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 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
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
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
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.
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.