Amsterdam may be one of Europe’s greatest culture capitals, but it hardly has a reputation for being budget-friendly. Yet while shelling out money for dinners and drinks here can quickly add up, couples, families and adventurers are often pleasantly surprised to discover the sheer number of completely gratis Amsterdam attractions.
From world-class art and museums to jazz concerts and high design, there’s plenty to see and do in the Dutch capital that doesn’t require spending a cent.
Check Out Historic Architecture
A quiet oasis situated in the heart of the city, the Begijnhof consists of a cluster of traditional Dutch houses, some of which date back to the 14th century. Pause to admire the 17th- and 18th-century facades or simply bask in the serenity of the tranquil courtyard.
One of the houses here is the oldest surviving example of its kind in the entire city, and the chapel contains a small, but interesting, collection of oil paintings.
Ride the Ferry over to Noord
In recent years, the previously industrial area of Noord has morphed into one of the city’s most happening neighborhoods, as artists, hipsters and other creative types have migrated over en masse.
Enjoy the scenery on a free, five-minute ferry ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station across the IJ River to Buiksloterweg. Travelers hoping for a longer voyage should instead cruise over to NDSM Wharf, a graffiti-covered former shipyard that has become one of the city’s coolest cultural hubs, dotted with restaurants, bars and even a skate park.
See Live Jazz and Classical Music Concerts
The monthly complimentary concerts at the Muziekgebouw deserve a permanent place on any aficionado’s calendar, both because the performers tend to be of the highest caliber and because the setting — an architectural masterpiece with massive windows overlooking the IJ River — is spectacular.
Gallery Hop All Day Long
The Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum may be the city’s most famous art showcases, but they’re hardly the only places to view world-class paintings. Amsterdam’s vibrant creative scene has spawned a number of ambitious galleries with exceptionally curated collections.
Stroll around Prinsengracht and the atmospheric surrounding streets to see works by widely acclaimed local and international artists at galleries such as Galerie Ron Mandos, Annet Gelink Gallery and Torch. Multilingual curators are generally more than happy to chat about the concepts and artists behind each exhibition.
Go on a Walking Tour
Amsterdam’s labyrinth of cobblestone streets and canals is somewhat daunting to explore for the first time. Rather than spend hours getting lost, let a knowledgeable local regale you with tales from the city’s history while showing you the sights. Sandemans New Amsterdam Free Walking Tours are enormously popular, and with good reason.
Savvy, personable guides cover the basics while sprinkling in plenty of entertaining anecdotes on these daily walkabouts. For something a bit more off the beaten path, try the Free Original Amsterdam Alternative Tour, a three-hour amble that will take you past street murals, former squats and all sorts of hidden corners for an insightful overview of the city’s quirkier side.
Though there’s no charge for either tour, guides are always appreciative of tips.