As a resident of Amsterdam I have searched long and far for all the top free things to do in Amsterdam and today I want to share them with you! Amsterdam is a city full of things to do, whether it be cultural activities, historic activities, sightseeing, or anything else. The problem is many of the top Amsterdam attractions cost money and after a few attractions, the costs start to add up.
But Amsterdam is a city full of surprises, and one of the main surprises is all the free things to do in Amsterdam. These free finds include some of the top things to do in Amsterdam which means you can enjoy all the amazing parts of the city on a budget. If you are looking to save some money on your trip to Amsterdam be sure to add some of these free things to do to your itinerary. Or if you are on a really tight budget create a whole itinerary around free activities
Amsterdam is such an amazing city that simply sitting along a canal and soaking in the unique buzzing atmosphere is enjoyable!
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In This Post
22 Free Things to do in Amsterdam
Explore the Jordaan
One of the top things to do in Amsterdam, both free and paid, is exploring the city. Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the highlight of visiting is strolling the streets and soaking in all the stunning surroundings. Both morning, afternoon, evening, and night Amsterdam is full of charm and magic.
The city is made up of 160 canals connected by quaint cobblestone streets. The streets are lined with quirky, unique houses unlike anything else in this world, and the best area to admire the stunning streets of Amsterdam is the Jordaan.
The Jordaan is a neighborhood in Amsterdam just beside the city center. This area is full of the most charming streets and the most beautiful canals and is the best place to explore for free. Simply walking the streets and admiring Amsterdam and its enchanting vibes is budget-friendly and most people’s favorite thing to do in the city. Be sure to walk around the famous 9 streets and window shop in some of the best shops in the city.
Walk around Bloemenmarkt
Amsterdam is a city known for tulips! There are tulips all around Amsterdam but the best place to get your fix is at the Bloemenmarkt. This is the world’s only floating flower market and a must-visit while in Amsterdam. Here you will find various souvenir shops with tulip items, fresh tulip bulbs, and more! It is not free if you buy something, but walking around and enjoying the bright colors and the bustling atmosphere is 100% free!
Visit the Red Light District
The Red Light District is one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions. It is not something for everyone and has a pretty seedy reputation, but it is more like an attraction than anything else. The best thing about this infamous area is that visiting it and exploring the streets costs nothing!
For anyone wondering the Red Light District is an old area of Amsterdam famous for its legal position and sex orientated business. Here you will find the “Red Light Windows” which are glass doors lit up by red lights with women inside them. There are around 300 cabins that are rented for people to legally obtain sexual services.
It is a pretty bizarre concept to most which is why it is so heavily trafficked by tourists! Many people prefer to visit The Red Light District in the evening time when the neon lights are more vivid and the atmosphere is a little more lively. During this time you can simply walk around, immerse yourself in one of Amsterdam’s most unique highlights. This is one of the more popular things to do in Amsterdam at night.
Window Shop at a Street Market
Street markets are in abundance in Amsterdam. In almost every area of the city, there is a unique street market open to walk around. All the best street markets are outdoors and on warm days strolling around them is one of the top free things to do in Amsterdam. Not only do you get to see all the unique dutch clothing and trinkets, but you can also smell the scent of fresh stroopwafels, flowers, and fries.
If window shopping at a street market sounds like the activity for you, here are some great street market options to check out:
- Albert Cuyp Market
- Westerstraat market
- Westerstraat market
Just be sure to check the hours and days they are open because these times vary.
Spend a day in the Park
Warm sunny days are rare in Amsterdam so when they come around the parks in the city are packed with people. The parks offer a welcome escape from the concrete and bricks that make up the city of Amsterdam and are packed with greenspace and beauty. Both locals and tourists alike flock to the parks to walk, bike, have a picnic, or anything else!
The atmosphere is always relaxed and peaceful and it is the perfect place to admire the surroundings and buzzing atmosphere of Amsterdam. Plus, it is the ideal place for a romantic date in Amsterdam for all the couples visiting the city.
The top parks to visit in Amsterdam are:
- Vondelpark: This is the biggest and more popular park in Amsterdam. You will find this park packed with people in the summer months having picnics with friends, sunbathing, working out, and everything else.
- Westerpark: A huge park in Amsterdam that is not as popular amongst tourists, but very popular amongst locals. A great place to go for a more local park experience.
- Oosterpark: Underrated park in the city located in Amsterdam Oost. This park is in a beautiful area and full of stunning scenery.
Admire Westerkerk Church
Within the Jordaan area of Amsterdam sits a stunning church called Westerkerk. It is located directly beside the Anne Frank House and the bells that ring from it are the same as what she heard while she was in hiding. The church itself towers within a small square and is beautiful from every angle. It is well worth it to walk to the stunning church to admire it for free.
Go on a free walking tour
Free walking tours are a great way to learn about Amsterdam and hear stories about Amsterdam and see a whole new side of the city. These tours will keep you entertained and enticed from beginning to end, plus will give you a great insight into the history of Amsterdam and other valuable information. This is one of the best free things to do in Amsterdam to learn and enjoy the city in the best way possible.
Soak in the surroundings at Museumplein
Museumplein is one of the most popular areas in Amsterdam, mainly due to the fact that the three most famous Amsterdam museums in the city are here, but also for its stunning views. The whole area supplies beauty from all directions and is the ideal place to visit and walk around. Here you can view the famous Rijksmuseum, which is designed beautifully, eat at one of the food stands, or sit on the greenspace.
On warm days the green space at Museumplein is packed with people having picnics and playing sports with friends. Spending a few hours sitting here is (arguably) better than spending that time at a park! The views of the bustling city and the famous Rijkmusuems are unmatched.
Explore the Rijksmuseum Gardens
Also in Museumplein are the Rijksmuseum gardens which are free to enter! The gardens are the perfect calm oasis where you can admire nature and art at the same time. There are some sculptures in the gardens, like the famous giant spiders, and a surprising fountain. The gardens are outdoors as well so you can escape the crowds of the indoor Rijksmuseum and spend some time enjoying art in the fresh air. As one of the more popular free things to do in Amsterdam, you cannot go wrong with a visit.
Find the Begijnhof
The Begijnhof is Amsterdam’s “secret” spot right in the heart of the city. Just off the main shopping street in the historic city center is a hidden courtyard with old historic houses. Just down a simple path will lead you to this secret spot that is home to one of the oldest houses in Amsterdam. Venturing here and exploring the historic area is absolutely free and an Amsterdam bucket list item.
Visit the Pozenboot
The Pozenboot is a unique free thing to do in Amsterdam that is ideal for any and all cat lovers! Simply put, the pozenboot is a cat sanctuary that homes cats and other animals for adoption. The fact that this sanctuary is located on a house boat on the canals of Amsterdam make it unique and fun to visit. If you love cats and want to make some furry Dutch friends head here for a little to hang out with the animals and keep them company.
Amsterdam Light Festival
If you are visiting Amsterdam in the winter months from November to January you have the option to view the stunning Amsterdam Light Festival. The light festival is a yearly event that showcases various artworks around the city made by local and international artists. The exhibits are unique and thought-provoking, with a new theme each year. The best way to admire these exhibitions for free is by finding the route and walking it. This way you can see the show at your own pace and enjoy one of Amsterdam’s best winter activities.
Visit Amserdam Bos
Amsterdam Bos is also known as the Amsterdam forest and it is 3 times larger than central park and one of the largest parks in Europe! This park is full of trees, green space, a lake, and various species of birds. Amsterdam Bos is the perfect place to visit to see a different more natural side to Amsterdam which contrasts greatly with the city center.
Sample Dutch Cheese
Cheese and the Dutch go hand in hand. In Amsterdam you will find cheese shops all around the city, full of unique and delicious cheese flavors. The best part is going inside and sampling some of the unique flavors is completely free! Prepare to smell and sample some obscure flavors like pesto, beer, and more.
Watch the Boats from the Canals
Amsterdam is a truly unique city with the various canals and constant boats sailing through them. The most beautiful canals in the city are the ones that make up the UNESCO world heritage site Canal Ring. These are Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Singel, and Keizersgracht and are some of the oldest and most famous in the city.
Finding a spot to sit along one of these canals is watching all the boats sail by is a magical experience. Especially if you are visiting Amsterdam in October when the leaves are golden and the tree lining the canals are changing color.
Walk over Magere Brug
Magere Brug is one of Amsterdam’s most famous bridges. Although the city is made up of tons of bridges, there are a few that stand out amongst the masses. Magere Brug crosses the huge Amstel river and looks quite different from the others. It is wooden, and completely white giving it a unique and magical look. It is also full of lightbulbs that ignite in Amsterdam at night, which adds an even more enchanting feel to it.
Not only is the bridge beautiful to look at, but it also has a unique story attached to it. Legend says if you kiss your lover on top of the bridge or while you are sailing on a boat under it, your love with last forever. If you are visiting Amsterdam with a partner this is one of the top free things to do in Amsterdam to ensure you stay together forever.
Go swimming in Sloterplas
Sloterplas is a relaxing and calming area outside the city center of Amsterdam. It is a huge park with an expansive lake in it that is perfect for exploring and seeing a more local and non-touristy side to the city. Surprisingly, Amsterdam does have quite a few beaches, and this is one of the top options for anyone looking to relax and swim in Amsterdam.
Enjoy the entertainment at Dam Square
Dam Square is Amsterdam’s largest and most lively squares. It is where you can find the Royal Palace, Madame Tussauds and more, plus it is only a short walk from Central Station. This huge square is always full of street performers and people there to keep you entertained. Plus, the architecture within the square is beautiful and the beautiful surroundings only add to the atmosphere. This is one of the top free things to do in Amsterdam that is always sure to entice you from start to finish.
See a Windmill at Brouwerij ‘t IJ
You can’t visit Amsterdam and not see an authentic Dutch windmill. Seeing a windmill is an Amsterdam bucket list item that everyone must check off.
There are areas nearby Amsterdam with windmills in abundance, however, getting to those costs some money. If you want to see a Dutch windmill for no cost and without leaving Amsterdam, then a visit to Brouwerij ‘t IJ is in order. This is a local brewery that brews local beers and is located under a huge windmill. The windmill itself is worth the visit to see, and it gives you the Dutch windmill experience.
Find the Mini Houses
Amsterdam is home to plenty of secret spots and hidden treasures, one of the most interesting is the mini houses. The mini houses are hidden in between two Amsterdam houses on a seemingly regular street. They are positioned in a crack between the houses whose numbers jump from 54 – 70 as a way to bridge the numbers gap! Find these houses at Westerstraat 54.
Explore Amsterdam NDSM
15 minutes from Amsterdam central is a diverse and interesting part of the city called NDSM. It is reachable by taking a free ferry from Amsterdam central and offers a completely different experience than to what Amsterdams city center offers. This area is full of unique streets are and a more urban vibe and is the perfect place to stroll around.
Indulge at the Tony Chocolonely Superstore
Saving the best for last! The Tony Chocolonely Superstore is one of Amsterdam’s greatest finds and visiting it is 100% free. Tony Chocolonely is a chocolate brand created and produced in the Netherlands and just 3 minutes from Central station sits a store that offers free samples of all the amazing chocolate bar options. Here you will find a wall full of unique flavors all available for you to sample and taste. Find flavors like salted caramel, pretzel, lemon, and more. This is one of the best free things to do in Amsterdam that never fails to impress.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
If you are visiting Amsterdam on a budget here are some great accomodation options:
You can also use this map to check out accommodation and prices. For a more detailed description of the different neighborhoods and the best places to stay in Amsterdam check out this post!
When to visit Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a great year-round travel destination. All season have their pros and cons of visiting. The summer months are great for warmer weather, however, it is much busier and prices are higher than in the offseason. Visiting in the shoulder seasons (April – May, September – October) are best for lower prices, less people and non-peak prices.
As you can see there are a ton of amazing free things to do in Amsterdam. A visit to Amsterdam consisting of only free things to do is still an amazing experience, and can lead to a very budget friendly getaway.
As a resident of Amsterdam I have a ton of information about Amsterdam available! Check out these posts for some additional information:
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Eric Gamble says
You had me at secret hiding spots and FREE CHOCOLATE samples! I may have a problem when it comes to chocolate so when we return to Amsterdam, there is no doubt that I will be visiting my new friend Tony! As for the other free things to do in Amsterdam, I think there is so many cool things to just walk around and observe. I love the whole hidden and secret idea that you found, especially with The Begijnhof hidden house and the Hidden Mini Houses. Those little guys look awesome!
As for the swimming, I dont know if this warm blooded Cuban Boy can handle that freezing water!
Linda (LD Holland) says
It is always a treat when we find free things to do in a city we visit. Good to know there is a long list for Amsterdam. It does look like there are some great areas to walk around. I would definitely want to explore the gardens. Planning a visit in the winter would be fun to see the Light Festival! But my chocoholic hubby would make more than one visit to the Tony Chocolonely Superstore for free samples.
I wonder if you have to buy at least a small piece of cheese after you did taste testing. 😉 The mini houses look cute and I think it’s a smart idea to use the gap between two buildings. And the Jordaan area is just gorgeous. I will make sure to go there when I go to Amsterdam.
Free chocolates? I will be heading for that first Seeing an authentic Dutch windmill would be next on my list. I was not aware of the free ferry in Amsterdam when I was there. I did blow up some euros for a canal tour there. Great list of things to do. I hope to get there again.
This is a great idea for a post! As someone who has spent most of the past few years in Latin America and SE Asia, everything in the US or Europe can seem expensive in comparison. It’s good to know that Amsterdam has so many beautiful outdoor spots to admire the architecture. I think I would have to splurge on some of those cheese shops you mention though, especially if they have unique flavors and varieties!