With Lisbon, Venice and Vienna now the cheapest city breaks in Europe, according to the Post Office’s annual worldwide holiday costs report, one of our favourite Dutch cities has slipped further down the affordability list. With that in mind, here’s how you can enjoy your day trip or weekend break to Amsterdam on a budget.
Take a walking tour
You could spend hours walking the streets of Amsterdam (and believe me, I have) with a trusty Lonely Planet guide in hand but when you’re shorter on time, it’s often easier to opt for a free walking tour. I’ve used Sandemans New Amsterdam before, they offer two walks a day, each one is three-hours long. They cover the Red Light District, the Begijnhof Convent and the Civic Guards Gallery, where you can spot a few of the ‘old masters’ paintings on display. If you’re like me and you fancy something a little alternative, then opt for the Original Amsterdam Alternative Tour. It starts at 2pm at Spuistraat; you’ll be able to see the city’s best street art and hidden graffiti all on one walk.
Explore the canals
With more canals than Venice, it’s worth renting a bike for the day to cycle the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Enjoy the fresh air, cycle along the 400-year-old waterways so you can gaze at the city’s waterside views and exotic canal boats. You’ll also be able to take photos of the unique architecture all around the city, including Singel 7, the narrowest house in the city measuring only 1 metre in width. It’s all because during the sixteenth century, Dutch authorities levied taxes from citizens based on the width of their houses. Crazy!
See art for free
I’ve been to, pretty much, all of the art museums in Amsterdam over my multiple visits to the city and can tell you that the admission costs often stack up. The Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum in particular.
But you can see world-class art for free in other galleries in the city, just head to bohemian Spiegelkwartier or Jordaan. Wander down Prinsengracht to make a stop in Keren de Vreede, where local artists regularly meet and where you can see multiple textural canvases. If you’d rather see more substantial curated collections, then visit Galerie Ron Mandos, Gabriel Rolt or Annet Gelink Gallery. You’ll save a heck of a lot and still feel cultured.
Picnic in the park
There’s plenty of green spaces throughout Amsterdam to enjoy a picnic but there’s two that really stand out – Vondelpark as it’s the biggest and the public gardens outside the Rijksmuseum for its own sculpture collection. So, visit one of the many foodie markets in the morning, pick up your ingredients and take a packed lunch along to either of them. If you enjoy wildlife as much as I do, then I can also recommend the beautiful Artsplein which is nearby to Artis Zoo, take advantage of Amsterdam on a budget and see some of the 900 animals for free at the same time!
Visit the mini museums
I’d be lying if I said that Amsterdam is just a place for art museums, it’s not – it didn’t get it’s quirky reputation for nothing! Take some time out to visit some of the cheaper museums, which still offer a curious look into the city’s eclectic culture. Visit the trippy Electric Lady Land, the world’s first fluorescent museum, the Houseboat Museum for a glimpse of life on one of the city’s 2,500-plus homes or the interactive science exhibits at NEMO Schiphol – yes, it’s at the airport. The museum in the city centre has an admission fee but this smaller version won’t cost you anything.
Listen to free live music
It’s true that Amsterdam comes alive after dark, not just for the obvious reason, head to Bourbon Street for an evening education in rhythm and blues. Entrance is free on Mondays. Walk just five minutes down the road to the equally lively Jazz Café Alto, where performances span genres from salsa to soul performances are free every night. If I had to pick between the two, I’d prioritise the latter for its warm atmosphere, enigmatic crowd and cheaper drinks. Both are popular with locals so don’t leave your visit too late in the day.
Pick up a vintage gem
You won’t find a better vintage offering than some of the shops and markets in this city – fact.
This Danish hub offers a wide range of vintage wares that are perfect if you’re visiting Amsterdam on a budget. At Kiloshop items are priced by weight, I’ve managed to find historical soviet pins, Parisian posters and European tea dresses here for under €10. On trendier Haarlemmerstraat, pop into Rumors Vintage for stylish coats and jackets or spend a couple of hours sifting through one of the local flea markets; I’ve been to the monthly flea market at Noord’s IJ-Hallen Vlooienmarkt and absolutely loved it.
Do you have any recommendations for doing Amsterdam on a budget?