What to Do for Free in Amsterdam

This post will include a variety of free things to do in Amsterdam, including a Top 10 list. We also cover free things to do at night as well as free, family-friendly activities. 

 

 


TOP 10 FREE THINGS TO DO

In the following section, we will provide a list of the ten most popular things you can do for free in Amsterdam. 

If you’re looking to save some money on popular attractions in the area, make sure to read our post comparing each Amsterdam tourist pass.

Visitors who are looking to learn more about the city might want to consider going on a pay-what-you-want walking tour.


1) Visit the Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)

The Amsterdam Flower Market is unlike any other in the world, because it’s actually a floating marketplace.

No matter what time of year you choose to visit, this interesting market will always remain wonderfully fragrant.

 

 

 

During the holidays, you’ll even find Christmas trees and other festive plants on sale here.

Although you don’t need to purchase anything to enjoy this location, you may want to bring at least a few euros to get some flowers or souvenirs while you’re in the area.

The Amsterdam Flower Market can be found on the Singel Canal between the Muntplein and the Koningsplein (map).

It is open Mondays to Saturdays, 9 am – 5:30 pm and  Sundays, 11:30 am – 5:30 pm.


2) Enjoy a Live Music Performance

There are a lot of great venues to enjoy live music in Amsterdam, but most of them will charge a fee for admission. If you’re looking to save some money, consider one of the following options.

 

Lunchtime Concerts

Free Jazz Sessions

If the jam session at Bimhuis sounds nice, it’s worth noting that there are several other locations where you can enjoy some live Jazz for free in Amsterdam.


3) Take a Ride on the Ferry

There are a few different ferry routes available in Amsterdam and they are all free to take. If you’re trying to save some money, this is an excellent alternative to going on a cruise.

Each of these routes will take you across the river IJ, allowing you to get from one side of the city to another.

 

 

All you have to do is walk right up and step aboard the ferry when it arrives. For more details about the various ferries available and when they arrive, check the Amsterdam Ferry Route Map.


4) Visit the Begijnhof Courtyard

This historic 14th-century courtyard is located in the heart of Amsterdam near Spui square.

Despite its location, this hidden gem is usually a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Begijnhof was once inhabited by a group of religious women who took a vow of chastity. Today, a small chapel remains for an English Reformed church.

While the garden is free to visit, it is only open during the day.

If you’re looking for a place to catch your breath and relax for a few minutes, this is an excellent place to take a break while touring Amsterdam.


5) See the Civic Guards Gallery

If you’re planning to take a break at Begijnhof, it’s worth noting that this wonderful gallery is located just a few steps away at the Amsterdam Museum.

 

While you’ll have to pay for admission to the entire museum, the Civic Guard Gallery is a small walkway full of historic attractions that you can visit for free.

This isn’t a very large exhibit, but there are some pretty interesting paintings to see along with a wooden sculpture of David and Goliath.

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: 10 am – 5 pm
  • Closed on Jan 1st, Apr 30th & Dec 25th

TIP: Admission to the Amsterdam Museum is included with more than one Amsterdam tourist pass.


6) Visit the Rijksmuseum Garden

Much like the Amsterdam Museum, the Rijksmuseum also offers an area that visitors can enjoy for free.

Their beautiful garden is open to all guests throughout the day, regardless of whether or not they have a ticket.

 

This outdoor gallery includes wonderful flowerbeds, fountains, summerhouses, a playground for children and an exhibition with works by Henry Moore.

Even if you just want somewhere fun to take your kids, this is an excellent option.

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: 9 am – 6 pm
  • Available every day of the year

NOTE: There is a hop-on-hop-off bus stop at the Rijksmuseum. It’s worth noting that you can get both admission to this museum and a bus tour ticket with more than one Amsterdam tourist pass.


7) Go to a Street Market

There are several interesting street markets in Amsterdam, and they’re all free to visit.

You might want to bring some money along on the off chance that you find something you can’t live without, but it isn’t required.

 

 

The Albert Cuyp Market is often credited with providing a “real” look at Amsterdam. Not only is it the largest and most famous street market in the city, but there is often an incredible atmosphere of humor and fun in the area.

This marketplace can be found just one block North from the City Park.

Alternatively, you may also want to consider going to the Waterlooplein Market, which is the oldest flea market in the city.

If you’re looking for something unique to bring home as a souvenir, this might be the best place to find interesting trinkets in Amsterdam. You’ll find this flea market sandwiched between the Rembrandt House Museum and the National Opera House.


8) Enjoy a Panoramic View of Amsterdam

If you’re looking for a great view of this city, there are a few places you can visit for free. All you have to do is show up and make your way to the panorama at each of the following locations.

 

 

The NEMO Science Centre 

Although you’ll need tickets to enter the museum, it’s entirely free to head up to their Panorama terrace.

This viewing platform is 22m high and it can be reached by climbing the steps on the eastern side of the building.

Amsterdam Central Library 

Public libraries are always free to visit, and this one actually has a panorama terrace on the 7th floor.

You can actually see the NEMO Science Centre from here, as well as a great view of the South side of Amsterdam.

NOTE: Admission to the NEMO Science Centre is included with several Amsterdam tourist passes.


9) Take a Walk Through Historic Areas

There are a lot of great districts to walk through in Amsterdam. Two of the most interesting locations are the Canal Belt and Chinatown.

 

 

Built in the 17th century, the Canal Belt is focused around the old city center. This is where you will find a lot of beautiful Canal Houses with historic architecture from throughout the centuries.

If you want to get a feel for what Amsterdam used to look like, this is an excellent place to visit.

On the other hand, you could also head to Chinatown and enjoy the Asian culture of Amsterdam.

Located near both the Nieuwmarkt marketplace and the Red Light District, it’s easy to stop by and see this area while on your way to one of many other historic sites in the city.

This is also where you will find the Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple – the largest Buddhist temple in all of Europe.

TIP: Some of these sites are included on our self-guided tour of the Red Light District.


10) Consider Getting an All-Inclusive Tourist Pass

An all-inclusive pass allows you to enjoy as many attractions, tours, and experiences as you can within a set number of days for one set price.

Although these passes are not free, you can save enough money that some of your activities won’t cost you a dime.

Below this video, we’ll show you how buying a pass actually gets you free admission to many attractions. 

 

 

Using the 3-Day All-Inclusive Amsterdam Pass, which costs €104, we show you how after the second day, you get an entire day’s worth of free activities. 

Here is a sample 3-day itinerary with some of the most popular Amsterdam attractions. Next to each activity is the regular admission price for an adult.

Day 1

  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour | €26
  • Rijksmuseum | €17.50
  • Rembrandt House Museum | €13
  • Heineken Experience | €21
  • Total Cost for Day 1  –  €77.50

Day 2

  • Hop-on-Hop-off Boat Tour | €26
  • A’DAM Lookout | €13.50
  • This is Holland | €16.50
  • National Maritime Museum | €16
  • Total Cost for Day 2 – €72.00

Day 3

  • Everything is free!

When you do the math, you see that by the time you get halfway through Day 2, you’ve already spent more than the cost of the pass, which is €104. After that point, everything else you use the pass for will cost you nothing! It’s like getting dozens of activities for free! 

If you want to learn more, check our very detailed post that compares all the Amsterdam tourist pass


Honorable Mentions:

Take the Gassan Diamonds Tour

Amsterdam is colloquially known as the City of Diamonds, so it figures that this is also the home of the Gassan Diamond Company.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about these precious stones, they offer a free guided tour of the factory every day of the week.

Discover the actual history of diamonds in Amsterdam with the help of a professional guide. Tours run from 9 am – 5 pm and they are available in over 20 different languages.

NOTE: The Gassan Diamond Factory is just a few blocks from the Rembrandt House Museum and the Waterlooplein Market. If you’re planning to be in the area, this could be a fun activity.


Check Out the City Archives

If you’re interested in learning about the history of Amsterdam, consider visiting the City Archives. This location is free to visit and there are a lot of interesting things to see and experience.

In addition to all of the historical documents they have on hand, there are also special exhibits to see and a bunch of visual material available.

TIP: Visitors with an I Amsterdam City Card can enjoy their temporary exhibits for free.


Go to Cannabis College

Looking to learn more about marijuana? If so, head to Cannabis College in the Red Light District. Although it’s not technically a school, this is a great place to learn about the subject and see an actual indoor Cannabis garden.

This location is entirely free to visit, but they do request a small donation from guests who want to help them provide free and factual information about this wonderful plant and its many uses.

TIP: If you’re planning to take a Red Light District tour, it’s worth noting that this location is only a few blocks from many of the sites you will likely visit. Consider dropping in either before or after your tour. 


See Street Art at NDSM-werf

There is a lot of wonderful street art all over Amsterdam, but NDSM-werf (map) is one of the best places to find some excellent murals. All you have to do is hop on the free ferry to NDSM and take a walk around. If you want to see some of the best examples, head to the following locations:

  • De Tanker (abandoned gas station)
  • Pllek (restaurant)
  • IJ-Hallen (flea market)
  • Viacom Building

 


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FREE FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

In this section, we will cover a variety of fun things you can do with your family without having to spend any money. If you’re looking for more ideas, make sure to check our other sections for activities such as enjoying a panorama of Amsterdam, visiting the Rijksmuseum Garden, going to the Floating Flower Market, checking out the EYE Filmmuseum and more.

In addition to all of these attractions, you may also want to consider taking a pay-what-you-wish tour with your kids. This is a great way to learn about the city and there are some family-friendly options. 


See the Catboat

Yes, there is actually a boat full of real living cats in Amsterdam. The Catboat is actually an animal sanctuary on a houseboat in the historic Canal Belt. Most cats hate water, but these felines are perfectly fine with living on this boat.

Entrance is entirely free, but they do appreciate donations whenever possible. You can either come and see the cats from afar or meet them up close.


Visit the Max Euwe Centre

This museum pays homage to the world chess champion from the Netherlands: Professor Max Euwe. In addition to offering several great exhibits and a library with advice on playing the game, you can also play chess against computers, take a guided tour, or check out their giant chess board. The best part about this attraction is that admission is entirely free for all visitors!

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: 12 pm – 4 pm
  • Dates: Tuesday – Friday | First Saturday of the month

NOTE: The Max Euwe Centre is very close to the Rijksmuseum, which has a free garden and playground that would be great for kids.


Take a Walk at Vondelpark

There are a lot of public parks in Amsterdam, but Vondelpark is one of the most notable in the city. In addition to being located very close to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, this is also the site of several free concerts and performances throughout the year thanks to their open-air theatre and bandstand.

Even if you can’t make it to one of these events, you may still want to drop by to see a sculpture crafted by none other than Pablo Picasso. Known colloquially as “Picasso’s Fish Statue,” the artist actually intended this to be seen as a bird, which is fairly obvious if you take a look at the feet on the bottom of the structure. This is one of the most interesting and historic pieces of art in all of Amsterdam, and it’s entirely free to the public!

NOTE: Like many parks, there is a playground at Vondelpark where kids can come and play for free. Whether you’re looking for something to do before or after your trip to one of the nearby museums, this is an excellent location to visit while wandering around the city. 


Visit the Amsterdam Forest

If you want to take the kids on a more interesting excursion, there are quite a few fun activities you can enjoy with the family in Amsterdam Forest.

Goat Farm – Also known as Ridammerhoeve, this biodynamic farm is free to visit and take a look around. You can also buy products such as goats milk ice cream from the farm if you wish!

Forest Gnome Trail – This is a fun walking trail designed for kids from 3-6 years of age. While you don’t have to pay anything to walk the trail, they do offer English assignments and a “Forest Gnome Package” for a small fee.

Swimming Pools – There are two free swimming areas for toddlers and young children. These are very shallow pools of water, so your kids should be perfectly safe wading around and having fun on a hot summer day.

Visitors’ Centre – There are a lot of great things to see and do at this location, including an interactive exhibition on wildlife and nature.

These are just a few of the things you can do for free, but there are several additional activities that are either very affordable or won’t cost you a thing. For more details, make sure to visit the Amsterdam Forest website for more fun and family-friendly attractions.


See the Mouse Mansion

In addition to their free panorama on the 7th floor, the Amsterdam Central Library also has a great little display known as the Mouse Mansion. This incredible creation was designed for a set of children’s books about two mouse friends known as Sam and Julia.

This children’s book series is actually being transformed into a television show, so it’s safe to say that it has become a pretty big hit. At two meters wide and three meters high, there are over 100 different rooms, hallways, shops, and even factories to see in the Mouse Mansion.

This wonderful artwork is free to see every day of the week at the Amsterdam Central Library, and it’s sure to be a hit with your children. That said, it’s worth noting that there is also a Mouse Mansion Shop & Studio where you can see even more rooms designed for the books. This store is focused on the book series and there are a lot of souvenirs for fans.


Go to a Playground

We’ve already mentioned a few playgrounds you can visit for free at the Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark, but there are several other play areas that your kids can enjoy in Amsterdam.

These are just a few of the playgrounds you can visit in Amsterdam, but there are several locations like this throughout the city. While there may be some events and attractions at a playground that require an additional fee, there is usually at least one play area where kids can have fun for free.


Head to Tony’s Chocolonely Superstore

Most kids love chocolate, and Tony’s Chocolonely develops one of the finest candy bars in the whole world. On top of being absolutely delicious, they also guarantee that all of their products were made 100% slave free.

Their main store is located in the heart of Amsterdam, and they sell several different varieties of candy. In addition to all of the things you can purchase at their store, they also provide free samples for anyone who wants to try before they buy. Who could say no to free chocolate?

NOTE: This store is just down the road from Madame Tussauds. If you’re interested in visiting this beloved wax museum, it’s worth noting that admission is included with some Amsterdam tourist passes


Go to a Children’s Farm

In addition to the Goat Farm located at Amsterdam Forest, there is also a petting zoo known as De Dierencapel where you can take your kids to interact with and learn more about a variety of farm animals. 

Although you can purchase things like soft drinks, ice cream, and other treats, you aren’t required to spend anything while at De Dierencapel. This children’s farm is entirely free to visit, but they do accept donations.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

This section will cover some of the more interesting activities you can enjoy for free after dark in Amsterdam. Don’t forget to check our other sections for more ideas such as live music performances, talking a walk through historic areas and enjoying a panorama of Amsterdam.

If you’re looking for fun nighttime activities, keep in mind that many of the attractions included with Amsterdam tourist passes are open after dark. 


Check Out the Red Light District

There are a lot of interesting things to see in the world famous Red Light District. In addition to all of the historic sites, there are also some museums covering the history of sex workers and other subjects. If you want to learn even more, you can visit the Prostitute Information Centre for additional details.

For the most extensive experience, we recommend taking our self-guided tour of the Red Light District. This trip will take you to 9 of the most significant sites in and around the area. You can also take a professionally guided Red Light District tour for a small fee.

TIP: There is a free Red Light District tour included with both the Holland Pass and the Amsterdam Pass.


Walk the Canals

Amsterdam is made up of several canals, so it’s kinda hard to miss them. This is one of the reasons that the city is so unique and fun to visit. While it can be interesting to see them during the day, some would say that the experience is even better after dark.

Several bridges are lit up after dark, providing a beautiful sightseeing opportunity at night. As the light hits the nearby water, the canals create a wonderful reflection that is quite romantic.

One of the most fantastic examples is the Magere Brug, otherwise known as the Skinny Bridge. This location is very popular with couples and budding photographers.

The best part about walking the canals after the sun goes down? It’s entirely free to enjoy!


Go to the EYE Filmmuseum

If you’re looking for somewhere specific to visit at night, it’s worth noting that the EYE Filmmuseum is open until 10 pm weekdays and even later on the weekends. You can use the ferry to get here, so you won’t even have to pay for transportation to and from the museum.

Although they do charge a fee for film tickets and some exhibitions, admission to the building is entirely free and they offer a permanent exhibit which won’t cost a thing to enjoy. Their free exhibit focuses on the history of film which features several notable artifacts related to movies and filmmaking.

NOTE: Tickets for the EYE Filmmuseum and the nearby A’DAM Lookout are included for free with various Amsterdam tourist passes.


Take Part in Friday Night Skate

Since 1997, there has been a group of skaters in Amsterdam celebrating their favorite activity every Friday night. To this day, visitors are welcome to join in and skate alongside everyone else at Vondelpark nest to the entrance of Roemer Visscherstraat.

The group skate begins at 8:30 pm, so it’s a great nighttime activity. The only caveat is that you have to supply your own skates for the outing. Make sure to bring roller skates with you if you’re planning to do this while visiting the city. You can find more information on their Facebook page.

NOTE: Don’t forget that there are several other fun things to see and do in Vondelpark. It’s also quite close to both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum!

 


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FREE SEASONAL EVENTS 

In this section, we will discuss a few of the more popular seasonal activities you can enjoy for free in Amsterdam. These events only take place during a specific time of the year, so you’ll have to keep that in mind before planning your trip.


Experience the Amsterdam Light Festival

If you can’t get enough of the well-lit bridges and canals during the rest of the year, the Amsterdam Light Festival will be an absolute must. Every year from the beginning of December until the end of January, this festival lights up several notable sites throughout the city. You will find lighting displays and exhibits near such locations as:

  • NEMO Science Museum
  • Maritime Museum
  • Museum Willet-Holthuysen
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Jewish History Museum
  • Anne Frank House
  • And more!

If you want some help finding all of the best lighting displays, there are tours available which will take you through the canals on a cruise to see the major sites. There are also walking and biking tours available for those who want a different experience.

Each display will be turned on from 5 pm – 11 pm every day, with the only exception being on New Year’s Eve, at which time the displays will be turned off at 8 pm.

For more details, see the Amsterdam Light Festival route map.

NOTE: Admission to many of the sites listed above is included for free with some Amsterdam tourist passes.


Celebrate King’s Day

Formerly known as Queen’s Day, this special celebration takes place every year at the end of April. There are a lot of great events to attend including a citywide street sale, face painting, games, parties, sporting events and more.

Most of the museums in the city are closed on this day, but there are a few that remain open including the following:

  • Anne Frank House
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Stedelijk Museum

No matter where you go in Amsterdam on King’s Day, chances are that you’ll see a lot of orange decorations. This is the traditional color worn by citizens who choose to celebrate the holiday, so you might even want to consider wearing something orange yourself!


Take Part in Uitmarkt Celebration

At the end of August every year, Amsterdam celebrates the beginning of their cultural year with an event known as Uitmarkt. During this holiday, there are typically several live performances to attend.

Over 400,000 people took part in the fun in 2018, enjoying a variety of music, dance, literature, theater, cabaret, exhibitions, and lectures. While the location for Uitmarkt might not always be the same, in years past it has been held at Oosterdok near sites such as the NEMO Science Museum and the Maritime Museum.

No matter what type of entertainment interests you, chances are that you will find something to see or do during this event. For more details, make sure to visit the Uitmarkt website.


See a Show at Vondelpark’s Open Air Theatre

If you’re visiting Amsterdam during the summer, you should consider heading to Vondelpark. Not only are there a lot of great things to see and do in the area (Friday Night Skate, Picasso’s Fish Sculpture), but from May through September, there is a series of great shows held at the open-air theatre in the park.

On Friday nights, you can expect to see contemporary/modern dance performances. Saturday afternoons include theatrical performances by and for children, while the evenings are all about stand-up comedy and music. On Sunday morning, there are a variety of different classical performances.

No matter what you’re interested in seeing, chances are there will be a show for you to enjoy on summer weekends at the Vondelpark Open Air Theatre. The best part is that all of these performances are entirely free to attend!


Attend the Gay Pride Parade

When it comes to the LGBTQ community, few cities celebrate like Amsterdam. At the end of July, there is a gigantic event in honor of gay pride featuring a parade, street parties, circuit parties and more. The main Gay Pride Parade takes place in the Unesco Canals over the last weekend of the month.

The event starts at about noon and lasts all day, with several boats carrying festive groups through the city like floats on a street. This is one of the busiest weekends of the year in Amsterdam, so you should probably prepare for large crowds and full hotels if you’re planning to visit during the Gay Pride Parade.


Celebrate Christmas in Amsterdam

Aside from the Amsterdam Light Festival, there are several other fun activities you can enjoy during the holidays. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider:

Christmas Markets – There are a lot of great street markets throughout Amsterdam, but you’ll find even more of them during the holidays. This is a great opportunity to do some Christmas shopping, but you don’t necessarily have to purchase anything.

Sing Christmas Carols – During the holiday season, churches in Amsterdam often hold events where everyone is invited to come and sing Christmas carols. Head to Vondelkerk or Sint Nicolaaskerk for the best opportunities.

Christmas Tree Lighting – At the beginning of December, Amsterdam lights up a beautiful and gigantic Christmas tree in Dam Square, just across the street from the Royal Palace. After the tree lighting ceremony, carolers will sing classic Christmas songs and there will be festive food for sale in the area.

Check our post Things to Do in Amsterdam in December for information on these free activities as well as other events, some free and some with a fee.

 


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