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Things to do in Amsterdam for free!

As the prices in Amsterdam are rising in direct proportion to its popularity, this city built on stilts due to the softness of its foundation, with its high prices can warp your wallet like the iconic buildings you will see around you. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of tips for those on more modest budgets to see this Dutch capital without spending any money!

Watch free movies under the stars at Pluk de Nacht

There are so many free festivals in Amsterdam, mostly from early spring to early autumn, and it’s hard to choose one. Perhaps the most beautiful of these is the Pluk de Nacht Open Air film festival, held every August on the shores of Lake IJ. Despite its increasing popularity, the festival has managed to maintain its friendly and warm atmosphere. Bring a picnic basket so you can have a good dinner watching independent movies for the first time on the big screen. Dutch summers may not always be hot, so be sure to bring a blanket with your popcorn. On spring days, a few days before King’s Day, the Nieuwmarkt area fills with excitement at the little-known and week-long local music and food fair ‘Aprilfesten’. Even if you visit during the winter, you don’t have to miss the free entertainment. Every December, the Amsterdam Light Festival is held for a month, which graces the icy canals with shimmering artwork.

Hiking, picnicking and swimming at Amsterdamse Bos

The ‘Amsterdam Forest’ is much more than a park; It is a huge, lush playground on the outskirts of the city. Traveling on foot, you can rely on your feet to get you to the freshwater lakes, rowing club and goat farm. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the jungle-themed artworks encountered along the trails. Don’t worry if the forest is a little too far for you. Barbecuing at the intimate Flevopark or sunbathing next to the open-air stage of Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s original hippie haven, provides a similar hidden garden feel without leaving the city centre.

Take a guided walking tour

You can also explore the city by downloading a city guide app to your mobile phone, but this is no substitute for a true story-telling guide. Walking tour companies like Sandeman’s New Amsterdam offer free, highly informative walks 365 days a year. Sandeman’s experienced guides will take you through narrow streets, secluded courtyards and culturally diverse areas, filling your mind with wonder and truth. By getting there in advance, you can avoid the 3 euro reservation fee for online reservations.

Enjoy a free classical music performance during your lunch break

Attending one of the Concertgebouw’s regular classical music concerts will inevitably cost you money, but you can attend the free 30-minute sessions at 12:30 noon every Wednesday from September to June. This free delight comes with world-renowned acoustics as well as the city’s favorite neoclassical architecture. The National Opera and Ballet also offers similar shows every Tuesday afternoon from September to May.

Clear your mind on the ferry

The Venice of the Netherlands, of course, cannot be fully experienced without mingling with water. There’s always a chance you’ll find a friendly Amsterdammer to take you on board on a hot day, but if your charm lets you down, the free ferries behind Central Station can be a good backup plan. The Buikslotermeer ferry goes to the EYE Film Museum, which has a permanent free exhibition, and to the free gardens of Tolhuistuin. If that short trip wasn’t enough to satisfy your craving for a cruise, you can hop aboard the NDSM ferry for a liberating and windswept 15-minute ride to the NDSM dock, which used to be a shipyard. Today, the gathering place for artists and media companies, this quay is a great spot to see the city from a different perspective.

Blend in with the crowds in the markets

The best way to observe local life without spending a penny is to visit one of Amsterdam’s many markets. While the most well-known markets here are the popular Waterlooplein flea market, the famous Flower Market and the multicultural Dappermarkt, Noordermarkt is by far the best atmospheric. Located in the center of the historic Jordaan district and surrounded by small alleys, quiet canals and historic trees, this famous and nostalgic food market is one of the places that best reflects its romantic background. Serving local organic produce on Saturdays and second-hand clothes on Mondays, this place is the ideal spot to set up a bank and watch the people of Amsterdam shake off their morning slumber.

Explore the city archives

Amsterdam may be one of the capitals with the most museums per square meter in the world, but the closest thing to a free museum you can find here is the Stadsarchief, the city archives, set in a gorgeous brick building on the Vijzelstraat. From faded photos and private letters to faded maps and historical artifacts, you can dive deep into history with this collection of all these memories of the city’s past.

View the city from NEMO’s terrace

As skyscrapers are few and far from each other, any high point in Amsterdam will give you a general outline of the city’s lovely terraces, but keep in mind that most church towers will charge a substantial fee for access. On a sunny day, viewing the museum-heaven harbour, Central Station and Amsterdam’s famous VOC ships from the sloping terrace of the Science Center NEMO on the waters of Oosterdok is an invaluable experience.

Join the party at Pacific Parc

While there are lots of great nightclubs and bars here, most parties in the city will charge you an entrance fee. Pacific Parc’s free parties every Thursday through Saturday are a lively exception. The bartenders are attractive, the DJs are devoted to old-school rock and soul music unlike the endless ‘house’ music scene of Amsterdam, and the dance floor is the kind that doesn’t judge anyone.


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