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Free Things to Do in Amsterdam
Regardless of the fluctuating dollar-to-euro exchange rate, the Netherlands is an expensive country to visit. Besides flowers, cheese, and wine, everything seems pricier in Amsterdam than in an American city. Here, though, are some cost-free exceptions.
Music to the Ears
Give your ears a free tune-up at one of the many free lunchtime concerts scheduled during the cultural season (which is generally considered year-round minus July and August).
Classical performances are usually at 12:30 on Tuesdays in the Muziktheater and the Muziekgebouw and on Wednesdays in the Concertgebouw.
Arrive a half hour early to guarantee your seat. Less in demand, though a no less lovely way to pass 30 minutes, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and various churches also hold recitals for the public.
Linger in the glassed-in corridor outside the Amsterdam Museum (entrance at Kalverstraat 92), known as the Schuttersgalerij, where the city's wealthy civic guards, peers of those in Rembrandt's The Night Watch, gaze down at you from 15 huge Golden Age paintings.
Even if you're not searching for your Dutch ancestors in its 35 km (20 miles) of records, the Amsterdam City Archives merits a visit.
A permanent exhibition of artifacts and ephemera documenting the city is displayed throughout the premises; the former bank is in itself worth the tour.
There's a modest €2.50 suggested donation for entrance to the Hollandsche Schouwburg, commemorating the 104,000 Dutch Jews who were killed in World War II.
The building was a popular theater, then became a Jewish deportation center, and a visit is a somber experience, albeit a salient way to learn about this dark chapter in Amsterdam's history.
A guided canal cruise is the finest way to appreciate Amsterdam's inner waterways, but to really ride a local's wave, hop on a free ferry behind Centraal Station.
Commuters shuttling between the city center and the borough of Noord rely on the three main lines, though the boats are open to anyone—pedestrian or cyclist—looking for a breezy, horizon-expanding cruise over the IJ (yes, that damnable diphthong of a name for the lake connecting the city to the North Sea).
The NDSM-Werfveer line offers the longest ride, 14 minutes, and leaves every 15 minutes on weekdays and every half hour on weekends. If time permits, do get off: this is a perfect chance to explore the rusty postindustrial bliss of NDSM Wharf, where creative offices and art studios neighbor old sea vessels, abandoned freight cars, and lifting equipment.
Seeking a meditative moment? By day any of Amsterdam's public parks is ideal for a stretch or a stroll. The centrally located Vondelpark is a visitor's favorite (outfitted with its own Picasso sculpture), though Saphartipark in the Pijp has an impressive jungle gym for adults who like to exercise al fresco.
The city's man-made forest, the Amsterdamse Bos, is an oasis for cyclists, Nordic walkers, kayakers, and even some urban tent-toters.
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