This Amsterdam budget travel guide will hopefully help future travelers explore this famous city cheaply!
Amsterdam is one of those cities that every traveler has an image of in their mind before they’ve been there.
I just spend a weekend in Amsterdam, and the city definitely fulfilled my expectations.
I saw the scenic canals, the tightly packed buildings, the red light district with prostitutes hanging out in the windows, the weed-filled coffee shops, and the narrow streets filled with cyclists that I was expecting.
But the capital city of the Netherlands offered so much more that I wasn’t expecting at all!
I found myself in awe of the gorgeous architecture, the unique street markets, and the sense of history and culture packed into this busy city.
So with this Amsterdam budget travel guide, I’ll briefly include a few travel tips for Amsterdam so you know where to stay and when to go. Then I’ll list all the best Amsterdam attractions that are affordable for backpackers.
Of course, everything will revolve around the question of “How to explore Amsterdam cheaply?”
So I hope this Amsterdam budget travel guide is helpful!!
Amsterdam Budget Travel Guide
In this budget travel guide to Amsterdam, I’ll cover when to visit, how to get there, where to stay, how to get around, and list all the best things to do!
When To Visit Amsterdam
The cheapest time to visit Amsterdam is winter. This goes for most of Europe, but winter has the worst weather and therefore, prices drop because no one wants to visit.
But if you hate the cold, winter in Amsterdam can be miserable, and the leafless trees don’t look as pretty over the canals.
So in my opinion, the best time to visit Amsterdam is autumn!
Autumn in Amsterdam is magical. The leaves start to turn to beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow, which makes the city even more scenic than usual.
Also, autumn is shoulder season in Europe, so flight prices are cheaper than in the summer, which is peak season.
I visited Amsterdam in October, and the weather was crisp and cool but not really that cold yet.
How To Travel To Amsterdam Cheaply
Getting to Amsterdam cheaply is a huge concern for budget travelers.
Traveling to Amsterdam from Overseas
If you’re coming from overseas, or another European country that is far away, check Skyscanner.com to find the cheapest flights.
I’ve written an entire detailed guide about How To Find The Cheapest Flights Abroad, so you can check that out for more information.
Traveling to Amsterdam from Europe
I always recommend checking Rome2Rio to compare travel prices between two destinations. This will help you find the cheapest method of transport for getting to Amsterdam!
If you’re really trying to see Amsterdam on a budget, take an overnight bus. Check Omio.com for bus dates and times.
This isn’t the most comfortable way to travel, but it’s definitely cheap.
My friend and I took an overnight bus from London to Amsterdam on a Friday night and did the same coming back on Sunday. So we paid about $40 round-trip for the two overnight buses and only had to pay for a hostel on Saturday night.
Again, it was not comfortable and we were exhausted, but we saved so much money and had two full days to enjoy Amsterdam!
Where To Stay In Amsterdam On A Budget
Luckily for budget travelers, there are tons of cheap hostels in Amsterdam!
As far as European cities go, Amsterdam is on the pricier side. So the cheapest hostel dorm rooms are still at least 20 Euros per night.
But, that’s still cheaper than a hotel room and the hostels in Amsterdam are amazing and social. Make sure you book a hostel near the city center so you don’t have to take public transport!
We stayed at Flying Pig Downtown, which was awesome and had free breakfast. (I am updating this post in 2020 and this hostel has upped their prices A LOT. Check hostelworld.com for a hostel that suits your price range!)
How To Get Around Amsterdam Cheaply
The best ways to explore Amsterdam on a budget are by foot, by public transport, or by bicycle.
Amsterdam On Foot
Amsterdam is such a pedestrian-friendly city and most attractions are within walking distance of the city center.
So you can easily walk everywhere and avoid taking public transport at all, except to and from the airport (take the metro!). We were able to walk from our bus station into town, so we didn’t need transport at all and we saved a lot of money by walking.
Have a navigation app like Maps.Me or Google Maps for walking around. With all the canals that look alike it is SO easy to get lost in Amsterdam! I used a paper map to try and be old-school, and I was always so confused trying to find my way!
Amsterdam by Public Transport
BUT, if you prefer taking public transport I have a money-saving hack for you!
Buy a GVB Public Transport Ticket that gives you unlimited public transport access to the tram, bus, metro, and ferry for 1-7 days. It costs less than 9 Euros!! So if you will be taking transport often, definitely buy this and you’ll save lots of money.
Amsterdam by Bike
One of the best ways to get around Amsterdam is by bicycle! You’ll blend in with the locals and get to reach more of the city than you would on foot.
There are tons of bike rental places around Amsterdam.
Or you can book a full-day bike rental online for only 7 Euros.
The Best Things To Do In Amsterdam On A Budget
Now that we’ve covered all the basics of an Amsterdam budget travel guide, it’s time for the fun part.
Here are all the best things to do in Amsterdam on a budget!
1. Stroll along Amsterdam’s Canals (or take a boat tour!)
Of all Amsterdam’s attractions, the canals are the best.
They’re EVERYWHERE, they’re incredibly scenic, they make for great photos, and they’re free.
Anywhere you walk in Amsterdam is photogenic because of the canals that run along virtually every street.
Those on a strict budget can soak in their beauty just by walking alongside them.
Those who want to treat themselves a bit can book a boat cruise along the canals. I didn’t do this, but I know lots of people who did and LOVED IT.
This 75-minute canal boat tour only costs 22 USD and has almost 400 great reviews from other travelers. So if you want to book a fun boat tour in Amsterdam that is reputable and also cheap, I’d go with this one.
2. Visit the Floating Flower Market
One of my favorite places in Amsterdam was the Bloemenmarkt, or the floating flower market.
Situated on the edge of the Singel Canal, this market is packed with so many gorgeous flowers and unique plants that it’ll make your head spin (in a good way).
We actually visited this market twice because we were so intrigued by everything there. This is also a great place to buy cheap souvenirs for the family.
- Address: Singel Canal
- Hours: 9 am to 5:30pm, opens at 11 am on Sundays
3. Take Photos on the iAmsterdam Sign
Sure, it’s a tacky and touristy thing to do. But it MUST BE DONE!!
You can’t visit Amsterdam without stopping by this iconic landmark.
The big red and white letters spelling out iAmsterdam were installed in 2004 as a celebration of the citizens of the city.
Nowadays it’s one of the top Amsterdam attractions. It’s free to visit, and if you arrive super early you may be able to see the sign without any tourists climbing all over the letters for photos.
They used to be in front of the Van Gogh Museum, but they’ve been moved. There are actually 2 signs now, and you can find them at:
- Sloterplas Lake in western Amsterdam
- Schiphol Airport outside at Arrivals 1
4. Visit the Van Gogh Museum
Speaking of the Van Gogh Museum, this is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam.
Vincent van Gogh is the most famous artist to come out of Holland. His post-impressionist paintings, including “The Starry Night” are well-known around the world but you can visit his own personal museum in Amsterdam.
I’m not a huge art fanatic and I thought the price was a bit steep so I didn’t go in the museum. But if history and art are huge passions of yours, I’ve heard the museum is amazing so I recommend going if you get the chance.
- Address: Museumplein 6, 1071 DJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hours: 9 am to 5 pm every day, closes at 10 pm on Fridays
- Cost: 19 Euros
5. Check out some traditional Delftware
As you wander through Amsterdam and check out a few shops, you’ll notice that there are intricately decorated blue and white ceramics everywhere.
This is called Delftware, or Delft Pottery. This blue and white pottery was invented in the 17th Century in Holland and is still a staple form of art in the country today.
There are so many shops throughout Holland that sell this beautiful and delicate form of pottery, so definitely browse through them and maybe take a piece home as a cool souvenir.
6. Book a Heineken Experience
Attention beer-lovers! One of the top things to do in Amsterdam is taking a tour of the Heineken brewery.
This world-famous beer originated in Amsterdam, so a tour of the brewery allows you to taste some beer and learn all about the history and brewing process of Heineken.
If you’re on a strict budget or you don’t like beer, you can skip this.
But if you’re a huge beer lover and want to book a Heineken Experience, you can so so here for 20 USD.
7. Indulge in free samples at the Amsterdam Cheese Museum
This is probably my favorite thing to do in Amsterdam, especially because it is free!
The Amsterdam Cheese Museum has a huge display of colorful, crazy cheeses, each with a bowl of free samples.
You can also learn about the process of making and exporting cheese, see a diamond-encrusted cheese cutter worth more than everything I own, and take photos like this:
So it’s a great time. Here is the info for the Amsterdam Cheese Museum:
- Address: Prinsengracht 112, 1015 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hours: 9 am to 7 pm
- Cost: Free!
8. Check out a Coffee Shop
Other than canals and cheese, what is Amsterdam most famous for? Cannabis! Marijuana! Weed! Coffee shops that sell weed and weed-treats legally!
If you’re not a fan of marijuana, you can totally enjoy Amsterdam without visiting any coffee shops. There is so much more to the city than weed, so just skip this and continue on with your Amsterdam sightseeing.
For those who do like weed and maybe can’t get it in a cafe in their home countries. Amsterdam is pretty cool.
A few of the best coffee shops in Amsterdam include
- De Tweede Kamer
- The Stud
- The Point Coffee Shop
You can also book a “Cultural Ganja Walking Tour” of Amsterdam for 20 USD and spend a few hours learning about the cannabis culture and hitting some of the best coffee shops with a knowledgable guide.
9. Visit the Amsterdam Tulip Museum
What else is Holland known for, in addition to canals, cheese, and cannabis? Tulips!
We just stumbled across the Tulip Museum while exploring the city, and it turned out to be an adorable little addition to our Amsterdam experience.
This small museum is super cheap to enter and you can learn all about the history of tulip production and cultivation, and better understand the significance of tulips to the culture and economy of Holland.
- Address: Prinsengracht 116, 1015 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hours: 10 am to 6 pm
- Cost: 5 Euros
10. Admire the Architecture of Amsterdam
Aside from learning about tulips and substituting meals with copious amounts of free cheese samples, another fun thing to do in Amsterdam is admiring the architecture.
I had seen many pictures of those infamous tall, narrow, canal-side houses, but seeing them in person added a whole new level of depth to the beauty of these buildings.
From the ornate roofing designs, to the quaint balconies, to the perfectly symmetrical windows and the rustic brick walkways, every building is fascinating to look at.
11. Head to the Anne Frank House
Another thing that Amsterdam is famous for is housing the young Jewish girl, Anne Frank, during World War II.
You can visit the house that Anne Frank hid in during the Nazi Occupation, and the house has been converted into a museum with tons of interesting facts and stories about her life.
If you’re keen to enter the Anne Frank House, definitely book a ticket in advance! The lines can get so long that they spread across multiple streets.
We made the mistake of showing up thinking we could buy a ticket at the door. So we skipped it instead of waiting in line for hours.
Head to the Anne Frank House website for ticket information.
12. See the Multicultural Design of Zevenlandenhuizen
One of the coolest things to do in Amsterdam is locate this little street of architectural genius.
Zevenlandenhuizen is just a row of seven houses, each of which is designed to reflect the style and architecture of a different country, including England, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Germany.
The buildings are absolutely stunning, and it’s so cool to see the influence of each unique culture in the artistic styling of the houses.
13. Relax in Vondelpark
One of the best things to do in Amsterdam is visiting Vondelpark!
This beautiful green space is completely free to visit, and it’s the perfect spot for riding your bike, having a picnic in the grass, or just taking a break from a busy day of sightseeing.
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So that concludes this budget travel guide to Amsterdam!
Overall, Amsterdam represents a chill and peaceful, yet culturally enticing place with lots of interesting attractions and a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere.
Not to be creepy or anything but this fine gentleman hanging out on his boat with his adorable dog seemed to really embody the relaxing atmosphere of Amsterdam, so I had to capture this beautiful moment.
It is very easy to explore Amsterdam on a budget, and I hope this article was helpful!
If you’re traveling to the Netherlands, visit iVisa.com to find out if you need a visa.
For more budget travel guides around Europe, check out these articles: