Amsterdam for FREE

Amsterdam has a reputation for being free minded about certain things, but there are other things it’s free about, and those are things that can save you money as well as your morals.

Art, sex and drugs, Amsterdam is a heady combination, but a heady combination you can have for less by taking advantage of a few freebies the generous Dutch government offers visitors.

While you can’t see Rembrandt’s The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum for free you can see some portraits of a similar era and ilk. A collection of 15 huge 17th Century portraits of Civic Guards are hung in a glassed in section by the Kalvertraart gate of the free to enter Amsterdam Historic Museum. The portraits are so big you need a couple of minutes to take each one in. The Historic Museum will give you an idea of the finer points of local history, partly though an exhibition of items found in the bottom of the city's canals.

The Rijksmuseum Gardens are another way to get close to Amsterdam’s art and history for less. Considering the museum they surround they’re certainly not going be any old park – they’re an arrangement of plants and features in the Renaissance and Baroque styles, with hedges and flower beds leading you towards sculptures and summer houses. The Vondelpark is right around the corner and the kind of green place you feel much more comfortable having a rest or a picnic in. Drop by the Albert Cuyp Market before lunch to taste the wares and pick up a local snack, and swing round the Waterlooplein Flea Market afterwards.

Once you’ve got beyond the hash bars and hookers, you might be interested in visiting the Begijnhof, an ancient courtyard of houses once the home of women who were almost-nuns. Part of the attraction is that it’s at the medieval height of the city, about a metre below regular street level, part of the attraction is that it has the country’s oldest wooden house (c1470) and partly because it has a beautiful quiet garden and it doesn’t cost you anything to visit. If you like to see some unusual sights the Hollandsche Manège Spanish Riding School is also worth including on your itinerary. You can watch the horses learn to dance while drinking your morning coffee.

For another kind of art, the dulcet tones of a concert at the Concertgebouw or Muziektheater are even better when free, as they are on rehearsals days, at the Muziektheater on Tuesdays and the Concertgebouw on Wednesdays. Rehearsals are around lunchtime.

You haven’t seen Amsterdam ‘till you’ve seen it from the water and guess what, there’s even a free way to do that – board the Buikersloterwegveer ferry and get a complementary crossing from the city to North Amsterdam with a view over the city’s oldest port area and the rest of the waterfront. It’s only a five minute trip but the ferry runs twenty four hours a day at seven to fifteen minute intervals so you can take a few trips.

Best of Amsterdam

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