Let’s be honest, being a tourist is not cheap. Typically you have to pay for travel and accommodations, and then on top of it you are eating out all the time. Whether you can afford it or not, these costs all add up.
So here is a list of 23 awesome free things you can do in Amsterdam to help you stay within your budget!
23 FREE things to do in Amsterdam
1 My favorite thing to do on a sunny day is sit beside the canal and watch the world go by. Canal tours cruise past, friends have fun in their little boats, people ride their bicycles along the water. Not to mention the ducks, coots and seagulls are always making a ruckus. If you have a drink and a snack or a sketchbook with you it is even better. There are many benches by the canals but you can also bring a little blanket or towel for a comfy seat on the ground.
2 A stroll in the park is always a good idea, better when it is sunny of course, but still charming in the rain. In spring you’ll see the flowers and in winter you can enjoy the quiet. My favorite parks for a stroll are Vondelpark, Amsterdamse Bos and Westerpark, but all the parks are really nice for this. Explore the little side paths and you might discover a rose garden, a secret sculpture or a hidden cafe.
3 Take the ferry across the IJ for a free boat ride. This is one of my favorite budget activities to do with visitors. I am always in the mood for a boat ride and even better if I don’t have to captain the ship or pay a fare. You can take the ferry to NDSM or just right across the IJ. Go back and forth a bunch of times if that suits your fancy. It’s free!
5 Do you love a view from the top? You can visit some of Amsterdam’s best rooftop bars and restaurants, pay a big fistful of Euros for a view from the top of the Toren or you can be a cheapskate like me and get your views for free. My favorite places to get a good perspective from above include the NEMO rooftop and the top floor of the Amsterdam library.
6 The Rijksmuseum is a fantastic museum but the gardens are probably my favorite part. And guess what? They are totally free. You’ll find changing sculpture exhibits, flowers and fountains. Bring a book and stay a while. Bonus tip: the bicycle tunnel under the museum usually has a few street musicians and they are wonderful to observe while watching the bikes whiz past.
7 Vondelpark hosts free concerts, performances and activities all summer long as part of the Vondelpark Open Air Theater. Donations are appreciated though! You might catch a classical quartet, a local rapper, ballet troupe or a yoga class.
8 Do you enjoy observing humanity? Then plop down on a bench or step at Dam Square and watch the bizarre activities of tourists as they play with pigeons, pose for photos with human statues of Darth Vader, almost get hit by bicycles and take endless selfies. You might catch an interesting street performance or protest here as well.
9 Stroll around the street markets for a fun way to spend an hour. Monday through Saturday you’ll find street markets in every corner of Amsterdam, and although you can buy a few snacks or trinkets you can also enjoy wandering and looking without spending a Euro cent. You can also check out weekend specialty markets like the Sunday Market and Pure Markt.
10 Did you know that the Amsterdam Museum has areas that are free to visit? Walk though the free Amsterdam Galerij and check out the exhibit of orphans belongings outside in the courtyard. There is even a display of gevelstenen on the wall near the entrance.
11 Are you a fan of street art? Make your own walking tour and spot artworks around the city. The NDSM area is a good place to go, as you can also combine it with one of my other favorite free activities of a ferry ride.
12 About once a week the Concertgebouw has a free lunchtime concert, usually on Wednesdays. Catch a classical quartet, a wind instrument performance or even a soprano singing.
13 Nothing is more Dutch than a picnic in the park. Well, ok maybe bicycles and cheese and windmills are more Dutch, but anyway, you get the idea. Grab some snacks and a blanket and make your way to the closest park. You can relax under the trees and be endlessly entertained by watching other picnickers. Sometimes someone will have a guitar and a mini concert will pop up. If you are by yourself, bring a book or headphones and enjoy some peace and quiet. When the weather is warm the parks are the coolest places to be.
14 From May to October the Westerkerk has a free lunchtime concert from 1300-1330. Check their agenda to see what is on!
15 Want to catch a movie without paying the crazy cinema prices? During Pluk de Nacht, World Cinema Festival and other open air film festivals in Amsterdam you can watch a film for free! A donation is always appreciated.
16 Provided you have a bicycle or a public transport pass, a visit to Monnikendam and Marken is a free and easy way to spend the day. You can get there by cycling through Waterland or take the city bus for a few Euros. Once you are there, explore the area on foot or by bike. You can even take the (not free) ferry between Monnikendam and Marken.
17 Have you heard of the super cool French artist “Invader”? Amsterdam has something similar but it is a bit older by several centuries. Take a stroll around town spotting gevelstenen on the facades of Amsterdam houses. However, if you are a fan of Invader as well, you can also go looking for some of his Amsterdam artworks!
18 Amsterdam is unbelievably photogenic. You can spend an entire day, an entire week or your entire life taking photos of her charming canals, cute houses, pretty people and lovely lanes. Go on a photo adventure and snap some pictures at some of my favorite photography spots.
19 The Negen Straatjes are famous for their cute boutiques and cozy cafes. But you don’t need to break the bank if you restrict yourself to window shopping. You’ll find beautiful flower shops, darling gift boutiques, charming cafes and fun vintage clothing stores. If you like, you can also wander over to Haarlemmerstraat, which is a wonderful window shopping area as well.
20 Do windmills get you excited? You can see quite a few of them in Amsterdam, we have eight windmills within the city limits. You can also visit the charming open air museum of Zaanse Schans. If you want to see inside the buildings you will need a ticket but guess what? You can walk around at Zaans Schans for free!
21 A bike ride is a wonderful, relaxing and free way to experience Amsterdam. Ride around the city, taking in the sights along the way. Or make your way out of town along the Brettenpad, to Waterland or to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel.
22 Art and culture lovers can enjoy Amsterdam’s many city art events for free! Check out the annual Amsterdam Light Festival which takes place during the winter, or ArtZuid which is a biannual sculpture exhibition in the summer. If you prefer music, theater and dance be sure to attend some of the free events during Uitmarkt at the start of the autumn cultural season each year.
23 If you happen to be in town during Amsterdam’s many festivals there is an endless supply of free entertainment. Lodgings might be more expensive and difficult to arrange but if you have that taken care of you can enjoy low budget entertainment on the streets and canals of the city. Koningsdag in April turns the world orange with a huge party nationwide. Amsterdam becomes a pink rainbow party during Gay Pride in August. Every five years the city goes wild during SAIL. Check our agenda to find out about festivals and events throughout the year.
I always say, if it’s free, it’s for me – and even better if there are 23! (haha) I hope this list of ideas helps you stay within your budget and have a great time in Amsterdam.
Here’s a challenge for you to take advantage of some of these free activities. How little can you spend on a day in Amsterdam?
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