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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

10 Free Things to Do In Amsterdam

Amsterdam is an amazing city full of beautiful buildings and museums and artwork, but with so much stuff to do, it can be difficult to stay on budget if you don't plan some free and cheap activities during your trip. Here are 10 of my picks for freebies to plan a trip around when we're not just enjoying an Amsterdam staycation at home.

Here are 10 of my picks for freebies to plan a trip around when we're not just enjoying an Amsterdam staycation at home.
Photo credit: Nancy Jennings*

1. Amsterdam Street Art

By now you know that I love street art. It's free and it can really give you a feel for the city you're in, since many large cities work with local artists to make bare walls more interesting and beautiful. Amsterdam is known for its street art and is building a museum specifically to celebrate it.

2. Amsterdam Gallery at Amsterdam Museum

This small passageway between galleries is full of Dutch Master portraits, more modern additions and even temporary exhibits.

Photo credit: Nancy Jennings*

3. GVB Amsterdam Ferries

I love a boat ride and a ferry is always a fun experience. If you want to take a free ride down the river and also get places faster for free, this is the perfect way to do it. It might take you a little longer than expected, but that's the fun of travel, slowing down and just soaking in your destination.

4. Rijksmuseum Garden

Though the Rijksmuseum costs admission, and perhaps you want to visit there too, the gardens are open to the public and a great place to stroll and enjoy the nice weather. Plus there is a temporary sculpture exhibit added each year by a noted artist from June to October.

5. VU Botanical Gardens

Bontanical gardens are always a nice break from the chaos of the city. Everything slows down for a while. Used for education and research at VU University, it is now mostly for visitors and includes over 6,000 plant species, including a cactus garden and a miniature Chinese landscape garden.

Photo credit: Nancy Jennings*

6. NEMO Roof Terrace

On top of the NEMO Science Museum, is a panoramic terrace that looks over the city, has interactive exhibits, and has a café for you to purchase something to eat or drink while you sit and admire the view. Though it is currently closed to the public, when reopened, it may or may not require admission to NEMO to access.

7. Albert Cuyp Market

With over 250 stalls, this is the largest outdoor market in the Netherlands, and also the biggest market in Europe. Locals go to Albert Cuyp to buy groceries, and you might also do this if you plan to stay in a place with a kitchen, or even if you just want to pick up some local foods to eat while you're out sightseeing. Markets are one of my favorite ways to find new foods and interact with locals. It's also great for people watching.

8. Vondelbunker & Vondelpark

Vondelpark is a large green space with cafés, playgrounds, art sculptures, a rose garden, and more. In the summer, there are free concerts on the weekends at the open-air theater, and it is home to the Vondelbunker. Vondelbunker is an old bomb shelter that is now a culture center with an entrance hidden under a bridge. All the events are free, though it is strictly volunteer-run, so any donations are appreciated.

9. Flevopark & Graffiti Bridge

You probably have figured out (even before this list) that I adore a public park, especially those with interesting activities/landmarks. Flevopark is home to a Jewish cemetery, gin distillery, tennis courts, and a lake with bird habitat zones. Not only that, but if you like street art and graffiti art, then Zuiderzeeweg bridge is a must-visit for you.

10. Amsterdam Schiphol Panorama Terrace & Rijksmuseum Schiphol at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

When you arrive or before you leave, explore a bit of the airport. There's a great museum inside, which is open 24/7 and showcases Dutch artists. There's an airport library, a meditation room, an indoor park, and a NEMO outpost for the kids. Schiphol has a large terrace where you can see the airport runways, but also has a full-size Fokker 100 KLM aircraft on display. You can see what it feels like to be inside a plane when not being confined to your seat and even check out the cockpit and other normally off-limits sections. 

While not an exhaustive list of free things to see and do in Amsterdam, this will give you a sense of things to look forward to being able to add to your itinerary. There's way more to this city than tulips and windmills.

What things do you look for whenever you travel? 

*Thanks to my friend Nancy, for the use of her vacation photos for this post. 

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