Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is many things. A city of fascinating history and impressive art and architecture. A permissive party town where anything goes. A marvel of engineering and waterways. One thing it's not, though, is cheap.
To get the best out of Amsterdam, you're going to need to spend some money. Whether you're enjoying a delicious meal in Amsterdam's Jordaan district or admiring the exquisite art of the Rijksmuseum, you're going to feel it in your wallet.
But didn't someone say the best things in life are free? They have a point. Even in this notoriously expensive European city, if you look, you can find plenty of fun things to do that are completely free. Free things to do in Amsterdam can make your budget stretch further. Plus, enjoying the free attractions of the city can often bring you into contact with the locals more than it does other tourists, offering you a glimpse of what real life is like in the city for the people who live there. So you won't just be saving money; you'll be getting a more authentic understanding of this fascinating town.
But before you dive into all these free things to do in Amsterdam, don't forget to drop off your bags at an Amsterdam luggage storage spot. Traveling light will make it far easier to enjoy the cheap and free things there are to do in this legendary city.
Amsterdam is known for having some truly incredible museums, and even has an entire district of the city dedicated to museums and art galleries. However, this kind of cultural excellence doesn't come cheap. The admission fees for Amsterdam museums can quickly pile up.
However, some of Amsterdam's museums offer free entry on certain days, allowing you to see at least some of their collection, if not the whole thing. One example is the Amsterdam Museum, that tells the story of the city's rich history and offers free admission to the Civic Guards Gallery. Here, you'll find a small but interesting gallery devoted to the lives of some of Amsterdam's historical elite, who shaped the history of the city through the city council and other organizations. It's something of a hidden gem, and one of many excellent free things to do in Amsterdam.
Hiking can be a great way to see a new place without spending a lot of money. And you may be surprised to learn how many great hikes there are in and around Amsterdam. Check out the best hikes in Amsterdam, including a walk through the glorious woodlands of Amsterdamse Bos, or Amsterdam Forest. A 20-minute bike ride from Central Amsterdam will bring you to this vast park that is three times the size of New York's Central Park. You'll find newly endless kilometers of walking trails, along with a boating lake and even an organic goat farm. Not only is it a great way to get some exercise on your trip to Amsterdam, but it's also completely free and easy to reach from the heart of the city, making it a must-visit on any budget traveler's list.
Amsterdam simply exudes culture, and sometimes it seems there are so many artistic activities to do in the city that you could never cram them all in. But if you want to appreciate culture on a budget, no price is better than free.
Visit the Concertgebouw, just across from the Rijksmuseum, on any Wednesday other than in July and August, and you'll be treated to a free lunchtime concert. These classical music concerts last around 30 minutes and cover a broad range of music from the well-known to the cutting-edge contemporary, but whenever you visit, you'll be guaranteed to be entertained.
Bear in mind that these free concerts are very popular with both tourists and locals, so you'll need to line up to get a ticket before the show begins. Still, a free concert is undoubtedly one of the best ways to spend some time in Amsterdam without spending some money, so you should definitely add it to your list. Also, keep an eye out for the free concerts the Dutch National Opera and Ballet holds every Tuesday to see some of the best performers in the world do their thing at no cost to you.
A guided tour can help you understand the city better than you ever would by yourself. The history of Amsterdam is a complex one, and you'll get a much better understanding of why the city is the way it is with information from a knowledgeable guide. There are dozens of tour companies operating in central Amsterdam that will teach you about different aspects of the city's art, architecture, and history. And if you're visiting on a budget, you'll be glad to hear that some of these tours are completely free.
A walking tour of Amsterdam's city center will not only give you more information about the city, but also function as a jumping-off point for your own self-guided tour later. However, you should note that tour companies offer these tours as a way of promoting their other products that don't offer free admission. While you're under no obligation to buy a paid tour, you should at least tip your guide for any walking tour they give you.
Amsterdam is famous, among other things, for its liberal drug laws. The Netherlands was way ahead of the curve when it came to the decriminalization of cannabis, with the result that Amsterdam has become known throughout the world for cannabis consumption. Amsterdam's Cannabis College, located in the city's red light district, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate about the use of marijuana. If you're curious about Amsterdam's coffee shop culture but don't know where to start, this is the place for you. They can guide you through the etiquette of Amsterdam's cannabis scene and let you try some of their products. They even have an indoor cannabis garden where you can see the plant being grown and learn more about its medicinal uses and the harmful effects of draconian drug laws. Whatever your views on the legalization of cannabis, you'll learn a lot at this unique college.
The Flower Market
Amsterdam's floating flower market is justifiably famous. The stalls occupy canal boats, making this the only floating flower market in the world. Of course, if you want to bring some flowers or other souvenirs home with you, you'll have to get your wallet out. But the market is unique enough and, with its colorful blooms of flowers floating on the water, beautiful enough to be worth a visit just to take in the atmosphere and get some stunning photos. And it's completely free to visit the market, so long as you don't buy anything.
The Flower Market is also a great place to bring kids. For more guidance on the best things to do in Amsterdam with kids, check out our guide.
Amsterdam is known throughout the world for its party scene. Particularly if you visit during the summer months, you'll find a range of free parties and festivals that you can visit, and no matter what you enjoy, you'll probably find it represented here. For instance, Vondelpark, one of Amsterdam's most popular open spaces, offers open-air theater in the summer. Rembrandtpark and Westerpark also hold free festivals during the warmer months.
If you're lucky enough to visit Amsterdam in April, you'll witness Kings Day, the biggest street party of the year. Later in the year, Amsterdam Pride is a riotous celebration of the LGBT community. Or, if you're a history buff, don't miss Open Monuments Day, a day in September when the city opens the doors of some of Amsterdam's historic homes and buildings to give you an encounter with the city's rich history you won't soon forget. A self-guided tour through the monuments of Amsterdam will provide you with a neat perspective on the city.
Amsterdam Museum Night
Amsterdam is justifiably proud of its incredible museums. And although these museums can be expensive to visit, if you time your visit right, you'll find that many of the top attractions in the city can be free to visit. Some of the city's most visited museums throw open their doors for Amsterdam Museum Night, with special events held at the Rijksmuseum, the van Gogh Museum, and other locations. It's a fantastic way to make your tourist dollars stretch further and see some of the highlights of the city, including large-scale art exhibitions, completely free.
Nemo Science Museum
Unfortunately, Amsterdam's stunning Nemo Science Museum and its interactive exhibits and free to visit. However, the rooftop terrace on top of this striking modern building is free for anyone to visit. Make the climb, and you'll be rewarded with incredible views over the city and a photo opportunity you won't get anywhere else, and it won't cost you a penny. In Amsterdam's busy centre, free activities can be hard to come by, so this is a great addition to a self-guided tour of the city.
Skating in Vondelpark
Vondelpark is one of Amsterdam's favorite parks, and it's a fantastic place to visit on a budget. Take a stroll on the endless trails or spread out on a grassy lawn and enjoy the summer weather, and you can enjoy one of the best things to do in Amsterdam without spending a penny. But if you'd rather be a little more active, don't miss the Friday Night Skate. Every Friday night, the skaters of Amsterdam take over part of Vondelpark. From the pavilion, skaters embark on a 20 km group skate through the park and the city, making this an unmissable activity for skaters. To participate in the Friday night skate, you need to be at least a competent skater, though not an expert. You'll also need to bring your own skates, so it might be a good idea to look into renting some before you show up.
Max Euwe Centre Chess Museum
Many of the free things to do in Amsterdam tend to fly under the radar of most tourists. If you have even a passing interest in chess, don't miss the opportunity to visit Amsterdam's Chess Museum absolutely free. The museum is named after the Netherlands' only chess grandmaster, and it tells the story of Max Euwe and of the development and popularity of the game of chess in the Netherlands. Even if you're not a huge chess fan, you'll come away with a new appreciation of this most intellectual of games.
Diamond Factory Tour
Amsterdam has been at the center of the global diamond trade for centuries. To learn more about this fascinating aspect of the city and get a free peek behind the scenes, enjoy one of the best free things to do in Amsterdam by taking a diamond factory tour. You'll learn more about how diamonds are cut and polished in the city, and the global trade behind this precious commodity. You can even buy a diamond of your own at the end of the tour. Unfortunately, they are not free.
If you're looking for free things to do in Amsterdam with kids, you shouldn't miss one of the city's top free attractions, De Dierencapel. This petting zoo allows your kids to meet and interact with a variety of adorable farm animals and learn more about how the animals followed after. Located conveniently close to Amsterdam's central station, this zoo offers free tours and is a great place to bring the family.
There's more to Amsterdam than the sex shops of the red light district and the seedy area around the central station. Start looking a little deeper, and you'll find no end of free attractions. In fact, it would take forever to list them all. Whether it's the play area in Amsterdam Central Library, the vibrant atmosphere of the city's largest street market, the open-air theater of Dam Square, or the free ferry ride from the central station to Amsterdam Noord, you'll find tons of free activities that will keep you busy on a trip to Amsterdam. So drop off your belongings at a Bounce luggage storage and get ready to explore the cheaper side of the city. Making your money stretch further means you'll get to see more of the city no matter when you visit.