Top 17: Best Free Things to Do in Amsterdam

Like A Local Guide • 2 Jan, 2019

Amsterdam is famous for its canals, beautiful houses, ‘coffee’ shops and Red Light District, but there’s plenty more to this liberal city than most visitors realise. Rick, our local ambassador in the Dutch capital, shares 17 delightful things to do and see for free!

1. Discover the secret courtyard of Begijnhof

Hidden behind a heavy wooden door on Spui Square you’ll find Begijnhof courtyard. This secluded spot dates back to the Middle Ages. It’s home to one of Amsterdam’s oldest wooden houses, Het Houten Huis, built in 1420! Begijnhof was originally set up as a sanctuary for the catholic sisterhood and you’ll find a sculpture in the courtyard that pays respect to this community of women who devoted their lives to God. Today the bordering buildings are still occupied by many single Catholic women. For this reason, visitors are requested to speak in hushed tones when walking around the area.


2. Learn about Amsterdam’s past at the Stadsarchief

This is something for true history buffs. The Stadsarchief (Amsterdam City Archives) is a treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to Amsterdam’s past. In fact, if you were to stretch out all of the centre’s archives, maps and historical documents – you’d cover 50 kilometres!  Entry is free to the building, which looks like something from a movie set! Additional fees are charged for entrance to the Exhibition Room.

Stadsarchief_AmsterdamPhoto credit: Museum Amsterdam

3. Explore the city’s canals by foot

Did you know there are more canals in Amsterdam than in Venice? The city’s waterways, which date back 400 years, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and many can be enjoyed by foot, thanks to a series of narrow paths. That means you’ll have the chance to walk around a living museum for free while you’re in Amsterdam! We recommend De Duif as a starting point. And if you feel like experiencing the beauty of the canals from the water – you could always treat yourself to a Private Two-Hour Boat Tour.

4. Enjoy a sunny day at the Blijburg beach

Despite the fact that Amsterdam isn’t located by the sea, the Dutch have still managed to create a whole lot of sandy fun in the form of a manmade beach. Blijburg is situated on the artificial island of IJburg. Besides swimming and sunbathing, there are also beach parties hosted regularly on-site.

9304298148_c667f6c5eb_kPhoto credit: Franklin Heijnen

5. Take some time to relax at the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam

The OBA (Amsterdam Public Library) is much more than your usual library. It has a piano inside which is free for anyone to play – as well as an amazing rooftop terrace which offers spectacular views of the city. It’s a wonderful place to hang out for a couple of hours in between exploring the streets of Amsterdam.


6. Get lost in the world of film at the EYE Film Instituut Nederland

EYE Film Institute Netherlands comprises four cinemas, a film lab, a 1200-square-metre exhibition room and the biggest film library in the Netherlands. The basement section is free of charge and houses a permanent exhibition. The building itself is a sight worth seeing! We highly recommend taking a few moments to stand outside and marvel at this modern architectural masterpiece.

8185684966_449649cd1f_bPhoto credit: Artur Salisz

7. Chill out at Vondelpark

Located in the heart of Amsterdam, Vondelpark offers a quick escape from the city’s hustle and noise. Here you’ll see a mixed crowd of all ages sunbathing, playing ball games and simply relaxing. There’s no better place to do some people-watching on a sunny day!

8. Get active at Amsterdamse Bos

Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) is another Dutch artificial invention. Forest is a misleading name though; the area includes jogging and biking trails, small pools and a river. If you feel like going deeper into the natural world, be sure to check out our Dutch Wetlands Canoe Safari, which leaves from Amsterdam and gives you the chance to get up close and personal with a range of aquatic and birdlife.

2131014205_c196831774_oPhoto credit: Sjors & Jennifer

9. Enjoy a few freebies at Sunday Market Amsterdam

Every Sunday a market is held somewhere in Amsterdam and the locations always change. Besides free food and drink tastings, these markets are perfect places to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs.


10. Bike or walk around the Noord area

Noord is actually a whole neighbourhood in Amsterdam and there are parts of it that must be seen. Nieuwendammerdijk and Schellingwouderdijk are streets that were originally built as dikes – they are truly fascinating to see! The best part is that you can take the ferry to Noord for free. If that sounds like fun, you might also like to discover the charming neighbourhood of Zaanse Schans, with its cute windmills, on our Countryside Bike Tour.

3564136078_e7cf08ea61_bPhoto credit: Kevin Gessner

11. See a mix of cultures at Oosterpark

With the Indian neighbourhood and the East district just around the corner, Oosterpark demonstrates how multicultural Amsterdam really is. In addition to the interesting mix of people, here you’ll find the famous De Schreeuw (The Shout) statue, which was placed in honour of director and writer Theo Van Gogh.

6074574867_95345023b7_bPhoto credit: Marc van Woudenberg

12. Take photos of graffiti at NDSM-werf

It used to be a shipyard but these days you’ll find sculptures made from recycled junk, cargo containers covered in colourful graffiti and possibly a few street artists at NDSM-werf. An added bonus – the ferry ride is free! If you want to know more about the city’s ship building past and how these yards are being converted into creative hubs, check out our Alternative Amsterdam tour.

Things to do in Amsterdam: Street Art at NDSM-werfPhoto by Niels Smeets

13. Dive into the chaos of Albert Cuypmarkt

It might sound like the name of a nutty professor, but Albert Cuypmarkt is actually the largest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands. It runs six days a week and it costs nothing to enter. You’ll find anything and everything at this market – from smoked fish, to second hand shoes.

TOP 10 Free Things to do in Amsterdam – market and books Photo credit: Dona 

14. Admire works of art at Civic Guard Gallery

If you’re travelling on a budget but keen to see some phenomenal works of art while you’re in Amsterdam, be sure to head to the Civic Guard Gallery where you’ll find a selection of enormous Golden Age portraits that are free for the public to view. For art lovers with more of a budget, why not take a guided tour of Rijksmuseum where you’ll be able to see the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer and many others, as well as discover the stories behind the art!

5034b0ccf59230299498113e9e6133ecPhoto credit: Caspar Noyons

15. Let your spirit blossom at the floating flower market

Sunflowers, roses, tulips and carnations – a rainbow of colour awaits you at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt, which is open every day and extends along the south side of Singel. Locals love this market and so will you. We recommend heading there early in the morning to see the freshest blooms on display.

Things to do in Amsterdam: Floating flower marketPhoto by Daniel Spilka 

16. Listen to a free concert at The Royal Concertgebouw

This free concert series is hugely popular with locals and tourists so be prepared to hustle for a seat. You’ll get to enjoy music by some of the city’s finest instrumentalists – for free! The Lunchtime Concerts in the Recital Hall require a ticket, which can be picked up (for free) at the Entrance Hall from 11.30am onward. For concerts in the Main Hall – no ticket is required so it’s just a matter of first come, first served.

17. Learn about the fascinating life of Multatuli

He wrote a book about Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia and it became an overnight success. This fascinating little museum traces the life and work of Multatuli, the most famous 19thCentury writer in Holland, with a range of displays that include pieces of his furniture as well as artifacts from his time in Asia. Entry is free.

Like A Local Guide
Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.


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    i have been wanting to go to amsterdam but still waiying for the right time. its my dream to go and stay in amsterdam. really hpe my dream will come through one of these days.
    dato noraimi alias • Feb 18, 2021 • Reply
    John Ebert • Apr 11, 2020 • Reply
    Love to be there
    Ishan Abdeen • Jun 05, 2019 • Reply
    Thanks For The Sharing Great Way To Know The City Travel Tips Very Useful
    shobha tours • May 08, 2019 • Reply
    Hello. 6 of us are visiting Holland from USA is April and early May. What do we not want to miss? Any tips? Most of us are world travelers. Thank you for any tips you give. Jill 😃
    Jill Jones • Mar 25, 2019 • Reply
      Great things in April/May - 100% you have to visit the Keukenhof. It is the botanical tulip gardens of the Netherlands and they are absolutely spectacular this time of the year - King's day in April. We celebrate the King's birthday on the 27th. If you are in the city (amsterdam is best), you won't need to know where to go because it's in the whole city. Just be prepared with your orange clothing - If you are by car, use Mobypark (also previously mentioned in this thread). It's much cheaper and you can get local tips from the parking owners (like airbnb but for parking). Yes, I am biased because I am an employee, but I think the reviews speak for themselves ;)
      Emma • Mar 27, 2019 • Reply
    Thanks for finally talking about >Top 10: Best Free Things to Do in Amsterdam | Travel Tips from Real Locals – Like A Local Guide <Liked it!
    Teresita • Mar 08, 2019 • Reply
    If you like jazz, checkout the new jazz agenda for Amsterdam: You can easily select all free gigs - quite a lot actually!
    Corné • Mar 03, 2019 • Reply
    Or join a tour with Great way to know the city!
    tim lunshof • Mar 01, 2019 • Reply
    Nice Article ! I hope I can do it all, when I go there :D
    Emmanuel Alburo • Feb 28, 2019 • Reply
    Hi there, you can walk pub crawls in Amsterdam that are free of charge via Might be a nice addition to the list? Cheers, Michiel
    Pub Crawls Amsterdam • Feb 26, 2019 • Reply
    excellent article! with many places in Amsterdam I didn't know existed, just like this article, although #6 may be a little shocking thanks again for sharing your advise on Amsterdam, and I hope to go there soon again too :)
    matt • Feb 20, 2019 • Reply
    Walk with me around Amsterdam's historic old districts and learn the story of this great and vibrant city. Discover how it all started- from a simple swamp harbour in the 1200’s, to ‘the Golden Age’ in the 1600’s when Amsterdam became the most important city in Europe. To experience all there is to see, you can meet me at the monument in Dam Square. The tour is tip based so everyone can join! Also check the website:
    Tim Lunshof • Feb 16, 2019 • Reply
    […] the markets first thing. However, one must-see for any newbie to Amsterdam is that of Bloemenmarkt. The flower stalls are simply beautiful, and the aromas of the blooms fill the street. There markets are happening places within Dutch […]
    Awesome Amsterdam on a Budget: Eating Out, the Dutch Way - The Wine Sleuth • Feb 12, 2019 • Reply
    I also wrote a list of things to do in Amsterdam, based on my experience in the city. I would love to hear your thoughts!
    Kristin Leigh • Feb 11, 2019 • Reply
    […] 10: Best Free Things to Do in Amsterdam – Like a Local [Click!]Sep 13, 2013 – Our local editor Rick has suggested a list of 10 free things to do in […]
    [ things to do in amsterdam attractions ] Bestest Web Pages | (KoreanNetizen) • Feb 01, 2019 • Reply
    […] you are visiting this popular Dutch city this winter, you may want some tips and suggestions to enjoy your time in Amsterdam away from its well-trodden path of city-centre ‘adult’ museums – and a larger number of […]
    Bright Lights for Winter nights - Amsterdam's Best Sights this Winter - • Jan 30, 2019 • Reply
    Thank you for sharing your list, Johnny!
    Kris Härsing • Jan 28, 2019 • Reply
    Great list! (Although the library is a bit too relaxed for me:P). I've got a top 50 of things to do in Amsterdam myself right here: Might be fun to check out:P
    Johnny • Jan 27, 2019 • Reply
    Amsterdo shares the best guide to theatres and concert venue halls in Amsterdam. Keep in touch to get latest updates about Shows in Amsterdam Theatres.
    Theatres In Amsterdam • Jan 26, 2019 • Reply
    I found this cool map shows all the different areas in Amsterdam and gives a "local" review of each area. It's really good if you want some quick help in choosing an area to spend a day or evening exploring.
    Hanny • Jan 23, 2019 • Reply
    Arthur, I parked my car in Amsterdam thanks to your comment! I went to mobypark and booked a private garage for a good price and good location. The owner of the garage super friendly, she even invite me dinner and I go to know a bit better the Dutch culture. The sharing economy not only is more sustainable but also connects people! In case somebody else is interested here the link to find parking: Thanks Arthur.
    Jorgen • Jan 20, 2019 • Reply
    Another great new thing to do is to download the app of weareonaboat - - an app where you can join other people's boats for free. Amsterdam in general became a city of sharing, from airbnb over car sharing (e.g. snappcar) to parking sharing (e.g. mobypark), there are many new companies / apps that make life in this city cheaper and more social!
    Arthur • Jan 18, 2019 • Reply
    […] quite prepared for it when tens of thousands of people came to check out the blog post about Top Free Things to Do in Amsterdam after I Amsterdam shared it with their followers on Facebook. Here are some mentions that we got […]
    What they said about Like A Local in May | Travel Tips From Real Locals – Like A Local Guide • Jan 17, 2019 • Reply
    A walk through the magical Vliegenbos park admiring the bright green parrots and smelling the lovely wet green vegetation. A visit to the awe inspiring eternal flame and Museum in the Stadsschouwberg in Ost remembering all those Jews who were deported from there. Equally as moving as Anne Frank house but without the tourists. Just silence and dignity and a power one can almost reach out and touch.
    beverly • Jan 15, 2019 • Reply
    What about our famous SINGEL, the Flowermarket and Touristic place to be. Do you need something to bring home: this is THE place. And of course The Albert Cuyp Market, 6 days a week, during shopping hours. Maybe these are the normal toruistic things to do, but do not forget them! The Anne Frank Museum and do a dinner cruise in the evening, so special in the darkness with all the lighted canals!
    Marga • Jan 12, 2019 • Reply
    Don't forget that we also give free tours in exchange for a review or a tweet in Nieuw-West Amsterdam.
    Anna • Jan 10, 2019 • Reply
    Don't forget about Amstelpark - nice and quiet park with a couple of interesting places (art exhibitions, japanese garden, mini-golf, small Zoo) and a beautiful windmill-house at the end which is the most pictoresque of all windmills in Amsterdam you can find (great place for a picture)
    arek • Jan 09, 2019 • Reply
    A must for your next trip to Amsterdam: book cultural tours and art experiences with Musement! You'll get interesting insider knowledge and skip the line for many museums and attractions, saving more time to explore the city
    Musement • Jan 07, 2019 • Reply
    Don't forget to mention Pechakucha nights in Amsterdam. It's great! Read more here:
    DJ Yabis • Jan 07, 2019 • Reply
    Turn the list around, because re-prioritizing the named places reveals you more of the spirit of the diverse Amsterdam. Go to the east, visit local Surinamese bars and Maroccan shops, the parks are calmer and cleaner. Visit Studio-K - a student-run bar/cinema, OT301 - a former squat place and film-institute with their own live performances of non-mainstream bands and movie-screenings with a cheap bar offering variety of beverages, Mezrab - local international community hosting music and story-telling nights, Joe's Garage - another squat place with a volunteer-based kitchen and a bar catering for people living around, Dappermarkt - the cheapest, everyday running and one of the most appreciated markets in town, eat Turkish Pizza and Kapsalon - cheapest and most-filling fast food in western Europe, the list could go on. Even if all of them are not free, they are well worth the experience. Ask for more if interested :)
    Edgar • Jan 05, 2019 • Reply
    Agree with many of the tips above, but instead of Oosterpark I would definitely choose Westerpark. They have a really cool industrial and creative area there - definitely check it out. Vondelpark is nice, but also a lot of tourists. For the rest just bike around areas such as the Pijp, Jordaan, Negen straatjes. Buy a bottle of wine and sit next to a channel with some locals. Even better - charm some locals with a boat, give them some wine, and they might ask you to join them. Also, on Leidseplein you can get last minute reduced tickets to all kinds of cultural events. Check it out!
    Mike • Jan 04, 2019 • Reply
    Having just a few days in Amsterdam, I did run through the touristy main sights, but I also got a bit of time to wonder away from all of that. Noord is a specially nice quiet district, the bike-route is a good idea! Plus, riding a ferry just is a must in Amsterdam, and you need to do that to get there. The Sunday market was a bit of a let-down, though, but then again.. most markets are, all the time, everywhere. I usually use markets to buy uncommon souvenirs - old memorabilia etc. but I couldn't find any of that. It did have the regular market stuff, tohugh: foods, ugly t-shirts, all that. I'd probably add Amsterdam Free Tour into this list as well.. because.. well, its for free. and its fun.
    Ann • Jan 03, 2019 • Reply