Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam: where to begin? The capital city of the Netherlands attracts millions of visitors every year, and with good reason. Old and young alike can find something to love in Amsterdam; from museums to stunning landscapes, modern architecture to centuries old buildings, laid-back lifestyle and cheery locals, Amsterdam is the gift that keeps on giving.
But what about the budget traveler? Europe is steadily becoming a more and more expensive continent to travel to, and a popular hub like the Dutch capital is no exception. Thankfully, there are still some awesome things to do in Amsterdam for the mighty price of 0 euro, so without further ado, here are my top 10 favourite things to do in Amsterdam without spending a dime!
1. Walk the Canal Rings
Amsterdam has a whopping 165 canals, and 1,281 bridges, earning the city the title of Venice of the North. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht, form three rings around the city centre and are on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Walking along the canals is a must for anyone wishing to embrace the truly laid-back lifestyle of Amsterdam. Of course, for that perfect Instagram shot, check out the intersection between Keizersgracht and Reguliersgracht, where you can see seven bridges in a row down the canals.
2. Market Window Shopping
OK, so technically you'd go to a market to spend some cash, but in Amsterdam, the markets are an experience in themselves even if you don't buy a thing. With 12 daily outdoor markets, you're sure to stumble upon one of them as you walk the city (as I did), but the most popular are the Albert Cuyp market, the Waterlooplein Flea market (haggling is commonplace here) and the ones I managed to find randomly (yay for getting lost!) - the Book Market and the ever popular Flower Market - Bloemenmarkt. If you only pick one market to visit, I'd recommend the Bloemenmarkt, which is the only floating flower market in the world.
Did you know that measured by square kilometers, Amsterdam has the highest concentration of museums in the world? You can find three major ones here in Museumplein - the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. I'd definitely recommend buying the ticket and wandering through their corridors, but if that is not an option, a quick stop by the museum square is still a must.
This public space is used by locals for weekend picnics, as well as festivals and celebrations. Plus, can you really go to Amsterdam without taking a photo with the iconic iAmsterdam sign? You'll know you've arrived when you see a huge crowd climbing red and white letters; not quite anti-touristy, but a must nonetheless.
4. Dam Square
Another must-see square in Amsterdam is Dam, centrally located and always bustling with activity. It is surrounded by beautiful buildings such as the gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the neo-classical Royal Palace. A funfair is also held in Dam Square several times a year, such as on King's Day and Christmas.
5. Free museums
This is a little hack I discovered when in Amsterdam. Whilst entry to the major museums will always require payment, smaller museums such as the delightful Cheese Museum is completely free to enter, plus, you get free cheese tasting! Cultural learning AND lunch? Win.
6. Free ferry ride
This is another little-known Amsterdam hack. Walking along the canals, you'll definitely see endless tourist boats floating along. While this is certainly very enticing, it's also costly, with average boat cruises costing around 30 euro per person. So what if I told you there is a free ferry waiting to take you over to the modern urban Amsterdam Noord?
Just behind Amsterdam Central Station, the city runs a free ferry service for commuters wishing to cross over to the northern area of the city. There are different routes to take, so get on the longest one and enjoy the free scenic tour - you can just stay on the boat and go back to the station if Amsterdam Noord is just not your thing!
Amsterdam's answer to Central Park or Hyde Park, Vondelpark is the city's most popular, and probably the most beautiful park. It houses a number of cafes, a skate rental shop, open-air theatre and a rose garden, amongst other things, and it's completely free! The bonus to Vondelpark is that you'll be able to mingle with the locals, who love a good stroll in the lush green space.
8. EYE Film Museum
This dramatic looking building is completely free for visitors, and contains a history of movies and film technology - a favourite with techies. Whilst temporary exhibitions may require a ticket, you can enjoy anything else for free, and the bar and restaurant offer a fantastic view of the waterfront.
9. People watch
With a melting pot like Amsterdam, people-watching comes naturally. From families of four speeding through the roads on bikes, to hen and bachelor parties singing at noon, all you need is a keen eye to appreciate the diversity all around you. It goes without saying - but people watching does not mean you can be rude!
10. Red light district
Window shopping takes quite a different meaning in Amsterdam's infamous red light district. The De Wallen district houses over 300 cabins rented by prostitutes, who advertise their services through windows. In Amsterdam, prostitution is legal and regularised, which is probably why the area is safe to walk through and a huge tourist attraction.
And there you have it, my top choices for minimum spending and maximum fun in Amsterdam. There are many other activities in the city - hopefully, I'll be giving a review of those in my next visit to Amsterdam! *wishful thinking*
Over to you - what are your favourite things to do in the Dutch capital? Let me know in the comments below, and share this post with anyone who might find it useful!
The Anti-Tourist would like to thank Amsterdam's Press Office, iAmsterdam, for all the help and information given on this trip to Amsterdam.