10 Free Things to Do in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As one of Europe’s best loved capitals, Amsterdam seems to have it all; grand canal houses lining the streets, tour-led boat rides that putter through the waters to give you that brand new perspective of the city, and a neon-lit nightlife that pushes the boundaries and lets locals and tourists alike let loose. But if you’re heading there with a tight budget, you probably want to steer clear of the tourists traps. That’s where we come in. Today we’re sharing a fun list of 10 free things to do in Amsterdam, so you squeeze every last drop of culture and fun out of this phenomenal city.
This is not the first time you’ll have seen Amsterdam on the blog. It was featured last week in our blog post all about the best cities to celebrate Pride in in 2021, and it even made our list of some of the most Instagrammable cities on earth back in November. Clearly we love this urban metropolis as much as everyone else. Let’s find some of the best free spots in the city to capture its unique beauty.
NEMO Roof Terrace
NEMO Science Museum may not be free for all to enter, but the piazza on its roof totally is.
In fact, you’ll get a stunning panoramic view of Amsterdam and its harbor from this city square in the air, and get to see some pretty quirky sculptures as part of the museum’s open-air exhibition.
The piazza’s architect, Renzo Piano built this rooftop city square to enable its visitors to feel the full spectrum of the elements. It’s certainly an intensely beautiful spot to enjoy a cup of coffee or spot of lunch when the sun’s shining. You can experience Amsterdam away from the hustle and bustle and find yourself at a unique vantage point.
A Walking Tour of the City
Sandeman’s New Europe are the tour company for you if you like long walks full of culture, historical facts, and a local’s view on Amsterdam.
These three hour tours are tip-based, and led by a local expert. You’ll lay your eyes on Anne Frank’s house, the Red Light District, hidden churches, the iconic canals, and everything in between on this journey through the streets of Amsterdam. All tours are done with an English-speaking guide (just in case your Dutch is a little rusty), and there’s plenty of time to take pictures of everything you see. Just make sure you wear a good pair of shoes!
If you’re looking for a little bit of greenery in the heart of this urban jungle, Vondelpark is the place to find it. This massive park is always buzzing with life thanks to the locals and tourists who flock to it every day.
Alongside play areas for children, you’ll find terraces to rest your feet and sup an ice-cold Heineken (or a hot coffee, depending on the weather!). There’s the open-air theater, where you can catch a free concert if you head there at the right time, the statue of Vondel, the park’s namesake, and even the cast iron music dome De Groot Melkhuis to discover. You can even hop on a bike and take in the park’s splendor like a local.
GVB Amsterdam Ferries
You’ll find the GVB ferries running daily between Amstedam Centraal Station and Buiksloterweg (Amsterdam North). Each ferry can manage up to 400 foot passengers, or 310 foot passengers plus bicycles, which is perfect for anyone who’s rented a bike and doesn’t want to leave it behind.
Not only can you sail over the Ij river and take in the fresh air and views of the city, but on the other side, you’ll be able to explore the north of the city, including NDSM-wharf, Eye Film, and A’Dam Lookout.
Albert Cuyp Market
An authentic look at Amsterdam through the eyes of locals; Albert Cuyp market is a melting pot of around 260 market stalls selling everything from food to flowers to trendy trinkets and thrifted clothing, and it’s open Monday through Saturday from 9am till 5pm.
Commonly known as the most beautiful market in Amsterdam, this is one not to be missed. It’s located in the trendy De Pijp neighborhood and runs along Albert Cuypstraat. Do a little bit of window shopping (sans actual window of course – this is an outdoor market), and try out some local cuisine. The vibe here is always super chill and friendly, and you’ll get to witness the locals doing their thing in the wild, as it were. If you’re looking for an Instagrammable moment, the “wake me up when I’m famous” bench is situated on the same street!
Magere Brug, or Skinny Bridge (let’s not translate that actually..!) is a charming drawbridge, and the most famous in Amsterdam. Given that this city has over 1250 bridges, we’d say that’s pretty cool, and we want to see what all the fuss is about.
Magere Brug crosses the world-famous Amstel river, and it was originally built in the 17th century. It’s been rebuilt and reonvated a few times since then though, so it’s still pretty safe to cross by foot or by bike.
For dreamy views, visit the bridge as the sun sets. It comes alight with hundreds of twinkling fairy lights as darkness consumes the city, and it’ll transport you perfectly into the city’s night mode, which is a different world altogether.
The Red Light District
Although frowned upon by many more conservative souls, the Red Light District of Amsterdam is a part of its culture that cannot be ignored. And it’s not just seedy alleyways lit up in neon. It’s trendy bars and museums that’ll teach you the history and cultural relevance of the district itself. You’ll often find families wandering the streets during the day, when everything is a little tamer and not quite as abrasive on the eyes.
When night comes along, you’ll see the hoardes of overly-excited tourists with a curiosity that can’t be dampened heading in that direction, and even if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, heading there to bask in the glow of the red lights is an experience in itself, which gives the streets an eerie, warm radiance.
De Violist Statue
An anonymous artist created and secretly placed De Violist (The Violinist) in 1991, and it’s never moved since.
Hidden inside The Stopera, this groundbreaking (literally 😉) statue pokes out from the stone floor. Apparently nothing will stop this violinist from finishing his final song. Hidden somewhere on the statue is an inscription too, but we think you need to see that with your own eyes, so we’re keeping quiet.
Bloemenmarkt is Amsterdam’s world famous floating flower market, which runs along the Singel canal between Koningsplein & Muntplein. Open daily from 09:00 to 17:30 (apart from on Sundays when it opens at 11:30), you can take in the potent fragrance of hundreds upon hundreds of flowers and bulbs that are spread between all 15 market stalls.
If you’re in full tourist mode, this is the place to be, as you’ll find tons of souvenirs amongst the blooms. In fact, you might even be able to get your hands on tulip bulbs to bring home, so you can keep on living that Dutch life even after your vacation ends.
De Gooyer windmill (plus a cheeky extra)
Fancy clapping your eyes on a real, old-school windmill whilst you’re in Amsterdam? We’ve got the one for you. There’s nothing quite as authentic as a windmill when you’re visiting the Netherlands is there, so we couldn’t leave it out.
If you head out of the city (about 20 minutes by foot or 10 by tram or bus) you’ll find the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands. De Gooyer stands on Funenkade & Zeeburgerstraat, and it’s been there since the 16th Century, so it’s as authentic as it gets. Take in this stunning piece of Dutch architectual history before popping next door to Brewery ‘t Ij and quenching your thirst from all those steps with one of their craft beers.
So, you’ve got plenty of free things to do in Amsterdam, no more excuses: it’s time to get those tickets booked! As you’ll have maybe noticed, most of these attractions are outdoors, meaning they’re perfect for a world still in a state of Covid restrictions. Always travel responsibly, and stay safe!