20 Free Things to Do in Amsterdam

By Briana Seftel

The Netherlands' capital is a cultural tour de force, but generally speaking, it isn't a budget destination. Luckily, within its winding canals, there is plenty to do without spending a single euro. Here are 20 free things to do in Amsterdam!

1. Canal Belt

Amsterdam’s UNESCO-certified Canal Belt is a sightseeing treasure. Built in the 17th century, the belt is composed of four main canals in the old city center. Wander across the waterways and admire the traditional canal houses.

2. Westerkerk

Located just steps from the Anne Frank House, Westerkerk is the largest Protestant church in the Netherlands. Established in 1631, many famous Dutch artists are buried here including Rembrandt van Rijn.

3. EYE Film Institute

Opposite Central Station and bordering the River IJ is the strikingly modern EYE Film Institute. Home to a movie theater, film museum and café-restaurant, the institute is open seven days a week and is free to explore.

4. Amsterdam City Archives

Thumb through pages of fascinating documents at the Amsterdam City Archives. Wander through 20 miles of archives, including the report of the theft of Anne Frank’s bicycle in 1942 and a letter from Charles Darwin to Artis Royal Zoo from 1868.

5. Vondelpark

Amsterdam’s green lung is the centrally located Vondelpark. On a sunny day, there’s no better place to people watch, bike ride or picnic. You can also catch free concerts at the open-air theater or in the summer at the bandstand.

6. NDSM Wharf

Hop on the free ferry behind Central Station and cruise to Amsterdam Noord to visit NDSM Wharf, a former shipyard turned into a trendy arts community with artists’ studios and creative workshops.

7. Albert Cuyp Markt

Sample traditional Dutch delicacies like poffertjes and herring at the Albert Cuyp Markt, open six days a week in the heart of the De Pijp district. Since 1905, the market has welcomed tourists and locals looking to shop, eat or simply stroll.

8. Rijksmuseum Garden

The gardens surrounding Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum Museum might be the city’s best-kept secret. Home to a permanent collection of statues and sculptures as well as rotating exhibits, the garden is perfect for art peeping without the cost. You can even play a life-size game of chess or relax with a coffee at the outdoor cafe.

9. Floating Flower Market

Wake up and smell the roses as you explore the world’s only floating flower market. Open since 1862, the flower stalls stand on houseboats located on the Singel Canal.

10. Gassan Diamond Factory Tour

For more 400 years, Amsterdam has been the known as the City of Diamonds. Take a free tour of the Gassan Diamond Factory Tour where you’ll learn everything from clarity to cut. If you’re shopping for an engagement ring, you can even take a specialized tour.

11. The Nine Streets

Known to locals as De Negen Straatjes or The Nine Streets, this small network of streets is full of quirky shops, specialty stores and authentic, locals only cafes.

Just off busy Kalverstraat street lies another hidden Amsterdam attraction: the Civic Guard Gallery. This small but impressive gallery displays 15 Golden Age portraits of wealthy Amsterdam citizens who traditionally belonged to the Civic Guard.

13. Begijnhof

Begijnhof is one of Amsterdam's best-known hofjes, or group of houses built around a quiet courtyard or garden. These homes were specifically built for the Beguines, a group of unmarried religious women who lived together under a vow of chastity.

14. Sandeman's New Amsterdam Tours

Join a free walking tour of Amsterdam covering top attractions including Dam Square, the Royal Palace, the Red Light District, and the Anne Frank House. Reserve online in advance to guarantee a spot on this tour that departs several times a day from the National Monument in Dam Square. While the tour is free, tipping is appreciated.

15. Concertgebouw

The Royal Concertgebouw’s free lunchtime classical music concerts are an Amsterdam institution. Held every Wednesday at 12:30pm from mid-September through to June, the shows serve as rehearsals for concerts taking place that evening. Get there early for a good spot!

16. Amsterdam Public Library (OBA)

Curl up with a good book at the Amsterdam Public Library (OBA) near Central Station. At this modern library, find an impressive selection of English-language books, kid’s corner, rotating art exhibits, occasional concerts and weekly readings.

17. Red Light District

The Red Light District (De Wallen) is as infamous as it is famous. While laws have been put in place over the years, the district still retains its gritty glamour with sex shops, coffee shops and brothels lining the canals.

18. Festivals

Amsterdam hosts a slew of festivals throughout the calendar offering visitors fun at no cost. The biggest celebration is King’s Day (April 27) when the city turns into one big street party with live entertainment, food and plenty of late night debauchery. Check Amsterdam’s tourism website to see if you’ll be in town for any festivals.

19. Vrije University Botanical Garden

This small yet charming botanical garden is a peaceful oasis from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. Admire some 6,000 species including the Netherlands’ largest collection of cacti and succulents.

20. Cat Boat

Follow the meowing to the Cat Boat (Poezenboot), a houseboat that serves as a sanctuary for stray and abandoned cats.

You may also like to read about:

The Best Things to do in Amsterdam

Travel Guide to Amsterdam, Netherlands

9 Amazing Reasons to Visit Amsterdam

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