In one of the more expensive European cities, traveling to Amsterdam on a budget can seem a bit overwhelming. Fear not! We’ve compiled a list of 25 things to do in Europe’s most liberal city that won’t break your wallet!
1.) Free Walking Tour
Check out Sandeman’s New Europe. They’re Amsterdam’s top rated free walking tour group. The tour meets at the national monument at Dam Square every day at times between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Make sure you register online to save a spot beforehand!
2.) Floating Flower Market
Bloemenmarkt can be found on the Singel Canal, and is the only floating flower market in the world! Here you’ll find flowers, seeds, and some of the best aromas of your life. Forget roses — smell the world-famous tulips Holland is known for!
This secret courtyard can be found by opening the heavy wooden door in the city center (off of Spui). Here you’ll also find Amsterdam’s oldest house, dating back to 1475. It’s a nice escape to the bustling city life that surrounds it (and a hidden gem!)
We LOVE Vondelpark! As Amsterdam’s most popular park, Vondelpark is a must-see on any Amsterdam trip. It’s only a couple minutes walk from the Rijksmuseum, and is a great place for a bike ride or to just sit and enjoy the nature (I mean come on, who wouldn’t be completely at peace in this gazebo surrounded by tulips?!).
5.) Have A Drink With A View
Located right next to Bloemenmarkt and Begijnhof, Blue Amsterdam is a great bar that will give you a panoramic view of Amsterdam from above. More of a foodie? Then check out Skylounge at the Doubletree Hotel. This spot offers some more amazing views of the city, however budget traveler’s beware: the cheapest drink on the menu is a Heineken at 5 EUR.
Cost: 5 Euros – $$$
6.) Take a pic at the I Amsterdam sign.
You’ll find this world famous sign right behind the Rijksmuseum, and a picture with it should be on every Amsterdam traveler’s list (basic, but we couldn’t leave Amsterdam without one!) We recommend going early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds, as it can get pretty packed midday.
7.) Cat Boat ( Poezenboot )
This is one of those things that we found out after the fact (sad face): ), so we didn’t get a chance to visit. If you’re missing a furry friend back home, this is the purrr-fect way to get your fill of kitty cuddles. The Poezenboot is a refuge for stray and abandoned cats. It’s free to visitors, but donations are welcome to help supply the cats with food, toys, and shelter.
Cost: Free – $ (Based upon donation, we recommend 1-5 Euros)
8.) King’s Day (April 27th)
Okay, so more of a time to go than a thing to do. BUT if you will be in Europe around this time, we think it’s worth planning to go on April 27th. This is King Willem-Alexander’s birthday–and Amsterdam essentially just turns into one big party on this day. Every. Single. Year. People get the day off, everyone wear’s orange, and the streets are full of those celebrating the King’s birthday. Prepare for it to be BUSY (and get a little cray-cray). 250,000 people arrive by train on King’s Day to celebrate, so it may be best to arrive the night before. Plus, then you get to celebrate King’s Night, held the night before King’s Day every year!
Cost: Free to attend
9.) Bridge Of 15 Bridges
On the corner of Herengracht as you cross the Reguliersgracht, you’ll be able to see 14 bridges (15 if you count the one you’re standing on). You’ll see 6 bridges along Reguliersgracht, 6 over the Herengracht (on your left), and two more to your right. Thorbeckeplein will be behind you. Here’s the address so you can put it into Google maps or your GPS (I use the app CityMaps2Go):
10.) Red Light District
The historic red light district is a shining example of Amsterdam’s liberal attitude. Prostitution is legal in The Netherlands, but not on the streets, hence the half-naked women (or men) standing in the full-length windows in the Red Light District. Here you’ll also find sex clubs, sex theaters, sex shops and even a sex museum (see number 11 on our list).
For those wanting to experience Amsterdam’s sex scene without fully participating in the um, activities, head over to the infamous Moulin Rouge. This sex theater is set up with seats close to the stage and a full bar. They average about 4 shows an hour, and each show has a focus on different props (bananas, ribbons, strip teases with feathers, live sex, etc.) Despite the sleaziness of it, this club manages to keep it classy. The audience is a mix of young backpackers, couples, and guys and girls of all ages.
Whether or not you choose to engage in the plethora of sex-fueled festivities available in this district is up to you, but it is definitely worth a walk-through to experience a big part of what makes Amsterdam, well, Amsterdam. We recommend walking around the area around 11p.m., when all the action takes place (don’t worry, despite its’ bad rep for being a dangerous part of the city, the red light district is actually just as safe as the rest of Amsterdam).
Cost: Free (to explore) – $$$
Located in the Red Light District, walk through this risqué museum and discover the history of sex. For only 4 EUR, you can see ancient, erotic works of art that walk you through the history of sex. From the sexually open Roman Empire, to the Spanish chastity belt used up until the 16th century, sex is compared across cultures and centuries.
Cost: 4 Euros
12.) Rijksmuseum garden
A must-see in the spring and summer when it’s covered with a carpet of red and purple tulips, this free garden can be found right outside of the famous Rijksmuseum. Despite the fences surrounding it, entrance into the garden is free. It’s a great place to sit and sip a cup of coffee, relax, and people watch.
13.) EYE Filmmuseum
Remodeled in 2012, the new contemporary building looks out over the IJ harbor, giving way to some of the most spectacular views in Amsterdam. Admission into the building is free, however if you want to see a screening or exhibition tickets are 10-13 Euros. Head up to the bar/restaurant from some of the best panoramic views of the harbor!
Cost: Free – 13 Euros
14.) Cannabis College
The Cannabis College offers education to the public about the many uses of cannabis. From recreational and medical use, to the many industrial uses of hemp, you’re sure to leave knowing a lot more about this ancient plant than ever before. Walk through their Cannabis garden and learn about the various growing techniques, or learn how to spot dangerous chemicals that can be sprayed on the plant. Cannabis users and non-users alike are welcome to come learn about this controversial plant, as educators aim to sort fact from fiction.
Cost: Free – $ (based upon donations, we recommend 1-5 Euros)
15.) Chinatown (and the Buddhist Temple)
Head to Chinatown to see the largest Chinese-style Buddhist temple in Europe: Fo Guang Shan He Hua. Known to the locals as the Zeedijk Buddhist Temple, this structure can be found off of Zeedijk Street in the midst of Asian restaurants, bars and shops. Chinatown is located just outside of the Red Light District.
16.) Gay Pride Canal Parade (late July – early August)
This celebration for gay, lesbian, and transgender equality is held towards the end of summer every year. The parade is the highlight of Amsterdam’s Gay Pride weekend, with 80 pimped-out boats floating down the Prinsengracht. This is the second biggest celebration in Amsterdam, with King’s Day being the biggest. Click here to find out the exact dates of the city’s next Gay Pride Festival. Aside from the parade, there are live performances in Dam square Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and various street parties held throughout the city.
17.) Search For Street Art at NDSM-Werf
Hop aboard the free ferry behind Central Station (runs every 30 minutes) and head over to NDSM-Werf on the north part of Amsterdam. this abandoned shipyard was transformed into an avant-garde arts community. Check out the street art, ranging from graffiti to giant junk-sculptures, and possibly get a behind-the-scenes glance at photoshoots or video sets that regularly occur here.
18.) Visit Amsterdam’s First Coffeeshop.
The Bulldog coffeeshop gave birth to the marijuana culture in Amsterdam. Established in 1974 at house no. 90 as a safe place to smoke a joint, the coffeeshop was soon discovered by tourists and became one of the top stoner destinations in Europe. This coffeeshop was raided multiple times per day during its early years before Amsterdam became the marijuana-tolerant city it is today.
Now, there are multiple Bulldog’s around Amsterdam. Be sure to stop by the original one, located at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 90, to learn about the history of this joint (pun intended) and discover the many cannabis hiding spots used back in the day during the police raids. Be sure to sit back, roll one up, and enjoy a toke in Amsterdam’s First Coffeeshop.
Cost: Free-$$ (Entrance is free, but coffee, tea, and marijuana can be purchased here).
19.) Visit The Albert Cuyp Markt
Amsterdam is a city of bustling markets, but the largest and most famous by far is the Albert Cuypmarkt. This daily street market offers over 300 vendors selling anything from fresh seafood and fruit to jewelry and clothes. Located in the De Pijp Neighborhood, the market is right next to the Heineken Experience and just a 10 minute walk from the Rijksmuseum. It’s a great place to walk around, even for those who have no intention of purchasing anything there’s always something new to see at the Albert Cuypmarkt.
Cost: Free-$ (Entrance is free, goods vary in price)
20.) Visit The Amsterdam Light Festival
From December through January, the Amsterdam Light Festival lights up the city every night. Events such as free walking tours, boat tours, and a shopping night provide fun for locals and travelers alike. You’ll see international light sculptures in the water (yes, IN the water!!), on buildings, and hanging in the air. There’s not a more magical time of year to explore Amsterdam!
Cost: Free-$ (walking tours are free, boat tours cost money).
21.) Waterlooplein Flea Market
This flea market is a great place to find vintage secondhand clothing, leather goods, shoes, art, books, and antiques. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30-6p.m. It’s a great place to browse, even if you have no intention of buying anything.
Cost: Free-$$ (Entrance is free, goods vary in price)
22.) Muziektheater on Tuesdays
Every Tuesday from September through May, head over to Waterloo Square to see a free 30-minute lunch concert. From 12:30-1:00p.m., you can enjoy your meal while watching musicians perform outside of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet.
23.) Amsterdamse Bos
The Amsterdam Forest is a man-made park with pools, walking and biking trails, and a river. The park is a 20 minute bike ride form Museumplein. Perhaps the highlight of the “forest” is its petting zoo, with pigs, cows, horses, goats, sheep, and chickens. Families and animal lovers alike will have fun at the petting zoo, and nature lovers will find solace kayaking the river and exploring the various trails throughout the park.
Attracting over 450,000 visitors each year, the Uitmarkt presents performances by over 300 artists across 30 stages, and marks the beginning of the cultural season in Amsterdam. From jazz to hip-hop, classical to dance, this cultural festival is held the last weekend of August every year and provides fun for every kind of traveler.
25.) Free Open Air Theatre at Vondelpark In The Summer
Every summer from June to August, the Vondelpark Open Air Theatrepresents jazz, dance, and stand-up comedy performances. These events are free to the public and are held every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Cost: Free-$ (entrance is free, but donations are appreciated)
Have you been to Amsterdam before? Want to add something to the list? Post a comment in the comments section below! (:
– Sara + Pat
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