The Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam, Netherlands is a delightful spot for families with children of all ages. With plentiful free options for exploring or playing it is a must visit spot to enjoy a bit of Dutch life.
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Are you spending a few days in Rotterdam? You of course should spend a day seeing the sites downtown but I personally like to balance busy days with more leisurely ones outdoors.
One of my favorite places in Rotterdam is the Kralingse Bos. We happen to be very blessed to live within a pleasant walk to the bos (forest in English) and when we first moved here it quickly became a haven amidst the overwhelm of moving abroad.
Even 18 months later, I am still surprised by the different things we continue to discover that are tucked away here and there in the woods. There are many activities for kids of all ages and the entire place is incredibly family friendly. Most of what we do there is free so we can happily have an outing whenever we would like.
From playgrounds and ice cream, to playing in the sand or in the water, taking a walk along the boardwalk, or wandering the paths in the forest looking for animals or treasures, there is plenty to keep you in the bos and bring you back again and again and again.
How to get around in the bos
With a multitude of both walking and bike paths, you can have your choice of ways to explore the bos. The park is large and it takes about an hour to walk from the east to west side. It is not a hard walk as the area is fairly flat but it can still be a bit long for children. We often choose to take kids’ scooters which helps keep them entertained.
If your children are old enough to bike, I would recommend renting some bikes to take the tour. You can explore things the Dutch way and enjoy the sites while providing time for leisure. Here is a list of a few companies that provide rentals plus some tips for biking in the Netherlands.
Roller Skating is a popular pastime and is one of the options to enjoy the freedom and safety that the bike paths give. If neither of these is an option, you can potentially rent scooters which are legal to ride on the bike paths as well.
If you choose to come by car, there are a few parking lots located on either the east or west sides of the park. On a pleasant weekend, parking can be hard to come by so be aware to either come early or be prepared to wait around a while for a parking spot. Both parking lots are located near playgrounds and food.
Listed below are a few of our favorite things to do in the Kralingse Bos.
Go for a ride around the bos
The Kralingse Bos has lots of fantastic paths that you can (happily) get lost on. Don’t worry, you’re in a box in the middle of the city so you can’t get too lost but there are lots of paths that intersect in the woods that are delightful to wander around on.
However, there is a loop that takes you around the park and the lake that shows you a lot of the highlights. You can see a pair of windmills, different aspects of the lake, and meander through the woods, not to mention there are lots of quiet spots to take a break and enjoy a surprising amount of peace in a big city.
See a pair of windmills
Windmills are an iconic symbol of the Netherlands. The Dutch built windmills not only for their ability to grind wheat for flour but also to power Archimedes screws which helped to pump water away from the land they had reclaimed.
You can take a tour and learn more about these still operational mills built in 1777 and 1829. For more information and tour times visit the Molens aan de Kralingse Plas website.
Geocaching is a fun way to explore an area with kids that is totally free! I’ve found that they are willing to walk a lot farther because they are engaged and excited to look for the “treasure”. If you have never done it before here is a great guide to geocaching with kids to get you started.
One of the ones we have done took us to parts of the bos we had never been before. We spent hours out in the bos hunting for the canisters, climbing trees, and general kid fun.
See the deer and birds
One of our favorite spots to go on an afternoon walk is to see the herd park (deer park) and the vogels (birds) on the east side of the park. During the spring it is especially fun to see the new fawns especially since they are very curious as well!
Located near the deer is a building which houses many different kinds of birds. My children love looking at the colorful parakeets and lorikeets and hearing all the noise they make. There are also several parrots and pheasants as well.
Play at a speeltuin
Located very close to the deer and birds is a lovely park that has a nice view across the lake to downtown Rotterdam. On a clear day, you can even see the famous Erasmus bridge!
With a large green area, lots of sand, a climbing center, and more it’s a nice spot to have a picnic lunch or enjoy an ice cream from The Eekhoorn (the squirrel). They also have bathrooms located next to the parking lot.
On the opposite side of the park, there are several playground options located on the beach by the lake or by the path. In a fenced area is a wading pool and small playground equipment and located next to it are swings and climbing equipment. This area does get crowded during the summer but if you are willing to walk a little further down there are other play options.
On the beach more towards the center of the park are several sets of climbing equipment with slides as well as rope and pulley systems to haul up sand and dump it down the tubes. My children have happily spent hours playing there! We like this area because there are trees close by for shade, it’s generally less crowded, and they have free public bathrooms!
Ride the zipline
Located just across the way from both the beach and the playgrounds is a zipline that is always popular with the kids. It is on the west side of the kinderboerderij located near the kiddie pool.
It provides a nice length ride being longer than most ziplines at playgrounds I’ve seen and it has a very pleasant view as you’re at the top flying towards the water.
Make sure to take a moment to explore around the zipline as well! We have found some paths that wind their way around some wooden carvings that also allows you to see some animals at the petting zoo and a log that you can climb across. You also might stumble across the climbing course for younger kids.
Play at the kleineparcour area
This climbing area is a fun option for younger kids who are too short or too young to climb at the Fun Forest. Even my older children have fun playing here. My kids love to be timed as they make their way across and try to get faster on each subsequent run.
Note: the climbing area is made of steel cables so it is very safe but can be hard on hands. If you happen to have a pair of gloves that can be helpful for sensitive hands.
Visit the kinderboerderij
The Kinderboerderij de Kraal (petting zoo) is another fun and free location to explore in the bos. My little ones like to grab a kid wheelbarrow and haul it around with us as we see all the different farm animals. There are also a few small play areas as well as seating areas that make it a nice spot to be.
Play at the plas
Plas is the Dutch word for lake and this is perhaps our single favorite activity at the bos, especially during warmer weather. Bring your own sand toys and a blanket and you can easily spend the whole day at the plas.
There are bathrooms located along the main stretch of beach as well as a small restaurant in the middle by the Fun Forest. As I mentioned before, located along the beach are several small climbing structures as well as a few round swings and at one point there is even a slide into the water.
Be aware there is a nude beach on the far east side of the main stretch but it is separated by a hedge that screens all but the actual beach portion. There is still plenty of beach that you can stay on the far side of that section. We happen to always choose to be on the beach side closer to the nude beach but my children have never noticed nor cared.
Fun Forest Rotterdam
I left this for last, mainly because it is the only thing on my list that isn’t free. There are several different things you can do or get at the Fun Forest that can make for an enjoyable few hours.
You can rent a paddleboard or kayak by the hour and take it out on the lake. The water is not very deep in the fenced area located closest to the shore so it is a good place for kids. Further out the water does get deeper and there are often sail boats on the water.
My older children loved getting to do the ropes climbing area. They have many different courses of varying difficulties and you pay for a certain amount of time to climb. On a quieter day, you can climb most of the courses that are available. You can read my full review here of our experience at The Fun Forest Climb park.
If you are only in Rotterdam for a few days, I hope I have convinced you to spend a day in the bos. It is the perfect spot to take a day to let the kids run and play and enjoy life in Holland.
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