Top 20 free things to do in Amsterdam (that first-time visitors will love!)
Amsterdam may be known for being the “naughty” capital of Europe with its infamous Red Light District and liberal stance on cannabis. But behind the racy facade is a city steeped in hundreds of years of history, art and culture. And there’s plenty to see and do in the Dam, even if you’re on a tight budget! Here are the top 20 free things to do in Amsterdam that first-time visitors will love!
Other Amsterdam posts you might like…
- Top 5 Best Museums in Amsterdam (the good, the bad and the naughty!)
- 10 photos that perfectly describe Amsterdam
1) Go on a free walking tour
A free walking tour is a great way to get to know any city with no requirements to pay. You’ll gain insider tips and information from local experts that you just won’t find in any guide book.
You’ll also enjoy being guided around Amsterdam’s pedestrian-friendly streets and start to really get to know this amazing city.
If you’re looking for a smaller and more in-depth group tour to lead you around Amsterdam’s historical centre and top attractions such as Dam Square, the Royal Palace, Nieuwmarkt and Red Light District, you can also opt to book a walking tour with Viator for just £29.
2) Have your picture taken by the iconic Iamsterdam sign
Formerly 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 was meant to serve not only as part of the city’s promotional activities, but also to convey the city’s hugely diverse population.
However, it was estimated that 6,000 selfies were being taken with the sign every day and officials were concerned about the increasing number of tourists in the area so it was removed.
The sign now moves around the city to encourage tourists to visit lesser-known neighbourhoods.
There is also a second more permanent sign you can have your picture taken with at Schiphol Airport outside arrivals.
3) Go on a free beer tasting tour
If you’re visiting Amsterdam for a weekend of partying, this is the perfect free activity to get you started! Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 3.30pm the wonderful Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery gives free tours.
As part of the tour there is a free tasting room where their organic blonde and dark beers (all brewed on the spot!) can be tried out.
It’s also home to the largest collection of beer bottles in Europe which is pretty cool.
For more beer tours, check out Amsterdam’s Heiken Experience, where you’ll learn everything there is to know about the world’s favourite beer and discover what lies behind the doors of the former brewery.
4) Visit the Civic Guard Gallery at Amsterdam Museum
The Civic Guard Gallery is a covered street leading from Begijnensteeg to the Amsterdam Museum and is completely free to visit.
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 famous 350 year old wooden giant!).
For more information on the range of museums you can visit in Amsterdam, check out my post: top 5 best museums in Amsterdam (the good, the bad and the naughty!).
5) Visit the Cannabis College
Granted – an odd but fascinating one for the free things to do in Amsterdam list! The Cannabis College is a non-profit centre providing education on Amsterdam’s favourite herb.
Since opening in the late nineties, the college has become a hub for public lectures and gatherings.
It strives to provide visitors from across the globe with objective and honest information regarding every aspect of the cannabis leaf and is free for visitors to drop in and ask any questions.
If you’d like to experience this side of Amsterdam for yourself (but with a little guidance!), I recommend booking a Coffee Shop Tour.
You’ll learn all about the history and legalisation of cannabis as well as have the opportunity to try the cheapest, high quality cannabis in Amsterdam at Coffee Shops recommended by locals.
6) Walk through Red Light District
Another odd but fascinating one to put on the top free things to do in Amsterdam list! But Amsterdam’s legal and regulated Red Light District is part of its history and culture and is one of the largest and most well-known Red Light Districts in the world.
If you want to learn more about the history of Amsterdam’s Red Light District and how it operates within the city today, I highly recommend a walking tour with Get Your Guide.
It’s only £25 and will give you a greater understanding of how and why Amsterdam developed its reputation towards sex and drugs and how the Dutch government regulates the area.
7) Stand on the ‘Bridge of 15 Bridges’
Incredibly, 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, with the 15th bridge being the one you’re standing on.
It’s worth going at night too as the bridges are illuminated, giving you one of the most beautiful and romantic views in Amsterdam.
If you’d like to see more of Amsterdam’s canal belt, you can take a canal boat tour for less than £15, which will also give you a unique view of the city.
8) Lunchtime concerts at Concertgebouwplein
With its beautiful architecture and clear acoustics, the Concertgebouw is a favourite venue for many of the world’s top musicians and is home to the world famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
For a free taster, pop in on a Wednesday lunchtime at 12.30 and you’ll get to see a trimmed-down recital from one of the week’s key performances.
9) 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 (which is another fantastic area to explore!) and gives you a whole new perspective on the city.
10) Go on a free tour at GASSAN Diamond Factory
Amsterdam has a long history in the diamond trade – going back as far back as the 16th century.
Enjoy watching expert diamond craftsmen turning rough diamonds into polished stones on a free tour in the oldest diamond polishing factory in the world, GASSAN Diamonds.
During the tour an expert guide will tell you about the origins of diamonds and how they are evaluated. As well as show you their extensive diamond collection including their Royal 201 diamond.
11) Visit the Amsterdam City Archives
With archives stretching over 20 miles long, the Amsterdam City Archives collects and protects historical documents for the city.
Highlights include, a record of the theft of Anne Frank’s bicycle in 1942 and the Westerkerk’s burial of Rembrandt in 1669.
12) Walk around Amsterdam’s canal belt
Believe it or not, Amsterdam actually has more canals than Venice!
Enjoy roaming around these 400 year old waterways with the beautifully unique canal houses adorning each side.
If you’d like to see more of Amsterdam’s canal belt, you can also take a canal boat tour.
13) Visit the Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam has specialised in flower markets since the 17th century. It’s also home to the world’s only floating flower market which is filled with colourful and fragrant fresh flowers six days a week.
14) Visit Amsterdam’s secret Middle Ages courtyard
The Begijnhof is one of the oldest inner courts in Amsterdam and a former medieval convent.
It’s 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 understandably a no-no.
15) Visit the EYE Film Museum
Amsterdam’s EYE Film Museum is internationally acclaimed for its knowledge of and expertise in film restoration, research and education.
It manages more than 54,000 films and follows the latest developments in film by organising programmes and debates.
Although the main museum charges for entry, it has a permanent basement exhibition that is absolutely free and a must-see for any film enthusiasts!
16) Visit the Westerkerk
Built between 1619 and 1631, the Westerkerk (The Western Church), is the biggest protestant church in Amsterdam.
It remains a symbol of pride for Amsterdam and still dominates the district today. It even famously featured in Anne Frank’s diary where she wrote about listening to the Westerkerk bells whilst in hiding.
The church is free to visit, however tickets to see the view from the tower are €7. But I must say the tower offers one of the best view points of Amsterdam so is well-worth it!
17) Visit Catboat
Coined as the only animal sanctuary in the world that literally floats, Catboat is a refuge for stray cats and thanks to its unique location on a houseboat has become a tourist attraction itself!
Entrance is free but donations are welcome.
18) Explore Jordaan
Jordaan is one of Amsterdam’s most popular neighbourhoods. It has oodles of character and has lots of fantastic independent shops, street markets, restaurants and alternative night scene.
19) See the narrowest house in the world
As Amsterdam began to expand during the 1600s the Dutch government capitalised by introducing a policy of taxing buildings by their front width.
Residents cleverly got round this by building their houses tall and slim at the front whilst extending them at the back – which is genius! 😂
It’s no wonder that the narrowest house in the world can be found in Amsterdam on 7 Singel Street. At just over three feet wide it’s barely wider than its own front door!
20) Take a stroll through Vondelpark
If you’re looking for a more leisurely activity in Amsterdam, enjoy taking a stroll around Vondelpark.
There are even free performances at the open-air theatre podium from June to August on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.
It’s a great activity to end your trip to Amsterdam on, especially if you’ve had a hard-core fun-filled weekend! 😉
Well, there you have it friends, the top 20 free things to do in Amsterdam! Is there anything you would add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!
Quick FYI guys – this post contains affiliate links to various tours. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!