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How to do Amsterdam on a budget

By Rodney Bolt

20 October 20236 min read

Traditional Dutch houses along the River Amstel with a bridge covered in blooming flower boxes in front

Amsterdam wears its attractions on its sleeve. You can see so much of what the city has to offer for free, simply by walking about.

Saunter along the canals admiring Golden Age gables, duck into a medieval courtyard, wander through street markets, or hang out for hours on a cafe terrace in an artsy quarter of town. Along the way, you can take in some world-class art, without necessarily breaking the bank.

From the best free things to see to where to sleep and eat on the cheap, here’s how to do your city break in Amsterdam on a budget.

Where to stay on a budget

Beyond the main Canal Belt, the sharp edge is often knocked off Amsterdam’s usually high hotel rates – and it’s often just a short tram hop or pleasing stroll into town.

A designer version of a pod-hotel, citizenM Amsterdam South offers rooms that are one-half super-comfortable king-size bed, and the other half bathroom and seating area – but done with style, and perfect for a short break. Become a ‘Citizen’ and pay upfront for the best deals.

The busy, buzzy Volkshotel has cleverly laid-out rooms with facilities and style a good few notches above what you might expect for the bargain price. The rooftop restaurant (and some upper-floor rooms) offer a sweeping view over the city.

Alternatively, consider checking into a hostel. Not only are they a great way to meet fellow travellers, but they offer great value accommodation – a bed in a shared dormitory can start as little as €25 - €30 a night, or around €70 per person for a private room. Popular picks include Cocomama and The Flying Pig Downtown.

ibis Styles Amsterdam Airport

  • Schiphol, Amsterdam Area, Netherlands
  • 18 March 2024
  • Room Only
  • From Manchester

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

Prices from

£315

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View deal

Where to eat on a budget

Keep an eye open for the dagschotel (dish of the day) at one of the many eetcafés (cafés that serve food) around town. Smaller establishments, such as student-run Skek, serve generously portioned lunch and dinners at reasonable prices.

On the edge of flourishing foodie quarter, De Pijp, CousCous Club offers mounds of steaming, homemade couscous, starting at €12 for the vegetarian option and up to €19 for a ‘Royal’ with lamb. Tables are convivially close, there’s a friendly crowd and a cheery home-kitchen atmosphere.

Get a taste of the local pub scene in Cafe Kale and Cafe Slijterij Oosterling, where you can fill up on loaded sandwiches and bagels for under €10.

If the purse strings are really tight, stop off at a branch of Maoz. For around €5, you’ll get crunchy falafel in a pitta bread, which you can fill with goodies from an imaginatively stocked salad bar.

What to see on a budget

A wander about Amsterdam’s network of canals is one of the city’s greatest delights. As well as the three grand canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht), check out some of the smaller waterways: Brouwersgracht and Reguliersgracht are high in the charm stakes.

Through a wooden door in the wall beside the American Book Center on the Spui, a passageway will take you a medieval courtyard, the Begijnhof, lined with gardens, cottages, and – in the middle of it all – the small church that was once the worship place of the religious group that formed the core of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Amsterdam’s famous Waterlooplein flea market is a great place for vintage clothes and curious souvenirs. Vibrant city quarters such as De Pijp and Jordaan are crammed with cafés, galleries and shops, where, for the price of a coffee or a beer (order a fluitje, a mini flute-shaped glass that will set you back only a couple of euros), you can take it all in from a canalside terrace.

The Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum contain some of the world’s greatest artworks, but you can see art for free at the Amsterdam Museum, where the Schuttersgalerij, an open-access arcade off the central courtyard, is lined with 17th-century paintings, including group portraits (similar to Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch).

Or, take a (free) ferry from behind Central Station, across the waters of the IJ, to the spectacular Eye Filmmuseum. On the lower level, you can take in magic moments from movie classics and try out film fun such as greenscreen acting, all included in the price of a film or exhibition ticket (from €12.50).

How to get around on a budget

Trains between Schiphol Airport and Central Station are frequent, fast and cheap (from €4.90 for a 15-minute journey when bought online/€5.90 at the station). Don’t be lured by the (expensive) one-click ‘Special Deal’ offer on ticket machines, but buy an ordinary single.

Amsterdam is compact, and you’ll find most of what you want to see within reasonable (and attractive) walking distance. Trams help out on those extra hops, or when feet demand downtime, consider fixed-price travel tickets.They allow unlimited travel on all GVB trams, night buses and metros throughout Amsterdam and the 24-hour pass (€7.50) pays for itself after only three journeys. Buy one from the kiosks at Central Station and metro station machines.

Or, do like the Dutch and hire a bicycle. MacBike is one of the most popular rental companies in the city with a variety of central locations. Prices start from €7.50 for an hour, or consider a full-day rental for even better value at €14.85.

NH Amsterdam Centre

  • Amsterdam, Amsterdam Area, Netherlands
  • 17 May 2024
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • From Birmingham

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

Prices from

£757

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Insider tips

  • If you feel like splashing out on a meal, check out the daily discounts offered by top restaurants on The Fork app.
  • An Iamsterdam City Card gets you into most museums (except the Rijksmuseum), includes free public transport and offers a wide range of other discounts. From €60 for 24 hours.
  • Alternatively, to visit several museums without the rush, consider a Museumkaart. For €75, it allows one person free entrance for a year to nearly every museum in the country. Given that entrance to major museums is often upwards of €15, it can be a worthwhile investment.
  • Book tickets online for the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House. It won’t save you any money, but it will ensure that you won’t spend most of your stay waiting in queues.
  • Musicians from all over the world come to perform at the Concertgebouw and once a week, the concert hall offers free lunch-time concerts. They’re not widely publicised, but you can see what’s on via the events calendar. Tickets tend to sell out several weeks in advance, so you’ll need to book your free place early if you wish to go.

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