No Money, No Problem: Amsterdam On A Budget
Amsterdam is a dream destination, in the sense that there is something for everyone. The world’s best art museums -- among them the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk museum of modern art and the Van Gogh Museum -- stand side by side a rich, vibrant nightlife. For a long time, Amsterdam was like London or Paris’ younger brother… the kind that just refused to grow up. As hordes of tourists and backpackers descended on the city to make the most of the city’s more relaxed rules when it comes to hard partying and substances. Now, however, since the city got a bit of a facelift as museums and cultural spaces were restored and reopened, Amsterdam has finally joined the list of must-visit destinations.
The picturesque city probably is one of the most Instagram-worthy destinations on earth, with its 400-year-old waterways that are traversed through a criss cross of bridges that outnumber even the canal-famous city of Venice. Around these canals are streets dotted with innumerable shops and cafes.
The Museum Quarter boasts of world class museums, including the famous Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk museum of modern art and the Van Gogh Museum -- making Amsterdam an A-list cultural destination.
The Red Light District continues to exist, though Amsterdam’s newer legislations have hit the once ubiquitous drug-fuelled party scene. A more regulated, cleaner and far less sleazy nightlife has also emerged in the city over the years.
With all the changes that have pushed Amsterdam into a dream European destination comes a European price tag. The city -- travel, accommodation, sightseeing, dining and drinking -- is expensive. But like any discerning traveler will tell you, the best way to get to know the true character of an expensive city is to do it on a shoestring budget.
Here’s our recommendation for exploring Amsterdam… on a budget.
Explore the canals
Amsterdam has more canals than Venice, and they’re UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city has more than one hundred kilometers of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. Walking around the canals is free -- and is often overlooked as Venice takes the tag of Europe’s favourite canal lined city.
Spend time in Vondelpark
The Vondelpark is a public urban park of 47 hectares (120 acres) in Amsterdam. The park was opened in 1865 and originally named the "Nieuwe Park", but later renamed to "Vondelpark", after the 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel. Yearly, the park has around 10 million visitors. In the park is an open-air theatre, a playground and several horeca facilities. Take a picnic and enjoy the day with a bottle of bubbly.
Did you know Amsterdam has a beach? Located about 15 minutes on tram 26 from Central Station and then a 15 minute walk or 5 minutes if you take your bike on the tram, Blijburg is on a reclaimed and relatively recently developed island in a big lake. There’s a bar and a generally relaxed, laid back vibe!
Amsterdam has some of the best museums in the world. Check out the Amsterdam Museum (formerly the Amsterdam Historisch Museum), the Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder ('Our Lord in the Attic'), the Joods Historisch Museum amongst the others already mentioned.
Rent a bike and ride
Want to cut down on costs and still have fun? Bike-it. Amsterdam is a cycling-friendly city. You’ll see hundreds of bikes on the streets, and renting one won’t be a problem as many rental stores exist across the city.
Coffee shops galore
Amsterdam has hundreds of coffee shops, including those that dispense marijuana owing the city’s legalisation of “soft drugs.” Not interested in that sort of cafe? There’s plenty of great coffee too.
Take a photo with the “I AmSterdam” lettering
Perhaps no trip to Amsterdam is complete without a cheesy and touristy photo with the “I Amsterdam” letters by the Rijksmuseum. And it’s free!