20 cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is a bucket-list city for many travelers thanks to its Instagram-worthy canals, buzzing nightlife, charming neighborhoods and relaxed pot laws. And, luckily, the attraction-packed capital of The Netherlands is home to a variety of worthwhile things to see and do that are either free or, at the very least, wallet-friendly. Read on for 20 cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam, but first, jump start your savings by finding your flight on Cheapflights.com.

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Visit the floating flower market

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam
Salim Virji, tulips at the Floating Flower Market via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Known locally as the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s floating flower market dates back to 1862 and happens every day from Monday to Saturday, rain or shine. It’s free to browse the plethora of colorful blooms on offer, but if you do feel like dipping into your wallet, you can grab a bouquet of tulips to brighten up your hotel room or check out the traditional Dutch souvenirs also for sale. (Just remember, it’s illegal to carry flowers or bulbs back home with you.)

Hang out in Vondelpark

One of the best free things to do in a new city is to explore a local park. One stretch of green space perfect for a lazy afternoon picnic is Amsterdam’s Vondelpark. The most popular park in the city, Vondelpark is home to a beautiful rose garden, filled with over 70 different types of roses, as well as cafes, restaurants and an open-air theater.

Check out the Canal Belt

Built in the 17th century around the old city center, Amsterdam’s beautiful Canal Belt is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Free to explore, the area is made up of a series of interconnected waterways, where you’ll find a variety of historic canal houses.

Hop on a bike

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam
Moyan Brenn, Amsterdam via Flickr CC BY 2.0

See the city like a local by exploring on two wheels. Amsterdam is ideal for biking thanks to bike lanes and bike-friendly attitudes. You can rent a bike for 24 hours from a variety of bike rental companies, like Yellow Bike, for around $10.

See the cat boat

Cat lovers take note: Pozenboot, or the Cat Boat, is a floating animal sanctuary for stray and abandoned cats. While cats usually avoid water, these felines have embraced lives aboard a boat. You can visit them for free (though donations are appreciated).

Sip a coffee at Kopjes Cat Cafe

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam

If the cat boat wasn’t enough, you can see a few more fluffy creatures at Amsterdam’s first cat café. Entry will set you back around $3, then you can spend your time hanging out with eight rescued felines who will be happily seeking out head scratches and belly rubs.

Visit the Bridge of 15 Bridges

There are over 1,200 bridges in Amsterdam, so heading to the crossing of the Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht, where, if you position yourself correctly, you can catch sight of 15 of Amsterdam’s many bridges at the same time. For an extra lovely view, swing by in the evening when the city’s bridges are illuminated.

Browse the Sunday Market

If you happen to be in Amsterdam on the first Sunday of the month, head to the city’s Westergasfabriek area, which is turned into a massive market. Here you’ll find free food and drink samples, as well as the chance to shop for unique souvenirs.

Take in the views from atop OBA Public Library

Going to the library might not sound like the most exciting activity, but at the OBA (Public Library Amsterdam), you can visit the top floor for amazing views of the city.

See Rijksmuesuem Garden

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam
Kent Wang, Rijksmuseum via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

In addition to Vondelpark, you can also escape into nature – for free – with a visit to Rijksmuseum Garden. The beautifully landscaped grounds make for a relaxing way to spend a few hours when you’re not museum-hopping or exploring Amsterdam on foot or bike.

Tour a diamond factory

Learn everything there is to know about the make, cut, clarity and colour of diamonds with a free tour of Gassan Diamonds. Tours are available daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you’ll see diamond cutters at work, learn about how diamonds are found and see loose polished diamonds on display.

Explore the organic farmers’ market

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam
ilovebutter, Farmers market via Flickr CC BY 2.0

See what’s fresh, local and seasonal at Amsterdam’s Noordermarkt (North Market), which happens every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You’ll find organic produce here, as well as bread, cheese, fresh herbs and local treats to snack on.

Explore the Nine Streets

Known to locals as De Negen Straatjes, Amsterdam’s Nine Streets area consists of nine cobbled side streets that connect the main canals between Leidsegracht and Raadhuisstraat. This is a great area to simply explore on foot, but it’s also where you’ll find some of the best independent boutiques and vintage stores in the city.

Try out Friday Night Skate

Get some fresh air and exercise with a free inline skating tour of Amsterdam. Tours happen every Friday and are free to join with the only stipulation being that you’re an experienced skater and can brake well. Tours typically cover 20 kilometres from start to finish.

Shop a flea market

Spend some time browsing the oldest flea market in the Netherlands, where you’ll find over 300 stalls selling everything from jewelry to used books and vintage cameras.

Go on a free walking tour…

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam

Discover more about Amsterdam – for free – with an informative walking tour of the city. Check the website to see when tours are running (which is almost daily, at various times) and then head to the meeting point at the National Monument in Dam Square.

…Or a free boat trip

Check out Amsterdam from the water by taking a ferry ride on the River IJ (pronounced “eye’). You can catch a ferry from behind Central Station and departures are frequent. The trip is both free and a great way to see the city’s waterfront.

Take a brewery tour

Learn more about beer with a tour of Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a small brewery in Amsterdam. Tours in English are offered at 3:30 p.m. Friday to Sunday for approximately $6 and include a beer of your choice at the end. They often fill up, so it’s a good idea to book in advance.

Take a selfie with the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign

20 Cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam
_dChris, Amsterdam via Flickr CC BY 2.0

One of the most popular city squares, Museumplein, is where you’ll find the I Amsterdam sign, an iconic landmark and great place to take a selfie. Sit in your favorite letter or take a step back and pano the whole sign.

Listen to a free lunchtime concert

Free lunchtime concerts are held on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. at the Royal Concertgebouw. The classical music performances are popular, so get there with plenty of time to grab a good spot.

What’s the first thing on your Amsterdam agenda? Let us know in the comments and start your flight search on Cheapflights.com.

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Featured image: Jace Grandinetti

20 cheap and free things to do in Amsterdam was last modified: May 15th, 2017 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (394 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.