Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is visited by millions of people every year and each year the amount increases. However it is not the cheapest city, and most of the activities you will want to do during your time there are quite expensive. There are a few activities you can do for free, including visiting some museums:
- Rijksmuseum Gardens
- Nieuwe Spiegelstraat
- Light Festival
- Multatuli Museum
- Cultural Park
- Eye Film Museum
- Diamond Tour
If you are planning on visiting Amsterdam and you are interested in learning more, cultural activities and taking great photos, these activities are all free of charge and worth your time. Hotels and food in Amsterdam is already expensive enough to also pay for so many museum tickets. If you are traveling on a budget or if you are curious about these activities, in this article you will find my recommendations for free culture in Amsterdam.
Free Museums and Galleries in Amsterdam
Do you want to know where to go for free culture in Amsterdam? Even though most famous museums are rather expensive, there are some alternative museums, galleries and parts of the city that are free and worth visiting:
1. Rijksmuseum Garden
Even though the Rijksmuseum entrance ticket is around 17 euros, the Rijksmuseum Gardens are free.
These are very carefully taken care of, beautiful gardens where you will be able to see temporary exhibitions, sculptures and take photos of the outside of that amazing 19th-century building. Every now and then there are outdoor exhibitions in these English-style gardens, and these are always for free. The last one was an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois, gigantic metallic spiders.
You will also be able to see some busts and other Renaissance style sculptures. Besides, if you want you can sit there and enjoy of some tea or coffee, bring your own if you want to. Sit and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of this garden in the middle of the chaotic Museum Square.
2. Nieuwe Spiegelstraat
Spiegelstraat is an old-time favourite artists street. In this long street that starts right behind the Rijksmuseum, you will be able to find many vintage stores, vegan restaurants, and art galleries.
These art galleries are all full of contemporary exhibitions of state of the art pieces that are on sale. However, anyone can enjoy looking at them.
For instance, Carré d’artistes Gallery has art pieces from Gaia Roma, Jonas Lundh, Lionel Chevalier, Edith Thurnherr, Francoise Gomez, Muze, Patoune and more…
Jaski Gallery has more sculptures and bigger pieces, LionelGallery has Banksy and modern type of art and graffiti and Galleries Amsterdam, with paintings and bronze sculptures.
3. Light Festival
From the 28th of November until the 19th of January 2020, the Light Festival takes place in Amsterdam. It is an open-air exhibition of international light art.
You can experience the open-air exhibition “DISRUPT!” from the Amsterdam waters for FREE. And of you want, if you really liked what you have seen, you can also visit one of the many light art activities during the eighth edition of Amsterdam Light Festival!
Basically, you can follow this route by the time the sun sets, either by foot or booking a cruise. It is a total of over 6km where you will see many pieces of art that consist in light exhibitions made in the middle of the water.
4. Multatuli Museum
In the beautiful neighbourhood of the Jordaan, one can visit the Multatuli House Museum for free.
This museums is the house of the famous Dutch satiric writer Multatuli, creator of “Max Havelaar”. The museum is a small house, a typical Dutch canal house made in the 17th Century.
The whole idea was to create a place to collect all the memories and inspiration of this author. Since 1910, the society to memorize Multatuli was established and took as one of its aims collecting manuscripts and objects linked to the writers past.
If you like history, literature and are interested to know more about the Netherlands during the colonial years and their hegemonic period as one of the most dominant countries in the world, you may definitely swing by and give this museum a chance. It won’t disappoint.
5. Cultural Park of Western Gas Factory
The Westergasfabriek used to be a factory constructed to produce gas. This was ultimately used to light up the streets of Amsterdam.
Nowadays, it is an environmentally friendly place in the middle of this big and beautiful park, where you will be able to find cafes, restaurants, shops and some exhibitions and galleries.
These exhibitions and art galleries are for free, for anyone to enter and see for themselves.
It’s a lovely idea to go for a walk or bike ride around and explore, from Haarlemmerdijk, following the shopping street of Haarlemmerstraat to the end.
6. Eye Film Museum(not free anymore)
The Eye Film Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in Amsterdam. If you cross with the ferry (free ferry) you will get to the other side of the River Ij and then to the building.
The Eye Film Museum has four different activities going on: it is a cinema, it is a beautiful bar/restaurant with the most outstanding view, it is a paid museum and it is a free gallery. (EDIT: They have a standard ticket price of 11 euro for both the temporary exhibition and the Panorama: the permanent presentation in the building)
The free gallery is a collection of film objects, pieces that any film lover would appreciate, nice photographic equipment and cute inventions. If you want to cross the river and get to see the views, you can also enjoy from this small presentation of cinema: precursors of film, story benches, set photos and panoramas.
The Schuttersgalerij is an impressive Civic Guards Gallery. This is a compilation of portraits of famous and wealthy Dutch people, relevant to the history of the city. It is free!
If you are interested in art and history, this is definitely a must visit. The same idea of Rembrandt’s matings such as the Night Watch is represented in these walls: these portraits were also commissioned to commemorate civic guard service and charity work. Each of the citizens had to pay for its presence on the painting.
If you are walking through the busy Kalverstraat, you can find some piece in the gallery of glory of Civic Guards.
This gallery is the free version of the Hermitage gallery of portraits, an exhibition that would normally costs you around 15 euros. It is definitely worth visiting this free one!
8. Diamond Tour: Gassan’s Factory
Gassan Factory is a diamond factory, retailer of Rolex and creators of many amazing pieces of jewellery.
This free tour at the Gassan’s Factory is the perfect activity for those who wants to know everything about the history of this Amsterdam handcraft, colours, brightness and cuts. After all Amsterdam has been well-known as the city of diamonds for centuries.
You can visit the factory every day of the week, there you will see the craftsmen working on the diamond, tools, equipment and the final product, to be even more amaze about the end result.
9. ARCAM Amsterdam Architecture Centre
Architecture Centre Amsterdam is the centre for architecture, urban design and landscape architecture and it is free of charge for anyone who wants to visit it.
If you are interested in architecture, even looking at the ARCAM building will be worth your time. When visiting ARCAM, you will be able to see curating temporary exhibitions. Important pieces of history are reflected in the walls and archives of this centre.
Currently there are two free exhibitions going on: Mini Expo Gelaagd Groen and De Amsterdamse Scheggen.
Besides, for architecture lovers, Amsterdam is a paradise (and so is Rotterdam, read more about the differences HERE) and the best of all, for free! Not so long ago I wrote an article about Amsterdam’s architectural style and since buildings are in the middle of the city, they are free to be visited from the outside!
If you are living in Amsterdam, I would strongly recommend you getting your museumkaart. The museumkaart costs 65 euros, which means it is not technically free. However, if you go to more than 5 museums in a year, you would have already cover the expenses of the museum. The rest of the visits would be free!
There are over 40 museums in Amsterdam where you can use your museumkaart for free. Among these museums, you can find the most popular ones (the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, the Hermitage…)
If you are like me and you love going to museums, it is much recommended.
For those wondering, Amsterdam is a very child-friendly city. Besides the more obscure side of the city, the more popular adults are, Amsterdam has many facilities and activities for children. Among these, museums, which are meant to be child-friendly, with activities and so on.
Most museums are free for children under 18 (and some of them for kids under X years old). This includes the big and known museums:
- Rijksmuseum: free under 18
- Van Gogh Museum: under 18 free
- Anne Frank House: free under 9 years old
- Handbag Museum: free for children under 6
- NEMO: free under 4 years old
- Amsterdam Museum: under 17 free
- MOCO Museum: under 9 years old\