Budget Travel Tips for Amsterdam

How to Experience the Best of Amsterdam for Cheap

While Amsterdam is definitely one of Europe’s most popular cities, a trip there can add up fast! Here are some tips to help you save some money while exploring some of Amsterdam’s finest offerings.

You won’t want to miss the wonderful Rijksmuseum, but the flashy I amsterdam card may not be the cheapest way to see it!

Purchase a Museumkaart

Amsterdam has several world class museums, but many of these come with a hefty price tag. Luckily, the city offers several different discount cards for its city attractions, including the widely-publicized I Amsterdam card, the Amsterdam City Pass, the Holland Pass, and the Museumkaart. (You can check out a quick summary of these here). Though the most expensive, the Museumkaart seems to be by far the best value. It also isn’t really marketed to tourists as much as the others, and for citizens of the Netherlands it lasts a whole year, so it is more geared toward locals. For tourists, the Museumkaart lasts 31 days.

We only spent about two and a half days in Amsterdam, and we were able to save a very good amount of money on some of Amsterdam’s finest attractions. Here’s a full list of where we went and how much we saved:

Rijksmuseum – €17.50

Van Gogh Museum – €17.00

Stedelijk Museum – €17.50

Museum Van Loon – €9.00

Rembrandt House – €12.50

Amsterdam Royal Palace – €10.00

Hermitage Museum* – €25.00

Anne Frank House** – €9.50

Total: €118.00

Total Savings: €118 – €60 = €58 / person

As you can see, we were able to save almost as much as the pass cost (and with two of us traveling, the total savings was €116, or about $138!). With over 40 attractions included in the Museumkaart, if we had stayed longer we would have racked up even more savings. If you travel outside of Amsterdam at all, the Museumkaart can also offer you savings at other Netherlands museums, like the Mauritshuis in the Hague which houses the famous Vermeer “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. The card also allowed us to skip long lines at the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, and it lasts longer and includes more museums than any of the other passes offered.

It’s definitely a great value. We bought ours at Museum Van Loon, and the receptionist there said we were smart for buying the Museumkaart and that it would save us a lot of money – and she was right!

* We did have to pay an extra €2.50 at the Hermitage Museum, but only because of a specific exhibition we wanted to see there

** Insider Tip: the Anne Frank House requires an online reservation (no matter what kind of pass you have) if you would like to go between 9am and 3:30; if you haven’t made a reservation, you’ll have to come back after 3:30 and wait in line… we went around 7:30pm and only had to wait about a half hour, though the line looked quite long

The interior of the Concertgebouw is gorgeous, and the music of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra is even better!

Attend a performance at Concertgebouw

One of the other highlights of our trip was seeing the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra perform at Concertgebouw (which is on the south side of the Museumplein, where most of the major museums in the city are located). The interior of the Concertgebouw is stunning and there are several ways that the tickets can be surprisingly affordable. If you are under 30 (as we are), you can get “sprint tickets” for €15 if you visit the box office 75 minutes before the performance. However, when I was buying tickets to the show we saw (which was Rachmaninoff’s Pianoconcerto No. 4 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, and amazing!) I was able to buy the tickets for €15 directly from the website since we were under 30. I had assumed that we would have some of the worst seats there (although that shouldn’t have mattered since the Concertgebouw is supposed to have some of the best acoustics in Europe), but we actually had fantastic seats! They were pretty much in the center and only a few rows back. I felt as if we were breathing in the music. 🙂

There are some other discounts too – if you’re over 65 you can also get discounted tickets. Every Sunday morning at 11am, from September to June, there is a flat rate concert that costs €20 / person – which is still an excellent value! For an even better deal, on Wednesdays at 12:30pm, September-June, you can see a concert for free! It’s actually more like a rehearsal, and I believe you still have to reserve your ticket in advance, but still – you can’t beat free. For a full list of the discounts offered at Concertgebouw, check out this page. You won’t want to miss this wonderful (and affordable!) experience while you’re in Amsterdam.

Our hotel was right off the Prinsengracht canal, and only a short walk to the Museumplein or Dam Square

Choose a well-located hotel to save on time and transportation costs

Amsterdam is an extremely walkable city, so I recommend finding a hotel close to the main attractions – either the “old city” canal ring or Museumplein – to save on transportation costs. At first when searching for hotels in Amsterdam, it can seem like there are some good deals to be had on hotels near Schiphol Airport, but keep in mind that you’ll have to spend 20-30 minutes and the cost of a cab or train to get into the city each day. I also enjoy being able to stop back at our hotel for a rest during the day (or maybe to drop off some purchases!), which isn’t easy if you’re outside the city center. There are tons of deals to be had on hostels closer into the city, and we were able to get a pretty good deal on a double room with private bathroom which was quite close to the Museumplein and just a lovely walk along the canals to the Anne Frank House, the Royal Palace, or anywhere else we wanted to go in the city!

Consider how you’ll get to Amsterdam

We took a train from Paris to Amsterdam. It only took about four hours, so it was probably about as fast as flying if you consider the time spent going through security and waiting at the airport, and cost about the same. The train also offered more legroom and some views of the countryside, so there is that to consider as well.

One thing that saved us a significant amount of time and money, however, was that we flew into London and flew out of Amsterdam. Both were direct flights, which was also very convenient, and the price was about the same (or a little less than) a roundtrip flight to London. We were also able to save on the cost of a flight (and/or trains) and a full day of traveling by flying out of Amsterdam instead. Keep in mind that the Amsterdam airport is in the top 15 worldwide for passenger traffic, so they probably offer a flight that will fit your needs well!

Amsterdam features many different free attractions for travelers

Enjoy some of Amsterdam’s many free attractions

Some of your most memorable moments of Amsterdam might be things that cost no money at all – walking along the canals, admiring the bikes and flower boxes that adorn many of its bridges, relaxing in one of the city’s many parks, sampling gouda cheese at a shop, wandering through Jordaan, or admiring tulip bouquets at the floating Bloemenmarkt. Since we had such a short time in Amsterdam, there were several free things that we didn’t make it to, but that I would definitely like to check out on my next visit.

  • The city is famous for its role in the diamond industry, and you can schedule yourself a free guided tour at Gassan Jeweller or Royal Coster Diamonds.
  • The Amsterdam Public Library is supposed to be a really relaxing, modern space to check out, with great views of the city.
  • On weekends you can find free open air theatre performances at the popular Vondelpark or at Bostheater in the less well-known Amsterdam Forest.
  • Outside of the Amsterdam Museum, you can find the Civic Guards Gallery, which is a hidden passageway with a glass ceiling that displays a sampling of Dutch Golden Age paintings from the museum’s collection
  • You can walk through Amsterdam’s Red Light District at night to check out a different side of Amsterdam – just be sure not to take any pictures of the women in the windows!
  • The EYE Film Museum permanent collection in the basement is free to see, and there is even a free ferry service to get you there.
  • Go window shopping at the Waterlooplein Flea Market or the Albert Cuyp Markt.
  • Check out the secret courtyard of Begijnhof, which features two medieval wooden houses and the oldest house in Amsterdam.
  • Though it’s not free to attend a movie at Pathe Tuschinski, I think the fascinating art deco interior could more than make up for the price of the movie ticket!
  • Amsterdam is supposed to have the best Indonesian food outside of Indonesia, and finding some good Indonesian restaurants might be a good way to experience something new for cheap while in Amsterdam!

Visiting Amsterdam’s many unique cultural attractions can add up quickly, but you can save a good chunk of change by purchasing a Museumkaart. Then, get yourself a cheap ticket to see the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw if you can, or if you can’t plan on attending the free Wednesday concert or the flat-rate Sunday concert. Choose a hotel that’s close to the attractions so you can enjoy short walks along the lovely canals to get to your destinations and save time and money on transportation costs. Finally, be sure not to overlook Amsterdam’s many free offerings while planning your trip!

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. What do you think? Have you visited any of these attractions in Amsterdam? Do you have other insider tips on how to make a trip to Amsterdam affordable?

Budget Travel Tips for Amsterdam

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