The Top 10 Free Things To Do In Amsterdam

The Top 10 Free Things To Do In Amsterdam

1. Visit The Iconic “I Amsterdam” Sign

If you’ve never been to Amsterdam then you may not know of this sign. It’s a rather large sign sat in the Museumplein square and is one of the most popular free tourist attractions. Many people like to climb the structure to have their picture taken, but it’s also just a really nice piece of modern art. Be warned however, you may only have a few seconds of alone time with this sign due to its popularity.

2. Walk Along The Canals And Watch The Boats

amsterdam canals

Amsterdam is surprisingly the home to more river canals than in Venice and are over 400 years old. Not much has changed in those 400 years and the beauty of these rivers remains. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of boats swimming through them every single day so you can be sure to see a few tourists cheekily waving. The best time to see these canals is actually just before dusk, when it’s dark and you can see all the lights reflecting off the water.

3. Albert Cuypmarkt – Amsterdam’s Largest Street Market

So this activity does start out free, but it’ll be hard to keep your money in your wallet when you see what’s on offer in this fantastic street market. The market has been there since 1905 and is home to 260 market stands selling all manner of materials and trinkets. The market is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and is situated in the De Pijp quarter. It’s a great place for a bargain if you have the money to spare, but also just a great place to see Amsterdams amazing culture.

4. Relax in Vondelpark


With all the hustle and bustle of the market, you might feel like a relaxing walk or just a short rest on some lush green grass. Vondelpark is the city’s most popular park and its stunning beauty makes it a great place to have a picnic or have a 5 minute rest. In the summer, this park comes alive with tourists and locals alike and you may even catch the odd street performer or two on your travels through the park.

5. Explore The Red Light District

When I say explore, I mean learn and appreciate it! Of course the district is famous for it’s relaxed attitude to prostitution, but it’s actually a very tame and safe environment for the working girls there. The lights are on all the time, during the daylight hours as well as the dead of night. You can see the girls in the windows and watch how they attract potential customers. There is no nudity in these windows, contrary to popular belief. They are just beautiful women earning a living like you or I and it’s actually quite inspiring.

6. Get Artistic With Civic Guards Gallery

civic guards gallery amsterdam

If you want to get away from all the usual touristy attractions then you can always head on over to the Civic Guards Gallery, home to an intriguing historical museum with a glass-roofed walkway. You can find several interesting and thought provoking 17th century artworks here and you can find this magical place at Kalverstraat 92.

7. Free Live Music

Amsterdam is a city with lots of culture, but it’s quite famous for its love of music. You can find free live music almost everywhere! There are free lunchtime concerts at Concertgebouwplein and during October and June there are more concerts at the Stadhuis/Muziektheater complex. Fancy something a bit smaller and more personal? Not to worry as several of Amsterdams pubs and bars are home to great live music, from Jazz to soul and funk.

8. Play Chess at Max Euwe Plein

giant chess board in amsterdam

You don’t even have to be an expert to enjoy a game of chess at Max Euwe Plein. This is a chess museum where you can find several people playing against each other, some experts and some novices. You can even play virtual chess games here, to see if you can beat a computer. The building is actually named after Amsterdam’s only Dutch chess champion, Max Euwe with an exhibition dedicated to his life. If that isn’t tempting then perhaps their giant outdoor chess board will do it for you?

9. Ferry Rides Behind Centraal Station

This is a fantastic scheme run behind the world famous Centraal Station. You can get a free ferry here that explores parts of Amsterdam that you would perhaps never have seen, going deep into the city. Two of these ferries however last less than 10 minutes, so make sure you take the ferry going far east towards Buiksloterdijk as this is the longest journey you can take on one of these awesome free ferries. They operate from as early as 6:30am and finish as late as 9pm on some evening, be sure to check listings before going.

10. Take A Sneak Peak of The Condomeire

condomeire amsterdam

What is this place, I hear you cry? This amazing place is Amsterdams first ever specialist condom shop. It’s been open since 1987 and is one of the cities best curiosities. From novelty condoms to some seriously scary sexual sheaths. Aside from all the silliness however lies a very important message, which is to be aware of sexual health. The shop has managed to break down the taboo barriers surrounding sexually transmitted infections and diseases. You might learn a thing or two, in more ways than one.

Read about 50 more things to do in Amsterdam here!

Author Bio

Jade Waddy is an experienced writer with an NOCN level 3 in journalism. She writes on all manner of subjects but specialises in travel, working on behalf of My Break Trip – a new travel website for those looking to book different types of group trip.


This article was published in February 2014.


Backpacking Route for Central Europe

europe routes

iberia | central europe | baltics | balkans

Central Europe by Rail: 10 Cities in 3-4 Weeks

This is a pretty hectic schedule that will keep you diving in and out of European countries as you take in one thrilling city after another. Almost every other day you pass through new cultures and languages in a small yet hugely diverse continent. Our Backpacking route for Central Europe takes in some exciting Western European capitals either side of a trip beyond the former iron curtain into some charming and budget friendly Eastern Europe cities.

To do this route Europeans (including non-EU countries & Russia) can buy the InterRail pass enabling travel on any 10 days over a one month period costing €301/£262 for under 26’s and €378/£329 for people 26 and over (as of January 2017).

Non Europeans would probably be best to buy a Eurail pass enabling 7 days of travel over a 1 month period costing US$409 for under 28’s or $513 for those 28+ (as of January 2017). However you will need to buy separate tickets for the legs in Poland and Slovakia as they are not covered by the Eurail global pass.

It’s also worth noting that some trains on this route require you to pay for a seat reservation or other small surcharge even with the railpass. It’s best to check at the station before boarding any train.


2 days should be a reasonable amount of time in most cities on the route. However you’d be wise to allow for a bit more given there’ll be days where you spend a lot of time on trains and won’t get much done on arrival.

POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1075 €1250 $1325


If you’re planning on partying most nights you can probably double that but you can still have fun on our suggested budget but you’ll have to be a bit savvy to stick to it. The likes of Paris and Zurich are very expensive cities but there is good value to be found further East. Certainly in the West, it’s highly advisable to join couchsurfing and sleep for free where possible, which will allow you to get by on much less per day.

More details on backpacking costs in different European countries.


All the cities on this route are in the Schengen Area of Europe. If you’re from the EU you can travel freely around them for as long as you want. If not you will either get 90 days to spend in the region visa-free or you will need to apply for a special Schengen visa.


None of these cities are particularly dangerous but petty theft and pick-pocketing are common in almost all of them. Therefore it’s advisable to arrange some travel insurance in advance. We recommend World Nomads.

Backpacking Route for Central Europe

1. Amsterdam

This ultra liberal city is the perfect place to start any eurotrip and is a popular stop for most travellers on a Central Europe backpacking route. The large airport is a major hub with flights to and from cities all around the world and the train station offers excellent info and advice in English on Europe rail passes, a luxury that is less common as you head east, so is a good starting point. As for the city well for starters, yes you really can walk into a cafe in Amsterdam and buy weed. This alone is enough to convince many travellers in Europe that the Dutch capital is worth a visit. If you’re looking for more then this attractive city is full of lively squares, loads of canals and the fantastic Anne Frank Museum. It’s slightly dangerous in parts, especially the red light district which you may find an unpleasant eye-opening experience but it is an important place to visit to fully understand the city.

(Amsterdam to Berlin: 6 hours)

2. Berlin

backpacking route for Europe

Germany and its capital especially has very much got its cool back. Germans have got a renewed self-confidence and sense of national pride that was lacking for the latter half of the 20th Century. Berlin has been practically rebuilt since the Wall was knocked down in 1989 and has been done so with great style and planning that is rarely seen in big cities across the world. The city also has a rebellious streak and there are some interesting districts to visit while you attempt to understand the immense history of this until recently divided city. It’s nightlife scene is also not to be missed with some incredible warehouse clubs.

(Berlin to Prague: 4-5 hours)

3. Prague

Europe by train

It is true that Prague has become very touristy over the past decade or two but there’s good reason for it and it’s still a lot cheaper than its western European counterparts. The city is perhaps the most beautiful in Europe with stunning churches and bridges. There’s also excellent and ridiculously cheap beer, available in the student areas for well under €1 for a pint. The nightlife is lively and best on weekends when the clubs are packed with a mixed crowd of Czechs and mostly European tourists. There are also literally hundreds of youth hostels and budget hotels of varying quality, most of which are very reasonably priced while Prague Castle is perhaps the main highlight in terms of things to see.

(Prague to Krakow Night Train: 8-10 hours)

4. Krakow

If you liked Prague, you’ll most likely enjoy Krakow. It’s another city with a fascinating history with a lively old quarter and a once thriving Jewish district which still intrigues and charts the troubled history of Jews in the city. A visit to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp is a harrowing daytrip that can be done by using your rail pass. At night the city has some crazy cellar bars and clubs which are great places to beat the cold Polish winters.

For more on Krakow check out our Backpacker’s Guide to Poland.

(Krakow to Budapest Night Train: 9-10 hours)

5. Budapest

The Hungarian capital on the Danube river has a distinctly different feel to it from other European cities. There is a definite Turkish influence and with such a vast history the city has certainly stuck to its traditions. Famous for its baths, stylish architecture and interesting nightlife, there is plenty to entertain visitors here. Cross over the river between Buda and Pest, the two ancient cities which combined to make the modern city which is here today. Climb to the top of the hills near the castle on the Buda side of the river to get some stunning views across this vast city.

(Budapest to Bratislava: 2 hour 30 mins)

6. Bratislava

Bratislava provides a taster into Eastern Europe and what life before the fall of Communism might have been like. Just an hour or so from Vienna but in many ways it still feels like a world away. The capital of Slovakia has a nice old town and castle and is perhaps at its best in December when the Christmas market comes to town. While relatively small the city has a growing reputation for lively bars and clubs.

(Bratislava to Vienna: 1 hour)

7. Vienna

Backpacking route for Central Europe

Vienna is a stylish city with fashionable residents. Austrians are easily among the friendliest people in Europe and don’t let the German accents fool you, Vienna is in many ways more like Milan than Munich or Berlin. Come on a nice day and you will see scores of Viennese out drinking beer in the sun and the city’s colourful streets have a more relaxed feel than most European capitals.

(Vienna to Munich: 4 hours 20 min)

8. Munich

Back in Germany and the southern city of Munich in Bavaria. This is the country’s cultural centre with an outrageous number of museums on everything from motors, theatre and art to Bavarian history. This is also home of the 200 year old Oktoberfest which sees millions of litres of beer drunk by the huge numbers of visitors who flock to Munich every autumn. The city is also home to Bayern Munich, one of the most successful football clubs in the world who play at the stunning Allianz Arena.

(Munich to Zurich: 4 hours)

9. Zurich

A trip to Zurich is worth it just to see some of the stunning Swiss scenery you pass on the train in and it’s certainly worth looking to book a train during daylight hours either side of your visit.

It is the largest city in Switzerland but still has some small town charm to it. It is a city of churches, lakes and gardens but there are also plenty of lively shopping streets and a larger concentration of nightclubs than any other city in Europe. The city is known as a gateway to the Alps and it’s a short hop on the train to nearby ski resorts.

(Zurich to Paris: 4 hours 30 mins)

10. Paris

backpacking route France

View from Sacré-Cœur, CC BY-ND 2.0

Paris is the most visited city on the planet and although its reputation as a romantic getaway and high prices make it more popular with couples and wealthy foreign tourists than backpackers, there can hardly be a better place to end a trip around Europe. From the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre and the Champs Elysées, Paris is a city full of world famous landmarks that keeps tourists snapping away for the duration of their stay in the French capital. Aside from the essential places to visit, there’s plenty of interesting and more wallet-friendly districts to eat, sleep and party in this beautifully artistic city.


Budget Accommodation in Europe

With the exception of Bratislava and maybe Zurich, there are at least 50 hostels to choose from in each of the cities along the route. Be careful to check the ratings and customer reviews online as you would be surprised how bad some of them are. Anything rated 80% or above should be fine. If you’re looking to party there are plenty of party hostels, especially in Amsterdam and Prague. You should be paying in the region of 10-15 Euros per night for a dorm bed. It will be a bit less in Prague, Krakow, Budapest and Bratislava but slightly more in Paris or Zurich.

Another good option in Europe is Airbnb, which often works out cheaper than staying in hostels or cheap hotels. Read our Airbnb review and get 30 Euros of free travel credit.


This page was last updated in January 2017.