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Having been to Amsterdam on numerous occasions, we know what travellers from all over the world spend their money on…and it isn’t museums. No, they tend to save it for the city’s infamous bars, and, eh, other things. Thankfully we’ve put hours of research in to let you continue to spend your hard-earned Euro on pints of Heineken of Amstel to come up with a list of fifteen things to do for free in the Dutch capital. Read on to start saving...
1. Explore the Red Light District
The oldest part of the city is where you find Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District. While it's extremely intriguing during the day, it's at night that it really comes alive as lonely local men and camera-wielding tourists alike traipse the areas canals looking at the 'ladies of the night'. Outrageously fascinating, it's also home to some quaint bars if you want to sip a beer or two at the window while gazing at the revellers in search of a good time.
2. Embark on a free walking tour
Departing from the National Monument in Dam Square daily at 11.15am and 1.15pm, New Amsterdam Walking Tours are easily the most economical (and one of the most enjoyable) ways to see the sights of the city. Lasting approximately three hours, they take in attractions such as the aforementioned Red Light District, the Royal Palace, the Anne Frank House and more.
3. Free concert #1 - lunchtime concerts at Concertgebouwplein
Why not spend your lunchtime sampling some local culture on your trip to Amsterdam. If you find yourself visiting the city from September to June, also known as the cultural arts season, take in one of the free lunchtime concerts on a Wednesday. Starting at 12.30pm, the Concertgebouw puts on 30 minute public performances as they rehearse for ‘official’ shows that night.
Location: Concertgebouwplein 2-6 (off Van Baerlestraat)
4. Chill out in Vondelpark
Amsterdam’s most popular city park is the scenic Vondelpark. You can enjoy a walk or a cycle for free in Vondelpark or just relax on the grass or benches by the lakes. There are also cafes around the park or you can just bring your own picnic.
5. Take a free boat trip
If you want to experience a boat ride in Amsterdam with a difference (this is nothing like a canal boat) then make your way to the ferries behind Centraal Station. Here you can board one of the free ferries to parts of the city many don't see. Two of them last less than ten minutes so make sure to take the ferry that goes furthest east to Buiksloterdijk as this journey lasts the longest.
Opening hours: Ferries operate between 6.30am and 6pm/9pm (check local listings).
6. Check out the other city parks
Amsterdam is full of many city parks as well as Vondelpark. Up at Museumplein, by the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum you will find some large green spaces that you can enjoy before or after your visit to the museums. This area is the perfect spot to enjoy some food from the local vendors, or even just bring your own. Another great city park is Beatrixpark. This scenic park in the Zuider Amstel neighborhood is less crowded than other city parks is the ideal pick for a walk through shaded paths, a family picnic or some sunbathing.
7. Free concert #2 - Amsterdam's Stadhuis/Muziektheater complex
If your are visiting Amsterdam from October to June why not check out another great free lunchtime concert at the Boekmanzaal room at the Amsterdam Stadhuis/Muziektheater complex. Every Tuesday during these months you can catch shows from one of these amazing performers - the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Netherlands Opera or the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra.
Location: Stadhuis/Muziektheater: Amstel 1 (near Waterlooplein)
8. Visit the Civic Guards Gallery
Consider yourself to be a bit of a culture vulture? Then make your way here where you can take in some of Amsterdam’s finest artwork for free. If you make your way to just inside the Kalverstraat gate to the Amsterdam Historical Museum you will find a glass-roofed walkway. On the walls of this walkway hang some breathtaking 17-century paintings which are free to view.
Location: Kalverstraat 92
9. Explore 'Begijnhof'
Often described as a secret garden, the Begijnhof is the ideal place to visit for an escape from the noise of the city. This hidden courtyard is surrounded by cottages, one of which is the oldest house in Amsterdam, in which only single women are allowed to live in, which dates back to its roots. In the Begijnhof you will find some very well-kept lawns and gardens and a beautiful old church.
Location: Gedempte Begijnensloot (alley just off the Spui)
Opening hours: Daily 9am – 5pm
10. Get the obligatory photo at the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign
One of Amsterdam’s most popular city squares is Museumplein, where you will find the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. This large sign that lies in front of the Rijksmuseum has become an iconic symbol of the city. You will also find many people sitting in or on the letters and getting their photo taken. Sure, it's clichéd at this stage, but when in Rome...
11. Hang out at the street markets
You will find many outdoor markets in neighbourhoods across Amsterdam. One such market is the Bloemenmarkt which is a flower market where the stalls once floated on the canal. Today, it has become a permanent fixture and you can walk along the canal enjoying the sights and smells of this popular Amsterdam market. If you are looking for some clothes, household ware or souvenirs, then check out one of Amsterdam’s largest city markets - Albert Cuypstraat Markt. This popular market dates back to 1904 and can be found in the De Pijp area of the city.
Opening hours: Albert Cuypstraat Markt Mon – Sat: 9.30am – 5pm, Bloemenmarkt Mon – Sat: 9am – 5.30pm, Sun: 11am – 5.30pm
12. Enjoy some free live music
Amsterdam’s nightlife and entertainment has a lot on offer from bars, cafes and venues. If you are on a budget but would like to enjoy some live music then check out some of the free music gigs on offer. There’s a great selection on offer across the city throughout the week. On a Sunday night you can go to Mulligan’s Irish Bar in Amstel for their free open jam sessions. They also have free music throughout the week from 7pm. If you’re looking for some free jazz music on a Tuesday then check out Jazz Cafe Alto on Korte Leidsedwarsstraat. This historic jazz cafe is a cosy bar with a great atmosphere. And on Wednesday night you can go to Malo Melo for a free session of blues and soulful rock.
13. Neighbourhood not to miss #1 - Jordaan
Jordaan is one of Amsterdam’s most popular neighbourhoods that is today home to many students, artists and young professionals. It’s the perfect neighbourhood to visit both during the day and night and is home to some great cafés and restaurants, as well as being a more alternative nightlife location for locals and people who come across the city to sample Jordaan’s entertainment.
14. Play chess on chess board at Max Euwe Plein
Whether you are into chess or not, a visit to Amsterdam’s Max Euwe Plein is a must. The chess museum at the Max Euwe Centre is free and here you can find out about the history of chess and more. You can even play a virtual game. It’s named after the only Dutch chess champion, Max Euwe and there is also an exhibition dedicated to his life and works here. You can also test your chess skills on the giant chessboard in the outdoor square.
Location: between Leidseplein and Vondelpark
15. Neighbourhood not to miss #2 - 9 Streets
'9 Streets', or De Negen Straatjes as it is called locally, is widely regarded by locals as the 'Soho of Amsterdam’. Found just across the Singel Canal from Spui, one of the city's best-loved squares, this quaint little neighbourhood is known for its independent, specialist shops. whether it's cheese, dolls or clothes, you'll find a shop selling it here. Even if you're not equipped with a few Euro for a new treat the area is well worth a stroll.