Visiting Amsterdam on a Budget

Visiting Amsterdam on a budget

A city of 1500 bridges, 50km of canals and more bikes than people, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular cities with visitors from around the world. Along with its beautiful gabled houses and flower-decked watersides, there’s an enormous amount to see and do, whether your interests are more Golden Age art or graffiti, high culture or getting high in a coffee shop. But this wealth of amazing experiences doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag attached to it. So here are my top tips for making the most of Amsterdam on a budget.

Read more: Exploring the Amsterdam Light Festival

Tulips in the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam

Tulips in the Bloemenmarkt flower market

Things to do in a budget

Amsterdam is synonymous with its canals, and one of the best free things to do in the city is get out and get lost among them. The city is centred around the UNESCO-listed Canal Ring, where three canals form a horseshoe shape around the old centre.

Beyond that there’s Jordaan, a former working-class area now full of galleries, restaurants and boutiques among some of the prettiest stretch of canal. Or hang out in the cafés of De Pijp, a district with a young, creative feel that’s is home to the Albert Cuypmarkt street market. You can also visit the Jewish Quarter for the Waterlooplein flea market, zoo and botanical gardens.

If you want a break from canals, the city also has some lovely parks – ranging from the huge Vondelpark (which hosts free events in its open-air theatre on weekends from May to September) to the peaceful Begijn of, a pretty courtyard surrounded by 14th-century cottages.To learn a bit about the city’s history, several companies run free walking tours where you just tip your guide. Sandeman’s New Amsterdam Tours do a 3-hour city highlights tour leaving from the National Monument in Dam Square several times a day. Original Amsterdam Tours run a 3-hour city history walk and an ‘Alternative Amsterdam’ tour of street art, coffee shops and squats in some of the city’s lesser-known areas. Both depart opposite Madame Tussauds at 2pm.

Or the I Amsterdam card gives you free entry to over 60 museums and attractions, plus a free canal cruise and unlimited public transport on the trams, buses and metro. There are four different versions: 24 hours (€59), 48 hours (€74), 72 hours (€87) and 96 hours (€98).

For a free taste of culture, head to the Schuttersgalerij or Civic Guards Gallery, where 15 Goldern Age paintings, similar in style to Rembrandt’s Night Watch, line a covered street near the Amsterdam Museum. In a modern building on the riverside, the EYE film museum has a free basement cinema and private viewing pods. It’s free to get there too on the Buiksloterweg ferry from behind Centraal Station. Other free museums include the City Archives, Multatuli Museum and the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Holocaust Memorial).

Rijksmuseum sculpture gardens Amsterdam

GUIDES

VISITING AMSTERDAM ON A BUDGET

Last updated on March 22, 2019

Visiting Amsterdam on a budget

A city of 1500 bridges, 50km of canals and more bikes than people, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most popular cities with visitors from around the world. Along with its beautiful gabled houses and flower-decked watersides, there’s an enormous amount to see and do, whether your interests are more Golden Age art or graffiti, high culture or getting high in a coffee shop. But this wealth of amazing experiences doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag attached to it. So here are my top tips for making the most of Amsterdam on a budget.

Read more: Exploring the Amsterdam Light Festival

Tulips in the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam

Tulips in the Bloemenmarkt flower market

THINGS TO DO IN AMSTERDAM ON A BUDGET

Amsterdam is synonymous with its canals, and one of the best free things to do in the city is get out and get lost among them. The city is centred around the UNESCO-listed Canal Ring, where three canals form a horseshoe shape around the old centre.

Beyond that there’s Jordaan, a former working-class area now full of galleries, restaurants and boutiques among some of the prettiest stretch of canal. Or hang out in the cafés of De Pijp, a district with a young, creative feel that’s is home to the Albert Cuypmarkt street market. You can also visit the Jewish Quarter for the Waterlooplein flea market, zoo and botanical gardens.

If you want a break from canals, the city also has some lovely parks – ranging from the huge Vondelpark (which hosts free events in its open-air theatre on weekends from May to September) to the peaceful Begijnhof, a pretty courtyard surrounded by 14th-century cottages.

Amsterdam bridge

Amsterdam bridge

To learn a bit about the city’s history, several companies run free walking tours where you just tip your guide. Sandeman’s New Amsterdam Tours do a 3-hour city highlights tour leaving from the National Monument in Dam Square several times a day. Original Amsterdam Tours run a 3-hour city history walk and an ‘Alternative Amsterdam’ tour of street art, coffee shops and squats in some of the city’s lesser-known areas. Both depart opposite Madame Tussauds at 2pm.

For classical music fans, there are free half-hour lunchtime concerts at the Concertegebouwconcert house at 12.30pm on Wednesdays (mid-September to June). Some feature the full orchestra rehearsing and others have young musicians. There are also similar concerts on Tuesdays at 12.30pm (September to May) in the foyer of the Dutch National Opera and Ballet.

Or if you prefer jazz, the Bimhuis venue at the Muziekgebouw holds free Monday Match improvisational evenings at 8.30pm on the first Monday of the month and weekly Tuesday workshops at 8pm (where any musicians can join in) followed by a 10pm jam session.

Amsterdam canals

Along the canals in Jordaan

Money Saving Places

Entry to Amsterdam’s big-name museums – like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk modern art museum – costs around €18 per person (entry is free for under 18s). Though you can check out the sculpture gardens surrounding the Rijksmuseum for free.

You can book museum tickets online in advance, which won’t save you money but will help you skip the ticket queue. It’s an especially good idea at the Anne Frank House as you get a timed entry slot that lets you can bypass the long queues that often stretch right down the street (entry costs €10 for adults, €5 for children 10-17 and free for under 10s).

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of museums, there are a couple of discount cards available which can save you money. The Amsterdam City Pass costs €56 for adults (€24 for children 13-17 and €18 for 4–12s) and includes skip-the-line access to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, as well as a canal cruise and tickets for the airport train.

Artwork in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum artworks

Or the I Amsterdam card gives you free entry to over 60 museums and attractions, plus a free canal cruise and unlimited public transport on the trams, buses and metro. There are four different versions: 24 hours (€59), 48 hours (€74), 72 hours (€87) and 96 hours (€98).

For a free taste of culture, head to the Schuttersgalerij or Civic Guards Gallery, where 15 Goldern Age paintings, similar in style to Rembrandt’s Night Watch, line a covered street near the Amsterdam Museum. In a modern building on the riverside, the EYE film museum has a free basement cinema and private viewing pods. It’s free to get there too on the Buiksloterweg ferry from behind Centraal Station. Other free museums include the City Archives, Multatuli Museum and the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Holocaust Memorial).

Rijksmuseum sculpture gardens Amsterdam

In the sculpture garden at the Rijksmuseum

TOP CITY VIEWS

The centre of Amsterdam is fairly low rise, so you won’t find any skyscrapers with views from up high. There are some good city viewpoints though, like from the top of the Openbare Bibliotheek(Public Library). It’s free to enter and there is a café and restaurant with an outdoor terrace.

You can also get a drink with a view from the 11th floor bar in the DoubleTree hotel on Oosterdokstraat (open 11am–1am, or 3am on Friday/Saturday). Or across the city there’s the Hotel Okura which has a cocktail bar on its 23rd floor that’s open to non-residents (open 6pm–1am, or 2am on Friday/Saturday). There’s also Cafe Blue on top of the Kalvertoren shopping centre, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a 360 degree panoramic view. It’s normally open from 10am–6.30pm but stays open until 9pm on Thursday nights.

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