Free Things to Do in Amsterdam
In Amsterdam, staples like food, beer, and flowers are relatively inexpensive but there are lots of ways to keep trip costs down, too.
There are plenty of free artworks to gaze at, in addition to the monumental museums. For starters, head to the Amsterdam Museum where you can linger in the glassed-in corridor outside (entrance at Kalverstraat 92) and take in the 15 huge Golden Age paintings of the city’s wealthy civic guards, peers of those in Rembrandt's The Night Watch.
Even if you're not searching for your Dutch ancestors in its 50 km (31 miles) of records, the free Stadsarchief Amsterdam (City Archives) merits a visit for the permanent exhibition of artifacts and ephemera documenting the city. Seeing the insides of the former bank building itself is worth the tour.
A modest €3 (suggested donation) will gain you entrance to the Hollandsche Schouwburg, commemorating the 104,000 Dutch Jews who were killed in World War II. The building was a popular theater but then became a Jewish deportation center; a visit is a somber experience, but it's an excellent way to learn about this dark chapter in Amsterdam's history.
Music, dance, and more
Free lunchtime concerts take place around the city almost all year long (except for July and August). Classical performances are usually at 12:30 pm on Tuesday in the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, monthly on Tuesday in the Muziekgebouw, and on Wednesday in the Concertgebouw. Arrive about half an hour early to guarantee a seat. Some churches have free concerts, too: check out the Westerkerk on Friday at 1 pm April–October.
The summer festival schedule often mean free musical opportunities: there are free concerts in the Vondelpark (www.openluchttheater.nl/english), canalside classical recitals (www.grachtenfestival.nl/home.vm), dance performances in public squares (www.julidans.nl), and open-air movies on the IJ riverbank (www.plukdenacht.nl/en). In August the traveling theater festival Parade (www.deparade.nl/ams/info/parade) has free admission before 3 pm. Cultural festivals in the Oosterpark, like the Amsterdam Roots Festival (amsterdamroots.nl), are free, too.
By day any of Amsterdam's public parks is ideal for a stretch or a stroll. The centrally located Vondelpark is a favorite, though Saphartipark in De Pijp, with its lovely gardens, and Westerpark, with its repurposed gas works buildings, are also worth seeking out. The city's public library, Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, has floors and floors of free books to browse and computers to use, as well as concerts, art projects for the little ones, and a rooftop café where the drinks aren't free but the to-die-for view is.
A guided canal cruise is the finest way to appreciate Amsterdam’s inner waterways, but go local and hop on one of the free ferries 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. The NDSM-Werfveer line offers the longest ride (14 minutes) and leaves every 15 minutes on weekdays (less frequently in the evenings) and every half hour on weekends.
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