Amsterdam comes packed with museums, galleries and attractions but, of course, this all comes at a price. By the time you’ve added travel to and around the city, accommodation and meals into your itinerary you’ll have made quite a dent in your wallet. I’ve compiled a handy ‘what to see for free’ list and map to help balance the bottom line of your Amsterdam budget and get just a little more bang for your buck.
1. Free Amsterdam Walking Tour
Sandeman’s New Amsterdam Walking Tours last around three hours and are one of the most economical and enjoyable ways to see Amsterdam’s top sights and at the same time get an orientation of the city. Young guides and students work on a tip-only basis to show you attractions such as the Red Light District, the Royal Palace, Anne Frank House and Dam Square.
Where: Departing from the National Monument in Dam Square daily at 11.15am and 1.15pm
2. Be Entertained in Dam Square
The historical centre of the city, Dam Square, bordered by the impressive architecture of the Royal Palace and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), is where the buzz is going on. The National Monument stands across the road from the Royal Palace and you’ll find lots of busy shops, restaurants and bars around the Square. Spend time people-watching and catch a performance by the lively street entertainers and the not so lively ‘living statues’.
3. Explore Amsterdam’s Canals
Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals are in and around the Jordaan district where you can wander and admire the beautiful gabled buildings – some leaning every which way, their reflections rippling in the canal waters. Stop for a drink at the café by the Torensluis, the city’s oldest remaining bridge and watch the boats float by.
Where: Start at the Singel Canal and head towards Westerkerk
4 & 5. Westerkerk and Statue of Anne Frank
Entrance to the Westerkerk (www.westerkerk.nl) – a huge Protestant church is free. Rembrandt is said to be buried somewhere inside although the exact location isn’t known. The church is often mentioned in Anne Frank’s diary as the chiming of its clock-tower could be heard from the Franks’ family hideaway (Anne Frank’s Huis) just a few doors away.
Next-door to the church at 263 Prinsengracht is the Sexton’s House and on the small square in front you’ll find a statue of Anne Frank. Towards the back of the church are the three triangles of the Homomonument.
6. ‘I Amsterdam’ Sign
One of Amsterdam’s most popular squares is the Museumplein, where you’ll find the Rijksmuseum and the iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. Pose, sit on or in front of the giant red and white letters for your very own ‘Me in Amsterdam shot’! Nearby is Vondelpark, one of Amsterdam’s biggest parks; take a picnic, relax in the sun and rest those walk-weary feet.
7. A Lunchtime concert at Concertgebouwplein
If you happen to find yourself in Amsterdam from September to June, also known as the cultural arts season look out for the free lunchtime concerts which take place on a Wednesday. Starting at 12.30pm, the Concertgebouw puts on 30 minute public performances as they rehearse for the evening performance. Arrive early if you’d like a seat.
Where: Concertgebouwplein 2-6 (off Van Baerlestraat)
8. Explore ‘Begijnhof’
Just a few minutes walk from The Amsterdam Museum is the entrance to Begijnhof. This medieval courtyard is on Gedempte Begijnensloot www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl where you’ll enter an oasis of peace in the city; 14th-century houses and well-tended gardens along with a beautiful old church. Look for number 34, the oldest house in Amsterdam and one of only two remaining wooden houses in the city.
Where: Gedempte Begijnensloot (alley just off the Spui) Opening hours: Daily 9am – 5pm
9. Visit the Civic Guards Gallery
Take a peek at some of Amsterdam’s finest art for free. Right in the centre of Amsterdam, just inside the Kalverstraat gate to the Amsterdam Historical Museum, is a small glass-roofed alley that exhibits some breathtaking 17-century paintings which are free to view – a teaser to its main collection. www.amsterdammuseum.nl
Where: Find the Schuttersgalerij between the Kalverstraat and Begijnhof. Enter at Kalverstraat 92.
Before you hop on your plane back home you can get your final free culture fix at Schiphol Airport. The Rijksmuseum puts on free mini taster exhibitions on Holland Boulevard, in the area behind passport control between the E and F Pier, it houses a permanent exhibition of ten works by Dutch masters of the Golden Age from the Rijksmuseum collection.
The museum is open to passengers only every day from 7am – 8pm
If you’d like to plot your route through Amsterdam’s ‘free to see’ sights and attractions I’ve put together a little map so you can see exactly where to find all these little gems. Enjoy!
Most payable museums and galleries are around €9-€12 for admission and I’d recommend you book in advance on-line to avoid precious hours spent queuing.