Open-hearted, welcoming, and prosperous, Amsterdam is a good-time city that merrily opens its arms to all comers. The name Amsterdam is derived from the city’s origins: it grew around a dam in the river Amstel. However, the city may actually have been named after a dike built years earlier. It embraces its tourists, its cyclists, its boat-folk, and its multicultural community. It is friendly, unflappable, and approachable; a city confident in its own skin but with one eye fixed on the future, buzzing with creativity and bonhomie. But it is also a city of surreal juxtapositions; an elegant city scape of 165 waterways, 1,280 bridges, and thousands of venerable 17th-century mansions exist side by side with the sleazy alleyways of the Red Light District. The city’s allure resides in the classically charming townhouses lining picture-perfect canals as much as it does in Amsterdam’s grubby coffee shops, bustling public markets and intense street culture.

If you are visiting Amsterdam and want to balance the price of your stay with some free activities, don’t worry! There are plenty things in the city to keep you busy. From visiting parks to admiring architecture, it might be easier than you think to get a real taste of Amsterdam on a budget. Here is a list of seven of the best free things to do, when in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam has some of the most stunning modern architecture in Northern Europe. Take full advantage of it while you are visiting, especially because it does not cost anything to take a look. The EYE Film Institute, in Amsterdam Noord, is an almost bird-like structure hovering near the IJ (which you can cross on a ferry for free, leaving from behind Central Station). Or check out NEMO, a science museum in Oosterdok, which looks like a docked boat at the end of the winding white bridge. NEMO was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The Van Gogh Museum exhibition wing is another great design, this time by the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Its round shape in the Museumplein makes for a striking contrast with the old Rijksmuseum’s building.


Wandering along the canals is perhaps the most quintessential Dutch experience and should not be passed up, not only because it is free. The canals run through some great neighbourhoods, like De Pijp, the Jordaan, and the Negen Straatjes (Nine Little Streets). While you are walking around, go bridge spotting. Stand at the odd-numbered corner of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht Canal to see 7 bridges at one time. Also fun while walking the canals is spotting the narrowest houses in Amsterdam (and the world!). Among the many narrow houses, you might think you have found the narrowest until you get to Singel 7, which is only a meter wide!


The markets of Amsterdam are a great way to get to know the city, even if you are not shopping for anything. The largest and most famous outdoor market in the Netherlands is the Albert Cuypmarkt located in De Pijp neighborhood in Amsterdam. You would not have a hard time finding something interesting to see or eat from among the 260 stands. Another popular (and free!) Amsterdam market is the Flower Market located on the Singel Canal. Tulips are considered the Dutchest flower, so there are plenty of beauties here to choose from or admire.


One of the tourists’ favorite things to do in Amsterdam city in the summer is to head to the parks or the other outdoor spaces. The biggest, most centrally located park in Amsterdam is the Vondelpark. If it is a rare sunny day you can be sure that this place will be full of Dutch eager to soak up some of the fleeting sun. During the summer the open air theatre hosts musical and theatrical performances with a free entrance. There is also a rose garden to wander through when the weather is warm. If you are looking for an even bigger open space, head south of Amsterdam to Amsterdamse Bos (or the Amsterdam Forest). This enormous park is crossed with walking and cycling paths and perfect spots for picnics. There is also a petting zoo for the kids.


Step into the Begijnhof to enjoy the tranquility of Amsterdam’s secret courtyard. Located near Spui, this enchanting place was once a Béguinage, a collection of houses used by Beguines, Catholic women who lived in semi-monastic conditions but did not take religious vows. Now the courtyard is one of the top free things to do in Amsterdam. Here you can walk around the quiet courtyard looking at the quaint houses where the women used to live. Especially interesting is number 34, a beautiful wooden house from about 1528.

After walking, an amazing free activity in any city is taking in the views. In Amsterdam you can head to the public library, OBA, near the Central Station and up the stairs to the cozy cafe. You do not need to buy a coffee to take in the view over the center of the city. At the library another free activity is curling up with an international newspaper on a comfortable chair.


The only way to see something of Amsterdam in the form of a pub crawl is with an organized tour. The concept behind the pub crawls is that people should be able to explore Amsterdam on their own but might get ‘lost’ with all the possibilities. With that in mind a platform was created to notify about and publish the most renowned places in the form of pub crawls. Therefore these pub crawls are not designed to make you drunk but rather to enjoy the wide variety of pubs available in the city. And also, they are free of cost!

Amsterdammers are all too busy revitalizing rundown areas like the Jordaan, filling it with offbeat art galleries and cool hotels or redeveloping the derelict harbor waterfront along the IJ waterway into a shiny, futuristic city that is light years away from the refined spirit of the Golden Age. Between dips into Amsterdam’s artistic and historical treasures, be sure to give yourself time out to absorb the freewheeling spirit of Europe’s most vibrant city.

Travart is an international travel and exploration company found on creating only the best experiences for the traveler of today which organizes the epic trips worldwide for young travelers. For more information, log on to www.travart.org

Ameya Sharma/ Travart Blogs

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