Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands is most known for its canal streets, unique houses, and red-light district. However, the city has so much more to offer that many tourists tend to miss. Like many capital cities, there are also lots of free activities and things to do in Amsterdam. You just need to know where to look. This guide will give you lots of options and things to put on your list for your visit. Make sure to map it out before you go so that you can really take advantage of your time.
Remember, as you stroll along the banks of Amsterdam make sure to look out for cyclists. The city has 320 miles of bike paths and it is by far the easiest way to see the city. If you are on a budget, walking is also a great way to see the city.
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1. Take Some Photos in the Rijksmuseum Gardens
Amsterdam has some of the most museums per capita than anywhere else in the world. If you plan on visiting every museum during your trip, the cost can really add up. Finding options like the Rijksmuseum Gardens is a great way to save some cash because it’s free!
The Rijksmuseum (trying saying that three times fast) is open daily from 9am – 6pm. The space doubles as a museum and a beautiful garden to wander around. There is a permanent collection of statues as well as seasonal installations. Check online in advance to see what’s on before your visit.
Once inside, you can play a game of chess on an oversized board. There’s also a really cool water fountain feature that you can stand in and take pictures from. If chess isn’t your thing, wander around to admire the numerous bee-friendly plants. The Rijksmuseum makes a great place to stop and rest your legs in the middle of a busy day touring around.
2. Hunt for Amsterdam Street Art
While some might call it vandalism or graffiti, others call it art. Taking a walk through Amsterdam you will get to see some of the most beautiful street art displays in the world. Be sure to do some research ahead of time to find out where the best street art is. This is a great way to put together a walking route through some of the lesser-known areas of the city.
There is a website set up dedicated entirely to the street art around Amsterdam. The website even has a weekly roundup of the coolest street art they could find. It’s a great resource to view before and after visiting Amsterdam to read up on some of the coolest murals you were able to find.
3. Shop at the Albert Cuyp Market
This free street market is a great place to walk through. It is a great place to do some shopping for groceries, flowers or souvenirs but you don’t have to spend money to window shop!
The market originally opened in 1905 and has been a popular spot for locals and tourists ever since. The Albert Cuyp Market is located in one of the most popular areas in Amsterdam. Which makes it an easy place to visit while roaming around the city.
While the market is closed on Sundays, it is open every other day of the week from 9am to 5pm. Visit their website to get a sense of what the vendors are offering and to plan your trip.
4. Admire the Flower Market
Visiting Amsterdam in the spring and summer? You cannot miss the world famous flower market. The flower market is located on the Singel canal and in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Canal Ring. The history is steep for this particular market, dating back all the way to 1862.
The best part about the flower market is that it is floating. While the boats are a fixed mainstay now, it is still a really cool thing to see. Each boat has a glasshouse built on top of it to keep the flowers looking fresh. There are fresh flowers every day from Monday to Saturday. It is of course free to walk through and admire the flower but always encouraged to support local vendors.
5. Take Advantage of Free Walking Tours
If you do a bit of research before visiting Amsterdam, you are likely to find a number of free walking tours. One of the most popular free walking tours is Sandeman’s tour of Amsterdam. The tour is 3 hours and will take you around the city to look at some of the most famous tourist attractions.
Walking tours are great because they can also take you to places that tour buses can’t go. There are also some tours that will take you around the Red Light District and tell about some of the really interesting history behind the area.
6. Take a Lesson at Cannabis College
Cannabis College is a non-profit organization set up to teach visitors all about marijuana. Contrary to what their name suggests Cannabis College is not actually an academic college. Instead, they look to promote self-education.
Admission into the college is of course free and is located in the Red Light District. If you partake in any kind of cannabis use, it’s a great place to stop and learn. The instructors will teach you how to recognize if dangerous chemicals have been sprayed on cannabis as well.
7. Visit the Poezenboot
There is only one floating animal sanctuary in the world and that is the Poezenboot. The boat is located on the Singel canal and houses stray cats. The boat has been functioning and housing strays since 1966. You can view it from land or the water but no matter where you are looking at it from, you are sure to be entertained by the cute cats!
The boat welcomes visitors between 1pm and 6pm. The boat is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays. Remember that while the entrance is free, it is strongly encouraged to give some sort of donation to the cats. The money helps to keep the boat afloat and the cats well fed.
8. Wander Through the Pure Markt
Every Sunday visitors can walk around Pure Markt. The space is open for people interested in learning, and tasting the various foods from Holland. The most interesting aspect of the market is that it travels around but is always based in Amsterdam. Before visiting Pure Markt take a look through the website to see where the market is going to be located and for a list of the different participants.
The market is only open on Sundays and mostly contains vendors selling and making food. It is known for its outlandish artisan, Dutch and international cuisine. In fact, there are over 90 vendors selling all sorts of organic and artisanal products. The pictures on the website are enough to make your mouth water. Besides food the market also has toys, furniture, candles and all sorts of other locally made items.
9. Pay Your Respect to the Homomonument
Created in 1987, the Homomonument is a world famous piece of art stationed in Amsterdam and the first of its kind. The attraction is a memorial dedicated to lesbians and gay men who have all been subjected to persecution for their homosexuality. No matter your world views, this monument is an interesting thing to see on your trip to Amsterdam. Because it is centrally located (a stones throw from the Anne Frank House) you can easily add it to your itinerary.
10. Take a Break on the Nemo Roof Terrace
Situated on top of the NEMO Science Museum is the highest city square in the Netherlands. The rooftop is open every day from 10am to 5pm. The views of Amsterdam are some of the best in the city from this roof top. Choose a nice day on your visit and make sure you add this to your stop.
When the rooftop was designed by an architect named Renzo Piano, he wanted to create a real piazza. The idea was to have something interactive for visitors. On the roof you can wander through an open-air exhibition called the Energetica. With this exhibit you can find out more about the sun, wind and solar energy.
11. Sit and Enjoy Vondelpark
Vondelpark is one of the most famous parks in the Netherlands. Taking up a total of 47 hectares in Amsterdam, it is the largest park in the city. It is estimated that about 10 million visitors enjoy the park amenities every year. It is fairly easy to get to the park by foot as it is located near Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk museum and the Van Gogh museum.
In the summer there are free concerts at the bandstand in the park. Be sure to research ahead of time to see when the shows will be happening. It’s a great way to experience local musicians and get a taste for music from the Netherlands. There are also several sculptures located throughout the park. The most notable of the sculptures is an abstract concrete structure called ‘The Fish’ that was actually created by Pablo Picasso in 1965.
What makes this park unique is that it is actually built on a muddy and damp area. Because of this, the park has to go through restoration every 30 years to avoid it from being submerged under water.
12. Hop on the GVB Amsterdam Ferry
Canal tours in Amsterdam can be expensive. What many people don’t know is that there is a free option to view the streets of Amsterdam from the water. The GVB Amsterdam ferries offer free trips along the IJ river line. As you travel along the IJ river line you will be able to spot the EYE Film and the A’DAM Toren building. The best part is that you can show up without a ticket and still get on. Hop on the ferry behind Central Station and enjoy the views!
13. Search for the Begijnhof Amsterdam
One of the best places to visit on your trip to Amsterdam happens to be free. Located behind a door on Spuiplein is the Begijnhof. As you walk along Spuiplein you will see a row of white houses with one brown house in between. The brown house is where you will find the entrance to the Begijnhof.
The Begijnhof is an inner courtyard where women of the Catholic sisterhood once lived. While these women lived like nuns, they were given more freedom and independence. The courtyard was built in the 14th century but when Catholicism was banned in Amsterdam in Begijnhof was the only institution still allowed. The reason is because the houses were actually private residences of the nuns.
Because the homes surrounding the Begijnhof are private residences be sure to enter through the tourist entrance only. Be respectful of those that live there, many prefer not to have their homes photographed. You can enter Begijnhof between 9am and 5pm.
14. Walk Along the Skinny Bridge
Amsterdam has over 1200 bridges that cross canals at almost every corner. There is one bridge that stands out over the others, the Skinny Bridge or Magere Brug. It is said that the bridge was built by the Magere sisters so they had an easier way to visit each other. The bridge was rebuilt in the late 1800s when traffic became too much for the narrow bridge. When it was rebuilt, the bridge became one of the most beautiful bridges in Amsterdam.
The best time to visit the bridge is at night. There are lights that are lined up on either side and they are lit up at night making the bridge absolutely beautiful. It’s a great spot for the perfect Instagram photo or to wander along with a loved one.
With so many free things to do in Amsterdam, it can be hard to narrow down the best ones to add to your itinerary. Whether you choose to mix a few of these in to save money, or are looking to spend as little money as possible in Amsterdam this list will help keep more money in your pocket.