Amsterdam Travel: 115 Best Free Things To Do in Amsterdam - Updated for 2021

Amsterdam is my home and has been since 2013. I love living here for 100 different reasons, and some of these very reasons feature on this list of over 100 free things to do in Amsterdam. Getting to know the best free activities in Amsterdam has been a long and slow process but obviously it's been a fun thing to do over the years because it's meant exploring far and wide in order to seek out all the free stuff Amsterdam has to offer.

From Amsterdam's free museums and free tours, through to the best free indoor and outdoor spaces to visit, Amsterdam's best free markets and art galleries, and there are even a few free things to do in Amsterdam at night.

All of these free Amsterdam things to do are special in their own little way and frankly, I should do them more often. Heck, I do do a lot of them very often (the markets and parks and library, oh my!) but writing this list of Amsterdam's free things to do definitely gave me a new wanderlust for my own city, which is wonderful. 

PSST! Hey Amsterdam Trip Planner!  Before you plan your trip, make sure you read about the most up to date details about what's open to tourists and what restrictions there may be. Then please do check out this page where you can find all of my Amsterdam travel blogs in one place, but to get you started after you read this you may also want to check out my guide to visiting Amsterdam on a budget here, as well as this bucket list of the best things to do in Amsterdam on your first visit.

The Best Free Things to do in Amsterdam

I've grouped all these fabulous ideas for free stuff to do in Amsterdam in a way that you can take your pick from a few in each section because nobody would have time to try all of them in a weekend visit though I absolutely challenge you to try. Instead pick a few places to explore on foot, challenge yourself to find a few things on the explore list, warm up or take shelter from the rain with the free indoor activities, and when the sun comes out go to the free outdoor activities list and maybe wander through a market, a park or one of Amsterdam's best shopping streets.

I've provided brief explanations for all the free things listed but good old Google will tell you where to find them more accurately than I ever could.

These are the groups of free stuff in Amsterdam I've created:

  • The Best Free Things to do in Amsterdam on Foot
  • Best Amsterdam Free Things to Find and Enjoy
  • Best Free Parks and Open Spaces in Amsterdam
  • Best Free Markets in Amsterdam
  • Best Amsterdam Free Things to do Indoors
  • Best Amsterdam Free Museums and Cultural Experiences
  • Best Free Events and Festivals in Amsterdam

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The Best Free Things to do in Amsterdam on Foot...

1. Climb to the top of NEMO - Climb to the top of the Amsterdam's Science Museum NEMO and admire the view, some outdoor science exhibits and get your bearings for a busy day of FREE STUFF!!

2. Walk around the Red Light District - While tours of the RLD (or De Wallen as the Dutchies call the area) are available, you can often see enough (or more than enough!) just wandering around the canals. Seek out Oudezijds Achterburgwal and go from there to see, well, everything.

3. Walk around main ring canals, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht - Amsterdam's geography is defined by these three main ring canals. You can find out more about them at the Het Grachtenhuis Canal Museum but just strolling around them and the streets that criss-cross them is enough to feel like you're stepping back in time.

4. Walk down Brouwersgracht - One of my favourite canals, this one is often unexplored by tourists unless they've strayed this far west for apple pie at Winkel 43 - a very good idea!

5. Walk around Jordaan - Once upon a time this was the working class area of Amsterdam nobody wanted to live in. Now house prices are sky high and restaurants, bars and shops are fighting to find spots there, not that it's overcrowded or over-developed. Amazingly it still keeps a villagey-feel. And if you are happy to pay for a tour of Jordan with a guide and LOTS OF FOOD, I recommend the Eating Amsterdam tours.

6. Window-shopping in the Nine Streets - A set of streets dissected by the main ring canals, here is where you'll find good shopping and good coffee. Or because you don't like to spend money, cute shop fronts and excellent people watching opportunities.

7. Enjoy some history at Begijnhof - A cute enclave of old houses that was originally home to a lay order of single Catholic women, to this day only women can live in these houses. Here is where you'll also find one of Amsterdam's oldest houses (tip, it's the wooden one everyone is taking a photo of) and you can also pop inside a church that features sculptures by Piet Mondrian, one of the Netherlands' most famous artists, in the pulpit panels.

8. Walk down Chinatown - One of places people are most surprised to stumble across and you will if you do some exploring of the Red Light District. Small but perfectly formed for a Chinatown here is where you can find delicious Asian food and the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple.

9. Walk along the Amstel - The source of Amsterdam's name and industry, the River Amstel takes you out of the city and towards the South. If you want to see the city's architecture and pace change, take a walk along the river until you find yourself out of town and in Amstelpark. In the summer, you may also want to consider grabbing a spot on the water's edge (on the east side of the river) so you can then look back and enjoy the sunset over the suburbs. Do as the locals do on hot days and BYO bottle and towel and it will almost be like you're at the beach. Almost.

10. Walk around De Pijp - Not a million miles away from the Amstel is the popular area of De Pijp. It's also where I live so I'd like to think I can rightfully recommend it. Here is where you'll find the highest concentration of bars, cafes and restaurants (now you know why we live here!) in all of Amsterdam, I think, but there's plenty of things to just look at as you wander by.

11. Wander along Utrechtsestraat - One of my favourite streets to walk down as long as I'm on my own because the pavements are very narrow which makes pushing a buggy along a little death-defying at times. I shared more pics and tips for Utrechtsestraat here. 

12. Spot the animals at Entrepotdok - If you'd like to walk along a waterway that no-one else is then head to Entrepotdok. It's opposite Artis Zoo and close to Hortus Botanicus (neither of which are free) but you can enjoy looking at old warehouse-style architecture and you may even grab a sighting of a giraffe popping his head and neck above the zoo walls opposite. Also a great place to have a picnic on a sunny day.

13. Find peace on Prinseneiland - A little oasis of houses, houseboats and a yellow submarine. Wander around Prinseneiland when you find yourself in the west of Amsterdam and you'll think you've discovered something nobody else knew about. I love Amsterdamming's photos of her day there.

14. Find some cute houses in the Noord - The north of Amsterdam is still horribly overlooked but that is changing quickly. Take one of the free boats from the station - itself an exciting enough free thing to do! - and then seek out the cute typically Dutch houses on Nieuwendammerdijk and Schellingwouderdijk, which as the name suggests used to be canals ("dijk" is one of many Dutch words for canals.)

15. Wander around Haarlemmerbuurt - Haarlemmerstraat is another long straight street lined with good shops and places to eat or drink and the streets leading off it will also have beautiful houses, shop fronts and gardens to admire. Take the street all the way to the top, out of Amsterdam, and you're at the start of Westerpark. This is also the area where you can find Westerdok...

16. See some different views of Amsterdam - and a lot of houseboats - on Westerdok - Home to houseboats of the mostly barge and sailboat variety, Westerdok promises views out to the north and west of Amsterdam where there are the working docks of Amsterdam. Not necessarily pretty but perhaps a little unexpected and different.

17. Walk on land that was seawater 120 years ago on KNSM Eiland - Head out to the east of Amsterdam from Centraal Station and you will find yourself looking at islands that didn't exist just over a century ago. Originally built as a breakwater at the turn of the 20th century, KNSM Eiland is now home to thousands. For most of its life it was home to shipping companies but in the 1990s it became a residential area and now promises great views over the city from an angle not many see it from.

18. Hike out to Ouderkerk - While hiking in the Netherlands doesn't call for much (or any) experience of hills, there are some lovely opportunities to leave Amsterdam and find a little Dutch village that couldn't be more different from the city. Following the River Amstel out to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is highly recommended if you're not scared of a 10km walk, although we prefer our bikes!

19. Go to the "beach" - While you can go any time of year, it's recommended you wait until warmer months before heading to Blijburg aan Zee, which is home to a large manmade beach that is popular with sunbathers on the rare hot day we get in the summer and wind sports enthusiasts on all the other days.

20. Picnic by the canal - Pick your canal, any canal (near enough) and find a spot to sit on the side and dangle your legs beneath you. Here you can watch boats, ducks, swans and yes, rubbish, sail by as you plan your next free move.

21. Take a free boat to Noord - Strictly speaking I've already listed this for a few points above, but I think it's worth highlighting as a cool free thing to do on its own because it is a totally cool free thing to do. Find  the boats at the back of Centraal Station (you can walk through the station following the signs with a picture of a funny looking boat - because they are funny looking boats.)

FURTHER READING: Just before you dive further into the list, I wanted to let yo know that there is lots more Amsterdam travel advice on this blog. So if you're looking for tips for visiting Amsterdam on a budget, advice on where to stay in Amsterdam, a list of the best hotels in Amsterdam, a guide to visiting Amsterdam with children, the ultimate Amsterdam weekend bucketlist, and some cycling tips to keep you and everyone else alive should you choose to hire a bike, click on those links! Oh, also here are my favourite photography spots in the city, here are some of the best things to do at night in Amsterdam, and here's a guide for visiting Amsterdam as a solo traveller.

Free Things to Find and Enjoy in Amsterdam

22. Magere Brug - There are many stories about Magere Brug and how it got its name as "Skinny Bridge" but all you need to know is that it's old, it's iconic Amsterdam and it lights up all pretty at night.

23. Iamsterdam signs - UPDATE: They removed arguably the most famous and easiest to find Iamsterdam signs in late 2018, so now to see one of these you have to travel a bit further. As of the time of writing - January 2020, the most central one is just outside the EYE Film Insititut on Amsterdam Noord. To get there you just need to hop on the free ferry which departs from the back of Centraal Station. There's also one at Schiphol airport, one on the banks of Sloterpas Lake and one in the Oosterport Shopping Centre in Amsterdam East.  However, the view immediately outside the Rijksmuseum where the most famous one used to be is still photograph-worthy so you could still head there for a fantastic photo-opportunity. Go early in the morning to get a photo without one hundred other people in it!

24. Seven Bridges - Reguliersgracht is a canal with seven bridges so we call it Seven Bridges. Original, huh? It's arguably best seen by boat but it's still a beautiful canal to stroll along and count to seven, starting from the Herengracht.

25. Find all of Amsterdam's windmills - Admittedly this will be quite hard to do without a bike or a willing Uber driver, but you can do your best to find a few of the eight windmills that call Amsterdam home. I would start with the one that's next to a brewery!

26. See some street art on Spui - Amsterdam isn't really known for its street art though there's quite a bit of it scattered around, but if you want to guarantee finding some, head to Spui (kinda pronounced "Spow") to see lots of colour and creativity.

27. Spot the signs on old houses - All over Amsterdam houses built in the 16th and 17th century were given plaques with pictures on them. These pictures depict the nature of business that building was used for when it was originally built and now this often doesn't match up with the current occupiers, like the Halal butcher in Jordaan that has a plaque of a pig above the door. You'll find these houses in the streets leading off the three main ring canals and in Jordaan and older neighbourhoods of Amsterdam.

28. Find the Seven Countries Houses ("Zevenlandhuizen") - I didn't know about these houses until recently so I hope to do some discovering of these myself soon but these seven mansion houses in a row on the play tribute to seven countries using typical architectural styles from those countries, all built by the same Dutch architect, Tjeerd Kuipers. You can find them on Roemer Visscherstraat, near Museumplein and Vondelpark and I'll let you decide which houses relate to which countries. 

29. Find the Fault in Our Stars bench - If you're in a hunting and romantic mood (which is an interesting combination) then see if you can find the bench that featured in the Fault in Our Stars movie. It's on Leidsegracht, another pretty canal to wander along. P.S. If you want more Amsterdam literary inspiration, please check out this list of Amsterdam books

30. Marvel at Amsterdam's narrowest house - Find it at number 22 Oude Hoogstraat and then wonder how they fit anything inside, or how they put up with everyone taking photos of it.

31. Explore some modern art around Oud Zuid - From May to September, mind- and eye-boggling modern art instalments can be found scattered around the upmarket neighbourhood of Oud Zuid (old south). A leafy quiet area to walk around the modern art adds a bit of wow and you can find out more by Googling Art Zuid.

32. Remember with the Shadow Canal - I first stumbled upon the Shadow Canal ("Schaduwkade") on a walk during my lunchbreak and I return their often to have a look at these plaques on the ground. They line up with the house positioned on the other side of the canal and they list the names and ages of the Jewish Amsterdammers who lived their until the war... It's sad, it's poignant, it's very moving and it's an important bit of history well worth finding out more about.

33. Play the piano at Centraal Station or the OBA library - There are public pianos currently (Jan 2018) installed in Centraal Station and on the ground floor of the main library in Amsterdam. Go play some music, or listen to someone else doing that, just be warned that no singing is allowed! (I've seen people getting told off for singing even though it was beautiful!)

34. Have your mind blown (underwater) - Look at a map of Amsterdam from a few hundred years ago and you'll see it looks very different. Most of it is, well, the sea. Many of us live under sea level in Amsterdam and the NAP "Normaal Amsterdams Peil" (Amsterdam Ordnance Datum) in the Town Hall near Rembrandtplein highlights just how far under you're currently swimming.

35. Walk over an award-winning bridge - It's possible many of Amsterdam's bridges are award-winning and they're all jolly lovely, but this one, the appropriately named Python Bridge, is particularly striking. From a boat many metres away you can't quite figure out how one goes across it, so could yo please go and find out by walking it for me? Ta!

36. Count your bridges - Speaking of bridges, Amsterdam now has over 2000 bridges, and they're all numbered and named. Here's a complete list of them (in Dutch) so if you wanted to try and find as many of them as possible that would be a fun challenge. The first one is a lovely little one worth starting at as it's just next door to the Bloemenmarkt.

37. Admire some classic 90s architecture on Java Eiland - As mentioned in the listing about KNSM Eiland, if you love your 90s architecture then a trip to Java Eiland is a must. When we visited on our bikes one sleepy Sunday morning I was amazed to see busloads of tourists offloading all around us. I was later told that architecture students come from all over the world to see the examples of 1990s buildings... Yes, really!

38. Take a photo of my favourite view in Amsterdam - Head to Groenebrug to stand on a bridge with a striking canal view of a church. It sounds a bit weird in my description but it's so worth just seeing. Find my other favourite views and photo spots in Amsterdam here.

39. Enjoy free music and good acoustics under the Rijksmuseum - If you've got yourself a pair of wheels (I mean a bike, not a hoverboard) then I would have said cycle under the Rijksmuseum because it's a really cool thing to do but I'm assuming you're not spending any money so you can get yourself there on foot and your reward will be the hopeful possibility of enjoying some music with surprisingly good acoustics. I've seen string quartets, blues bands, steel drummers and solo musicians perform in this tunnel and its always amazing. Well worth swerving my bike into another cyclist or wandering tourist for so I could stop and enjoy.

40. Beurspassage - I'm still yet to see this little walkway with my own eyes but the photos are pretty magical. Connecting busy shopping streets Damrak and Nieuwendijk, this passage features 450m2 of glass mosaic, which opened in December 2016. It was done by the same people who did the artwork in Markthal, Rotterdam and it shares many of the same colours and tones. I'm hoping to see this for myself as soon as I finish this blog post... Should we just leave it as 40 free things to do in Amsterdam?

41. Walk around Amsterdam's smallest hotel, Hotel de Windketel - This old water tower is found in a leafy "hof" (walled garden) close to Westerpark and when I say walk around the city's smallest hotel, I literally mean walk around it because it's that small you can walk around the outside.

42. Admire Picasso for free - Yep, one of Picasso's pieces can be enjoyed for all for free in Vondelpark. (It's called "The Fish" and in true Picasso style it looks nothing like a fish.)

43. Find the Little Woodcutter - In one of the busiest corners of Amsterdam is something few people know about but it's a fun  thing to try and find. A small statue of a little woodcutter is busy chopping away on one of the trees found at the end of Leidsestraat and Leidseplein, arguably Amsterdam's busiest square and street. If you try to find it late at night on your way after spilling out of one of the nearby bars, please be quiet so you don't wake him up.

Amsterdam's Best Free Parks and Open Spaces

44. Vondelpark - Vondelpark is to Amsterdam what Hyde Park is to London. It's a beautiful green space that offers calm and a slower pace... unless you're one of the fit people who like to run, cycle power walk, or rollerblade their way around its loop. I wish it wasn't my favourite park because it's a bit of a cliche but I can't deny it is. I love cycling around it on a summer's evening or walking around it in early spring. Keep your eyes open for trees to climb on, modern art to look at and occasionally an iamsterdam sign to climb on.

45. Amsterdamse Bos - I think Amsterdamse Bos - Amsterdam Woods - is the city's best kept secret. It's so unexpectedly huge, green, quiet and close to the city in relative terms. You can cycle here in 15 minutes, or get there by tram in less, and feel like you're two hours away from a city. These are some old photos of a little bike ride we did around the perimeter searching for the food trucks that are sometimes to be found there.

46. Sarphatipark - The not-so-hidden gem of De Pijp is Sarphatipark. While it is small in size it has everything a park needs and is prime picnic and BBQ real estate come summer. We also love the kids playground here though I should add that all of these parks listed have at least one children's playground with sand pits and/or paddling pools. Here are some more photos of Sarphatipark.

47. Westerpark - I'm always surprised by how big Westerpark is and what a great atmosphere it has, even on cold winter days. Head here to walk around the Westergasfabriek which holds exhibitions and events, and be sure to cool off in the large paddling pool here on hot summer afternoons.

48. Oosterpark - Benefitting from recent improvements Oosterpark has much more of a family and locals feel than Vondelpark and Sarphatipark, and the kids play area here is perhaps better for older (4+) children. The autumn colours here are especially beautiful and this is a great introduction to Amsterdam Oost (East Amsterdam).

49. Beatrixpark - Old South's park is another small but perfectly formed open space with several play areas for children including a huge paddling pool.

50. Amstelpark - Another huge park with what is close to an adventure playground for kids, Amstelpark has a petting farm (also free) and gardens as well as a wonderfully out-dated small amusement park.

51. Rembrandtpark - Heading further out of town, if you're staying near Rembrandtpark it's worth heading there on a summer's day to soak up the atmosphere of sunbathing locals and BBQ "borrels" (after work drinks) taking place.

52. Erasmuspark - Another out of town park that is a bit quieter than the others on this list. A good one to run around if you're looking for shorter routes than say Vondelpark or Amstelpark.

53. Park Frankendael - Also in East Amsterdam this open park is home to Huis Frankendael, an old mansion house that has a beautiful garden and a lovely little cafe. You'll also find restaurant De Kas here one of Amsterdam's best farm-to-food restaurants.

54. NDSM Werf - While the others are all green spaces, this is anything but green. Converted warehouses that are now occupied by hipster companies, there is a ton of street art to look at here, some old vintage tram cars and great views out across the rest of Amsterdam. You're also close to Pllek should you have enough pennies for a drink or two.

55. Museumplein - Not really a park as such, but this open patch of grass is a great place to rest in between museums. It's also a prime people-watching spot and I love hanging out here taking photos of everything in the least stalkery way possible.

56. Geitenboederij Ridammerhoeve - Tucked away in the far corner of Amsterdamse Bos is this goat farm that is free to enter is a little gem for children, and it would possibly move even the most stone-hearted adults too. My son loved it. With hundreds of goats here you can feed the babies and even get in the enclosure with them. A fab free experience though donations and coffee in the cafe is encouraged to support them.

57. Flevopark - Another huge park that is worth knowing about if you find yourself in East Amsterdam, Flevopark backs onto the open water so you can find some lovely views and a popular but not too over-crowded outdoor swimming pool. 

The Best Free Markets in Amsterdam

58. Waterlooplein Fleamarket - Possibly my favourite fleamarket in Amsterdam, this daily (except Sundays) market is full of vintage treats from clothes to art to trinkets to tea-stained postcards sent thirty years ago from Marieke to Joris. You can also expect a few novelty cannabis stalls and some other tourist tat but in general this is a great place to wander around for an hour or so.

59. Bloemenmarkt - Amsterdam's most famous market is a bit of a let down if you ask me because it's not really a market of flowers but flower bulbs, which is fine if that's what you're after but the name is a little misleading. It's still quite cool to walk around because it is floating, don'tcha know?

60. Albert Cuypmarkt - The heart and soul of De Pijp, Albert Cuypmarkt is full of character and... err, crap. A great place to try Dutch foods like stroopwaffel (freshly made), poffertjes (little Dutch pancakes), and pekelhaaring (that awful sounding pickled herring that is surprisingly nice), but there are also some stalls selling... yeah, crap. But here is one of the few places you'll meet real Amsterdammers and locals who have a ton of personality.

61. Kinkermarkt - Another neighbourhood market that is on daily. Here is where you can buy cheap fruit and vegetables and some international products in Amsterdam's Oud West.

62. Ten Katemarkt - This market always feels like a slightly smaller version of Albert Cuyp to me, which is why I like it. Another good daily market to check out in the Oud West.

63. Dappermarkt - Amsterdam Oost's daily market is cosmpolitain and not as tourist-heavy as some of the others on this list. Head there to soak up local life and find a few bargains.

64. Amstelveld market on Mondays - A beautiful little square that is worth checking out even when the market isn't on, this Monday market is mostly plants and farmer's produce but nothing wrong with that!

65. Westerstraat market on Mondays - Originally fabric and textile market you can still find some stalls selling these but you'll also find clothes and other goods. Just around the corner from Winkel for Amsterdam's best apple pie

66. Noordermarkt flea market on Monday mornings and Saturdays - Also close to Winkel for apple pie, Noordermarkt is a lovely little market at the foot of Noorderkerk (North Church). The flea market is great for lovers of vintage clothes! 

67. Postzegelmarkt on Wednesdays and Saturdays - A small little collectors' market selling stamps and coins, found on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, this is a little known institution and something I am curious to photograph soon.

68. Farmer's market at Haarlemmerplein on Wednesdays - I've not been out west far enough to enjoy this farmer's market but heard good things! 

69. Pekmarkt on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays - A fairly recent market for the growing residential population in Amsterdam Noord expect a range of things for sale and very few tourists!

70. Book market at Spui on Fridays - A cute little market for booksellers of all kinds in the square near Spui. I love it for admiring vintage books but you can also find some bargains, in English too. 

71. Lindengracht market on Saturdays - Flows into the market on Noordermarkt on a Saturday. A long street filled with market stalls, expect to find anything and everything. 

72. Nieuwmarkt on Saturdays and some weekdays - One of Amsterdam's oldest markets, this tourist-pleasing market is on most days (but I couldn't find accurate fixed days) and definitely on Saturday.

73. ZuiderMRKT on Saturdays - A tiny market that is always really busy and full of life on the corner of Jacob Obrechtstraat and de Johannes Verhulststraat, this is where the rich (and posh, ahem) Old South locals get their organic groceries!

74. Art market on Spui on Sundays - Found in the same place as the book market on Fridays, this art market is for collectors and the completely uneducated fan of art.

75. Pure Markt on some Sundays - One of our favourite markets for street-food style delicacies from around the world, handmade and artisan goods, and live music. Oh and a bar. Yay. Here are some photos and more information but be sure to check the website to find out when and where it's on as it changes each time. 

76. Sunday Market at Westerpark (first Sunday of each month) - A similar market to Pure Markt in terms of what's on offer, this is a family-friendly outdoor market.

Best Free Things to do Indoors in Amsterdam

77. OBA, Amsterdam's Main Public Library - Just under a ten minute walk from Centraal Station, the OBA is the ultimate free thing to do in Amsterdam especially if you love books, and if you don't love books you're no friend of mine... or rather, I'm just a bit suspicious of you. Anyway. Go here to find books on EVERYTHING (and many in English or other languages), a whole floor of kids' books and sort of play area, a number of areas that has free museum-style exhibitions and great views from the cafe on the top floor.

78. De Foodhallen - My best advice for going to De Foodhallen - an indoor food market in an old tram garage - and not spending any money is to go immediately after a huge meal, but even then I think you'd find it quite hard to not part with some cash because there's food here from all corners of the globe and always a lively upbeat (and definitely a little hipster) atmosphere.

79. Art galleries in Spiegelkwartier - The "Mirror Quarter" of Amsterdam is full of galleries of all art types and despite some of their aloof appearances you can go inside these galleries and take a look around. It's not unusual to find works by popular artists like Banksy and Warhol in some of the galleries so keep your eyes peeled... and your credit card in your wallet.

80. Magna Plaza - The former central post office for Amsterdam, Magna Plaza is now an attractive shopping centre that is well worth having a nosey around, especially at Christmas when they have a huge tree in the centre of the building.

81. Bijenkorf - The Netherlands' principal department store is where you'll find all the designer brands in Amsterdam and it's a nice place to window shop too with cool displays inside and out. On nice days, you can go outside on a roof terrace and check out the view of the neighbouring Red Light District.

82. Go inside one of only two wooden houses in Amsterdam - So strictly speaking this isn't free as the decent thing to do would be to at least buy a cup of tea or coffee, as In 't Aepjen is a traditional Dutch "brown bar" where locals come to meet and drink but this is a great chance to see inside one of only two wooden houses in Amsterdam, the other you may have already seen at Begijnhof.

83. Go inside a hidden church, De Papegaai - During the reformation, Catholics went to great lengths to hide their churches, holding Mass in other buildings and generally being quite sneaky about it. De Papegaai, or "The Parrot" church is a nod back to this part of history. Found inbetween high street stores on Amsterdam's busiest shopping street, Kalverstraat, you almost won't believe what you find behind the door.

84. Go inside a not-so-hidden church - Amsterdam's biggest and most famous churches Nieuwe Kerk and Oude Kerk actually charge for visitors but there are some that don't if you'd like some free history and religion, including Noorderkerk, Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, St Nicolaaskerk, and Westerkerk which is the church Anne Frank writes about as the Secret Annex was just a few houses away.

85. Condomerie - From religion to condoms, the Condomerie in the Red Light District is a part-shop part-museum establishment that pays homage to the humble contraceptive! It needs to be seen to be believed

86. Droog - Found in one of my favourite corners of Amsterdam, Droog is a design studio that has converted this old house into a shop, exhibition area, restaurant and one room hotel. It's best you don't know any more than this and just go and explore for yourself. Here's my report from the fab afternoon tea you can have there!

87. VU Botanic Garden - Part of a University, this botanic garden in the south of the city is free to visit and is on my list of things to do soon with my little boy!

88. Buddhist Temple - As mentioned Amsterdam's Chinatown boasts this Buddhist Temple that is a completely unexpected find so close to the Red Light District, but you can go inside for free at certain times of the day.

89. Fashion For Good Exhibition - Located somewhat ironically on the periphery of Kalverstraat - Amsterdam's busiest shopping street - Fashion for Good is an establishment and permanent exhibition that welcomes you in for free so you can find out more about the damage fast fashion is bringing to both people and planet. It sounds heavy - and of course, yes, it is - but Fashion For Good live up to their name by also offering alternatives and highlighting the way we the consumer can influence the market.

Best Amsterdam Free Museums and Cultural Experiences

90. EYE Film Institute Netherlands - There is a small permanent exhibit at the EYE film museum  which can be found just across the water from Amsterdam Centraal Station. Hop on a free boat to get there and even if you're not into the museum, it's a good place to go for great views.

91. Rijksmuseum Garden - Easily my favourite garden in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum Garden is a lovely free extension of the museum featuring permanent sculptures, temporary works, a pond, a ton of bee-friendly plants, water features you can play in and a human chess board too.

92. Schuttersgalerij in entrance to Amsterdam Museum - Anyone can walk through the Schuttersgalerij, or the Civic Guards' Gallery, and enjoy seeing paintings and artwork depicting the changing uniforms and faces of the Civic Guards of Amsterdam. I pop in with my kids regularly and it's interesting enough for them to feel they've been to a museum when really they just walked down a long corridor! Just around the corner too, in the courtyard of Amsterdam Museum where their cafe is located, you'll find another free exhibit that is outside and well worth checking out. I'll leave it up to you to find it!

93. Stadsarchief (City Archive) - An impressive building inside and out Amsterdam's City Archives are open for everyone to explore and there are often temporary exhibitions which share lots of fascinating stories about the city and people of the city from history (though these aren't always free). 

94. Free tour at Gassan Diamonds - Not many know about Amsterdam's history as a leading player in the diamond industry but this free tour at Gassan Diamonds will help educate you... and probably give you an appetite for not-at-all-free diamond jewellery.

95. Maritime Museum boats on Oosterdok - Inbetween Amsterdam's NEMO Science Museum and Maritime Museum is a harbour where the latter has some historic boats moored. There are information boards giving you each boats story.

96. ARCAM - Just across the water from the Maritime Museum and its boast is the Architecture Centre Amsterdam where you can find out more about the city's iconic building styles, while being an predictably quirky building itself. 

97. Free concert at Concertgebouw - These lunchtime recitals are effectively rehearsals but obviously expect high standard and a little bit of awe at the beautiful concert hall they're held in. More information can be found here

98. Free concert at National Opera & Ballet Theatre - A similar set-up to the deal at Concertgebouw, these free concerts allow you to enjoy the finest symphony and opera music in the Netherlands for free. Find out more here.

99. Cannabis College - This place does what you think it would; educates you on cannabis, with talks, a library and a cannabis garden. You can find out more on their website.

100. Explore some Amsterdamse School Architecture - One of the lesser known but just as important and impressive architecture styles in the city, several examples of Amsterdam School architecture can be found scattered around the city. This is a good summary to find some of the most famous buildings.

101. Max Euwe Centrum Chess Museum - Tucked in the corner of this busy square and throughfare for bikes, the Max Euwe Centrum is a place dedicated to chess. Dutchman Max Euwe was world chess champion in 1935  and this small museum was created after his death to continue his legacy. Outside there's a large chess set for anyone to play with but inside is where you'll actually learn something!

102. Anatomy Museum Vrolik - Another one of Amsterdam's few free museums, Anatomy Museum Vrolik began life in the late 1700s as a medical collection of specimens for research purposes. Located in the Academic Medical Centre some distance outside of the city centre, this is a vast collection of things that you'll either find fascinating or totally gruesome.

103. De Poezenboot (The Cat Boat) - A rescue houseboat for cats that has been going for decades, come and play with cats of all shapes, sizes and personalities for free, though donations are welcome! Read this review of the cat boat Amsterdam.

104. Go to Anne Frank's REAL house - If you fancy a little bit of a challenge, head on a journey to find the house Anne Frank lived in before going into hiding. Their apartment at number 37 Merwedeplein was brand new when Anne and her family lived there and indeed it was their home for almost ten years before they moved into the Secret Annex. You can't go inside and look around but there is a statue of Anne outside the green their apartment looks over and this is poignant enough to spend a few minutes close to.

105. Rijksmuseum library - While the Rijksmuseum is certainly not free (though you definitely get your money's worth!) you can visit the library for free and I highly recommend you do if you have a thing for libraries. It's a great place to get some peace and quiet or do some work if you really need to! To visit go to the ticket desk and ask for a ticket.

106. Free walking tour - I've deliberately left this one to the end because it's usually at the beginning of a list of what to do in Amsterdam for free (and I like to be different!) but yes, you can do a free walking tour in Amsterdam. There are a number of companies offering free tours of Amsterdam and I can't personally recommend any so make sure you do a bit of research before you decide on one.

Amsterdam's Best Free Events and Festivals

Before landing in Amsterdam (or even booking your trip) it's well worth finding out if a free event or festival is happening during your stay. This is the best page to find out about specific free Amsterdam stuff like the events or festivals you may be interested in but I've listed below some great regular events that are free to enjoy. Please note the dates are accurate as of 2018.

107. Vondelpark Open Air Theatre (in summer) - A series of concerts, performances, DJ sets and shows that are put on for free in Vondelpark, with afternoon sets for families too.

108. Amsterdam Light Festival (in winter) - This festival pretty much saves winter in Amsterdam as it adds colour, light and culture to the city. Boat rides seeing all the installations are not free but walking around the canals and finding them is.

109. 24H in... - These 24 hours weekend events aim to open up  parts of the city to residents to explore. Places that usually charge admission open up their doors for free and other events are held around the clock. It's definitely worth finding out if one of these 24H are happening during your visit.

110. Amsterdam Open Monument Days - Another event that sees museums and heritage houses open up their doors for free for a weekend, check out the Open Monumenten Dagen page to find out when the next event will be..

111. King's Day - The biggest party of the year in Amsterdam is arguably King's Day (Pride is a close second!) on 27th April and it's impossible not to be bowled over by the atmosphere, street parties, the free markets (which sees the city become one big outdoor fleamarket) and ALL THAT ORANGE! 

112. Liberation Day - Commemorating the day the Netherlands were liberated from German occupation, 5th May is a smaller celebration but significant holiday in Amsterdam and there's nearly always something going on (for free!) from concerts to parades. Definitely worth a Google search. 

113. Pride - Pride in Amsterdam is a huge deal and there are events happening all over the city for the best part of a week. Keep your eye on the website and if you want to see the main canal parade go early to claim a good spot.

114. Tulip Festival - It's hard to ignore tulips in Amsterdam at most times of the year but this free month-long festival in April makes it extra hard. Just as well I like tulips. Check out this page for more information about what's happening where and when. And read this post sharing tips for finding tulips in Amsterdam at any time of year.

115. Spring Snow Festival - Arguably my favourite natural festival, so to speak, the spring snow is well worth timing your trip to Amsterdam for. It's just really magical... until all the elm tree blossom gets rained on and everything is a brown pulpy mush underfoot.... Hmm. Here are all the other lovely things you can do in Amsterdam in springtime.

116. Approximately 300 other festivals.... - I've just decided there are way too many festivals to mention and I need a cup of tea. Check out this page instead. Besides, I've just given you 111 other free things to do in Amsterdam so that should keep you busy instead!

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

Guide to Visiting Amsterdam on a Budget

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

The Best Photo Spots in Amsterdam

The Best Day Trips from Amsterdam

and Tips for Cycling in Amsterdam

I hope you found this useful, if you'd like to Pin it, go ahead with the image below! And if you've got some other tips for free things to do in Amsterdam I'd love to read them in the comments.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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