I amsterdam sign @ Museumplein
Free Things To Do in Amsterdam:
50 Activities, Experiences and Interesting Places to Visit for Free in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is one of the world’s top city trip destinations for many reasons. The picturesque canals, the compact layout of the city, unique & world-class museums, it’s open-minded attitude and the vibrant nightlife draw tourists from all over the world.
The capital of The Netherlands isn’t the cheapest destination in Europe. Luckily there are plenty of free Amsterdam experiences and attractions that you can enjoy on a budget. Explore our list to find free things to do in Amsterdam.
# 1 Free Walking Tour – Sandeman’s New Europe
Free Amsterdam walking tour by young guides working on a tip only basis. Departure is at 11:15am and 1:15 pm from the National Monument at Dam Square. This is one of the best free things to do in Amsterdam to discover the city and learn about it’s history.
Dam Square www.newamsterdamtours.com
# 2 Floating Flower Market
Visit the famous floating flower market for free and enjoy all the colorful flowers with wonderful smells. One of the most unique features of the flower market in Amsterdam is the fact that it is floating on the Singel Canal.
Singel 610 – 616
# 3 Take a Free Boat Trip
Behind the Central Station you can take the free Amsterdam Public Transport ferry to the North of Amsterdam. The ferry crosses the river IJ (pronounced “eye”) and you will have a wide view of the Amsterdam waterfront. There are 3 different routes:
– “Buiksloterweg” – This one is the shortest of the three and crosses the river straight ahead (every 6 minutes)
– “IJplein” – This one goes to a more residential area with some shops (every 10 minutes)
– “NDSM Werf” – This one goes left and goes much further than the other two. If you really want to get a nice view of Amsterdam from the water and the industrial harbor are this is the best one to take. (every 30 minutes)
Central Station backside- De Ruijterkade
# 4 Canal Belt
In august 2010 the Amsterdam Canal belt was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The canal belt (Grachtengordel) was built in the 17th century around the old city center. Many beautiful Canal Houses are located on the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht with typical architecture for these gabled houses.
Canal Belt Area
# 5 Begijnhof
The Begijnhof is the ideal place to visit for an escape from the noise of the city. To explore this secret courtyard find the heavy wooden door in Amsterdam’s busy centre (entrance on Spui), push it open, and an oasis of 14th-century houses and gardens appears, along with two churches. The Begijnhof is at medieval street level, which means a meter below the rest of the old city center. Also here is Amsterdam’s oldest house (one of the city’s only two remaining wooden houses), dating from 1475. Women still live here, so groups aren’t allowed and visitors are asked not to make too much noise. The Begijnhof is definitely worth a mention on this list of free things to do in Amsterdam.
# 6 Civic Guard Gallery
Hidden away, right in the city center of Amsterdam is a small glass-roofed walkway that exhibits 15 huge paintings from the 17th century. These paintings are portraits of the voluntary city guard from that period. The so called ‘Schuttersgalerij is part of the Amsterdam Museum and enterance to this part is the museum is free. Find the Schuttersgalerij between the Kalverstraat shopping street and Begijnhof.
# 7 Vondelpark
Amsterdam’s most popular city park is the scenic Vondelpark. Located in the heart of Amsterdam, Vondelpark offers a quick escape from the city’s hustle and noise. Here you’ll see a mixed crowd of all ages sunbathing, playing ball games and simply relaxing. You can enjoy a walk or a cycle for free in Vondelpark or just relax on the grass or benches by the lakes. There are also cafes around the park or you can just bring your own picnic.
Main entrance: Stadshouderskade 23-25 Vondelpark website & map
# 8 Free Classical Lunch Concert: Concertgebouw on Wednesdays
On Wednesday from mid-September through to June you can go for a free concert in the Concertgebouw on Museum Square. The free Lunch Concert takes place at 12.30 with a 30 minute public performances as they rehearse for ‘official’ shows that evening. Lunch concerts at the Concertgebouw vary from public rehearsals of the Royal Concert Building Orchestra, considered one of the best orchestras in the world, to performances of ensembles of the Dutch Conservatory and chamber music by young talents.
Concertgebouwplein 2-6 www.concertgebouw.nl
Take a Picture With You and the I amsterdam Sign
This large ‘Iamsterdam’ sign was located in front of the Rijksmuseum. In 2018, the government decided to remove te letters due to the massive crowd and nuisance. But you can still find the letters at the airport, Schiphol.Museumplein / Museumstraat 1
# 10 Cat Boat (Poezenboot)
If you are a cat lover then you should make a visit to the ‘poezenboot’, a sanctuary for cats on an Amsterdam houseboat. Entrance is free although donations are welcome. Open Mon-Tue, Thu-Sat – 1pm-3pm
Singel 38.G www.poezenboot.nl
# 11 Amsterdam City Archives
Delve into the city’s rich history. The Amsterdam Treasures collection (fittingly located in the basement Treasury of the building) is free to visit and features a host of fascinating items drawn from the archives.
Vijzelstraat 32 stadsarchief.amsterdam.nl
# 12 King’s Day – April 27
Every year Amsterdam puts on a huge variety of free festivals and events. King’s Day festivities in April invite locals and tourists into Amsterdam’s open-air fun. In the streets, canals, parks and everywhere in between, the city is full with orange as Amsterdammers enjoy the biggest street party of the year!
Read more about King’s Day in Amsterdam
# 13 Explore the Red Light District
While most major cities in the world have a ‘Red Light District’, none are quite as famous as Amsterdam’s Red Light District. You can find the Red Light District, also known as “De Wallen”, in the oldest part of the city. Since the 14th century the former inner-harbor of Amsterdam has slowly grown into an area of sex shops, brothels, gay bars, coffeeshops, peepshows and window prostitutes. The fluorescent red lights are typical for this area. While it’s fascinating during the day, it’s at night that it really comes alive. Please note: It is forbidden to take photos of the women, and this is strictly enforced.
Oudezijds Achterburgwal & Oudezijds Voorburgwal
# 14 Bridge of 15 Bridges
Just one bridge in the Amsterdam canal belt gives a view of no less than 15 bridges. This unusual sight is found at the crossing of the Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht. Standing on this bridge with your back to the Thorbeckeplein, you will see six arched bridges in a row. To the left you will find six more over the Herengracht and on the right you will see the next two. The 15th is the bridge you are standing on. It is particularly worth coming here at night as the bridges are illuminated giving one of the most beautiful and romantic views in Amsterdam.
Crossing Reguliersgracht 1 and Herengracht 536
# 15 Visit the Albert Cuyp Markt to Get a Feel for the ‘Real’ Amsterdam
The ‘Albert Cuypmarkt’ is the most famous and largest street market in The Netherlands. This daily market offers its wares for over a century! The vendors (more than 300 stalls) sell almost everything; cheese, fresh seafood, meat, fruit but also jewelry, clothes and flowers for example. The Albert Cuyp street market is situated in the heart of the 19th century neighbourhood De Pijp, Amsterdam’s “Quartier Latin”.
Albert Cuypstraat www.albertcuypmarkt.nl
# 16 Reinier Sijpkens Music Boat “The Notendop”
Trumpets, barrel-organ, a dancing painted boat, mostly classical music, a happy man, who enjoys performing by surprise or admission for people on the bridges and the waterside.
The Music Boat man, Reinier Sijpkens, travels around the world making magic and music for children. At home in the Netherlands, he haunts the canals of Amsterdam. You might get lucky to see him…
# 17 Urban Beaches
Despite the fact that Amsterdam is not located by the seaside, the Dutch have still managed to create three beaches in Amsterdam.
Blijburg, Muiderlaan 1001 Amsterdam (at this beach you can actually swim)
Strand West, Stavangerweg 900 Amsterdam
Strand Zuid, Europaplein 22
# 18 Sunday Market Amsterdam
Every first Sunday of the month the ‘Westergasfabriek’ in the Westerpark Area turns into a big market. Besides free food and drink tastings, these markets are perfect places to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs. It’s fun to browse the stands and see what lovely and clever things people have come up with.
# 19 Visit the Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk
Only 500 meters away of the major trourist trap (Damrak) this is a great place to meet the Real Amsterdam. It’s a very cool shopping street with lots of little boutiques and a good vibe. Plenty to see! It’s fun just walking around with no particular place to go.
Haarlemmerstraat & Haarlemmerdijk www.haarlemmerbuurt-amsterdam.nl
# 20 Muziektheater on Tuesdays
Every Tuesday (12.30-13.00) from September through May there is a free lunch concert in the foyer of Dutch National Opera & Ballet at Waterloo Square.
Waterlooplein 22 www.operaballet.nl
# 21 Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
Adjacent to the Royal Palace on Dam Square the ‘Nieuwe Kerk’ is the historic stage for royal coronations including the coronation of King Willem Alexander & Queen Maxima on April 30, 2013. This important church in the Netherlands (built in 1408) is nowadays used for large-scale art exhibitions. They charge an entrance fee, but you’re welcome to enter the gift shop and head upstairs for a free peek.
Dam 12 www.nieuwekerk.nl
# 22 OBA Public Library
The OBA (Public Library Amsterdam) is much more than your usual library as it offers an awesome view of the city from the top floor.
Oosterdokskade 143 www.oba.nl
# 23 Organic Farmer’s Market
The Noordermarkt (“Northern Market”) is a square in the Jordaan neighborhood. The weekly Organic famer’s market held on this square is one of the most popular markets in Amsterdam. Organic fruits, bread, vegetables, milk, cheese, meat & flowers. Every Saturday from 9.00 am – 4.00 pm.
# 24 Rijksmuseum Garden
One of the least known sightseeing attractions for free in Amsterdam is the garden by the Rijksmuseum. This 14.500 m2 green “outdoor gallery” has beautiful flowerbeds, fountains and summerhouses, but also an exhibition of important monumental works by Henry Moore and a children’s garden with playground.
# 25 Seven Countries-Houses on the Roemer Visscherstraat
Right in the middle of the Roemer Visscherstraat (only 3 min walk from Museumplein and near the Vondelpark) you can find a group of houses in the national styles of several countries aka the Seven Countries-Houses. The Seven Countries-Houses were built in 1894 and his intention was to introduce how the national architecture developed in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Russia, Holland and England.
Roemer Visscherstraat 20 – 30A
# 26 Barrel Organs in the Streets
Barrel organs belong in Amsterdam. The iconic organs are as Dutch as canals and clogs. They give an extra flair to the already colorful streets of Amsterdam. Barrel organ music is in theory free but the organ-man very much appreciates a small contribution in his collecting-box. The best chance to see a barrel organ is to go to the ‘Kalverstraat’ or Dam Square.
# 27 Free Jazz Session on Tuesday Evening
The centre spot for the Dutch jazz scene is the world famous Bimhuis. Every Tuesday night at 10:00 PM (except for Tuesdays in July and August) they host a jam session in collaboration with the Music Conservatory of Amsterdam. Free admission for musicians and visitors.
Piet Heinkade 3 www.bimhuis.nl
# 28 Diamond Factory Tour
Amsterdam has been known internationally as the ‘City of Diamonds’ for over 425 years. If you would like to find out all about carats, colours, clarity and cuts, and learn about some of the history of this Amsterdam craft at the same time, join one of the free guided tours held seven days a week at Gassan Diamonds. Daily tours from 9 am to 5 pm in over 27 languages.
Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173-175 www.gassan.com
# 29 North-South Metro Line Viewpoint “M”
A 5th metro line for Amsterdam, the North-South line, is currently under construction and is due to be opened in 2017. Descend the stairs in the middle of Rokin street and behold the new subway system being excavated.
Rokin 96 www.noordzuidlijn.amsterdam.nl
# 30 The Narrowest House in the World in Amsterdam
The narrowest house in the world is to be found in Amsterdam, on the Singel, no.7. With a width of only one meter (about 3 ft., 3 in.), the house is barely wider than its own front door. In all fairness, it should be said that this is actually the rear façade of a house; the front is a bit wider. A better title for the house at Singel 7 would be the house with the narrowest façade in the world. For even more “narrow” experiences, visit the narrowest house in Europe, located at Oude Hoogstraat 22. This tiny house features a typical Amsterdam bell-gable. The façade is a mere 2.02 meters (6 ft., 7.5 in.) wide, and the house itself is six meters (19 ft., 8 in.) deep.
Oude Hoogstraat 22
# 31 Wander Around the Nine Streets
In the heart of the historic center of Amsterdam, criss-crossing the inner ring of 17th century canal belt, is a small network of streets known as The Nine Streets. Small monumental and unique boutiques, the best 2nd hand shops, hotspot restaurants and bars between the main canals Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Singel make these cobbled lanes themselves loved by everyone. This is one of the city’s best areas to wander all day.
Reestraat – Hartenstraat -Gasthuismolensteeg – Berenstraat – Wolvenstraat – Oude Spiegelstraat – Runstraat – Huidenstraat – Wijde Heisteeg
# 32 Uitmarkt
The Uitmarkt is the national opening of the cultural season and the largest cultural festival in the Netherlands. Over the years, the Uitmarkt has evolved into a festival attracting 500,000 visitors and featuring 2,000 performers at more than 30 venues. And it’s all free!
Museumplein & Leidseplein www.uitmarkt.nl
# 33 NDSM-Werf
Hop on the free ferry (every 30 minutes) behind Central Station and set sail for NDSM-werf in Amsterdam North, an abandoned shipyard turned into an avant-garde arts community. Check out the graffiti artists roaming the streets, recycled-junk sculptures, abandoned boats and trams and giant wooden tiki head watching over it all.
Veer NDSM Werf www.ndsm.nl
# 34 EYE Filmmuseum
EYE Filmmuseum is the Dutch center for film culture and heritage. Located on Amsterdam’s waterfront just behind the Central Station, the EYE Film Institute has become one of the main attractions in Amsterdam. A free ferry service (Buiksloterweg) runs right at the back of the train station and takes you across in less than 3 minutes (24/7). There is a large terrace with a spectacular view over Amsterdam. The bar and restaurant are open 7 days a week from 10.00pm to 01.00am. The museum permanent exhibit in the basement is for free.
IJpromenade 1 www.eyefilm.nl
# 35 Play Chess on XL Chess Board at Max Euwe Plein
The chess museum at the Max Euwe Centre in Amsterdam is free and here you can find out about the history of chess and more. You can even play a virtual game. It’s named after the only Dutch chess champion, Max Euwe and there is also an exhibition dedicated to his life and works here. You can also test your chess skills on the giant chessboard in the outdoor square. Max Euwe Plein is located between Leidseplein and Vondelpark.
Max Euwe Plein 30A www.maxeeuwe.nl
# 36 Only in Summer: Free Open Air Theatre Vondelpark
From June to August, the small Vondelpark Open Air Theatre presents a three-month program packed with dance, cabaret, jazz, children’s theatre, stand-up comedy and all kinds of music. Free events from the Open Air Theatre are held on every Friday, Saturday or Sunday throughout the summer. Please note: entry is free, although all voluntary donations are appreciated.
Vondelpark 5a www.openluchttheater.nl (Dutch)
# 37 Amsterdamse Bos
Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam forest) is another of the Dutch’s artificial inventions. Forest is a misleading name though – the area includes small pools, jogging and biking trails and a river. ‘Amsterdamse Bos’ can be found just outside the city on a 20 minute bike ride from the Museumplein. Inside the forest there is a little petting zoo with pigs, cows, horses, goats, sheep and chickens which is great for a visit with your kids.
Bosbaanweg 5 Amstelveen www.amsterdamsebos.nl
# 38 Homomonument
Westermarkt’s Homomonument was inspired by a symbol of persecution, the pink triangle the Nazis forced gay people to wear, which was turned into a badge of pride. It comprises three rose-toned granite triangles, one projecting out over the Keizersgracht canal.
Keizersgracht Canal / Westermarkt www.homomonument.nl
# 39 Friday Night Skate
Every Friday throughout the year (if the streets are dry) a skate tour through Amsterdam of about 20 kilometers. Anyone can join in, free of charge. Participation is allowed under the condition that you are a skilled skater who is able brake well. Starting point is “the round bench” next to the Vondel CS in the Vondelpark. Gathering every Friday at 8pm. On the website you can find more information and whether they do or do not skate on the next Friday.
Vondelpark / Vondel CS www.fridaynightskate.com
# 40 Magere Brug a.k.a. Skinny Bridge
The famous skinny bridge across the river Amstel and opposite of the Carré theatre, is an Old Dutch design white-painted wooden drawbridge from 1672. Skinny Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges of Amsterdam. At night many lights illuminate the bridge and then it becomes a very romantic place, popular with lovers and photographers.
Brugnummer 242 bij Amstel / Amstel 81
# 41 Normal Amsterdam Peil (NAP) in the Town Hall
In the passage between the ‘Stadhuis’ (Town Hall) and the Muziektheater (Opera House) on the Waterlooplein, it is possible to see the “one and only” Normal Amsterdam Peil (NAP). A bronze button indicates the exact NAP water level. This bronze button acts as the standard from which the levels above sea in nearly all European countries are measured. Originally created in 1684 for use in The Netherlands, the zero level of NAP was the average summer flood water level in the IJ in the centre of Amsterdam, which at that times was still connected with the open sea.
# 42 Cannabis College
The college, occupying two floors in a 17th-century listed monument in the Red Light District, provides the visitors with an array of information about cannabis (including its medicinal uses). The place is run by volunteers and admission is free. However, staff request a small donation if you wish to wander around the indoor garden.
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 124 www.cannabiscollege.com
# 43 Rijksmuseum @ Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
The Rijksmuseum has a small venture located at the airport (beyond passport control between piers E and F). Original artworks from the Rijksmuseum collection can be seen here. Rijksmuseum Schiphol is open daily from 7 am until 8 pm and free of charge by showing a valid boarding pass.
# 44 Chinatown Buddist Temple
The most important tourist sight within Amsterdam’s Chinatown is without doubt the Zeedijk Buddhist temple, known as Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple. The temple can be found on the Zeedijk street in the midst of all the shops and bars. This Buddhist Temple in the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinatown is always worth a visit. The Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple is the largest temple in Europe that has been built in traditional Chinese palace-style.
# 45 Gay Pride – Canal Parade
Amsterdam Gay Pride is a huge celebration of devotion towards equality for the gay, lesbian and transgender communities, held in late July and early August every year. The Canal Parade is the highlight of the Amsterdam Gay Pride weekend! 80 decorated boats sail along the Prinsengracht. This event is the second biggest of Amsterdam. Thousands of spectators get early to the canals for the best spot. Most fun is to walk along the route, from the Central Station side towards the Amstel.
# 46 NEMO Panorama Terrace
The NEMO panorama terrace is 22m high and can be reached by climbing up the steps on the eastern edge of the building – this is freely accessible to the public so there is no need to pay entrance fee to the NEMO Science Centre museum. During the summer the terrace has a “city beach” theme with comfortable deckchairs to sit on. The terrace also features a large chess set, a water feature and often exhibits some display boards. At the very top you will find the Rooftop Café which serves basic drinks and snacks.
Oosterdok 2, Amsterdam
# 47 Waterlooplein Flea Market
This is Amsterdam’s bustling flea market with more than 300 stalls of merchandise offering a wide selection of items from secondhand clothing and antiques to leather coats and shoes. Open: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm; Saturday: 8.30 am –5pm.
# 48 Church Carillon Concerts
The Westerkerk (Western Church) is definitely one of the most prominent landmarks on the Amsterdam skyline, as well as in the collective memory of residents: even Anne Frank wrote in her diary that she could hear the chimes of the church bells from her attic hide-out.
The Westerkerk, which stands just outside the border of Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, is certainly beloved for its carillon concerts: its 48-bell carillon sounds out every Tuesday from 12pm – 1pm
Westerkerktoren: Tuesday 12pm – 1pm
Zuiderkerkstoren: Tuesday 2.30pm – 3.30pm & Saturday 7pm – 8pm
Oudekerkstoren: Saturday 4pm – 5pm
Vimeo Historic Towers of Amsterdam
# 49 Go for a Walk during Amsterdam Light Festival
The Amsterdam Light Festival turns on the light in the darkest days of the year! With different events like a walking tour (free), a boat tour and a shopping night the Amsterdam Light Festival has something for everyone. For 50 days Amsterdam is home to international light sculptures in the water, on buildings or just in the air. The Amsterdam Light Festival is magical festival if you like to go for a walk in the evening!
# 50 Street Art in Amsterdam
Street Art is a very popular form of art that is spreading quickly all over the world. Amsterdam has a rich Street Art scene, where graffiti plays an important role.
Can you add one or more free things to do in Amsterdam to this list?
Let us know in the comments below or share this article on Twitter or Facebook with your free things to do in Amsterdam!
By the way, the Dutch word for free is ‘gratis’. That might come of use.
Save Money on Your Trip to Amsterdam:
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