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30 free things to do in Amsterdam

30 free things to do in Amsterdam

Europe can be a very expensive place to visit but thanks to some research and some pointers from my own trip to Amsterdam I present you with 30 things you can do in Amsterdam that won’t cost you a penny, enjoy!

1) Have your picture taken at the iconic Iamsterdam sign

Located at the back of the Rijksmuseum, the large Iamsterdam slogan quickly became a city icon and a much sought-after photo opportunity for tourists. It’s meant to serve not only as part of the city’s promotional activities, but also to convey the city’s hugely diverse population. It’s always swarmed by tourists so just dive in when there is even a hint of space.

2) Take the ferry across the IJ river

Amsterdam has a number of free local ferry services on the IJ river which connect the city to Amsterdam Noord. It’s a great perspective on the city and completely free!

3) Lunchtime concerts at Concertgebouwplein

With its beautiful architecture and clear acoustics, the Concertgebouw is a favourite venue of many of the world’s top musicians, and is home to the world famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. For a taster, pop into a free Wednesday lunchtime concert, they often offer a trimmed-down recital from one of the week’s key performances.

4) Take a stroll through Vondel Park

Vondelpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam, and certainly the most famous park in the Netherlands, welcoming about 10 million visitors every year. There are also free concerts and performances at its open-air theatre podium. The program runs during the summer months (June to August) on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

5) Visit the Civic Guards Gallery

Part of the Amsterdam Museum, the Civic Guard Gallery is a covered street leading from Begijnensteeg to the museum. Original group portraits, made between 1530 and 2007 by artists such as Bartholomeus van der Helst and Erwin Olaf, hang in the gallery as well as Goliath the world famous 350 year old wooden giant.

6) Walk through Red Light District

I know it’s an odd one for the list! But the Red Light District is a part of the culture and history of Amsterdam, it has one of the largest and most well known Red Light Districts in the world. It is legal in Amsterdam and regulated but it’s a surreal experience walking through the district with the girls plying their trade in the windows.

7) Wander around the gardens of the Rijksmuseum

If you have no money to enter the Rijksmuseum just spend some time in the freely accessible historical garden.

8) Go on a Diamond Tour

Amsterdam has a long history of diamond cutting and guess what? At the Amsterdam diamond company Gassan Diamonds you can watch diamond cutters turning rough diamonds into polished stones. There are guided tours in English ad they’re completely free.

9) Go on a Brouwerij ‘t IJ Tour

Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 3.30pm the Brouwerij ‘t IJ give you a free tour in English. There is a tasting room where the beers, all brewed on the spot and organic can be tried out. It’s also home to the largest collection of beer bottles in Europe, cool!

10) Stroll through the Botanical Garden at Vrije University

With only one hectare of space this botanical garden has over 10,000 species of plants in its collection.

11) Visit Cannabis College

Another odd one for the list but legal in Amsterdam. This non-profit centre educates about Amsterdam’s favourite herb. The College strives to provide visitors from across the globe with correct, objective, and honest information regarding every aspect of the Cannabis sativa L. plant.

12) Browse round Albert Cuypstraat Market

Get a feel for the ‘real’ Amsterdam by browsing around its largest street market, Albert Cuypstraat. Your visit to Amsterdam won’t be complete without a trip to its most popular street market. Great for culinary enthusiasts, passers-by or people looking for a bargain…well pretty much anyone!

13) Visit the Amsterdam City Archives

With archives stretching over 32km long, the Stadsarchief (Amsterdam City Archives) collects and protects documents of historical relevance for the city of Amsterdam whilst organising fun activities and temporary exhibitions. Just a few highlights of the impressive Amsterdam Treasures collection include, the report of the theft of Anne Frank’s bicycle in 1942 and The Westerkerk burial register recording the burial of Rembrandt van Rijn on 8th October 1669.

14) Visit Jordaan’s Farmer’s Market

The Noordermarkt farmer’s market in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam has been running for hundreds of years. The market is held on a picturesque square overlooked by the tower of the Noorderkerk, a church built in 1623. If it was good enough for Rembrandt back in the day, it’s good enough for us!

15) Walk round Amsterdam’s Canal Belt

If you want to take a canal tour cruise you’ll need to pay but there’s nothing stopping you taking a walk around the most scenic canal routes in Amsterdam. Amsterdam actually has more canals than Venice and roaming around these 400 year old waterways is like being in a free, living museum with the beautiful canal houses.

16) Visit the Bloemenmarkt (flower market)

Amsterdam has specialised in flower markets since the 17th century, so if they interest you, make your way to the Bloemenmarkt (the world’s only floating flower market), where crimson tulips, yellow daffodils and purple lilies jumble against a dramatic canal backdrop.

17) Visit Amsterdam’s secret Middle Aged courtyard

The Begijnhof is one of the oldest inner courts in the city of Amsterdam and a former convent. It is an oasis of 14th century houses and gardens along with two clandestine, relic-filled churches. It’s a private residence now though so cameras are unfortunately a no no.

18) Explore De Pijp

Named ‘The Pipe’ for its narrow streets, this former working class district, south of the old Heineken Brewery, has grown into Amsterdam’s most happening quarter, and an eating out hotspot. It’s a great place to café hop day or night.

19) Play chess at Max Euwe Plein

The game of chess is very popular in the Netherlands and its enthusiasts in Amsterdam have their center close to the most lively square in the city, the Leidseplein. Tours round Max Euwe Plein are free and after you’ve finished you can play chess and meet other chess players for a live game outside the museum.

20) Visit the Oostelijk Havengebied (Eastern Docklands)

The artificial islands and abandoned docklands east of Central Station are in the midst of a massive makeover, involving some of the most adventurous architecture in the country including Renzo Piano’s copper-clad, ship-like NEMO building (the Science Museum).

21) Go on a free Walking Tour

The best kind of tour if you ask me! Guided by a local on foot, it’s a great way to explore the city with insider tips and information you won’t find in your guide book. One of the best companies that run the tours is New Amsterdam Tours.

22) Explore The Negan Straatjes (Nine Little Streets)

Crisscrossing the main canals, the nine little alleys from Reestraat through to Wijde Heisteeg are Amsterdam’s most charming shopping hub and great for an atmospheric stroll.

23) Enjoy a day at the beach

Amsterdam of course isn’t by the seaside but an artificial beach has been created on the artificial island of IJburg so if you’re there over the summer go get some rays…plus there’s parties…lots of parties.

24) Visit EYE

The Film Museum in Amsterdam has a huge collection of Dutch and foreign movies and film posters. Although the main museum charges for entry, it has a permanent basement exhibition that is absolutely free.

25) Walk around the area of Noord

Noord is one of the most hipster neighbourhoods in the world. The historic streets Nieuwendammerdijk and Schellingwouderdijk were originally built as dikes. The best part is that you can take the ferry to Noord for free.

26) See Anne Frank’s Church

Not actually a church that she owned of course! But Anne wrote in her now famous diary about listening to the bells of the Westerkerk whilst in hiding from the Nazis. The church, which was completed in 1631 still dominates the district today, its 85 metre tower has one of Amsterdam’s best views.

27) Go see Cat Boat

The only animal sanctuary in the world that literally floats is a refuge for stray and abandoned cats which, thanks to its unique location on a houseboat in Amsterdam’s picturesque canal belt, has become a world-famous tourist attraction. Entrance is free but donations are welcome.

28) Explore Jordaan

Jordaan is one of Amsterdam’s most popular neighbourhoods and today is home to students, artists and young professionals. There are great cafés and restaurants, as well as a more alternative nightlife location.

29) Stand on the Bridge of 15 Bridges

Just one bridge in the Amsterdam canal belt gives a view of no less than 15 bridges. This unusual sight is found at the crossing of the Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht. The 15th is the bridge you are standing on. It’s worth going at night as the bridges are illuminated, giving one of the most beautiful and romantic views in Amsterdam.

30) See the narrowest house in the world

The narrowest house in the world is to be found in Amsterdam on the Singel, no.7. With a width of just over 3 feet, the house is barely wider than its own front door.

Fun fact: Due to space restrictions as the city grew during the 1600s, a policy of taxing buildings by the width of the front of the houses came in. Residents in Amsterdam got round this by building their houses tall and slim at the front and extending their houses at the back which is what makes them so unique.

Well, there you have it, 30 free things to do Amsterdam. The next challenge is get through the list, how bout it? ;)

Mel x

About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!