainly achieves just that.

How: Age 4 upwards E17.50/£16; under-4s, free. Visit

Float down canals on a boat trip

My pick of the bunch is the kid’s cruise run by the Blue Boat Company. For 75 minutes, parents can sit back and listen to tales about the city, while the kids get to go on an adventure of their own. Armed with binoculars, they can spot wildlife, design a tattoo for a pirate, draw a boathouse, and even become a certified pirate themselves.

How: Adult E18.50/£17; child 5-12 E9/£8.50; ages 1-4 free. Visit

Find freedom for free in the parks

At 2km long, Amsterdam’s Vondelpark is the city’s biggest and most visited park, with a children’s pool, sand pit and play castle. The newly constructed adventure climb bridge is sure to be a highlight for everyone. How: Free.

Splurge on delicious desserts

A visit to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the self-proclaimed ‘best pancake house in the city’. This waterside eatery, in a prime location behind Central Station, is one of four branches.It offers a traditional Dutch treat for everyone, with more than 30 toppings to choose from

How: Prices start from E9.95/£9. Visit

Hang out with creatures great and small

A day ticket gives you access to the aquarium, planetarium and botanical gardens.

, Artis Zoo offers a rare chance to experience nature in the heart of a city centre.

How: Adult E24/£22; child 3-9 yrs E20.50/£19; 0-2 yrs free. Visit