Here is a list of free stuff to do in Amsterdam: free activities and interesting places to visit.
Still don’t know what to do?
1. Take the ferry to NDSM
Behind Central Station is the body of water called the IJ. Taking the ferry across the IJ is easy, free and fun and will lead you to the neighbourhood called Amsterdam Noord.
Taking the ferry to NDSM wil take you to a more desolated area where an astonishing underground culture has emerged. This is the place of the old NDSM shipwharf. Two enormous halls offer affordable studios and working spaces for individual artists and craftspeople.
Check out coming festivals, parties and exhibions on NDSM.nl. Take a look around and have drink or eat at nice looking bars IJ-Kantine, the Pancakes Boat, Café Noorderlicht and Pllek.
2. Wander around the gardens of the Rijksmuseum
No money to enter the Rijks Museum? Spend some time in the freely accessible garden. Just like the museum, the surrounding historical garden also got a make-over. The result is a a 14.500 m2 outdoor gallery in Renaissance and Baroque style.
You can even ask for the free guide with some background info on the statues, fountains, ponds and salvaged Dutch architectural pieces — including Gothic pillars and 17th-century city gates.
The Baroque Garden is closed on weekends.
3. Tour a beer brewery
Brewery ‘t IJ is not as well known as the Heineken one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. And every Friday and Sunday at 16.00 they give you a free tour as well. There is a tasting room where the beers, all brewed on the spot and organic can be tried out. And do check out the largest collection of beer bottles in Europe.
4. Go to a free classical lunch concert
The Muziektheater/Stopera at Waterloo Square holds free lunch concerts every Tuesday from 12.30 to 13.00.
You will be treated to a free performance of the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra, the choir of the Dutch Opera or Opera Studio Netherlands.
Wednesday Lunch Concert at Concertgebouw
On Wednesday you can go again for a free concert in Amsterdam. This time drop by at the Concertgebouw on Museum Square. The free Lunch Concert takes place at 12.30.
Lunch concerts at the Concertgebouw vary from public rehearsals of the Royal Concert Building Orchestra, considered one of the best orchestras in the world to performances of ensembles of the Dutch Conservatory and chamber music by young talents.
Lunch concerts at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ
The latest addition of musical theatres, the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ also stages free lunch concerts. Usually these are young musicians and students from the Amsterdam Conservatory who play. Check calender for programming,
5. Attend a free jazz concert
Go to Bimhuis on top of the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ for you free dosis of jazz. Just the building alone, is worth the visit.
Every first Monday of the month it’s Monday Match at the Bimhuis. The performance is based on the concept of a creative dance artist who chooses a musician to partner up in unique impro lab. On Monday, dancers and musicians play and dance the match.
Show starts at 20.30.
Free improv workshop and show
Every Tuesday night you are welcome to participate in a free improv workshop at Bimhuis. All instruments, including voice, are welcome. If you want to join, you have to be ready to play at 20.00 hours. Be aware the level is quite high and there will be an audience. You can also just sit in and listen if you are to shy to join.
Following the workshop, at 22.00 can enjoy live jazz played by students from the Conservatory.
More (free) jazz at Amsterdam’s jazz bars.
6. Only in summer: Open Air Festival Vondelpark
Each summer the small open air theatre in the Vondelpark brings a nice programme of theatre, music, dance and stand up comedy. The Vondelpark openluchttheater is a remainder from the seventies when the romantic musical chapel nearby the theatre where hippies gathered to hold their ‘happenings’.
Free events from the Open Air Theatre are held from June until September Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
7. Walk through the historical art gallery
Hidden away, right in the centre of Amsterdam is a small alley that exhibits 15 huge paintings from the 17th century. The paintings picture portraits of the voluntary city guard from that period. The so called Schuttersgalerij is part of the Amsterdam history museum.
Find the Schuttersgalerij between the Kalverstraat and Begijnhof. Enter at Kalverstraat 92.
8. Rest at courtyard Begijnhof
A special place and very popular among tourists is the Begijnhof, a haven of peace of tranquillity in the bustling centre of the city.
Dating back from the 14th century, Begijnhof comprises several historic buildings and the English Reformed Church.
In a begijnhof or Beguinage (in French), religious women lived to serve God, taking care of the weak and elderly. Different from nuns however, the women did not retire from the world and they could marry and leave the order when they choose to.
Enter at Begijnhof near the square Spui, next to the terrace of the Mexx shop. Left of the entrance is the oldest wooden house of Amsterdam.
9. Take a diamond tour
At the Amsterdam diamond company Gassan Diamonds you can watch diamond cutters turning rough diamonds into polished stones. The company is located in a former steam-driven diamond factory – Amsterdam has a long history of diamond cutting.
Guided tours at the Amsterdam diamond company are free. Near Waterlooplein.
10. Visit the city archives
The City Archives of Amsterdam is the former municipal archive of the city. The archives of the council, but also of all kinds of churches, hospitals and companies are kept in the beautiful building on Vijzelstraat (near Rembrandtplein).
Much information has been digitalised and put on the website Het geheugen van Nederland (the memory of the Netherlands). Also, over 250.000 photo’s and drawings of Amsterdam are found on the Beeldbank Amsterdam.
A visit to the Amsterdam city archives is free.
You can look at 300 pieces in the impressive treasury, watch old historic movies about Amsterdam and its famous inhabitants such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Anne Frank, Johan Cruijff and Theo van Gogh.
11. Listen to a story @ PechaKucha Night
At PechaKucha Night, all kinds of people present something they are passionate about, with a focus on young designers showing their latest creative projects or work. The format is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds, to make presentations concise and keep things moving at a rapid pace. It’s a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace. The idea caught on and PechKucha Nights are held all over the world.
Check out Amsterdam editions at http://www.pecha-kucha.org/night/amsterdam.
12. Listen to more stories
The cultural centre Mezrab organises events such as storytelling, exhibitions, dance, music, film (in English or subtitled), documentary and more. Check out the agenda at www.mezrab.nl. All free, donations very welcome.
The centre is found in the Art Cage in the east of Amsterdam. Also serves tea and Iranian soups.
13. Walk along the Seven Countries Houses
A remarkable street, where architecture is concerned, is the Roemer Visscherstraat, also known as Seven Countries Houses (Zevenlandenhuizen).
Lined up are seven houses, each representing the architectural style from a European country: nr. 20 Germany, romantic; nr. 22 France, Loire-castle style; nr. 24 Spain, a Moorish/Granada influenced villa; nr. 26 an Italian Palazzo; nr. 28 Russia, a cathedral with an onion shaped dome; nr. 30, a Dutch house in renaissance style; nr. 30A an English-styled cottage.
All houses were designed by Dutch architect Tjeerd Kuipers in 1894.
The Roemer Visscherstraat is located near the entrance of the Vondelpark.
14. Enjoy the Amsterdam canals and bridges
Canals, just can’t get enough of them. Walking or biking around the city, taking pictures and just enjoying the sight is definitely worth a mention on this list of free stuff to do in Amsterdam.
Visually very attractive. Standing on one of them, there is a view of no less than 15 bridges. This bridge is called, can’t accuse anyone of being original here, ‘the bridge with the 15 bridges’. At night, they all light up. To be found on the corner of Reguliersgracht/corner of Herengracht.
15. See the bulbs at the Flower market
Very touristy, but nice is the flower market (bloemenmarkt) located on boats. The old market dates back to the times the flowers and bulbs were actually delivered by boat. Now, cars have taken that job, but the boats remain.
The floating flower market is found between Muntplein and Leidsestraat. Hardly any flowers there though. But if you’re looking for a souvenir, there is a large variety to choose from.
Visit more Amsterdam markets.
16. Spend an afternoon at the Cultural park of Wester Gas Factory
Walk or bike down the lovely Haarlemmerstraat to the Westerpark and further down to the Westergasfabriek. This is the former site of a coal processing plant that provided gas to light up the city from the 19th century till the early 60s. The attractive industrial buildings have been renovated and transformed to host restaurants, clubs and a movie theatre. Creative undertakers reside in the historic buildings and in summer and winter festivals, performances and exhibitions take place.
The gas holder (where the gas from the coals was kept) is regularly used for Amsterdam dance festivals and techno raves. If the weather is good, the greens fill up with people who bring their barbecue and children play in the stream.
Check out the calender for upcoming events.