If you are traveling Amsterdam and want to save some money, look no further than the abundance of free activities this beautiful city holds. There are more than enough free things to do in Amsterdam to keep you busy and having an amazing time. From admiring the picturesque canals to walking through one of the many parks, it is much easier than you think to experience Amsterdam on a budget.
Amsterdam is by far the most popular tourist city in the Netherlands; therefore, the prices for food, accommodation, and shopping are all inflated. If you are open to an adventure and want to save in the long run, I suggest you take a day trip from Amsterdam
to a nearby city for a more budget-friendly environment.
Also, if you're looking for an affordable place to stay, then check out our list of the best hostels in Amsterdam
or our guide to Amsterdam hotel prices
Nonetheless, let's explore all the wonderful free things to do in Amsterdam, as recommended by a local!
Explore the canals
Exploring the canals and viewing all the beautiful houses is the most quintessential Amsterdam experience that everyone should do. In addition to this being completely free, it is also the best way to see the city and there is an endless list of amazing things you could run into on your explorations. The areas with the most picturesque canals in Amsterdam are the Joordan and De Pijp. In these areas you will find beautiful bridges, a plethora of lopsided houses and some of the narrowest buildings you'll ever see. Head over to Singel 7 to see the narrowest house in Amsterdam, it's only one meter wide!
Check out the Begijnhof
Hidden right in the centre of the city is one of the oldest courtyards in Amsterdam, called Begijnhof. This historic square is just one turn off of a very busy shopping street in Amsterdam. Entering this area is like stepping back in time, with the historic church and the oldest house in all of Amsterdam. This free attraction is the perfect calm oasis from the bustle of central Amsterdam.
Stroll Through a Street Market
Amsterdam is full of markets that have so much to see, smell and feel. Feast your eyes on the brilliant colours of all the fresh fruits and vegetables. Check out the unique Amsterdam clothing stands and shops to see the trends of the city. And bask in the mouth-watering smell of fresh stroopwafels and Dutch cheese from the street food vendors. These street markets are super fun to walk through at your leisure and observe all the Dutch locals going about their routines. Some of my favourite street markets are Albert Cuyp market in De Pijp and Westerstraat market in the Joordan
Relax at a Park
For a relatively small city Amsterdam has plenty of parks for locals and tourists to sit in and enjoy the day. When the weather is nice this is one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam. The biggest and most popular park in Amsterdam is Vondelpark
. When the weather is warm and sunny (which is rare in the Netherlands) this park is flooded with people having picnics with friends or just relaxing on the grass and soaking up the fleeting sunshine. After you relax in the sun you can also walk the paths to people watch while enjoying the beauty of the park. There's also a rose garden inside!
Two other parks I really like are Westerpark and Oosterpark. These two are less busy than Vondelpark, so if you are in the mood to escape the crowds try heading to one of these!
Meet Some New Friends at the Cat Boat
The cat boat, in Dutch (Poezenboot), is the perfect thing to do for all cat lovers. It's a sanctuary for cats and is free to enter. Once you enter you can play with the Dutch kitties and make some new friends in the city.
Explore the Red Light District
The Red Light District is one of the most famous areas in Amsterdam, and although it's not for everyone, if you are curious it is a really interesting area to explore. The fluorescent red lights surrounding the windows and the neon adult-shop signs give this area a carnival like feel. You can spend quite some time here looking at the various windows or checking out the adult shops. The Red Light District is interesting during the day, but at night is when this area really comes alive.
Visit the Rijksmuseum Garden
One of the least known tourist attractions in Amsterdam that is completely free is the Rijksmuseum
Garden. This is an 14,500 m2 outdoor gallery complete with stunning flower beds, fountains, a children's garden and playground, and an exhibition of work by Henry Moore.
Soak in the city
Amsterdam is one of the most alive and energy riddled cities I have ever been to. There is always something or someone interesting to watch, and just observing life in a city is super enjoyable to me! One of the best places to do this is in is the Rokin area right across from the main shopping street in Amsterdam. In this area there is a nice platform beside the canal to sit on that is always full of people on a nice day.
One time when I was sitting here, I watched a guy fall into the canal, and when his friend was trying to pull him out his pants and underwear fell down to his ankles! It was quite the sight and it felt like all of us across the canal were watching this comedic movie unfold right in front of us.
Free samples at a Cheese Shop
The Dutch are crazy about their cheese. Therefore, there are a ton of shops in Amsterdam solely dedicated to cheese. These cheeses are full of every flavour imaginable; from rainbow pesto to beer flavoured, cheese there really is a flavour for everyone. The best thing about most of these cheese shops is that they are full of free samples! You can try almost every cheese in the store and leave with a full stomach just from the samples. This is a really fun and free way to try really unique Dutch cheeses. Please note, do not go out of control with this, you don't need to eat the whole store!
The Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market)
is located right in the center of Amsterdam and is the world's only floating flower market! Although the flowers and souvenirs cost money, simply strolling through the market and looking at the options is a really interesting thing to do. Also, The Netherlands is famous for their flowers so what better way to experience some Dutch culture than walking through it first-hand.
Enjoy the Views from the A'DAM Tower
The A'DAM Tower is a 20-story building in Amsterdam North that offers a beautiful panoramic view of all of Amsterdam. During the day it costs money to go up to the rooftop but at night this is free! If you go right at 9 you can enjoy the sunset from up here. Otherwise, it's a really great way to see the twinkling lights of the city that give off a very magical feeling.
Magere Brug, also known as "skinny bridge", is a white Dutch designed bridge that crosses the Amstel river. This is one of the most beautiful bridges in Amsterdam especially at night. When the sun sets, white lights illuminate the bridge making for a very romantic spot. Legend says, if you kiss your lover on this bridge your love will last forever.
Sift Through a Flea Market
The Waterlooplein flea market in Amsterdam is always full of electric energy. Walking through here and checking out the stalls that offers a wide variety of second hand clothing, coats, and antique items is an interesting way to spend your afternoon.
Experience the Art & Culture
Amsterdam is full of art and culture, and during the year the city hosts some great free events to showcase this art. If you are visiting in the winter check out the annual Amsterdam Light Festival which showcases various brilliant light structures made by artists. Or check out ArtZuid, which is a biannual sculpture event held during the summertime.
Enjoy a Festival
If you are in Amsterdam during one of the various festivals, you will be privileged to a wide range of free entertainment! In April during Kings Day (Koningsdag) the whole city turns orange to celebrate Dutch royalty. This is a city-wide celebration and you can find free music and events on every street. If you happen to be in the city in August, the city turns rainbow for Gay Pride which is a huge celebrate for the forward city of Amsterdam. Before you arrive check to see if there's any festivals or events going on so you can plan your itinerary with them!
If you have a limited amount of time for your journey, see our advice about how much time to spend here:
Should I spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Amsterdam?, Should I spend 3, 4, or 5 days in Amsterdam?, Should I spend 1 or 2 weeks in Amsterdam? and Is Amsterdam Worth Visiting?