Amsterdam is a unique little city, probably my favorite in Europe because it’s just soooo cute. It’s full of tasteful art exhibitions, street galleries, shops, bars, restaurants and beautiful homes nestled along canals and bridges. Though the capital of the Netherlands is not as expensive as London or Paris, it’s always nice to save some money while still trying new things in the city. Luckily, there are a great number of options for tourists and locals alike that are completely free. That way, you’ll have more money to spend on “Pataat Special” and “Pannekoeken” – and isn’t that what we all want?
Here we go, 56 Free Things To Do in Amsterdam:
1 – Art Galleries on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat
If you have a love for antiques – go to Nieuwe Spiegelstraat street. This street is lined up with antique shops with each store dedicated to a different style of collections. There is one shop in particular, Thom & Lenny Nelis Antiques, which holds a unique collection of globes, telescopes, and other nautical instruments. It’s a cool, free thing to do in Amsterdam, especially if you like discovering old treasures.
2 – Red Light District
Amsterdam’s Red Light District, also known as “De Wallen” is probably the most famous one in all of Europe. Located in the oldest part of the city, the former inner-harbor grew into an area of brothels, gay bars, coffee shops, peep shows, and more. It comes to life at night time, easily seen by its bright red lights. Lately, there have been more and more art galleries popping up here, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
3 – Free Ferry Rides
Take a free ride across the IJ river. The ferry is located just behind the Central Station and it’s completely free and open to the public. Enjoy the views on the water or explore the areas that the ferry takes you to. There are 3 different routes: Buiksloterweg (goes just across the river), IJplein (residential area with shops) and NDSM Werf (the longest route with sights of the industrial harbor). Take a look here for the Ferry departure times and trip information.
4 – Flower Market
Come and explore Amsterdam’s Flower Market, the only floating flower market in Europe. It’s vibrant with colors and fragrances, you will find an assortment of tulips, geraniums, narcissus and many other types of flowers as well. It’s free to explore the market but of course you will have to pay if you see something that you like! Monday-Saturday from 9:00am-5:30pm and Sunday from 11:30am-5:30pm. Singel 630 to 600. 1017 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
5 – Central Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA)
If you are a book lover, visit the Main Library of Amsterdam, the Central branch of Bibliotheek. They house 1.5 million books, periodicals, CDs, games and DVDs as well as a theater and comfy workplaces. It’s open to the public meaning and completely free. The public library also has a top-floor restaurant with a terrace that offers beautiful views of the city. Monday-Sunday 10:00am-10:00pm. Oosterdokskade 143, 1011 DL
6 – Vondelpark
What is a better free thing to do than going to the park, especially in summer? Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most popular city park. It offers a lot of activities with great scenery – going for a walk, cycling, playing a ball game, or you can have a little picnic here. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and an open-air concert will be going on. Van Baerlestraat & Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
7 – NEMO Science Museum
NEMO Science Museum has a 22m high panorama terrace on its roof with free admission. From the terrace you can enjoy spectacular views and sitting. There is also a cafe if you get hungry or need something to drink. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00am-5:30pm. Oosterdok 2, Amsterdam, Netherlands
8 – Canal Ring
Amsterdam is known for having many canals flowing throughout the city. Since the waterways are protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Center, touring around them is like exploring through a live culture and nature exhibit. Most of the beautifully designed Canal homes can be found on Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. Located around the old city center.
9 – Multatuli Museum
The Multatuli Museum is actually a patrician house located in Old Amsterdam centre. The museum is dedicated to one of the most honorable Dutch writers, Eduard Dekker. Entry for visiting the house is completely free and it’s a great opportunity to check out memorable manuscripts and objects linked to the writers past. Open Saturday & Sunday 12:00am-5:00pm and Tuesdays 10:00am-5:00pm. Korsjesportsteeg 20, 1012 LK, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
10 – Amsterdam’s Chinatown
Amsterdam’s Chinatown is made up of some city blocks with lots of Asian markets, souvenir shops, and restaurants. It’s located right beside the market square of Nieuwmarkt and the Red Light District. It’s going to be hard not spending some money on food here though – I warned you 😉
11 – Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple
While visiting Amsterdam’s very own Chinatown, don’t forget to see the modern and beautiful temple. It’s the largest Chinese-inspired, Buddhist temple in Europe. It is open to the public so another free thing that you can do in Amsterdam. If you’re like me and fascinated by religious temples, it will definitely be worth the trip. Zeedijk 106, 1012 BB, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
12 – NDSM Area
With the ferry right behind Central Station you can get to NDSM Werf. There you will discover a ravaged area where an underground culture emerged. This area is full of street art worthy of checking out. You will also find many cultural events, cafes, and art exhibitions. What’s a better free thing to do in Amsterdam than discovering an interesting area with cultural artwork?
13 – Cultural Park of Westergas Factory
The Westergasfabriek used to be a factory constructed to produce gas that was needed to illuminate the street lights of Amsterdam. Since then it has turned into a cultural haven with several attractions such as restaurants, clubs, bars, art galleries, and shops. You can get to Westergasfabriek from the Central Station. It’s a lovely idea to go for a walk or bike ride around and explore, from Haarlemmerdijk, following the shopping street of Haarlemmerstraat to the end. Across the bridge on the right you will enter Westpark. At the end of Westpark is where you will find Westergasfabriek. Westergasfabriek BV Pazzanistraat 33, 1014 DB Amsterdam, Netherlands.
14 – Walking Tour by SANDEMANs New Europe
SANDEMANs holds a free walking tour brought to you by young, local and talented guides. It is one of the best ways to discover Amsterdam city and learn about it’s interesting history. It’s a completely free thing to do, but tips for the guides are recommended. Tours are offered every day at 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, & 2:00pm. Meeting point is in front of the Old Church (Oude Kerk) that’s located in the heart of the Red Light District.
15 – Artisplein at Royal Artis Zoo
Artisplein is an open space for the public at the Royal Artis Zoo. You can go to check out views of animals and surroundings without spending a penny. At Artisplein you’ll find a great sitting area where you can sit, enjoy watching the animals, and have something to eat and drink. Open from 7:00am-11:30pm. Artisplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
16 – Lunch Concert at Concertgebouw
Watch a 30-minute public performance as artists rehearse for their evening performance. Don’t miss out a chance on viewing one of the best orchestras in the world rehearse for their performance of ensembles of the Dutch Conservatory and chamber music by young and talented artists. Every Wednesday at 12:30pm, from mid-September through June. Concertgebouw of Museum Square.
17 – Muziektheater Opera
Are you a fan of opera music and ballet? Artists from the opera and Dutch Philharmonic also have free lunchtime gigs located at their Mod venue. You’ll see talented, well-known performers and dance troupes. Every Tuesday at 12:30pm, September through May. Boekmanzaal, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
18 – Bimhuis for Jazz
Another freebie for people who appreciate some talented musicians. The Bimhuis are famously known in Amsterdam for their jazz music. Enjoy some free jamming blues at their Eastern Dockland venue. Every Tuesday at 10:00pm. Piet Heinkade 3, 1019 BR, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
19 – Take a photo at the “I” Amsterdam Sign
The huge slogan “I amsterdam” is probably the most popular city icon. People love visiting the sign, especially because it is the perfect opportunity to take a classic picture. And hey, it doesn’t cost a cent, so why not? Located at the back of the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein.
20 – Go to the Beach
Some of you will be surprised to know that although Amsterdam is not famous for their beaches, they still have a beautiful coastline that offers plenty of activities and entertainment. The three main beaches are Zandvoort aan Zee, Bloemendaal aan Zee, and IJmuiden aan Zee.
21 – Vrije University Botanical Garden
If you’re a fan of gardens and want to enjoy a relaxing day, visit the Botanical Garden at Vrije University. This garden offers over 6,000 species of plants, amongst these are some really rare and endangered species. It also could be a great, romantic idea for couples to come and it is completely free to visit. Monday-Friday from 8:00am-4:30pm. Van der Boechorststraat 8, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
22 – EYE Film Museum
The EYE Film Museum can be easily recognized by its unique architectural design. The museum’s purpose is to preserve and present Dutch and other films that were screened in the Netherlands. The building itself is pretty remarkable and makes for a great picture. Although there is an entry fee, there is a basement that is open to the public where there is a Panorama room displaying around 100 movie clips and scenes. There are also cool, futuristic viewing pods, that are neat to check out. Basement is open everyday 10:00am-6:00pm. IJpromenade 1, 1031 KT, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
23 – Vondelbunker
Vondelbunker has a unique history that’s worth checking out. It was originally built for the purpose of a bomb shelter in the 1940’s and in the 1960’s became a nightclub spot. Now the Vondelbunker is a place for concerts, cinema nights, different performances, art exhibits. It is free to enter, that is if you can find the entrance that is tucked away under a bridge in Vondelpark. Vondelpark 8a, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
24 – Albert Cuyp Market
A traditional Dutch market with over 300 booths along both sides of Albert Cuyp street. Go and explore the Albert Cuyp’s market, you can find a variety of things such as cheese, fish, fruits, spices, clothes, cosmetics and linens. It is always free to window shop 😉 Open Monday through Saturday from 9:30am to 5:00pm. 1072 CN.
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25 – Nine Streets (Negen Straatjes)
This small network of streets in the heart of the historic center of Amsterdam is famously known as the Nine Streets. It’s one of the best areas to explore and walk around as there are many unique boutiques, the best restaurants, and bars. Window shopping and exploring new areas is one of the best enjoyable and not to mention free things that you could do.
26 – Wind Down at Begijnhof
Begijnhof, essentially a small square of charming, historic buildings with an enclosed courtyard and garden. It is reached through a tiny passageway and you will find a peaceful place where you can wind down, read a book and just take a look around. Gedempte Begijnensloot, 1012 RM.
27 – Westerkerk Church
Visit the largest church in Amsterdam, built in the 1600’s. The Protestant church is a special landmark in the Old City centre. It can be recognized by the tall Westerkerk tower. Inside, the church is designed by rich modern interior. Explore the inside of the church, or climb to the top of the tower and enjoy views of the city. Although entry of the church is free, you’ll have to pay a small fee to go up the tower. There even is a free carillon concert: the 48-bell carillon plays every Tuesday from 12pm – 1pm Open everyday except Sunday from 11:00am-3:00pm. Prinsengracht 281, 1016 GW, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
28 – Jordaan’s Many Hofjes
An area similar to Begijnhof’s peaceful oasis can be found in Jordaan. There are many hidden hofjes (courtyards) surrounded by historical houses. The historical homes are a must-see; they are designed beautifully! The gardens are quiet and relaxing and most are open to the public, just make sure you are allowed to enter, just in case.
29 – Walk Around Zaanse Schans
Another street that is wonderful to come and look around, Zaanse Schans St. This street is actually a residential area that is influenced by the 18th and 19th century. On this street you will find all kinds of cool places like a bakery museum, a warehouse where clogs are made, many windmills, a cheese factory, and different kinds of workshops.
30 – Rembrandtplein Square
Rembrandtplein square is named after the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt Van Rijn. It is a great free thing to do in Amsterdam and around you will also find other attractions worth seeing such as a classic theater building from the 1920’s. Rembrandtplein is famous for its bars and clubs. So you can also check out a place you want to go out to later in the night. Rembrandtplein St.
31 – Walk around Schuttersgalerij
Visit Schuttersgalerij for an impressive Civic Guard gallery. The gallery has a passageway that is open to the public. You will find 15 huge paintings of Amsterdam Civic Guards from the 17th century. Where else can you see huge paintings hanging in the street? It’s a completely free thing to do in Amsterdam and it’ll be a cool sight as well. Every day from 10:00am-5:00pm. Kalverstraat 92 1012 PH.
32 – Stadsarchief (Amsterdam City Archives)
Amsterdam City Archives have a length of over 32 kilometers. It’s an interesting place to visit as it collects and protects official documents relevant for the city of Amsterdam. Some cool treasures can be found here such as the report of the theft of Anne Frank’s bicycle in 1942, a letter by Charles Darwin to Artis Royal Zoo dated from 1868 and a 1976 portrait of Dutch entrepreneur Freddy Heineken. Tuesday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm & Saturday-Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm. Vijzelstraat 32, 1017 HL.
33 – Rijksmuseum Garden
The Rijksmuseum is a famous museum dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam. Although there is a ticket fee to enter the museum, there’s a closed garden with free public access. The garden is a peaceful and pleasant place to sit and with a lovely water fountain. A great spot to wind down and have a good relaxing evening while enjoying beautiful nature. Open daily from 9:00am-5:00pm. Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
34 – Visitors Center of Dutch Central Bank (DNB)
The Dutch Central Bank has a visitors center located across from the bank’s main headquarters. At the visitors center you’ll find interactive displays regarding the bank’s tasks and impact on people’s daily lives. Although the ground floor is free of entry, the first floor is with a guide and will need to be reserved in advance. Open on business days 9:00am-5:00pm. Sarphatistraat 1.
35 – De Poezenboot: The Catboat
Calling all cat lovers to visit the Poezenboot floating cat sanctuary! It hosts stray cats, pet cats, abandoned cats, and more cats. It is completely free to visit so if you love cats, this is your place to be. Singel 38 G, 1015 AB, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
36 – Monnickendam and Marken
Monnickendam and Marken is a marvelous island about 30min from Amsterdam. It’s worth a trip as it’s a beautiful historical area with preserved houses and specialized shops. Its beautiful scenery means it’s perfect for photography. You can also head over to Edam, where you’ll find a cheese factory and museum.
37 – Walk Around Dam Square
The popular Dam Square is just a 5-minute walk from Central Station. There are several things to go and see at Dam Square with many shops, restaurants and great booths. Not to mention, there are many historical sights in the area such as the Royal Palace, Madame Tussauds (world’s famous wax museum), New Church (Nieuwe Kerk), and Beurs van Berlage (old Stock Exchange building). Dam Square, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
38 – Sample Amsterdam’s Best Cheese
De ReyPenaer is not like any other cheese shop around. It’s authentic and famously known as having the best cheese in Amsterdam. Luckily, they have a tasting room that is open to everyone. Come and take a look at their mass variety of cheeses and enjoy their free samples. Singel 182, 1015 AJ, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
39 – Gassan Diamond Tour
Gassan’s factory of diamonds offers free tours open to everyone. It’s a very captivating tour as you’ll have the chance to see up close how technicians work on the diamonds. You’ll get to learn about the variety of cuts and about the clarity, color, and carats of diamonds. You will definitely appreciate this experience, after all, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right? Everyday from 9:00am-5:00pm. Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173-175, 1011, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
40 – Mezrab for Storytelling and Comedy Fun
Looking for some free entertainment? Check out Mezrab – The House of Stories. They have a variety of events at their venue, including storytelling, comedy nights, and music nights. Entry is free but they do accept donations. Check out their website for showing times: http://www.mezrab.nl/#aboutus. Veemkade 576, 1019 BL, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
41 – The Giant Chess Board
There’s a Giant Chess Board dedicated to chess player Max Euweplein, and it’s completely free to play. The chess board comes along with over-sized chess pieces, perfect for you and your friends to come and enjoy and take some funny pictures. Max Euweplein Square, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
42 – Jordaan District
Jordaan District is located in the city center of Amsterdam. You can come and look at the beautiful homes situated on small streets and canals. There are many bridges to explore, and it will make for a perfect picture. Or walk around and tour the many art galleries, antique shops, and different types of markets.
43 – Workout at Rembrandtpark
Another great park to visit, but the coolest thing is: Rembrandtpark has an outdoor gym. Perfect for you if you’re traveling but looking to use some weights and workout machines to stay fit. Rembrandtpark also has large green areas so you can sit and enjoy the sunset while having a picnic. Jan Tooropstraat 6, 1062 BM, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
44 – Bridge of 15 Bridges
The only place in Amsterdam and possibly even the world where you’ll see this amount of bridges in a row – 15 if you include the bridge you’re standing on. It’s an amazing thing to see, that is if you find out which spot to stand at for the perfect view. It’s the bridge crossing the Reguliersgracht on the corner of Herengracht, you stand on the odd side of Reguliersgracht. 561 Herengracht, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
45 – Sunday Market
Weterpark Area (Westergasfabriek), features a big market on the first Sunday of every month. There you’ll find many booths with Dutch souvenirs. Or you can just have a look around with many vendors sampling free food and drinks. Haarlemmerweg 8-10, 1014 BE, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
46 – Free Coffee at Albert Heijn Supermarket
Albert Heijn, the main local supermarket chain in the Netherlands, gives away free coffee and tea for their customers! They also sometimes offer free samples of cold cuts and cheeses. There are many locations that you can visit that are close to other attractions on this list, like the Flower Market area, and Central Station. Koningsplein 4 (Flower Market area). Prins Hendrikkade 20 (Opposite of Central Station).
47. Northern Market
Northern Market is in an area within the Jordaan District. This area holds a weekly organic farmers market. It’s most popular for its display of fresh bread, vegetables, fruit, milk, cheese, meat and flowers. Every Saturday from 9:00am-4:00pm.
48 – Museum Vrolik
If you don’t get spooked out easily by skeletons and human mutants, stop by the Museum Vrolik. They have a large anatomical collection of human mutants. Entry is free without a guide. Open Monday-Friday from 10:00am-5:00pm. J0-130, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
49 – Goat Farm at the Amsterdamse Bos
Amsterdamse Bos is a large park that covers a massive area of 1,000 hectares that features pools, biking and hiking trails and a river. Luckily for those on a budget, there’s free entry to their goat farm. It’s a great place to visit if you have kids – you can see lambs, chickens, pigs, cows, horses, and goats. There’s also a lovely cafe and terrace in the area. It’s only a 20min bike ride from Museumplein. Open daily from 10:00am-5:00pm. Nieuwe Meerlaan 4, 1 182 DB Amstelveen, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
50 – Seven Countries-Houses
3min from Museumplein, close to Vondelpark, you’ll find seven houses in the styles of seven different countries, like Russia and France. They were built in 1894 and make a great photo spot!
51 – Barrel Organ Musicians
If you’ve wandered around the streets of Amsterdam before, you’ve probably heard a barrel organ before. They’re as Dutch as it gets and belong to the vibrant streets of Amsterdam. If you’re specifically looking for one, your best bet will be to go to Dam Square or Kalverstraat. The musicians do appreciate a tip but it’s not required, of course. If you’re lucky, you might even see this guy playing on his boat in the canals (when he’s not touring all over Europe).
52 – The Narrowest House in the World
You’ve probably already noticed the special architecture in Amsterdam or the Netherlands in general. The houses are usually pretty narrow and you can look from the front window straight through the house into the garden very often. The Dutch took it to an extreme though: The narrowest house in the entire world is in Amsterdam, and only one meter wide. They also have the narrowest house in Europe which is ca. 2m wide and 6m deep. Singel 7 & Oude Hoogstraat 22, Amsterdam
53 – Friday Night Skate
Every Friday at 8pm (as long as the streets are dry) the Amsterdammers meet at the Vondel CS restaurant to go roller skating through the city. Whether you rent skates from http://www.skatedokter.nl/ or just watch the parade, this is a special experience for sure.
54 – Skinny Bridge
Probably the most beautiful bridge in Amsterdam, the Old Dutch wooden drawbridge from 1672 attracts romantic lovers and night photographers alike. It’s beautifully illuminated and makes for some amazing long exposure shots. Brugnummer 242 bij Amstel / Amstel 81
55 – Cannabis College
We all know Amsterdam isn’t just famous for the delicious cheese – the capital is most known for its coffee shops and the permission to smoke cannabis without prescription or punishments. There’s even a cannabis college you can visit for free. Two floors full of information about marihuana, now that’s unique! Oudezijds Achterburgwal 124
56 – Waterlooplein Flea Market
The Dutch LOVE their flea markets, so you’ll always find one, no matter when you visit. The Waterlooplein flea market has more than 300 vendors offering everything from secondhand clothing and antiques to leatherware. Open: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm; Saturday: 8.30 am –5pm. Waterlooplein 2
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