amsterdam canal

Visiting Amsterdam for the first time? There are several free things to do in Amsterdam if you are travelling on a budget. Known as the capital city of The Netherlands, Amsterdam is one of the top financial centers in Europe. It is also known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and beautiful but narrow houses.

From quaint canals, awesome Dutch food to lively nightlife, it is one city that should be on your itinerary when travelling Europe. We’ve put together the top free things to do in Amsterdam to include on your Amsterdam itinerary.

1. Visit the floating flower market


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The Netherlands is known for its flowers, tulips being the most popular one that they even have a tulip festival. This floating flower market in Amsterdam is the only floating flower market in the world.  You will find all sorts of tulips, narcissus, geraniums and many other types of flowers in this market. Located on the Singel Canal, the fantastic displays of flowers at this floating flower market is beautiful to behold and of the best free things to do in Amsterdam. 

Source: Jewel of Tripsionista 

2. Take a selfie with I Amsterdam sign


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Embrace your tourist side and take a selfie with the popular I Amsterdam sign.  Located at the back of the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein, the large I Amsterdam slogan quickly became a city icon and a much sought-after photo opportunity. This is a great free souvenir from Amsterdam.

Source: Christine of Great National Parks 

3. Explore the Red Light District

Every major city in the world has their own Red Light District but nothing as popular as the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is known for being tolerant and liberated city and prostitution, soft drugs and pornography are all legal here. Which is why brothels and sex shops thrive in Amsterdam. However, these are not only things you can expect in Red Light District. The neighborhood is also chock-full of interesting shops, pubs, fantastic restaurants, leaning gabled houses and the city’s most charming canals.

Source: Jewel of The Backpacking Executive 

4. Learn about Amsterdam’s history in the city’s Begijnhof


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One of my favorite places to visit in Amsterdam is the city’s small but charming Begijnhof. Located right in the city center, the Begijnhof is a complex of several traditional Dutch houses gathered around an internal courtyard with a well-kept lawn, religious sculptures, and trees. The place is a pleasure to visit. At first glance, it looks like a pretty yard, however, it has a peculiar history.

Amsterdam Begihnhof dates back to medieval times and used to be the home of the ‘beguines’, unmarried Catholic women who took a vote of chastity and lived together in this space, attending mass in the yard church. Here you can find some of the most traditional houses in the whole of the city and you can also see the façade of one of the only 2 wooden houses still existing in the whole of Amsterdam, at n34.

The Begijnhof can be visited for free and there are info panels explaining its peculiar origins. The houses are still in use and part of the yard is closed to visitors, however, the part that is open is lovely and a truly hidden corner to tap into the city’s long history and complex religious background.

Source: Marta Correale of Learning Escapes

5. Visit the Vondelpark


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Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s biggest urban park, with over 47 hectares to roam around smacked in the middle of the city, near many other of the city’s famous attractions. The park is open all year round, receiving more than 10 million visitors a year – both locals and tourists eager to take in the beautiful nature it has to offer.

There are a few attractions in the park, including an open-air theatre, for example. If you don’t want to plan anything ahead, you’ll still have a wonderful time when visiting, just walking around the fields is fun enough.

You can also rent a bike and explore the huge Vondelpark this way. It is great way to experience Amsterdam for both kids and adults. If you are staying in Amsterdam for a longer period of time, do visit at least once during each season, as to witness the changes that come with each one.

Source: Rui and Maria of Two Find A Way

6. Take the Ferry to NDSM

If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, it is imperative that you take at least half of a day to explore the NDSM. Unlike the rest of Amsterdam, this part of the city is reachable only by ferry. No to worry though since this ferry ride is totally free and takes only 15 minutes.

Once you arrive, you’ll leave the historic canal houses of Amsterdam behind. Instead, you’ll experience a world filled with quirky decor, hipster eateries, exciting music, and enchanting street art; a waterside cultural hotspot that few tourists ever get to see. Because the NDSM is a bit removed from the center of Amsterdam, many tourists totally miss out on the wealth of culture that has proliferated amidst previously abandoned warehouse.

Before you add this place to your Amsterdam itinerary, just know that when you look up the ferry terminal on Google maps, the directions will lead you to the old ferry terminal and not the new one. Therefore, be prepared and ask a friendly local for directions to the new ferry location.

Source: Kelly Duhigg of Girl With The Passport

7. Explore the Canal Ring Area


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Gingerbread houses, adorable canals, and bikes. A lot of bikes. The Canal Ring Area in Amsterdam is a trendy area and one of the best places to stay in Amsterdam. This area has this name because the canals form a sort of belt around the city center. And the gingerbread houses I mentioned decorate both sides of the canals. Literally, a romantic movie scene. Explore this area and you’ll keep yourself busy for at least for a couple of hours.

Some of the free highlights of the Canal Ring are the Western Church (Open for visitation from April through October, except Sundays), the Homomonument (monument which memorializes persecuted gays and lesbians throughout history), and the Seven Bridges (as the name suggests, you can see seven bridges after each other). Ah, don’t forget to take a look at the Amstel River, which gave the name to the city. The Canal Ring Area is also a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Source: Bruna Venturinelli of Maps ‘N Bags 

8. Free salsa dancing in the center of Amsterdam

All visiting salsa/bachata/kizomba dancers would appreciate this tip. Every Wednesday and Sunday you are able to enjoy a nice latin dance party in a perfectly located venue – restaurant Kroon at Rembrandtplein in the very center of Amsterdam. The entrance is entirely free of charge and both dancers and non-dancers are welcome. Great place to pass by, enjoy a drink, dance and meet some locals.

Source: Edyta  of Say Yes To Madeira

9. Join a free walking tour

A free walking tour is a good way to explore a city. It is good for travellers who don’t have big budgets for paid tours but need tour guides to properly explore places. As the name suggests, a free walking tour is done on foot. And it mainly focuses on cultural and historical parts of the city where the walking tour takes place. Check our Ultimate Guide To Free Walking Tours Around The World to find a walking tour in Amsterdam.



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