Check out our list of the top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam featuring some of the weirdest and most wonderful sights of the Dutch capital. While it is a relatively expensive place to visit, like many big cities in Western Europe, you might be surprised just how much you can get up to, without spending a single cent.
by Jade Waddy
What can you do in Amsterdam for free?
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 Venice and they are over 400 years old. Not much has changed in those 400 years and the beauty of these rivers remains. There are 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 Albert Cuypmarkt 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 experience Amsterdam’s 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 is certainly one of the best free things to do in Amsterdam. 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 its 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. Museums in Amsterdam – Civic Guards Gallery
If you want to get away from all the usual touristy attractions then you can always head on over to the Amsterdam museum, which has a free section – the Civic Guards Gallery. You can find in it several interesting and thought provoking 17th century artworks and you can find this magical place at Kalverstraat 92.
7. Free Concerts Amsterdam
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 often 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 Amsterdam’s pubs and bars are home to great live music, from jazz to soul and funk.
8. Take A Sneak Peak of The Condomerie
What is this place, I hear you cry? This amazing place is the city’s first specialist condom shop. It has been open since 1987 and is one of Amsterdam’s strangest tourist attractions. 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.
9. Ferry Rides Behind Centraal Station
This is a fantastic scheme run behind the world famous Centraal Station – from where you can start our Central Europe interrail itinerary. 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. 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. 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?
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 travel website for those looking to book different types of group trips.
This article was last updated in May 2020.