With enough architecture, history, and culture to keep most every traveler happy, Amsterdam is a fantastic destination. When we asked our members for free and fun things to do in Amsterdam, these were 10 of their favorites!
Part of living like a local is knowing where to shop. And even if you aren’t looking to spend, markets are a great place to stroll around, people watch and get the local flavor. You can find just about anything in these Amsterdam markets from seafood, meat, vegetables and flowers to clothes, household wares, antiques and souvenirs.
Some markets in Amsterdam you should know about begin with the famous Albert Cuypstraat Market. Dating back to 1904 this market in De Pijp is open Monday through Saturday.
On Monday mornings in the Jordaan is the Westerstraat market. Also in the Jordaan is the Noordermarkt, a very popular organic farmer’s market. The Waterlooplein flea market every Monday through Saturday, near the Rembrandt House, is the best place to find second hand clothing, trendy t-shirts and old military uniforms. On the first Sunday of the month the “Westergasfabriek” in Westerpark Area turns into one big market, great for “one of a kind” items.
Enjoy a walk or bike ride in one of Amsterdam’s most popular parks. An urban oasis and a great place to spread out a picnic and relax on the grass by the lake. There is even a skate rental shop for those who want to take a more active role in enjoying the park. There is a nice selection of restaurants and cafes and an open-air theater where you can enjoy outdoor performances all summer long. More than 70 types of roses can be found in the rose garden which dates back to 1936.
Vibrant, bohemian, hip and bustling the De Pijp, pronounced “de pipe” neighborhood is a great place to take in some atmosphere. Previously a working class neighborhood now De Pijp is the place to be. Foodies will love the diverse range of restaurants and food kiosks, shoppers will love the eclectic range of shops and the Albert Cuypstraat Market, the largest outdoor market in Europe.
Home to the Heineken Factory, Kinderboerderij de Pijp, a children’s petting zoo and over a 150 nationalities. It makes for an exciting melting pot of cultures and cuisines. You will find a lively nightlife and lots of live music in the Quartier Latin. Take the 16 or 24 tram from the city center or cycle there in around 10-15 minutes.
Colorful and fragrant, flower stalls stand on houseboats along the Singel river, the only floating flower market in the world. In addition to the iconic tulips you will find all kinds of cut flowers, houseplants, seeds and gardening supplies.
Take in the beautiful sight of narcissus, irises, lilies, and bulbs of all varieties. If you do plan to buy bulbs to take home be sure you purchase the ones with the customs cleared stamp on the packet so you have no trouble at the border.
Behind a humble wooden door you will find a magical little escape. Formerly a convent that dated from the early 14th century with tiny houses, well-kept lawns and postage-stamp gardens. Inside this historic residential square you will find the Begijnhof chapel featuring a series of panels telling the story of the Miracle of Amsterdam, one of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, Beginjnhof 34 and Engelsekerk, the English Reformed Church. Open from 9am to 5pm this secret garden is an ideal place to visit for a surreal escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Amsterdam Forest, three times the size of New York’s Central park, is one of Europe’s largest parks. It’s diverse landscape includes wooded areas, grasslands, reed and open water providing a home to many varieties of plant and animal species.
Enjoy Amsterdam’s best pancakes at the Meerzicht Farm as you take in the view. Or, if ice cream or cheese is your thing try some goat’s milk ice cream or cheese at Ridammerhoeve, a biodynamic goat farm located in the Amsterdam forest. From Spa services to nine different climbing courses the Amsterdam Forest is a great place to just enjoy fresh air and the great outdoors.
Kids can enjoy an outdoor romp. From the Visitors’ Center children 3-6 can take a walk along the Forest Gnome Trail. Take a boat excursion and view the forest from the water. The newest attraction is the Miniport where children can choose and steer their own craft on the lake while they learn about hydropower and harbor life. Outdoor theater, botanical gardens and two swimming areas for the kids are open from May to August/September.
Step back in time and walk along narrow streets, canals, and monumental buildings with their 17th century stone tablets displaying the family trade still intact. Art galleries and antique shops line the quaint historic streets. Great restaurants and cafes and nightlife fill this neighborhood.
Home to many students, artists and young professionals Jordaan is picturesque and charming with a rich history. Once a working class neighborhood now posh and famous with charming little gardens called hofjes and historic architecture. Jordaan is easy to reach with public transportation, driving is not recommended due to shortage of parking.
Dubbed the “Soho of Amsterdam” this collection of 9 Streets is brimming with unique specialty shops filled with unexpected finds. A charming mixture of designer boutiques, art galleries, vintage clothing stores, gift shops and places to eat and drink. Soak in the atmosphere and scenery along cobbled lanes with over 200 retailers and not chain store in site. Serious shoppers can easily spend a full day or more amidst these 9 streets.
The nation’s biggest national event and Amsterdam’s biggest street party of the year. Formerly Queen’s Day, until Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated her throne to her son Willem. It is now held on April 27 to celebrate the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. It’s really more of a two day event as festivities begin the night before.
Celebrated for over a century, orange fills the entire city. Orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family which descends from the House of Orange. Festivals and events and almost one million people fill the city to celebrate.
The oldest and most infamous part of Amsterdam, the Red Light District, has a fascination of it’s own. As early as the 1300s women have been practicing the world’s oldest profession, carrying red lanterns down to the ports to meet incoming sailors. Sex shops, brothels, gay bars, coffee shops, peepshows and window prostitutes can be found here. While open day or night the area really comes alive at night. It is important to note that taking pictures of the women is forbidden and strictly enforced.
The district is changing and evolving beyond its former notoriety. There is a movement to clean up the district and replace brothels with new business ventures in an attempt to cut human trafficking and organized crime.
Play chess on chess board at Max Euwe Plein
Walk along the canal belt
Cat boat – donations accepted
Botanical garden at Vrije University
Diamond factory tour
View of 15 Bridges
Narrowest house in the world
The friday night skate
Amsterdam Light Festival (50 days)
Concert, october to june, lunchtime concert
Photo Credits, from top to bottom: Moyan Brenn, Cookie M, wilgengebroed, Guilhem Vellut, Michele Benericetti, Jack Amick, Benjamin Pender, Johan Wieland, Ronel Reyes, Paula Abrahao, Cristiano Gatti.
Want to add to our list? Tell us in the comments!