This blog post was updated on May 11, 2023.
Amsterdam sets itself apart from other European cities with its wealth of canals, countless bridges, lively neighborhoods, and more bikes than permanent residents. Steeped in history, this 13th century city is filled with character. All that spirit comes at a price, however, meaning you might want to look for some deals when in town…
If you’re worried about enjoying Amsterdam on a budget, look no further. Here’s a few ways to make your way throughout the city without splurging too much while at it!
Purchase the ‘I Amsterdam’ City Card
Most major European cities can take a toll on budgets after a couple of museum visits and a ride around on the metro. Amsterdam helps cushion the blow of those entrances fees with its I Amsterdam City Card. After purchasing it, you can use the bus, tram and metro in the city for unlimited trips. You can enter major museums and attractions in town without paying the entrance fees. And you can even set sail on a canal cruise with the card. To make certain that the card is worth your while, there’s a nice breakdown of how much these entrances fees and train tickets would cost you individually versus buying the card on its web page.
Stroll Around the Canal Ring
One of Amsterdam’s biggest attractions certainly won’t break the bank. The canals of the city are legendary, specifically the canal ring, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The unique urban landscape boasts foundations in the 17th century. The 400-year-old waterways feature 80 bridges throughout the dedicated space. And best of all, you can roam the canals and bridges without opening your wallet. Of course, if you want to learn more about Amsterdam’s famous canals, you can visit the Museum of the Canals.
Sniff the Scents of the Bloemenmarkt
You can’t go to Amsterdam without seeing a tulip or two. Amsterdam’s most fragrant space is also a budget-friendly attraction. Bloemenmarkt features countless flower stalls located on floating barges along the canal. It’s easily the most colorful spot in the city! Here you can admire everything from classic Dutch tulips to more exotic flowers…a true delight for a traveler’s camera. While it’s free to roam the market, purchasing a bouquet might be quite a temptation. After all, Amsterdam has been in the flower business since at least the 17th century. If your nose still craves more, you can visit the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, where you can get an in-depth history of the Netherlands’ favorite flower.
Take the Diamonds Tour
Amsterdam-based diamond cutting and trading company Gassan Diamonds offers free tours of its historical diamond factory. Tours take visitors through the cutting and polishing process where you can see diamond cutters at work. The guided tour also provides the history of the craft, explaining just how Amsterdam has been known as the City of Diamonds for over 425 years.
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Go on a Bar Crawl and Eat Street Food
Rather than spending money on a long and expensive meal, consider heading out one night for a bar crawl. Not only is this a budget-minded idea but it will also provide a more intimate glimpse of the lively city that you will not see if you stick to the tourist-trap fancy restaurants. The Leidseplein area is a great place to start your bar crawl. Here you will find inexpensive drinks to enjoy as you mingle with locals.
One of the best things about going on a bar crawl is indulging in all of the street food along the way. Amsterdam is known for its eclectic mix of street food throughout the city. You cannot miss your chance to try the famous stroopwafel, a thin wafer cookie filled with caramel filling. Other good choices to try as you make your way through the bars include pickled herring, Dutch cheese, and bitterballen with mustard dip. Ask the locals for their best recommendations for street food, but you really can’t go wrong.
Visit the Red Light District
One of the most iconic attractions in Amsterdam does not even require an admission ticket. While some people may be put off by the Red Light District, there is no doubt that it is an important part of the city’s history and culture. You can visit during the day if you simply want to take in the history of the district, distinguished as the oldest part of Amsterdam.
Visitors will find a number of interesting sites in the Red Light District, including churches (!), stunning palaces, museums, coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. For instance, consider a stop at the Allard Pierson Museum, a treasure trove of archaeology findings run by the University of Amsterdam. Or spend some time at the TonTon Club, a fun “barcade” offering up boozy beverages alongside classic arcade games, air hockey, and more. Adjacent to the Red Light District, you will find the Nieuwmarkt Market, a great place to people watch and immerse yourself in the local culture at no cost.
Rent a Bike
There is no major city in the world more bicycle-friendly than Amsterdam. Cycling is a big part of the Dutch culture: the entire city was designed to make it easy to get around by bike. The flat terrain of the city, the hundreds of miles of dedicated cycling lanes, and the compact size make it extremely conducive to use a bike as a major form of transportation. It is also inexpensive to rent a bike for the day or for the duration of your stay in this European city. In fact, you will likely receive a discount the longer that you rent the bike.
In addition to being an affordable way to get around, renting a bike in Amsterdam also provides many time-saving benefits. Not only is it quicker to get around on bike than on foot, but you can also choose your own route rather than relying on public transportation that may not always be as direct. You will see more of the city if you choose a bike!
Do you have a favorite inexpensive or free attraction to recommend in Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments below!
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