Education or leisure? Whatever your reason for travelling, making the most out of your trip doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 free (or low cost) options to pack out any itinerary.
Windmills, clogs and cycling spring to mind when thinking about the Netherlands and exploring Dutch culture in the country’s capital you can experience all of this and more.
1. Markets, Markets, Markets
Always a ‘must’ whilst travelling is a visit to the local markets and Amsterdam certainly does not disappoint. Between the floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt), outdoor art market (Artplein-Spui), flea market at Waterlooplein and the 120-year-old Lindenmarkt on Saturdays, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for.
2. Giant Spotting in Vondelpark
Covering a whopping 47 hectares, Vondelpark is a haven for nature lovers in the city. A peat meadow area, the ground plays havoc with young trees and in an effort to prevent them from toppling over, they’ve had to get a little creative! Wooden statues have been commissioned to help support the falling trees.
Top Tip! Depending on when you’re travelling, be sure to visit Vondelpark’s open-air theatre as regular concerts are held here throughout the summer months. Also, look out for the original Picasso sculpture ‘The Bird’!
3. IAmsterdam Sign
No holiday or trip abroad is complete without the corresponding selfies. Popping up in various locations around Amsterdam and the surrounding area, the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign is the perfect spot for a group shot.
If you want the photo opportunity without the treasure hunt, you can always tick it off your list on arrival or departure at Schiphol Airport with their permanent ‘I Amsterdam’ sign.
4. Museumplein Park
Located in Amsterdam-Zuid, Museumplein is the ‘go-to’ for museum buffs. If the weather is just too good to spend the day indoors, it’s also the perfect place to relax with a coffee, enjoy a spot of people watching or hire a bike for the day. If you’re visiting around Christmas time, test your skills on the Ice Amsterdam skating rink!
If you are on the lookout for museums and galleries, you can read up on your history at the Rijksmuseum* (or explore the gardens free of charge), admire the Almond Blossom at the Van Gogh Museum* or improve your sketching at the Stedelijk*.
Tip: Rijksmuseum gardens are free to access, entrance fees may apply for museum visits.
5. Singel 7 or Oude Hoogstraat
Amsterdam is well known for its distinguishable architecture. Tall, narrow buildings housing restaurants, shops and the like are a key feature in this wonderful city. Rumour has it that Amsterdam is also home to the world’s smallest house, although its location is often debated.
In a nutshell: Singel 7 is the house with the world’s narrowest façade, meanwhile Amsterdam’s smallest house can actually be found at Oude Hoogstraat 22. It measures in at just 2.02 metres wide and 5 metres deep!
6. Seven Countries in a Day
Located on the Roemer Visscherstraat, just a stone’s throw from Vondelpark and Museumplein, you can find the seven countries houses (Zevenlandenhuizen). Built in 1894, each of these houses reflect a specific architectural style from a different European country and offers the perfect opportunity to explore a little geography, history and culture.
7. Begijnhof Courtyard
A quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, Begijnhof courtyard is surrounded by traditional almshouses and a 14th century chapel. A visit will also acquaint you with the oldest house in Amsterdam – the little wooden house at Begijnhof 34.
Top Tip! If you’re visiting with a group, entrance to the chapel for sightseeing is limited to certain times (usually weekday afternoons before 15:30). Guided tours are not allowed and as it’s a place of silence and prayer, please be mindful of this during your visit.
8. Urban Beaches
Choosing between city break or beach holiday is often a challenge, and whilst Amsterdam may not immediately spring to mind, it certainly has plenty to offer if you’re after a beach vibe.
A child-friendly destination by the water, Dok offers plenty of options for food and drink, live music and entertainment.
Located in Amsterdam, Nieuw-West, Sloterplas has plenty of open space, picnic tables and deck chairs – everything you need for a day at the beach.
9. Amsterdam’s Canal Ring
With a leisurely stroll in the sunshine, there’s no better way to enhance your Dutch experience than by exploring Amsterdam’s extensive canal network.
If you have a little cash to splash, why not have a guided tour covering everything you need to know about the city? Or get to know Amsterdam the Dutch way and hire a bike! You’ll cover a wider area and have the chance to tick off a few of those well-hidden gems further out of town.
10. Clara Maria Cheese Farm & Clog Factory
If you’re after another dose of Dutch culture, why not take a trip to Clara Maria? A traditional 1800s farm located around 15 miles out of Amsterdam centre, Clara Maria Cheese Farm & Clog Factory still produce Gouda cheese and traditional wooden clogs. A perfect opportunity to pick up some souvenirs! They also offer guided tours, demonstrations and workshops for a small fee.
Flower Gardens, Markets & Auctions
(not necessarily free but worth it)
Producing around 70% of the world’s commercial flower output, the Netherlands is a centre of industry, and if you travel in the spring be sure to check out some of the country’s flora on the Bollenstreek. Stretching for 20 miles between Haarlem and Leiden, the best time to visit is between March and May. If you’re searching for tulips, visit in April.
Whilst a stroll along the Bollenstreek is free of charge, you’ll be able to explore much more of the route if you hire a bicycle for the day!
If exploring the Bollenstreek doesn’t quite cut the mustard, there are plenty of other options available to you. The beautiful Keukenhof Gardens have over 7 million bulbs and 800 types of tulip in 32 hectares of flowers, and whilst it’s definitely worth a visit, entrance tickets will set you back around £15-£20 per person. Alternatively, you can get the inside scoop on the largest flower auction in the world with a visit to Aalsmeer flower auction for under £10.
Recommendation: a guided tour will enhance your visit to Keukenhof or Aalsmeer flower auction and provide an insider’s view of each site.
A little further afield…
If you fancy venturing a little further out to see what the rest of the Netherlands has to offer, why not spend some time exploring Den Haag? Dubbed the royal city by the sea, The Hague has plenty to keep you busy, from the parliament buildings and the Peace Palace, to the golden sands of the Scheveningen beach.
Alternatively, a visit to Rotterdam delivers more interesting architecture with the Cube Houses. You could take a walk along the harbour, visit the Markthal or enjoy fantastic city views from the Erasmus Bridge.
Feeling inspired? Explore our Netherlands tours.