Capital cities are expensive and Amsterdam is no exception, with the average lunch costing €14, pint costing €4.90 and museum €17. Travelling for me is a constant battle between trying to make the most of a place while maintaining a strict budget. There are always cool free things to do in any city, so I tend to do extensive research before visiting anywhere new and compile a list. Amsterdam has a wide variety of quirky free things to do, some good some not so good, after trying most of them I have created my Top 5 Free Things to do in Amsterdam to save you all the trouble!
1) Go On a Free Walking Tour
Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with free walking tours. I think they are a great starting activity, allowing you to get to know your way around the city and proving you with interesting facts, history and recommendations along the way.
The Sandemans walking tour departs from Dam square national monument on the hour several times each day. I would highly recommend this one as it covers a range of areas, from the Dutch East India Company, the Jewish quarter and the Ann Frank house. It’s also worth taking advantage of your guides local knowledge and at the end asking them for recommendations of activities and restaurants.
It’s important to remember while tours are ‘free’ that your guides are trying to make a living and to contribute whatever you can afford to your tour guide.
An additional tip whilst walking around Amsterdam, make sure to check out the huge number of cheese shops. Amsterdam is renowned for its cheese and almost every street has at least two shops offering out free tasters. Who doesn’t love free cheese?
2) Explore the Red Light District
It’s difficult to think of Amsterdam without the iconic Red Light District. Whatever your views or opinions might be, walking through the red light district at night is something that you have to go and witness for yourself! It’s fascinating, uncomfortable and bizarre to see all these women out in lingerie in plain view. There are also many shows for varying prices, pubs, bars, cafes and shops. It will never be quite how you imagine it in your head.
The shops are also worth going into just to see all the crazy things they sell. Specifically, the famous condom shop Condomerie is worth a browse to see the large collection of decorative (apparently usable) condoms. Please be careful when taking pictures in the red light district as if you are seen to be taking photos with any of the women in them you can find yourself in trouble.
3) Get on a Free Ferry and Visit an Island of Art
Rather than spending lots of money on a canal cruise, why not try one of Amsterdam’s free ferries. The ferry port is located behind Amsterdam station and offers various routes from the quick 3-minute ferry to the other bank with the eye film museum. To the trip, I would recommend to NDSM island.
NDSM island is an old shipyard turned into somewhat of an artist paradise, full of bizarre sculptures, cafes and host to many festivals and events. The 903 ferry leaves fairly regularly taking about 15 minutes to get there. It’s a bizarre place but worth checking out if you have a spare couple of hours in Amsterdam. There is a giant warehouse full of shipping containers turned into artist studios, it’s interesting to walk around the two levels and see what they are working on. We ended up seeing a modern art piece that was alive barbie peep show. There is also a great cafe on the island that is worth the visit alone, made out of an old greenhouse and with plenty of outdoor space to sit and watch the waves on the ‘beach’. If you have a free afternoon in Amsterdam and are looking for something cheap and quirky then make the trip to NDSM island.
4) Walk Through Vondelpark
Right in the middle of Amsterdam is the beautiful Vondelpark, a large Greenland with multiple ponds, sculptures and even an open-air theater. I was lucky that my hostel was right on the edge of this stunning place. On a sunny day, it would be perfect to take a picnic or stroll through. If your wanting to spend a little money there are plenty of bike rental places nearby to hire a bike and cycle around.
5) Find the Hidden Courtyard
Begijnhof courtyard is tucked away behind the Amsterdam museum right in the middle of the city centre. This stunning 16th-century gem contains some of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam, with one wooden house dating back to 1420. It was originally a nuns sanctuary and requires silence, no tours are permitted to enter. Today it is still home to a beautiful chapel but the house is private property. If you’re into photography this place really is a must-visit. It’s free to enter and is open every day from 9am to 5pm if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre.