Amsterdam Travel: Amsterdam on a Budget - Guide & Tips
If you've been following this blog for a while you'll know a number of things about this blog. Firstly, I live in Amsterdam and know the city fairly well so like to write about travel to Amsterdam, the best things to do and to share with you lots of Amsterdam travel tips (like where to stay in Amsterdam and what to do in just one day in Amsterdam). Secondly, you may know that when I travel elsewhere I'm not really a budget traveller.
While I was able to write this monster list of free things to do in Amsterdam (there are over 100 activities for you to choose from!) when it came to writing a guide to Amsterdam on a budget, I knew I would need some help. I wanted to find someone who was used to travelling on a budget and was someone had been to Amsterdam a number of times. And luckily for me, and for you, I found that person. Maria has been to Amsterdam a number of times including as recently as this month. She always travels affordably and likes to help others do the same. She knows all the best Amsterdam cheap things to do as well as Amsterdam budget accommodation options so with no further ado, here is our guide to Amsterdam on a budget!
A Guide to Amsterdam on a Budget
It is a common travel misconception that the larger and more popular the city - a city like Amsterdam - the more expensive it will be to visit. What many people don't understand is that popular cities have a way of offering many different options to give its visitors a wonderful experience without breaking the bank.
This is exactly the case with the beautiful city of Amsterdam. (And if you do want to know just how much it costs to visit Amsterdam in general, read Frankie's post about how expensive Amsterdam is.)
Amsterdam is world famous for its canals, Red Light District and its crazy party scene. However, there is so much more to see and enjoy. And the best part? You can see it all on a budget! Yes, really! You can travel to Amsterdam for cheap, just read on to find out how. And if you're keen to find out about other affordable European cities when travelling on a budget, this guide to the best cheap European destinations here.
What is budget travel in Amsterdam anyway?
The idea of a budget is different for every traveller. This will largely depend on how much you want to spend on your trip overall, which will then give you an idea of how much you will have to spend per day.
While wanting to plan a cheap visit to Amsterdam, you should be realistic and plan to spend around $60-$100 USD (or €50-€90) per day including budget for your accommodation, food and travel. No, this is not the cheapest budget travel destination, but it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it is a prominent European capital city, so this influences how affordable travel to Amsterdam really is. However, this budget is really quite easy if you keep the following things in mind:
Budgeting will only work if you are willing to work with what the city is offering in addition to the sites you want to see. This does not mean that you will not be able to see what you want, but rather, it means that you have to be flexible when making plans and may have to do and see things based on days or times of the day where pricing is lower or in some cases, free. It also means that you have to do some research before heading out to explore the city.
Visit the city outside of peak dates. As with pretty much any place you visit, prices vary based on the popularity of the season you are traveling within. In addition to being wary of crowd sizes and increased prices during summer months, be sure to keep in mind dates that are festive for the city.
Visiting Amsterdam around King's Day or during high peak season for tulips will also mean you will be paying much more than if you visited on ordinary days or shoulder months (non-peak months close to popular ones, such as April or September. You can find out more about the best time to visit Amsterdam in this post and check out the best prices for flights to Amsterdam on SkyScanner.
Be mindful of where you decide to have your meals and drinks. Amsterdam, like many other tourist cities, is much more expensive in the areas surrounding key attractions and locations, such as Amsterdam Centraal Station, museums or on the main streets where you see the most foot traffic surrounded by canals and souvenir shops.
While stopping for a quick bite or snack in these areas won't break the bank, it will certainly add up if you are traveling with a group or a family, or you do it regularly.
Budget accommodation in Amsterdam
The secret to a cheap Amsterdam trip starts with finding appropriate budget accommodations. Keep in mind, this step varies from person to person and is based 100% on personal preference. However, my general rule of thumb when visiting a new place is that you really won't be spending that much time in your hotel or hostel room since you will be out exploring, so you can cut some corners when searching for a place to stay.
Hostels and low budget hotels are a fantastic way of cutting some costs when visiting a popular destination. The city of Amsterdam is full of really interesting low budget places to stay. You can find some of Frankie's favourite Amsterdam hotels for all budgets here, as well as some affordable options for the city centre included in this list here.
My favourite budget Amsterdam accommodation include the following:
A chain of hostels all over the world, Generator is known for providing activities and having common areas that create the perfect setting for making friends and travel companions. I have stayed at Generator Hostels in various cities, but the one in Amsterdam is by far my favorite.
Situated in the urban oasis of Oosterpark, you are not technically in the center of the city, but only a few tram stops away and you're on the right side of the city for attractions like Royal Artis Zoo and Hortus Botanicus. The beauty of this location is that you have stunning views of the park from your room during your stay.
While Generator Hostels do cater to a younger demographic, they do not exclude others from experiencing its amenities. I have met travelers in their 70's while staying here and they absolutely loved it. However, this wouldn't be the first place I recommend for families or travelers with small kiddos.
Find the cheapest rates and latest real guest reviews for Generator Amsterdam on TripAdvisor, Booking or HostelWorld.
The Bulldog Hotel
A budget guide to Amsterdam would not be complete without this Dutch staple. The Bulldog Hotel is located within the Red Light District and is a well-known party hostel - a perfect place for backpackers looking to have a great time.
Some of its features include a bar with an awesome rotation of DJs every weekend, large common areas and its own coffee shop (the first one in Amsterdam, if you can believe it). The hostel is also incredibly accommodating when staying in large groups. When I stayed here, I was with a group of 7 people and we were able to get our own shared room space with a private bathroom at no additional cost!
Find the cheapest rates and latest guest reviews for The Bulldog on TripAdvisor or HostelWorld.
Perhaps one of my favorite places to stay when visiting Amsterdam, the Volkshotel is a beautiful boutique style hotel with open, airy work/common areas and spacious rooms.
The hotel is budget and kid friendly, provides activities for people of all ages and features a beautiful terrace area which is usually illuminated with twinkling lights and lively music. One of the best things about the Volkshotel is its location. While it's not directly in the center of the city, it is a short walk from the popular De Pijp quarter - a must see area when visiting Amsterdam!
Find the cheapest rates and latest real guest reviews for Volkshotel on TripAdvisor or Booking.
Also a favorite among my places to stay while visiting Amsterdam, ClinkNoord caters to people like me - digital nomads! The amenities are exceptional and include work spaces, large common areas and a large kitchen for guests who prefer to make their meals during their stay (highly recommend from a budget perspective!).
Their breakfast buffet is also amazing, though it is offered with an additional cost. However, if you add it when making your reservation, you will get a discounted rate instead of paying the full price in person.
The rooms are spacious and clean, staff is ridiculously friendly and the bar is more of a lounge hangout than a large party setting. Another bonus: you get to ride the free ferry across the Ij River that runs 24 hours a day. Take in the scenery and maybe brave swinging off the A'dam Building nearby!
Find the latest real guest reviews and cheapest rates for ClinkNoord on their website or on HostelWorld.
The White Tulip Hostel
Another budget-friendly hostel located in the heart of the Red Light District, the White Tulip Hostel is a great place for backpackers and solo travellers in Amsterdam alike. It offers free fantastic city tours (take advantage of these!) as well as discounts on various pub crawls and events giving guests an opportunity to meet new people.
Additionally, the hostel is just above the Irish Pub, Slainte, which offers all White Tulip guests a discount on their food and drink!
Find the cheapest rates and latest real guest reviews on TripAdvisor, Booking or HostelWorld.
On my latest visit to Amsterdam, I decided to stay at this really cool girls-only hostel. Everything I read about the comfy beds and soft linens was absolutely true! The staff is so friendly and the rooms are actually quite spacious.
My favorite part was the wall art. Local artists were hired to paint the walls and create their art. It's magnificent! The hostel features a large kitchen area for guests who want to make their own meals as well as a gorgeous outdoor terrace that is perfect for summertime.
Find the best rates and most recent reviews for Hostelle on Booking, TripAdvisor or HostelWorld.
StayOKAY Amsterdam Vondelpark
A great option if you are the type of traveler that loves to meet new people. They have an onsite restaurant and large common areas that allow for lots of interaction and conversation. When I first arrived, it felt like entering a gathering of friends rather than a hostel of strangers.
The vibe is very casual and friendly which, in my opinion, makes for a fantastic option for solo travelers or groups that are outgoing and love to mingle. Take a walk through Vondelpark while staying here - it is a huge, beautiful park that, on a nice day, will be full of people.
Find the cheapest rates for StayOkay on their website, Booking or on HostelWorld.
Cocomama and Ecomama
A cute boutique hostel (yes, those exist!) that is situated in the center of the city. Decorated in a very Dutch fashion, Cocomama has a warm and homey feel. I absolutely loved the days I spent at this posh hostel.
My room was very clean, the staff went above and beyond to make sure I was having a great stay and the atmosphere is very relaxing. Sister hostel to Ecomama, these two establishments truly know how to make a person feel welcome and provide a wonderful stay. Cocomama is a great place for solo travelers as well as couples and groups.
Find the cheapest rates for CocoMama on TripAdvisor or HostelWorld, and the best rates for EcoMama on TripAdvisor or HostelWorld.
You can find more budget accommodation options in this list of Amsterdam hotels for all budgets and this list of the best centrally located Amsterdam hotels.
Travelling around Amsterdam on a budget
Another key component of visiting Amsterdam on a budget is understanding the different types of ways you can get around the city for the best price. The great thing about Amsterdam is that there are various ways of getting around depending on prices, weather, and the distance you want or have to cover.
Walking in Amsterdam is free, and brilliant!
Walking is my personal favorite option for getting around. Amsterdam is the perfect city to walk around in as the surroundings are just so beautiful and everything is relatively close. The best part? It's free!
Just be sure to look both ways - twice - before crossing as many roads have bike paths as well as roads and possibly also tram lines to cross, and those locals do usually ride quite fast. This can be intimidating for visitors at first, but once you have done it for a day or two, it will feel like second nature.
There's also lots you can do at night just walking around. Here are some more suggestions of things to do in Amsterdam at night.
Cycling in Amsterdam is cheap, and fun!
Rent a bike! For less than €10 you can have access to a public bike for the entire day. Just be careful when cycling past other riders as the Dutch are experienced and very fast. Traffic laws actually favour bikers, so you don't need to be too worried about cars!
That said a little extra knowledge about riding a bike in Amsterdam will go along way so check out Frankie's tips for cycling in Amsterdam.
Public transport in Amsterdam is affordable, and reliable!
Sometimes you need to get places faster than a bike will take you, or maybe the weather is going to be against you when you're planning our Amsterdam visit. In these cases, Amsterdam actually has a fantastic public transport system that you should definitely take advantage of. Various transportation cards give visitors the chance to select their preferred option.
GVB Travel Cards for unlimited public transport in Amsterdam: These cards provide unlimited travel within the time permitted and are usually the cheapest option if you are only visiting for a few days. Pricing starts at one hour for €3, 24 hours for €7.50, 48 hours for €12.50 and seven days for €34.50.
All time-based cards can be purchased on trams and buses, in some shops and at most stations. Just be sure to have Euros on hand as sometimes credit card machines may not be in service or just not accepted. Important to note: these travel cards are not valid on zones outside Amsterdam, for example - you can't use them to get to/from the airport. Find out more details online here.
GVB Reloadable Travel Cards: These cards (called OV-Chipkaarts in Dutch) are the most practical if you are staying for a longer period of time as you are charged on the basis of distance travelled so you can also cap the amount you spend if you like.
Another good thing about them is that they can be used on trains anywhere in the Netherlands so it's the best value for money if your trip to Amsterdam is part of more extended travel. There are two pricing options for this card, but unless you are a resident, you will be purchasing the 'anonymous' chip card which costs €7.50.
Unfortunately, this amount is non-refundable as it can't be used towards the balance. Reloadable chip cards can be purchased at the airport and all train stations. Find out more and order yours online if that helps here.
Amsterdam Travel Ticket (including transport to/from Schiphol): If you are traveling to/from the airport or planning on getting a 24 or 48 hour chip card, this option will save you a few euros. A one-day ticket is €16 and a two-day is €21. Tickets can be purchased at the airport or at some select train stations. Find out more about the Amsterdam Travel Ticket online.
Travel by ferry, for free!: There is a public ferry ride that runs 24 hours a day and crosses the Ij River. The ferry fits bikes and many people, so just be sure to keep an eye out when entering and exiting as it can get pretty crowded and hectic. The views are beautiful and on a sunny day, are perfect for pictures of Amsterdam! There are 3 different routes you could take:
BUIKSLATERWEG - The shortest of the three boat rides. It crosses the river straight ahead (every 6 minutes) and gets you access to the EYE Film Institute, A'DAM Toren and the I amsterdam letters.
UPLEIN - This ride will take you through the residential area of Amsterdam and has many small shops along the way (every 10 minutes).
NDSM WERF - My personal favorite - this ride heads left and takes you much further than the other two. You can get a really nice view of Amsterdam from the water and the industrial harbor, which makes this ride the best to take - if you have time! (every 30 minutes)
The best things to do in Amsterdam on a budget
While some of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam may come with a steep price tag, there are many things you can enjoy on a budget, some are even free! As I mentioned earlier, you will need to do be a little flexible when it comes to the timing or days when these activities are available. However, once you figure it out, your wallet will definitely thank you.
These are some of my favorite activities you can do around the city that have little to no cost, while still giving you the Amsterdam experience:
Maria's Favourite Free Things to do in Amsterdam
The "Poezenboot" Cat Boat
Calling all cat lovers! The Poezenboot is actually a sanctuary for cats on an Amsterdam houseboat. I have been here with friends a few times, though I have never actually gone inside. As cute as these little guys are, I am highly allergic so unfortunately, I can't enjoy playing with them as my friends so often do. Entrance to the sanctuary is free, but it is hoped that you will give a donation.
The Bridge of 15 Bridges
This is an incredible place to visit that not many people know about. Found at the crossing of Reguliersgracht and the Herengracht, if you stand with your back to the Thorbeckeplein, you will be able to see 6 arched bridges in a row. To the left, you will find six more over the Herengracht, while on the right you will see two more. The 15th bridge technically is the one you are standing on. This is one of those sites that is just as breathtaking, if not more, to visit at night. The bridges are all illuminated, giving the area a special, more romantic view of Amsterdam.
Walk around the Red Light District
Is it cliché? Yes, totally. But you can't come to Amsterdam and miss out on walking through the Red Light District. That is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower! The Red Light District is one of those things Amsterdam is famous for, with its interesting shops and store fronts, museums and rich architecture. A trip to the city wouldn't be complete without it.
You could also go on a guided tour of the Red Light District for under €20.
Take a Stroll in Vondelpark
One of the biggest parks in the city, Vondelpark is the perfect place for a walk, picnic or simply to drown the noise of the city. You will see many people riding bikes (at a much more leisurely pace) as well as many families and locals.
Directly nextdoor to the park you will find a small tea house called De Roos that not only has delicious food and drinks, but also sells incredible Buddhist trinkets and precious stones. While it's not free, it's definitely worth checking out if you like that sort of thing.
Visit Albert Cuypmarkt
The ‘Albert Cuypmarkt’ is the most famous and largest street market in The Netherlands. With more than 300 stalls, it sells all sorts of food (meat, cheese, seafood, etc.) as well as jewelry, flowers and clothing.
You can easily spend an entire morning walking through and visiting each stall. The vendors are all very friendly! Be sure to have cash on hand as many places do not accept credit cards.
Read more about visiting Albert Cuyp Market.
Enjoy Free Theatre on a Tuesday lunchtime
If you happen to be visiting Amsterdam on a Tuesday, you're in luck. Head to the foyer of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet at Waterloo Square for a free lunch concert. Usually, this is the time they practice for that evening's performance and are kind enough to give visitors a treat. Concerts are from 12.30-13.00 during the months of September to May.
Get a Panoramic View of Amsterdam From the Top of NEMO
Hidden within the NEMO Science Museum in the Oosterdokseiland neighborhood is the NEMO Panorama Terrace. Entrance into the terrace is free and can be reached by climbing up the steps on the eastern edge of the building. During the summer, the terrace is transformed into a beach with deck chairs and bean bags to sit on. You will also find a small café that sells drinks and small snacks.
And if you want to visit the museum, which I highly recommend if you have children, you can buy your tickets online. They're not cheap but you can spend many, many hours in NEMO and get your money's worth.
Find out about Amsterdam's Diamond History on a Free Tour
Fun fact: Amsterdam has been known internationally as the ‘City of Diamonds’ for over 425 years. Did you know that? For those of you who are interested in learning all about them, free guided tours are available every day.
The tour is fantastic and features information on carats, colors, clarity and cuts as well as the history of this Amsterdam craft. The tours are held at Gassan Diamonds daily from 9am to 5pm and are available in over 27 languages.
Read a book (and more!) in Europe's largest public library
A short five minute walk from Central Station will put you face to face with Europe's largest public library: the Openbare Bibliotheek. Entry is free as well as most books and materials within.
The best part? If you head up to the top of the building you will be able to capture the most amazing views of Amsterdam. Reading with a view!
Wander around the Nine Streets
One of the coolest areas in Amsterdam, the Nine Streets is a network of streets that is home to some of the best stores, cute cafes and pubs in Amsterdam. The crowds are generally less than in the city center, which makes it one of the best areas to wander all day.
Here you will be able to find everything from high end stores to vintage and second shops that have hidden gems! One of the best free things to do in Amsterdam, in my opinion.
So, you may have heard that Amsterdam is something of a party city, and you would be right. But can you really enjoy a decent sample of Amsterdam's clubbing scene on a budget? Yes, you can if you get an Amsterdam Nightlife card. Priced just €10, you can get a 48 hour card that gets you free entrance in to over 30 different nightclubs so you can go club hopping all night.
If you're staying in Amsterdam longer than two nights, there's a 7-night card option (for just €20) and you also get some additional extras like free shots in some clubs, and other discounts on nightlife experiences.
Enjoy free exhibits and a great view in the EYE Film Institute
Located on Amsterdam's waterfront behind Central Station, you will find the EYE Film Institute and museum. It is the Dutch center for film culture and heritage and has become an important attraction in Amsterdam. You can reach the museum via the Buiksloterweg free ferry service that takes you across in less than 3 minutes and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
One of my favorite things about this museum is the large terrace at the top, which gives you spectacular views of Amsterdam. There is also a bar and restaurant at the top that are open 7 days a week from 10.00pm to 1.00am. The museum's permanent exhibit in the basement is also free.
Also just outside the EYE Film Institute is where you can find the new home of the I amsterdam letters!
Find Chinatown and a Buddhist Temple
One of the most important tourist sites within Amsterdam’s Chinatown is the Zeedijk Buddhist temple, known as Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple. It can be found on Zeedijk Street in between all the shops and bars. Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple is the largest temple in Europe that has been built in traditional Chinese palace-style. The architecture is truly incredible, I can't recommend this place enough. Entrance is free, but donations are recommended. If you stop by, be sure to have something to cover your arms as a sign of respect.
Play Flash Invader around Amsterdam!
The phenomenon that started in Paris has finally reached Amsterdam! For those of you who are not familiar with the Flash Invader, he is a French artist who is known for leaving artwork in the form of tiles all over the city. You can find his shapes on everything from sides of buildings to sides of curbs and under canals. The point of the game is to find as many of them as you can all around the city using the Flash Invader app. On my most recent trip to Amsterdam I played along and can say from experience, you see a completely different side of the city! Looking for the tiled art also forces you to focus on small details on every building, canal and street. The app allows you to create a user name and challenge your friends, which makes it that much more fun!
The Best Things to do in Amsterdam under €20
Go on a tour of the Amsterdam Arena
At a capacity of over 50,000 people, the Amsterdam Arena is the largest stadium in the Netherlands. For only €16 you can tour the stadium, which includes a visit to the dressing rooms, the press room and even a stint on the pitch. Note: you receive a small discount if you book online in advance. Tickets will cost you €15,00.
Enjoy a canal cruise
Another activity you need to experience while visiting Amsterdam. However, it's important to take note of the different areas around the city and companies that offer cruises, as some are definitely much more expensive than others. Many of the tour companies offer canal cruises for under €15,00. The company has been around for years and offers the lowest, most competitive prices on canal cruises in the city. Cruises will take you across some of the main canals within the center of the city.
Find out more about the most famous Dutch beer of all at the Heineken Experience
Many people I know have visited Amsterdam and NOT done the Heineken tour. The reason? They've either thought it would only focus on beer tasting or assumed it would be ridiculously expensive, like most of these tours usually are. However, the Heineken Experience is not like other tours. While beer tasting is among the things you get to do while walking through, the tour focuses on interaction, multimedia and entertainment as well. The best part? Tickets are only €18 when booked online in advance - and we really do recommend you do that as the queues can be very long!
And while you're at the Heineken Experience, why not take a wander around the surrounding neighbourhood, De Pijp. Here's Frankie's in-depth guide of De Pijp with lots of recommendations for free things to do, affordable places to eat and even some cool shops to window-shop in!
Ride a bike and get fit seeing all corners of Amsterdam
Bikes are the primary form of transportation in the city and can prove to be invaluable when trying to get from one part of the city to another in a short amount of time. In Amsterdam, they are so important that they have the right of way and priority on the road over cars! Bikes can be found in bike shops all around the city and most are only around €10 per day to rent. You should also find out if your hostel or hotel has them available for free or cheaper than that. Just be sure to know and understand the rules of the road when biking as many of the locals have been doing it since they were kids and ride very fast. When attempting to do this on one of my visits to Amsterdam, I actually fell I was trying to take a picture and ride a bike…not a good combination for a non-rider!
Visit one of Amsterdam's world famous museums
Amsterdam is rich in history and has some of the most informational museums in the world. Fortunately, there are many museums that can be visited on a budget. Some of these have entrance fees around or under €20 and include: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Moco Modern Art Museum (with the largest collection of Banksy work in the Netherlands), the Stedelijk, Amsterdam Museum and the Tropen Museum.
Anne Frank Museum
Needs no introduction, this beautiful and tragic museum is an absolute must when visiting Amsterdam. Be sure to reserve early as tickets sell out fast. Also make sure to get to the museum with about 10 minutes to spare so you can beat the crowd of people that will form a line. Tickets are about €10 for adults and you must book your ticket and visit at a specified time online as they only sell a very limited number of tickets to those who queue. You can book tickets up to two months in advance and there are free audio tours available.
Ons Lieve Heer op Solder
This is one of my favorite museums in Amsterdam on a budget as it’s also only €12,50 for entry. This museum is actually three canal houses combined into one with a stunning secret church in the attic. The beauty of this museum is that you get to enjoy history, architecture and stunning views from a canal house.
Dutch Equestrian School / Living Horse Museum at the Hollandsche Manege
Something a little different and not as popular with the tourists, the Dutch Equestrian School Museum, The Hollandsche Manege, is the oldest riding school in the Netherlands. Within this school you will find yourself immersed in a different time when visiting the Living Horse Museum. Set in a beautiful neo-classical building at Vondelstraat, the museum is breathtaking to see in person. On specific days of the year, there is a live horse demonstration where pro riders show off new tricks with their beautiful animals. It's definitely a sight to see! It's €6,00 for adults to visit and €4,00 for kids over the age of 3.
Koninklijk Paleis / The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is spectacular to see up close and in person. Standing tall in the Dam Square, the palace is open to the public almost every day of the year, with some exceptions. Walking through the hallways transports you to a different time and world, leaving you speechless as you walk from room to room. My favorite room: The Citizen’s Hall. Be sure to have a camera handy through every room you step into as each is better than the next! Free audio guides are available in many different languages as well as for kids. Tickets are €10 for adults, €9 for students and free for kids up to age 18 - buy online to get a free audio guide.
Waterland Day Ticket
Spend your day wandering through the lovely Waterland area just north of Amsterdam. It is infamous for its historic fishing villages and picturesque green polders. A Waterland day ticket costs €10 and you can hop-on and hop-off the EBS buses all day.
An absolutely beautiful place to visit (and get those Insta-worthy shots!) of the gorgeous windmills that are synonymous with Holland. Located north of Amsterdam, a day return train ticket from Amsterdam Central to Zaandijk Zaanse Schans will set you back €7.60 including €1,00 disposable ticket surcharge. Be prepared to compete with many many tourists, unless of course, you can get there for sunrise!
The Best Places to Eat in Amsterdam on a Budget
For some reason, many people forget to add this to their planning and research before heading to a new place. While visiting attractions and saving on accommodations are a huge part of traveling on a budget, it's the food and drink that can potentially set you back the most. Before taking any trip, it's good practice to research eateries in the area to get an idea of what is offered and what the prices look like. This is even more important if you have food allergies or restrictions. And if you are vegan or vegetarian, please have a read through the best vegan restaurants and cafes I recommend in this vegan Amsterdam guide - some offer great value for money!
Here are my top recommendations for places to eat on a budget in Amsterdam that are still delicious and a fun experience.
Important to note: tap water is free and totally drinkable in the Netherlands - it's actually very tasty! Most restaurants should give you a glass of water if you ask. You can also request a carafe if the glass isn't enough! And there are numerous water fountains scattered around the city; you'll certainly find them in and near the parks in Amsterdam.
Is there anything more Dutch? Even for those of you who, like me, hate fish - pickled herring is surprisingly sweet. There are tons of ways you can eat it: raw, pickled, or even whole with onions on a sandwich. Whatever you choose, you will find it is ridiculous inexpensive and actually pretty tasty.
Bagels and Beans
One of my personal favorites and perfect for those of you coming from the east coast of the US who love a good bagel. Bagels and Beans makes a bagel pretty close to flavor as those back home. You can choose from tons of bread types as well as spreads, including the Dutch favorite hagelslag. One bagel with a large portion of cream cheese will only cost you €5! Added bones: their coffee is good, too.
A futuristic restaurant chain all over Amsterdam that offers fresh food from vending machines. You can expect to find simple food, such as burgers and fries or opt for something a little more Dutch such as a krokets or frikadel. Prices start at as little as €1.20 - so fill up!
The place for cheese lovers. This Dutch cheese shop offers every kind of cheese imaginable and is open until 7pm most nights. The staff is ridiculously friendly and are happy to give samples. The best time to visit? Lunchtime. In addition to cheese, they also serve fresh sandwiches for under €4.
Tourist trap? Maybe. But don't be alarmed by the line of people waiting to get into this tiny establishment that is home to Amsterdam's best apple pie! The line goes quickly as the employees are used to the crowds and have apple with delicious homemade cream on hand. Pair with a tea or delicious latte for the perfect mid-day treat as you people watch the Jordaan canals. On Saturday mornings, there is a charming little market set up directly in front of Winkel 43.
While this is technically an expensive restaurant, they have the most famous cookies in all of Amsterdam. Two euros will get you a scrumptious chocolate cookie with molten chocolate center, made fresh for you on the spot. It's the perfect stop after a day of walking and shopping along the Nine Streets.
Restaurant, bar, public space and studio. This is part of the area that used to belong to squatters, but now is conveniently one of the coolest places to visit on the weekend. Six euros will get you a vegetarian or vegan meal that includes a delicious soup. Be sure to make a reservation in advance! Find out more vegan eateries in this vegan Amsterdam guide.
Robin Food Volkskeuken
Another option in this same area is the Robin Food. The vibe is one of my favorite things about coming here. You always feel right at home, whether you are a native or a visitor! Ten euros will get you a 3-course vegetarian meal plus the company of people who feel like old friends. Note, Robin Food is cash only.
While strolling through the cool De Pijp area, you will come face to face with so many different food options. There, in the middle of it all, you will see this beautiful Mediterranean restaurant. One of the most interesting things about Bazar is that it is located in a former synagogue. The menu is extensive, giving you so many different options, and the prices are tough to beat. Ten euros can buy you a large meal and a drink.
A non-profit eatery and wonderful initiative to prevent food waste, InStock takes the leftovers from Albert Heijn to create entire meals (usually vegetarian) that you can buy for only €10 euros or €20 euros if you want a 3-course meal. So you can feel good about the money you spend while also enjoying the delicious offerings! Reservations are required.
Bierproeflokaal in de Wildeman
Small bar that is often packed with locals. Vibe is very lively and drinks are cheap! Upon entering, the main room looks small, but then opens up to a side room that has large tables for shared seating. Games are also available. One of my favorite places to get a drink with friends while visiting Amsterdam.
Additional Tips for Visiting Amsterdam on a Budget
Shop at a market or supermarket for snacks or food on the go
This is the second tip I always provide. You will find supermarkets everywhere in Amsterdam, as well as several daily markets in a number of areas. The most popular supermarket is Albert Heijn (look for blue lettering) and it's fairly affordable but cheaper supermarkets are Action, Lidl and Dirk van der Broek. Another alternative supermarket is Jumbo which has prices and quality similar to Albert Heijn, and don't forget that Amsterdam has lots of daily markets which will be even cheaper to pick up produce.
Albert Heijn stores all over Amsterdam. Instead of springing out extra money at a more expensive shop, you can get inexpensive sandwiches, snacks and drinks for a fraction of the price. Additionally, you can get ingredients to make your own meals.
Check Facebook Groups and local websites for deals, discounts and free local events
Sometimes attractions, events or places will post discounts or early bird specials for their followers only. It's always a good idea to check social media before purchasing or heading to visit a new place.
Invest in an I Amsterdam City Card or a Museumkaart.
As a budget traveller keen to do a lot but save money, there is always a bit of a debate about whether or not to get a city tourist cards. Amsterdam's I amsterdam City Card is not cheap, but if you use it to its fullest capacity, it could certainly be cheaper than buying individual travel and museum tickets.
The I amsterdam City Card is available in increments of 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours, with prices ranging from €60 to €115. The pass includes public transport, free access to several attractions and partial discounts on others. The entire list of attractions can be found on the Amsterdam tourist office website.
To find out how it's really worth it, here is Frankie's full review and guide to when to get the I amsterdam City Card.
There is another way to potentially save money if you want to visit a lot of museums and you are staying in Amsterdam for a longer period of time to do so; the Museumkaart, which costs €59.90 for adults and €32.45 for children and teenagers up to 18. Most of Amsterdam's museums are free to enter with this card and most will also let you skip the line if you have one. Cards are sold at most museums that accept them and online. Important to note: Anne Frank Museum is included with this card!
Save money on public transport to/from Schiphol Airport
Taxis are not the cheapest mode of transport in Amsterdam by a long-shot and most journeys from Schiphol into the centre of town or even the outskirts will be at least €30,00 so you shouldn't waste your time (or money!) on trying to get one of those, especially when a one-way ticket to Centraal Station is under €5,00 and will take half or a quarter of the time.
Here are your options for getting into Amsterdam and sticking to your budget:
Trains from Schiphol Airport
Getting a train is the quickest and easiest option, taking only 15 minutes. At the time of writing (May 2019) it's €4.30 for a one-way ticket, though if you buy this at the station there's a €1 paper ticket charge, so €5.30 total. Very important to note: the ticket machines at the airport station do not accept foreign non-Dutch credit cards. Upon arrival, you will need to visit the customer service desk in order to purchase this ticket if you only have a card as a method of payment.
You can also get trains to regional Amsterdam train stations and then get a tram or bus to closer to where your staying. If you know the postcode of where you're staying use Google Maps to find the best public transport route to your destination.
Bus (Amsterdam Airport Express)
Slightly slower option, but still a solid choice. The Amsterdam Express bus takes about 30 minutes and costs €6 each way (or €10 return if you buy online). One benefit over the train is that it can drop you at Museumplein, Rijksmuseum or Leidseplein. The bus is number 397 and you need to follow the signs for Buses outside the Lobby area of Schiphol airport.
Bus (Public Transport Buses)
There are over 20 different bus routes that take you from Schiphol Airport to neighbourhoods in Amsterdam and other places in the region. You can use Google Maps or this Journey Planner to find the best bus route for your journey. Buses will take much longer than a train, of course, and they aren't any cheaper (a journey up to 90 minutes long will cost €6,50) but if you have a lot of luggage they could be the best option to avoid a lot of walking.
The Schiphol Hotel Shuttle
Staying in one of Amsterdam's hotels or hostels, then you can book a spot on the Schiphol Hotel Shuttle that will take you right there. They will make stops at other hotels on the way so you can't predict exactly how long it will take and it's not cheap at €17 each way (€28 return), however, per person prices will be lower the bigger your group is.
It's important to keep in mind that trains and buses also run through the night, however they run much less frequently, so you will need to plan accordingly.
And now, I'm happy to say you are ready officially ready to set off on your budget trip to Amsterdam! Enjoy!
About the Author
Maria Hedian is the founder and author of Em Around the World, a site dedicated to simplifying travel for aspiring budget travelers and digital nomads. She is a contributing writer for Skyscanner where she creates travel guides based on her experiences around the world across 30 countries and 145 cities. Through her site, Maria's mission is to show her readers that traveling the world is absolutely possible, especially for those on a budget. You can follow Maria's travels on Instagram and Facebook.
Further Reading to Help You Plan Your Amsterdam Trip
When is the Best Time to Visit Amsterdam?
Where to Stay in Amsterdam - Neighbourhood Guide
The Best Hotels in Amsterdam for All Budgets
The Best Hotels in Central Amsterdam
The I amsterdam City Card - Is it worth getting?
Choose Your Itinerary: Best Things to do During One Day in Amsterdam
Your Guide to Visiting Amsterdam in Spring / Summer / Autumn / Winter
Tips for Staying in Self-Catering Accommodation in Amsterdam
100+ Free Things to do in Amsterdam
The Best Photo Spots in Amsterdam
The Best Day Trips from Amsterdam
and Tips for Cycling in Amsterdam
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Additional photos by Julie Fox, A World to Travel, Something of Freedom.
Frances M. Thompson
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