Tucked behind an inconspicuous door on the Spui square, a world of quiet reflection is waiting to be discovered. The Begijnhof is a tranquil courtyard that dates back to the 14th century, once inhabited by religious women who took a vow of chastity. It's still home to a small chapel and an English Reformed church. The door to the garden is only open during the day.
Some museums in Amsterdam have sections that you can visit for free! Just minutes from the Begijnhof, the Schuttersgalerij (Civic Guards Gallery) is now officially part of the Amsterdam Museum but is still free for all visitors. Duck into this alleyway from Kalverstraat 92 or Sint Luciensteeg 27 to discover a small but impressive gallery filled with historical and modern portraits of the Dutch elite. Or delve into the city’s rich history at the Amsterdam City Archives: the Amsterdam Treasures collection (fittingly located in the basement Treasury of the building) is free to visit and features a host of intriguing items drawn from the archives.
3) Walking & cycling tours
Take a self-guided tour of the city with the power of your own two feet! Download a free walking tour or cycling tour and start exploring Amsterdam’s diverse neighbourhoods – the Jordaan, Pijp and Plantage are particularly picturesque. If you prefer to explore the city with a group, Sandeman’s New Amsterdam walking tour is still completely free – but of course tips are appreciated!
Even if you’re not planning to shop, Amsterdam’s open-air markets are a feast for the senses and offer countless photo opportunities. From organic vegetables and flowers to antiques and second-hand treasures, markets are a great way to get a local perspective.
5) Gardens & parks
Amsterdam’s gardens and parks are open (and free) all year round, with kilometres of well-kept walking paths and plenty of space for a picnic. In the summer months, the Vondelpark puts on performances in their free open-air theatre and you’ll often find free festivals in parks as well.
Image credit: Cécile Obertop
6) Classical & jazz concerts
If you know where to look, you can find a free concert nearly every day of the week. The National Opera & Ballet (formerly Amsterdam Music Theatre) puts on free concerts every Tuesday at 12:30 while the Royal Concertgebouw holds their free lunch concerts at the same time on Wednesdays. The Badcuyp has a number of free concerts each week, including the Sunday Night Jazz sessions. The Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ serves up free lunch concerts one Tuesday each month and the Bimhuis offers at least one free evening concert, workshop or jam session every week. The majority of the upcoming free classical concerts are included in our classical highlights listing.
7) Ferry ride
Behind Central Station you’ll find a number of ferries crossing the IJ River and they’re all completely free! Jump on a boat for the ideal introduction to Amsterdam Noord. The Buiksloterweg stop is best for exploring the EYE Filmmuseum and the Tolhuistuin, as well as historic Noord that maintains its village appeal. Or go to NDSM Wharf – a former shipyard filled with artists’ studios, creative workshops and intriguingly barren terrain.
8) Amsterdam Public Library (OBA)
Besides curling up and paging through the huge selection of English-language books and magazines, the Amsterdam Public Library near Central Station has tons of other free attractions. There’s a floor filled with kid-sized fun, rotating art exhibitions, weekly readings and occasional concerts. Even if you’re not a book lover, it’s worth a visit for the impressive architecture and views from the top floor.
Every year Amsterdam puts on a huge variety of free festivals and events. The season usually kicks off in mid April and continues through to January – meaning there’s at least one free festival nearly every month of the year! A few of the best free festivals include King’s Day, Gay Pride, the Uitmarkt, Amsterdam Heritage Days, National Windmill Day, National Museum Weekend, Canal Festival , Amsterdam Light Festival - and don't forget to pick a free tulip on National Tulip Day.
Pick a free tulip on Dam Square on National Tulip Day in January.
Many of Amsterdam’s churches have been repurposed as concert venues, museums and more. But there are still a number of functioning churches where you can attend a service or admire the interiors during the week for free, including the Westerkerk, Noorderkerk, St. Nicolaaskerk, De Papegaai (H.H. Petrus en Pauluskerk) and Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk. View a full listing of churches & places of worship.