Like any major European city, Amsterdam is expensive. Pricey hotels, transportation and attractions can put a huge dent in your bank account if you’re not careful, leaving you spending more time worrying about money rather than enjoying yourself in this wonderful city. But at ClinkNOORD, we’re here to help. Don’t worry if you’ve not got much money, our guide will help you make the most out of Amsterdam on a shoestring budget!
This guide offers useful information on a variety of things to in Amsterdam; use the links below to skip to navigate the specific sections:
There’s plenty of great things to do, cheap ways to get around, and fantastic, low price places to stay. You just need to be in the know, and that’s where we come in!
Getting Here, and Getting Around
The most common place to begin your Amsterdam visit is at Schiphol Airport. From here, you’ll need to get into the city centre, and the best way to do this, by far, is the train.
Just follow the signs in the airport to the station, and head to platforms 1 and 2 for trains every 10 minutes to Centraal Station.
Make sure you buy a ticket – fines are common for those caught without valid tickets.
- A single, second class train ticket is €4.10
- A taxi from the airport would cost around €40
With 43 bus routes, 15 tram lines and 4 metro routes, transportation around Amsterdam is covered by GVB.
Locals use the OV Chipkaart to get around, which works in a similar way to Oyster Cards in London. Simply top up as you need, and scan in for every journey you make. You will however need to buy a card first, at a cost of €7.50.
Better suited to a backpacker’s budget are the paper chip tickets. A single hour pass (allowing unlimited travel within an hour from first activation) costs €2.90; day tickets are much better value (€7.50) if you plan on using buses and trams more than once or twice. Tickets can be tailored to your length of stay too.
If you’ve purchased a day ticket, be sure to check out Tram Route 2, listed as one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Trolley Rides, and a great way to see some of Amsterdam’s most famous sites.
It is worth mentioning that ferries, such as the one you’d take to head over to ClinkNOORD, are completely free!
Renting a Bike
With over 600,000 bicycles in the city, Amsterdam is renowned for its 2-wheeled transportation!
There’s a wide variety of bikes to choose from in any number of rental shops in the city, but reserving ahead of time can be a godsend during busy periods. Some of our favourite places include:
- Tip Noord, right around the corner from ClinkNOORD. Priced from €15 per 24 hours*
- Velox Bikes, next door to Tip Noord, and a great place to rent vintage 1960’s and 1970’s bikes for some more stylish cruising. Priced from €12 per 24 hours*
- Star Bikes, located just behind Amsterdam Central Station. Priced from €7 per 24 hours
*Available to book directly at ClinkNOORD
Bikes can be taken onto ferries in Amsterdam free of charge too, so if you rent a bike across the river near ClinkNOORD you won’t need to rent a second one if you’re travelling to the city centre.
For the most economical traveller, Amsterdam is a city which can be easily explored on foot. Enchanting canals and beguiling narrow streets welcome the curious, and all major attractions are within reasonable walking distance.
Want to know more about the city you’re wandering in? Join one of SANDEMAN’s New Europe Amsterdam walking tours, which are completely free; guides work solely on a tip basis.
FREE Things to Do in Amsterdam
Vibrant and picturesque, there are so many incredible sights to discover in Amsterdam, all of which can be done without spending a single penny. Wander through this stunning city and enjoy the architecture, culture and history all completely free. Amsterdam really is the ideal place to spend time without spending money.
- Wander through the canal belt, and find the view of 15 bridges – With more than 400 interconnected canals forming this UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the lights along Amsterdam’s iconic canals at night. The grandest are Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, whilst the canal consistently voted the most beautiful is Brouwersgracht. Cross between Herengracht and Reguilersgracht and you should be able to look around and count 15 different bridges all within eye sight. Amazing!
- Gaze upon at least one of the city’s eight working windmills – A national icon of the Netherlands, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a windmill. One of our favourites is the Brouwerij ’t IJ – with an attached microbrewery it’s a great place to grab a drink and enjoy the scene.
- Experience Amsterdam from a different vantage point – There are a few restaurants in the city where you can peer down on the canals from up high, but if you want to avoid costly food and cocktails, visit the beautiful Westerkerk Church. Entrance to the main church is free, but a climb of the tower is €7 – still the cheapest bird’s eye view of Amsterdam
- Get your fix of quirkiness in Jordaan – Idyllic and quiet, spirited and trendy. Just some the words to describe the diversity of this once working class neighbourhood, now a cornucopia of inviting side-streets, tempting cafes and quirky galleries. Why not browse the living room art installation at KochxBros before immersing yourself in the rousing local nightlife?
- Enjoy some free live music – Throughout the year, you can always find some kind of free music in Amsterdam. The Concertgebouw offers free classical lunchtime concerts every Wednesday, whilst those with more of a disposition for jazz can enjoy live performances at Bimhuis every Tuesday night.
- Venture north into the Noord neighbourhood – Off the beaten track and away from the touristy hustle and bustle of the centre, Amsterdam Noord offers a plethora of experiences to discover for those willing to go exploring, from urban retreats to cool cafes. Check out our locals’ guide here!
- Guess the country by the house design – Take a trip down Roemer Visscherstraat to see the famous “Seven Countries”, a row of seven adjoining houses in seven different European styles, commissioned in 1890 by an eccentric businessman. It’s an architectural tour of 19th century Europe in one small street, with English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and Dutch designs all on display.
- Find the widest and the narrowest houses in Amsterdam – Amsterdam’s streets are peppered with strange and unusual buildings, and it’s easy to pass many hours admiring hotels built around houses or the tightest façades in the world. Find the smallest house in the city at Oude Hoogstraat 22 and compare it with the Trippenhuis, the widest canal mansion at Kloveniersburwal 29.
- Remember the persecuted at Westermarkt –At Westermarkt, you’ll find yourself walking over theHomomonument, a memorial to oppressed homosexuals both here in Amsterdam and around the world, in the shape of the pink triangle forced upon gay men by the Nazis. Follow one of the points around the corner to Anne Frank’s House for another poignant reminder of persecution in the city’s history.
- Discover an opulent equestrian arena – Even if you’re not a horse person, you cannot fail to be impressed by this grand, Baroque riding arena, seemingly out of place in the urban environment of the Overtoom. The stunning neoclassical architecture also features a café balcony to oversee training at the Hollandsche Manege.
- Meander through the Negen Straatjes (Nine Little Streets) – Bursting with independent shops, enticing alleys and charming eateries, just take a stroll down these nine little streets and soak up the atmosphere of a neighbourhood known locally as the Soho of Amsterdam. Second hand stalls and quaint boutiques make this the ideal place for some window shopping.
- Relieve yourself in public! – Sorry girls, this one is for men only! Amsterdam is famous for its public urinals, known in Dutch as De Krul. Located mostly in the Red Light District, but also along other busy routes, some have been here since the 19th century! They were installed to prevent both the defecation of historic buildings and falls into the canals!
Museums and Galleries
If you’re a culture buff, Amsterdam is home to a number of world-class museums and galleries that you could easily lose yourself in for hours. And, of course, local legends like Van Gogh and Rembrandt have entire buildings dedicated to their craft.
General Admission Prices
Unlike London, a lot of the most popular museums in Amsterdam charge an admission fee, and it can be quite hefty too. If you’re taking in two or three museums, this soon mounts up.
- Anne Frank Museum – €9.00
- Foam Museum – €10.00
- Amsterdam Museum – €12.00
- Tropen Museum – €12.00
- Rembrandt House Museum – €12.50
- Stedelijk Museum – €15.00
- Maritime Museum – €15.00
- Van Gogh Museum – €17.00
- Rijksmuseum – €17.50
- Hermitage Museum – €20.00
I amsterdam City Card
This tourist pass is geared at those visiting the city and wishing to see a number of different attractions. You get unlimited access to some of the museums within a 24, 48 or 72 hour period, as well as 25% discount at a number of other locations, and some freebies thrown in too.
2015 I amsterdam prices:
- 24 Hours – €49.00
- 48 Hours – €59.00
- 72 Hours – €69.00
These short-term passes don’t give you a great amount of time to maximise their value, and entrance to Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House are not included. So it’s worth considering if you’d get your money’s worth before purchasing.
If you’re spending more than a couple of days here, are travelling through the Netherlands, or plan on returning soon, the Museum Card is undoubtedly the best value for money for seeing museums and galleries.
It’s primarily aimed at residents, so you won’t see it advertised as much, but it is available to everyone.
At €59.90 for the year, you get unlimited access to 35 museums in Amsterdam, INCLUDING the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House. You’ll also get free entry to almost 400 museums across the Netherlands.
Ideal for jumping long queues – e.g. at the Anne Frank House – and for taking the pressure off trying to see everything in one go.
Whilst prices are steep at some of the major attractions, there are a number of museums that offer free admission, and a multitude of ways to enjoy art in the city without opening your wallet. Here are some of our favourites:
- EYE Film Museum – Just around the corner from ClinkNOORD, permanent exhibitions in the basement of this spaceship-like Dutch film museum are completely free.
- Stadsarchief – Learn about the city’s history in the Amsterdam City Archives, with a free permanent exhibition that features treasures such as a police report on the theft of Anne Frank’s bike, an account of a visit from Karl Marx, and photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
- NDSM werf – A hub for all creative types, this derelict shipyard north of the city now boasts a fully-fledged avant-garde arts community, with roaming graffiti artists, sculptures made from recycled junk, and abandoned trams.
- Gassan Diamonds Factory Tour – Always wanted to know the difference between carats and clarity? Join a free tour to get a glimmer into Amsterdam’s diamond history.
- Vrolick Museum – Known for its weird and wonderful sites, this museum has the largest collection of human deformities in one place. It won’t cost you a penny, but it’s not one for the faint hearted.
- Max Euwe Centre – Fancy yourself as a chess master? Dedicated to a former Dutch grandmaster, the museum is free and there’s a giant outdoor chessboard where you can test your skills against current champions.
- Poezenboot – If you’re a lover of feline creatures, the cat boat is not to be missed. It’s a sanctuary for cats of all shapes and sizes, on a traditional Amsterdam houseboat down by the Singel canal.
- Museumplein – Soak up culture and knowledge in this square – surrounded by four of the biggest museums in the city, and enjoy a number of art installations in the grounds for free. Don’t forget to get your picture taken with the I Amsterdam sign!
- Schuttersgalerij – Although the Civic Guards Gallery is part of the Amsterdam Museum, this glass-roofed walkway offers a free taster to the collection, with 15 stunning 17th century paintings to admire.
Parks and Outdoor Spaces
Alongside all the water in Amsterdam, you’re sure to find plenty of green spaces to enjoy too, all of which are free to enjoy. There are a number of parks in the city, including:
- Vondelpark – the city’s central lungs, and a very popular place to escape, unwind, BBQ and enjoy some outdoor fun. See if you can find the original Picasso piece here.
- Beatrixpark – just as scenic as Vondel but much less crowded, Beatrix offers great walking paths and picnic opportunities.
- Oosterpark – you’ll find a more eclectic mix of cultures in this diverse neighbourhood in the East.
- Oeverpark – just around the corner from ClinkNOORD and ideal for finding your balance on a bike before heading into the city!
Alongside the parks, be sure to check out Amsterdam’s famous hofjies – hidden courtyards which offer a step back in time to a calm, secluded and pristine way of living. The most popular is the Begijnhof, entered via a wooden door, and featuring a delightful chapel and the oldest wooden house in the city. Tranquillity abounds in this enclosed space, as it does in the lesser known, but equally pretty Karthuizerhof.
The Botanical Garden at Vrije University is a free and interesting place to explore too, where rare, exotic and endangered plants captured by customs at Schiphol Airport find a new home.
You could even partake in a little trip to the beach down at Blijburg, on the artificially created island of IJburg, where you can sunbathe on the sand and swim in the water!
A visit to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a wander around at least one of the city’s many outdoor markets.
- Bloemenmarkt is the world’s only floating flower market. It is picturesque and the one most often seen on postcards. Stroll through dozens of stalls of flowers and breathe in the fragrances of tulips and lilies.
- Albert Cuyp markt is the biggest open air market in the Netherlands, full of stalls selling mouth-watering food and groceries – a truly local hangout. Try traditional Amsterdam Herring (think Dutch sushi) here, and if you want more food tips, check out our Amsterdam guide to the best cheap eats.
- Noodermarkt is the place to go to explore a farmer’s market full of organic produce. Time your trip well and you can fill your stomach on samples alone.
- Waterloopleinmarkt is one of the city’s largest flea markets, and arguably offers the most entertainment with everything from old camera parts to vintage suits.
Where to Stay
After a busy day seeing the sights of Amsterdam, you’ll be in need of great place to lay your weary head. But accommodation can be a bit on the expensive side in the city. A night in a hotel is likely to set you back at least €100, not ideal if you’re on a tight budget.
HOTEL PRICES PER NIGHT (from hotels.com)
*based on GBP to EUR exchange rate of 1.37
** If viewing via mobile click image to enlarge
STAYING AT CLINKNOORD
An affordable alternative for those on a budget is to stay at ClinkNOORD. With a range of options available, from single en-suite rooms that offer full privacy, to larger mixed dorms that are ideal for making new friends, there’s an option for every traveller, regardless of budget!
* If viewing via mobile click image to enlarge
Staying in a mixed dormitory for two nights will save you an average of €171 when compared with a 3-star hotel.
But of course, a stay at ClinkNOORD is about more than just saving money. Whilst it’s ideal for those on a shoestring budget, it’s also the perfect location for any traveller wanting to truly experience the culture of Amsterdam.
ClinkNOORD is located in the up and coming and culturally vibrant Overhoeks district, just across the river from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. It’s set in a gorgeous 1920’s building, retaining many original features.
As befits this city of culture, the focus at ClinkNOORD is on creativity. Local architects designed the building to honour its history as the old Royal Dutch Shell Head Office and Laboratories. There’s even a dedicated creative space known as the C-LAB, an area for local artists to exhibit their work.
Of course, there’s all the modern comforts you’d expect too, including relaxing social spaces, free Wi-Fi, a café, self-catering kitchen, and the ZincBAR – with regular live music and DJ performances.