Amsterdam is the Netherlands’ capital, known for its artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades, legacies of the city’s 17th-century Golden Age. Its Museum District houses works by Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and modern art at the Stedelijk. Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are 400km of cycle paths.
Discover your Amsterdam
Look just around the corner and there’s so much more waiting to be discovered! A visit to one of the extraordinary districts around the centre is certainly something not to be missed. Each area has its own character, unique shops, annual cultural festivals and top restaurants. Whether you're looking for modern architecture, a cultural hot spot or an active excursion, there's something for everyone. Discover a different side of Amsterdam.
10 things to do in Amsterdam for free
Even if you’re down to your last cent, you’ll still find plenty to do in Amsterdam! Take a look at our top 10 tips for long days filled with fun and entertainment that won’t cost a thing.
Tucked behind an inconspicuous door on the Spui square, a world of quiet reflection is waiting to be discovered. The Begijnhof is a tranquil courtyard that dates back to the 14th century, once inhabited by religious women who took a vow of chastity. It's still home to a small chapel and an English Reformed church. The door to the garden is only open during the day.
Some museums in Amsterdam have sections that you can visit for free! Just minutes from the Begijnhof, the Schuttersgalerij (Civic Guards Gallery) is now officially part of the Amsterdam Museum but is still free for all visitors. Duck into this alleyway from Kalverstraat 92 or Sint Luciensteeg 27 to discover a small but impressive gallery filled with historical and modern portraits of the Dutch elite. Or delve into the city’s rich history at the Amsterdam City Archives: the Amsterdam Treasures collection (fittingly located in the basement Treasury of the building) is free to visit and features a host of intriguing items drawn from the archives.
3) Walking & cycling tours
Take a self-guided tour of the city with the power of your own two feet! Download a free walking tour or cycling tour and start exploring Amsterdam’s diverse neighbourhoods – the Jordaan, Pijp and Plantage are particularly picturesque. If you prefer to explore the city with a group, Sandeman’s New Amsterdam walking tour is still completely free – but of course tips are appreciated!
Even if you’re not planning to shop, Amsterdam’s open-air markets are a feast for the senses and offer countless photo opportunities. From organic vegetables and flowers to antiques and second-hand treasures, markets are a great way to get a local perspective.
5) Gardens & parks
Amsterdam’s gardens and parks are open (and free) all year round, with kilometres of well-kept walking paths and plenty of space for a picnic. In the summer months, the Vondelpark puts on performances in their free open-air theatre and you’ll often find free festivals in parks as well.
6) Classical & jazz concerts
If you know where to look, you can find a free concert nearly every day of the week. The National Opera & Ballet (formerly Amsterdam Music Theatre) puts on free concerts every Tuesday at 12:30 while the Royal Concertgebouw holds their free lunch concerts at the same time on Wednesdays. The Badcuyp has a number of free concerts each week, including the Sunday Night Jazz sessions.The Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ serves up free lunch concerts one Tuesday each month and the Bimhuis offers at least one free evening concert, workshop or jam session every week. The majority of the upcoming free classical concerts are included in our classical highlights listing.
7) Ferry ride
Behind Central Station you’ll find a number of ferries crossing the IJ River and they’re all completely free! Jump on a boat for the ideal introduction to Amsterdam Noord. The Buiksloterweg stop is best for exploring the EYE Filmmuseum and the Tolhuistuin, as well as historic Noord that maintains its village appeal. Or go to NDSM Wharf – a former shipyard filled with artists’ studios, creative workshops and intriguingly barren terrain.
8) Amsterdam Public Library (OBA)
Besides curling up and paging through the huge selection of English-language books and magazines, the Amsterdam Public Library near Central Station has tons of other free attractions. There’s a floor filled with kid-sized fun, rotating art exhibitions, weekly readings and occasional concerts. Even if you’re not a book lover, it’s worth a visit for the impressive architecture and views from the top floor.
Every year Amsterdam puts on a huge variety of free festivals and events. The season usually kicks off in mid April and continues through to January – meaning there’s at least one free festival nearly every month of the year! A few of the best free festivals include King’s Day, Gay Pride, theUitmarkt, Amsterdam Heritage Days, National Windmill Day, National Museum Weekend, Canal Festival , Amsterdam Light Festival - and don't forget to pick a free tulip on National Tulip Day.
Many of Amsterdam’s churches have been repurposed as concert venues, museums and more. But there are still a number of functioning churches where you can attend a service or admire the interiors during the week for free, including the Westerkerk, Noorderkerk, St. Nicolaaskerk, De Papegaai (H.H. Petrus en Pauluskerk) and Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk. View a full listing of churches & places of worship.
Rules & Regulations
Here are some rules and driving tips to take a note of when driving in Holland:
- In Holland remember that you have to drive on the right and overtake on the left hand side of the road.
- The minimum age of a UK licence holder is 18.
- Third party motor insurance is compulsory in Holland.
- Seat belts are compulsory for front and rear seat occupants if fitted.
- If you are caught drinking and driving in Holland, be warned that if the level of alcohol in your bloodstream is over 0.05 per cent you will face a penalty which could mean you will be fined, have your licence withdrawn or even face imprisonment. There is a lower limit of 0.02 percent which applies to new drivers up to the age of 24. In some cases a blood test will be necessary after a breath test.
- You can face on the spot fines if you park illegally, the police can impose and collect on the spot fines or tow the vehicle away. Vehicles can also be confiscated in the case of excess speeding and drink driving.
- Buses have right of way when leaving bus stops in built-up areas.
Mobile telephones may only be used with a hands-free system whilst driving in Holland. Even holding a mobile in a moving vehicle is considered an offence.
Here are the legal speed limits for driving in Holland:
The speed limit in Holland is 31 mph (50 km/h) in built up areas
49 mph (80 km/h) or 62 mph (100 km/h) in outside built up areas
80 mph (130 km/h) on motorways
Standard legal limits may be varied by signs. Only vehicles capable of 37 mph (60 km/h) are permitted on motorways.
Things to Bring Along
Here are the compulsory documents and equipment to carry:
Warning triangle or hazard warning lights must be used in case of an accident or breakdown (recommended that warning triangle always be carried).
A driving licence
Car registration papers
You can rent a car at many locations in Holland including all the major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
Drive through the capital city of Amsterdam and explore its many museums, bars and canals. If you go just outside of the City you can go to Zaanse Schans a small town with six windmills, a wooden shoe workshop, a cheese farm and much more.
Visit Rotterdam and go to the Euromast for a fantastic view of the city, the Erasmus bridge which has become an important part of the cities landscape or Laurenskerk which is a church, one of the oldest buildings in the city dating back to medieval times and finished in 1525.
You might want to go to the Hague, The seat of the government and while you’re there take in some of the sights. Madurodam is a miniature city of famous miniature buildings of Holland and well worth checking out. Go to the Palace Noordeinde, built in 1533 and the official work and reception palace for Queen Beatrix or check out the Oude Stadhuis (Old Town Hall) built in 1564 for some more history.
Drive to some of the picturesque countryside in Holland by driving to the Village of Bemelen. Or maybe you could take a trip to Daalhof and see the Daalhof Tower built during the cold war and originally used to check the local airspace for military planes.
You will be able to make the most of your time in Holland with your globalCARS car rental. You can explore the country at your own leisure and enjoy everything that it has to offer.
* Please note: All information was correct at the time of publication.