As anyone who’s ever planned a trip to Amsterdam probably already knows, the Dutch capital* can be an expensive place to visit. I was there in 2014 but I’m hoping to return soon — this time with my family — and so I’m researching cheap or free things to do there. There are tons of articles like this in the internet but if I’m going to list the things I plan to actually do, I thought I might as well make a post of it. I also made a map so people can get a general idea of where these places/activities are and make an efficient itinerary. Most, if not all, of them are walking distance of each other.
*Yes, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, though the seat of government is The Hague.
Free ferry rides
Ferries depart regularly from behind Amsterdam Centraal train station and they’re free — no ticket required. Route map here.
Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA – Public Library of Amsterdam)
Just a few meters away from Centraal. Aside from (obviously) books, its top floor also has great bird’s eye views of the city.
Bimhuis Jazz Workshop (Tuesdays)
A jazz venue that offers free improv sessions/workshops every Tuesday at 10 PM. Just ~15 min walk from Centraal. Directions here, calendar here (e.g., 24 April).
Known for its narrow canals, beautiful houses, cozy pubs, and original shops, the Jordaan district — possibly Amsterdam’s most famous neighborhood — is a good place for a slow walk and a great introduction to the Dutch way of life. Look out for inner courtyards.
A “secret courtyard” that can be accessed by a heavy wooden door on Spui square, the Begijnhof is surrounded by 14th century houses, churches, and gardens. More about hofjes (courtyards) in Amsterdam here.
While the museum itself costs €17.50 to explore, entrance to the gardens is completely free, with sculptures, flowers, and fountains, and occasional street musicians at the nearby bicycle tunnel. Directions to the museum here; if you’re coming from Centraal, take tram 2 or 16 to the Rijksmuseum stop.
Free Lunchtime Concert at the Royal Concertgebouw (Wednesdays)
The Concertgebouw is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world and every Wednesday, it offers free lunchtime concerts. It’s located at the Museumplein, along with the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum (and the I Amsterdam sign), so you can bunch up those activities. Concert schedule here (e.g. the Chimaera Trio will play on April 25), FAQs here.
- Tickets are available at the Entrance Hall from 11:30 a.m. onwards; concerts usually start at 12:30 PM.
- “Visitors are advised that these concerts are suitable for children from six years old.”
A popular city park less than a kilometer from Concertgebouw and the Rijksmuseum. Great for picnics, sunbathing, walks, ball games, etc. At the southern end of the Vondelpark, there’s a sculpture by Picasso.
A riding school with beautiful neoclassical architecture. There’s a cafe on a terrace, from which visitors can watch fine horses trotting with their trainers. Entrance is at Vondelstraat 140.
Dutch National Opera & Ballet Free Lunch Concert (Tuesdays)
There’s a free 30-minute lunchtime concert every Tuesday from September to May at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. Doors open at 12:15 PM; the concert starts at 12:30 PM.
Bridge of 15 Bridges
According to Amsterdam Tourist: “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.”
One of the most beautiful bridges in Amsterdam, this wooden “skinny bridge” (that’s literally what it means) is beautifully illuminated at night.
Other free things to do
- Albert Cuypmarkt (one of several street markets in Amsterdam)
- Amsterdam City Archives (Stadsarchief)
- Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam “Forest” with a petting zoo that’s sure to be a hit with kids)
- Bloemenmarkt (nearly always mentioned in articles but I’ve been there and this “floating flower market” is basically a bunch of stores — it’s not like a Thai-style floating market — so adjust expectations)
- Civic Guard Gallery
- EYE Film Institute
- National Tulip Day (if you’re visiting in January)
- NDSM-Werf (abandoned shipyard turned art enclave)
- Nine Streets (boutiques in cobbled lanes)
- Sandeman’s New Amsterdam Tours (tips basis)
- Singel No. 7, the narrowest house in the world
- Trippenhuis (historic mansion at Kloveniersburwal 29 — IAmsterdam has an interesting anecdote about it)
- Westerkerk Carillon Concerts (Tuesdays 12 PM to 1 PM)
I hope this list helps you as much as it’s going to help me.
Great list! I moved to Amsterdam a year ago and haven’t even made a dent on this list. Just one comment – in January, we have National Tulip Day, which for this year is Jan 20th (next Saturday) and there is a big event held at Dam Square. The Tulip Festival actually happens much later in the March-April timeframe and is spread over many different locations in Amsterdam. Haven’t had much time to update my blog but plenty of free things to do in the towns around Amsterdam as well https://noroadbarred.wordpress.com/category/europe/netherlands/ Have an awesome trip!
Oh yes! Thanks for pointing that out, Anne. I better change “Festival” to “Day” so no one gets confused. I’m reading your Netherlands posts right now and can’t wait to learn more. Thank you! xx
Hope they are useful! Love your posts btw! They always remain true to the objective of your blog! Well done!
there’s this “event” every..i dont know. i forgot tbh but i’m sure it’s weekend. like first weekend of the month. Ij hallen. you take the ferry to this destination (free) and go in there. €5 entrance (as of 2016) and you get to SHOP TIL YOU DROP. Locals sell ALL KINDS OF STUFF. books, clothes, shoes..EVERYTHING. It’s also a very interesting sight to see!
Hi Bambie. I Googled it — https://www.amsterdam.info/markets/ij-hallen/ — it does look interesting! Thanks for the tip.
By the time we get our chance to travel to Europe in the future yet, I’ll definitely get back to your posts Gay! super helpful guide! Way to go! safe travels again soon! x
Thank you Jhoe! I hope you’ll get to go soon. PS – Pixie is turning into such a lovely little lady. Nice kaayo nga naghomeschool ka. xx