Amsterdam is a great place to visit on a student budget! Why? Not only are there tons of free things to do and explore, it’s easy to get around (just walk or ride a bike like the locals do), and there’s plenty of street markets and cafes with cheap and delicious food. Here’s 13 of our favorite free things to do in Amsterdam.
See the canals.
Perhaps the most iconic sight in Amsterdam, the canals are totally free—stroll through the city, take a bike ride or (if you’re feeling particularly fancy) take a canal cruise (ok, this is obviously not free but is pretty cheap). In fact, Amsterdam’s canal ring was named a UNESCO World Heritage site! Bring your camera and get lost exploring the miles of crisscrossing canals.
Visit Dam Square.
This is kind of a must when visiting Amsterdam. The bustling square is just a five minute walk from Centraal Station and the square is home to iconic sites like the Royal Palace and New Church as well as monuments, cafes, events and more.
Take a free walking tour.
Free walking tours are available in many major cities in Europe and around the world, and you should definitely take advantage of them! They’re a great way to learn your way around the city, see some of the major highlights and learn some history. Most guides work for tips, so it’s a good idea to give them a tip at the end if you can.
Visit Amsterdam’s largest street market.
Albert Cuypmarkt is the largest street market in Amsterdam, where you can find everything from fresh produce and flowers to jewelry, clothes, crafts, food and plenty of pastries. Although this is the largest, there’s plenty of smaller markets to be explored as well.
Or stroll through the flower markets.
Bloemenmarkt is arguably the most famous, although there’s lots of options for flower-lovers in Amsterdam. Bloemenmarkt is a floating flower market, with all of the stalls hosted on boats floating on the canals. It’s a great place to buy flowers, souvenirs or just stop and smell the tulips.
Check out the Cheese Museum.
This small cheese museum is the perfect stop while you’re walking around the city. Museum entry is free (which gives you a bit of cheese, history and some pretty funny photo ops) and then you can taste alllllll the cheese samples in the upstairs shop. Find a favorite cheese here? They’ll package it so that it travels well or even ship it for you.
Learn something new.
Pop into the Amsterdam Centre for Architecture (ARCAM) to learn more about some of the cool architecture around the city, browse the 1.5 million books in the central library (with sweeping city views from the rooftop cafe), or visit the Anne Frank House. (Ok, the Anne Frank house isn’t free, but for €10 it’s worth it!)
See the windmills.
Why even come to Amsterdam if you’re not going to visit a windmill? De Gooyer is the tallest windmill in the Netherlands, located right on the edge of the city. There’s even a brewery inside! If one windmill isn’t enough, head out to Zaanse Schans for the afternoon. This small neighborhood is filled with historic windmills and wooden houses and is the perfect picturesque Dutch village. Plus, it’s home to several chocolate shops due to the local chocolate factory (and yes, the whole village smells like chocolate!).
Catch a free concert.
There’s tons of free music to experience throughout Amsterdam, no matter what your style or taste. From classical (at Concertgebouw and Muziektheater) to jazz (at Bimhuis) to public concerts and street musicians throughout the city, there’s something for everyone.
Hang out in the Jordaan District.
This district is known for its cute and quirky houses, shops and cafes lining the canals. If you’re looking for picture-perfect Amsterdam streets, look no further. Come here for the unique shops, hip cafes, late-night brews or just the perfect Insta pic (we won’t judge).
Visit de Poezenboot
This unique boat in Amsterdam is home to dozens of stray and abandoned cats. For cat-lovers, this cat sanctuary is the perfect place to get some kitty snuggles in while you travel. (Pro-tip: this is a pretty popular spot, so we recommend you pre-book online to make sure there’s space when you stop by.)
Explore Amsterdam Forest and see the baby goats.
Two words: baby. goats. If cats aren’t your thing, maybe head to this goat farm located in the Amsterdam Forest (also totally worth exploring). The forest is a massive park (we’re talking 3x the size of Central Park in New York!) located about a 30-minute bike ride from the central city. Go sailing, enjoy a picnic, a walk through the woods or check the calendar for year-round events.
Enjoy the local festivals and events.
Amsterdam has lots of festivals and tons of free events year-round, so no matter when you go, there’s bound to be something going on! National Windmill Day, the Canal Festival, and the Amsterdam Light Festival are all worth seeing, or check out local calendars (especially for public squares and parks) for upcoming events. (The Vondelpark, for example, hosts lots of free outdoor performances and festivals.)
Ready to go asap? Check out our student discounts on flights to Amsterdam and see how much you could save!