Amsterdam is more than just stunning canals, cobblestone streets and quirky houses. It’s a place that has something for all types of travellers. Whether you love adventure, budget, luxury or cultural travel, there are a ton of attractions and plenty of free things to do in Amsterdam too. This is one of the reasons Amsterdam is so special.
Travel costs can get expensive. With hotels, excursions and flights, the bill can really add up. This is especially true if you are visiting touristy cities with high prices, much like Amsterdam. But visiting Amsterdam on a budget is not as difficult as you think. Actually, you’d be surprised an how easy it is to plan an entire visit to Amsterdam on a budget.
We asked Amsterdam-based blogger Samantha Karen for tips on how to explore Amsterdam on a budget. She came up with this impressive list of free things to do in Amsterdam to help you save money on attractions and excursions.
- 15 Free Things To Do In Amsterdam
- 1- Explore the streets of Amsterdam
- 2- Visit a Street Market
- 3- Visit the Poezenboot
- 4- Walk around the Red Light District
- 5- Visit the Famous Flower Market
- 6- Fall in love on Magere Brug
- 7- View the city at night from the A’DAM Tower
- 8- Sample Dutch Cheese
- 9- Relax at a Park
- 10- Explore hidden Begijnhof
- 11- Stroll around Rijksmuseum Garden
- 12- Join a Free Walking Tour
- 13- Kick back on the Nemo Roof Terrace
- 14- View the Brewery ‘t IJ Windmill
- 15- Go back in time at Oudemanhuispoort
15 Free Things To Do In Amsterdam
1- Explore the streets of Amsterdam
The best thing to do in Amsterdam, both free and paid, is to explore the stunning streets of the city.
Amsterdam is a unique city made up of hundreds of canals, tiny streets and secret alleyways.
It’s easy to lose yourself wandering the streets and getting lost in the beauty all around you.
One of the things that make exploring Amsterdam so special is that there are so many different neighbourhoods and areas to explore each with their own unique offerings.
One of the best areas in Amsterdam is called the Jordaan and even though it’s a neighbourhood with some of the most expensive streets in the world, Jordaan is packed with things to see and free experiences.
It’s where you’ll find the very famous nine streets of Amsterdam, which is a collection of nine streets that are home to a ton of trendy boutiques, cool restaurants and beautiful buildings.
This is the perfect area to walk around, window shop and admire the unique beauty of Amsterdam.
With the streetlights reflecting off the canals and the windows emitting a warm glow, the magical scene makes walking around the streets of Amsterdam an especially enjoyable free thing to do in Amsterdam at night.
2- Visit a Street Market
Street markets are everywhere in Amsterdam, popping up all around the city in different areas.
Some are open on certain days and others are open all week long but the one thing they have in common is an authentic local vibe.
You don’t have to buy anything at a street market as walking around looking at the stalls and watching the local Dutch people engage in their everyday life is enjoyable enough.
Enjoy the fresh scent of flowers and fresh stroopwafels while the locals talk and move about.
Each street market has its own specialities and quirks. Here are some top street markets in Amsterdam:
- Albert Cupy is the most popular market in the beautiful De Pijp.
- Westerstraat is authentic and local.
- Noordrmarkt is full of second-hand goods and fresh food.
- IJ-Hallen Flea Market is one of the biggest and most famous flea markets in Europe.
- Ten Kate Markt is a local market full of exciting finds.
If you go to any of these markets be sure to look at the hours online to see if it is open.
The markets in Amsterdam have odd hours, however, most are open during the weekends in Amsterdam, which is why many people visit during this time.
3- Visit the Poezenboot
If you are a cat lover, then a visit to the Pozenboot is for you.
The Pozenboot is an animal sanctuary location on an authentic canal boat.
There are specific visiting hours available and people are welcome to enter the houseboat and pet and keep the cats.
This is a very cool, free thing to do in Amsterdam because you get to go on a houseboat and hang out and make a new furry friend.
4- Walk around the Red Light District
The Red Light district is a controversial area and Amsterdam that people usually feel pretty strongly about visiting or not.
Despite the differing opinions, taking a peek is still one of the most popular things to do in Amsterdam and it is 100% free.
A visit here shows off a side to Amsterdam that is very different from anywhere else in the world.
The streets have a carnival-like feel with shops and venues advertising with neon signs and, of course, the famous red-light windows are like a beacon in the night.
The Red Light District isn’t nearly as crazy and wild as it is made out to be and is extremely popular with tourists.
As long as you visit before it gets too late, it’s a safe place to walk around.
Just avoid heading here after around 11 pm and be sure to take care of your belongings as this is a very touristy place and pickpocketing tends to happen here.
5- Visit the Famous Flower Market
One of the things Amsterdam is famous for its tulips, which is the unofficial national flower of the Netherlands.
Seeing tulips attracts many visitors to Amsterdam and a visit to the floating flower market is one of the best things to do for flower lovers.
The Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt in Dutch) is the world’s only floating flower market and is in the centre of the city.
It’s the perfect place to walk around to enjoy a tulip frenzy but you’ll find tulips all around the city of Amsterdam, in pots along the bridges and on pots on the streets.
The flower market is free to enter and you can walk around and check out souvenirs, tulip bulbs and lots of other things too.
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6- Fall in love on Magere Brug
Amsterdam is a city of canals which means there are beautiful bridges everywhere, however, the best bridge is Magere Burg (Skinny Bridge).
This long bridge crosses the Amstel River and attracts a lot of attention for its aesthetic appeal because it’s quite different from the other bridges in Amsterdam.
There’s an interesting story behind the bridge: legend says if you kiss on top of this bridge, your love will last forever.
If you are visiting Amsterdam as a couple, it’s one of the landmarks you must visit to ensure your love will last forever.
Magere Brug is also very dreamy at night when it’s all lit up and a great place to photograph the sunset.
7- View the city at night from the A’DAM Tower
Viewing Amsterdam from above is one of the best ways to look at the city and while most towers cost money to enter, the A’DAM tower offers free entry after 9 pm.
From the top of this 20-storey building, you can admire panoramic views of Amsterdam and it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset in Amsterdam.
Enjoying this free thing to do in Amsterdam will give you an idea of how magical Amsterdam truly is.
8- Sample Dutch Cheese
Another thing the Dutch are famous for is their cheese and you will stumble across specialty cheese shops offering different types of cheese everywhere in Amsterdam.
In almost every neighbourhood and almost every street, you will find a cheese shop begging you to enter.
The best thing about the cheese shops in Amsterdam is that they have free samples for anyone to taste, such as pesto, beer and Gouda cheese.
Although cheese tasting is a free thing to do and Amsterdam, it’s considered good manners to buy a block of cheese to take home as a souvenir.
9- Relax at a Park
There’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon in Amsterdam than going to one of the beautiful parks.
There are quite a few parks in Amsterdam, which makes finding the perfect one for you to sit in and soak up the atmosphere very easy.
These parks around the city are 100% free and full of locals and tourists enjoying nature.
You will most likely find the parks to be busy on warm sunny days when everyone gravitates to be outdoors in the sun.
Try these parks:
- Vondelpark – Amsterdam’s biggest and most famous park. Ideal for a day in the centre of the city.
- Oosterpark – A small and more local park located in Amsterdam Oost. Great for a more intimate park day that feels more local and less touristy.
- Westerpark – A large park in Amsterdam West with ample space to sit on the grass.
Many attractions in Amsterdam cost money to enter and explore but there are a few that are free.
One of which is Begijnhof, which is a hidden secret in an alleyway off one of the busiest shopping streets in the city.
It’s a small historic courtyard (or hofjes in Dutch) that feels like a hidden oasis to escape the busy shopping streets.
This small hofje consists of a green grassy courtyard surrounded by historic houses and is where you’ll find the oldest house in Amsterdam.
11- Stroll around Rijksmuseum Garden
The Rijksmuseum Garden is a beautiful and well-maintained garden behind the Rijksmuseum.
It is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to get away from the crowds to relax and enjoy plants, hedges, statues and fountains.
The best part? This is a 100% free thing to do in Amsterdam.
12- Join a Free Walking Tour
Amsterdam is a relatively small city and walking tours of the city are popular and a great way to explore.
Luckily there are various walking tours that are free which means you can enjoy the city and learn about its history at no cost at all.
13- Kick back on the Nemo Roof Terrace
Soaking up the sun on a sunny day in Amsterdam is a must and finding interesting new spots is half the fun.
An interesting place to head to if it’s warm and you’re looking for someplace to sit and soak up the Amsterdam atmosphere is the rooftop at Nemo Science Museum.
You can get there by taking a short free ferry ride from Central Station to Amsterdam North then walk over to Nemo and head to the rooftop terrace.
From there you can enjoy a fabulous view of Amsterdam North, which is an area few tourists venture.
14- View the Brewery ‘t IJ Windmill
If you are visiting Amsterdam and you want to see an authentic Dutch windmill, you don’t need to pay for a tour to one of the fields outside the city because there are two Dutch windmills in Amsterdam itself.
The most impressive one is the huge windmill that sits on top of a local brewery called Brewert ‘t IJ.
This windmill towers over the brewery and is amazing to see.
Viewing the windmill is free and there’s the bonus of drinking locally brewed beer there too.
15- Go back in time at Oudemanhuispoort
Of all the secret alleyways in Amsterdam, most are full of history and surprises, one of the most interesting ones is Oudemanhuispoort.
This is a long walkway between the buildings of Amsterdam and is packed with stalls selling used books, paintings and other items.
What’s most interesting about this walkway is it was frequented by Vincent van Gogh when he lived in Amsterdam.
This is the perfect place to escape to immerse yourself in a free historical attraction.
Samantha Karen is the founder of the travel bog Sam Sees World. She is a twenty-something traveller on a mission to explore the world to seek the new and unknown so she can document her experiences and inspire others to explore this wondrous world. Her objective is to learn about the world while also searching for her place in it. Check out Sam Sees World for valuable information on the best things to do, see, eat, and experience while travelling and making memories along the way.