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10 Free Things to Do in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the liberal and artistic cultural hotspot, surrounded by its ring of canals where modern amenities meet heritage gabled facades, features on most young Europe travellers’ bucket list. Let us accept that the city can get expensive. So here is a list of ten free experiences you should not miss when in the city on a budget.

 

1. VISIT THE ICONIC DAM SQUARE AND REMBRANDT SQUARE

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No trip to Amsterdam can be complete without visiting Dam Square. This historic town square is surrounded by the Royal Palace, Nieuwe Kerk, De Bijenkorf with the Nationaal Monument dominating the scene. Always filled with tourists, the square is bustling with street performers, bike riders, trams and buses passing by the busy main road and lots of pigeons. You can sit on the benches and soak in the cheerful atmosphere and admire the majestic buildings surrounding you. If you are visiting during Open Tower Day then you can climb up the towers of important monuments around this area for free. A ten minute walk will lead you to Rembrandtplein, which is another busy square with a 3D installation of the Dutch master Rembrandt's most famous work, The Night Watch and a statue of Rembrandt himself. Take photos with the statues and then grab a beer at any of the bars around the area with outdoor seating so that you can enjoy the view and watch people passing by.

2. TAKE A WALK AROUND MUSEUMPLEIN, VISIT RIJKSMUSEUM GARDEN AND TAKE A PHOTO AT THE 'I AMSTERDAM' SIGN

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The Museumplein is a piece of green, surrounding all of Amsterdam's most famous museums like Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. Take a walk around it and witness the magnificent structures, leading to the pretty Rijksmuseum Garden. Entry to the museum may be expensive but the beautiful garden, with old statues and colourful tulips, is free. Spend some time relaxing in the garden after which you can visit the famous I Amsterdam sign. It is always filled with tourists, so if you want a great photo, visit early. If you want a little bite and a drink afterwards visit affordable Cafe-Bistro Hansel and Gretel which is a 2 minutes’ walk.

3. RELAX AT THE VONDELPARK

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A main attraction of dining during summer can be outdoor seating, but you may not wish to spend to much money of Amsterdam’s bars and restaurants. If you’d like to have a similar experience, buy some beers and sandwiches from Albert Heijn at less than half the price and go to Vondelpark. It is a piece of heaven amidst the busy city. A huge stretch of greenery, with beautiful canals and ponds, filled with ducks, flowers and shady trees, it offers an unbeatable place for relaxation. If you are in the mood, it can also be a safe place to smoke a joint (because, well, Amsterdam). The park has an Open Air Theatre where you can catch live music and dance performances for free. The places which sell drinks and food inside the park gets super crowded, so bring your own food and drinks from outside to avoid standing in the queue. If you are visiting during The King's Day, 27th April, you can witness a flea market arranged exclusively by children at the park.

4. TAKE A TOUR OF THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT

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The most fun way to spend your time after sun down is a trip to the Red Light District. In the morning the area is just like any other neighbourhood in Amsterdam with pretty houses by the canals and flower-adorned bridges but at night it transforms itself to a happening and vibrant party place. Walk through the De Wallen area and prepare to be mesmerised by the neon lit windows, and the ladies behind them. Don't only walk by the main road; visit all the tiny alleys too. But refrain from taking photos or selfies with the girls, as this is a strict no-no. The area remains crowded with cheerful young tourists and it is really fun to sit at one of the bars and grab a beer. The Black Tiger is a great place which serves beer at a reasonable price. If you are hungry, there are lots of Doner shops open until late night. Also there are dozens of adult shops which are cool to visit. The enormous Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest building is situated here which looks strikingly beautiful at night. The area is really safe in the evening but beware of pickpockets as the roads can get crowded.

5. VISIT ALBERT CUYP MARKET

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The Albert Cuyp Market is more than a hundred years old street market in the de Pijp area of Amsterdam. The market is open six days a week from Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm. The whole road (Albert Cuypstraat) is pedestrian only, with stalls set up on both sides of the road. The products which are sold here include fresh seafood, vegetables, fruits, flowers, plants, different kinds of cheese, clothes, electronic goods etc. You can also find all kinds of proper shops here ranging from ones selling exotic spices, wooden furniture, glasses to leather goods, wigs and typical tourist souvenirs. There is a variety of bars and cafes surrounding the area which mostly have outdoor seating and is always busy during market hours. Several food stalls selling Dutch herring, fresh seafood, fries, spring rolls, and sweets like Baklava are also prominent. If you are there on a sunny day don't forget to try ice-cream from Ijscuypje for €1.5 per scoop. The famous Dutch Stroopwafels are prepared fresh here. The Original Stroopwafels is the spot to grab one. They come in regular, chocolate or super flavour and are pressed in front of your eyes and given to you to enjoy crisp and warm.

6. TAKE THE FREE FERRY ACROSS RIVER IJ TO NDSM

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The NDSM is a former shipyard which has been converted to a hub of culture and art. The whole industrial area is covered with the coolest of graffiti. The area hosts different festivals, exhibitions, parties, performances etc. including IJHallen which is Europe's biggest flea market selling vintage furniture, lamps, clothes, different types of toys, second hand goods, decorations etc. To reach the NDSM wharf you need to go to the backside of the Amsterdam Centraal Station, and from there take ferry 905 or 906 to your destination. The ride is 15 minutes long and is absolutely free. You can also take your bike aboard the ferry. You can spot a half-submerged Zulu V class submarine while approaching the NDSM. Other water-vessels and a floating pancake boat hotel can also be seen. Once you reach the side of IJ you can see a visible difference in appearance of the city. Amsterdam Noord is totally different from its city centre. There is the cool NoorderlichtCafe, just beside the pier, should you feel you are in need of a drink.

7. VISIT THE FLOATING FLOWER MARKET

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The Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market. It is situated on the Singel canal in between Muntplein and Koningsplein. The market invites you with a sight of colourful, vibrant fresh cut flowers and the beautiful smell refreshes your senses. You can find a variety of flowers like tulips, roses, orchids. Also bulbs, seeds and bonsais are sold. Take a walk around the numerous shops. Even if you don't intend to buy any flowers, the busy, cheerful atmosphere of the place makes it a must visit.  If you decide to take a few bulbs or seeds home, do first check whether your country's customs allows you to do so.  There are lots of cheese shops in the area and you get to taste the delicious cheeses for free. You can also spot souvenir shops here, in case you want to buy some small presents.

8. TAKE A WALK DOWN THE 9 STREETS AND KALVERSTRAAT

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If you love shopping, love to browse shops or like to peer into the window of a gorgeous antique store displaying rare showpieces, antique watches, tribal arts and crafts, modern art galleries displaying paintings on their windows, jewellery stores showcasing brightly coloured precious stone studded necklaces and rings, or just simply walk into fashion stores and check out their collections, the nine streets are the coolest places to do so. There are designer shops, speciality stores, quaint little cafes all scattered around these quirky streets. A walk down these cosy streets, are bound to cheer you up.

The Kalverstraat is another long busy shopping street nearby with all major fashion brands and retail stores from high end to budget. And it is a real fun experience to walk the stretch and look around or possibly indulge in some retail therapy. The Kalvertoren is a glass and steel shopping centre located here, on the top floor of which, is the Cafe Blue which provides a 360 degree panoramic view of the city.

9. VISIT THE ILLUMINATED MAGERE BRUG AT NIGHT

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The Magere Brug or the Skinny Bridge is a bridge over the Amstel River, and it is perfect for a romantic stroll at night. It connects the banks at Kerkstraat between the Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. It is a bike and pedestrian only bridge. Whenever a tall vessel approaches it, the bridge can be raised to allow passage. It is brilliantly illuminated at night and looks to be straight out of a picture. You can take really cool photos here, but beware of bikes speeding past. It is no doubt beautiful in the morning too, but turns quite magical at night.

10. SPEND TIME AT GOATFARM RIDAMMERHOEVE IN THE AMSTERDAM FOREST

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The Amsterdam forest is a huge landscaped park where you can enjoy long walks through the woods amidst unadulterated nature. In the middle of this beautiful park is a hidden gem: a petting zoo where you can see goats, lambs, chickens, pigs, cows and horses. The main attraction is the little, white, fluffy baby goats that you can pet, feed milk from bottles and groom. There are also big white goats whom you can feed grains. It is a fully functioning farm which enables you to learn a lot about animal husbandry. There is a section outside the barn where the younger goats come out to play with you. They are really energetic and lively which makes this attraction a fun place to visit. You can also relax sitting outside with a cup of hot chocolate or goat milk ice-cream. Apart from the goat farm, the forest itself is rather beautiful. It has large water bodies where people can go rowing and swimming. Some parts have beautiful cherry blossom trees and a section of the forest is home to Scottish Highlanders!

 

Written by: Rumela Gupta

Top 11: World's Best Music Festivals 2017

Coachella

coachella

Where: Indio, California, USA
When: April 14-16 & 21-23, 2017
Lineup: Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Kendrick Lamar, The XX, Bon Iver, Lorde…

Taking place in the middle of the Californian desert, Coachella is one of the biggest and best music festivals in the world. Due to it close proximity to LA, you might also spot the odd celeb amongst the 100,000 revellers who attend each weekend. It’s definitely a place where people go to be seen, and they certainly dress to impress. 

 

Bonnaroo

Bonnaroo

Where: Manchester, Tennessee, USA
When: June 8-11, 2017
Lineup: U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Chance The Rapper, Major Lazer, Flume…

As far as American music festivals go, Bonnaroo is one of the more authentic and hardcore festival experiences money can buy. It's one of the greatest camping experiences at any festival in the world, and the organisers always deliver a ripper lineup. After surviving four days of sleeping outside and watching remarkable bands, in the Tennessee heat, no one will doubt your festival cred.

 

Glastonbury

Glastonbury

Where: Somerset, England
When: June 21-25, 2017
Lineup: Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, The National, Katy Perry, The XX…

No festival comes with greater esteem or a richer history than Glastonbury. Countless greats have graced its stages and to this day the festival’s lineup is always guaranteed to be awe-inspiring. 
From its monster main stages to its smaller (and anarchic) tents that litter the surrounding woods, your experience is sure to be a blur of amazing sounds, mischief, hippies and cider. In its essence, Glastonbury provides the quintessential festival experience and a definite addition to the bucket list.

 

Benicàssim

Benicàssim

Where: Benicàssim, Spain
When: July 13-16, 2017
Lineup: Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Kasabian, Foals, Deadmau5, Rufus…

The Festival Internacional de Benicassim (FIB), or Benicàssim for short, is a perfect combo of holidaying and festival. For the former, picturesque beaches are 20 minutes away, helping to wash away the toxins of the previous night. For the latter, you’ll witness some of the best guitar music line-ups year in and year out. There’s a reason why it’s gone from 50K capacity in 2009 to 150K over the entire weekend at last year’s event; it’s a beautiful festival, in a beautiful location, with lots of beautiful (scantily clad) people.

 

Splendour in the Grass

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Where: Byron Bay, Australia
When: July 21-23, 2017
Lineup: The XX, Queens of the Stone Age, LCD Soundsystem, Two Door Cinema Club, Haim, Catfish and the Bottlemen…

Splendour is one of the largest, and well-renowned, festivals on Australian soil. Since 2001, SITG has been producing impressive lineups, featuring a wide set of rock, electronic and alternative genres. It happens to fall during Australia’s winter season, so pack gumboots; it’s nickname, ‘Splendour in the Mud’, isn’t a coincidence. That being said, whether it’s raining or glistening, the sight of 30,000 revellers on North Byron Parklands’ hillside is breathtaking. The campsite boasts countless stages, tee-pee dance floors and craft stations (and they’ve ditched the annoying food and drink tokens this year).

 

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

Where: Boom, Belgium
When: July 21-23 & 28-30, 2017
Lineup: Alesso, David Guetta, Axwell /\ Ingrosso, Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Carl Cox…

Tomorrowland is, simply put, the biggest electronic music showdown on earth. The Belgian festival, based in the appropriately-named town of Boom, has attracted the biggest DJs and electronic music makers in the world for more than ten years now, and the party just keeps getting bigger and better. Fest-goers can expect a true feast for the senses; 15 stages of music, volcanoes, giant disco balls, even bigger butterflies and industrial-sized quantities of confetti.

 

Fuji Rock

FujiRock

Where: Yuzawa-cho, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
When: July 28-30, 2017
Lineup: Gorillaz, Aphex Twin, Bjork, LCD Soundsystem, Major Lazer, Queens of the Stone Age…

Fuji Rock is the biggest outdoor music event in Japan. It’s also one of the largest and most recognised music festivals in Asia (and the world, for the matter). In it’s infancy (1997/98), the event took place at the base of Mount Fuji, but ever since 1999 it has been held at Naeba Ski Resort. The resort enchants its visitors with sparkling streams and rolling green forests. As well as enjoying performances from more than 200 Japanese and international musicians, festival goers can also take a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, providing spectacular views of the festival and its surrounds.

 

Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza

Where: Chicago, USA
When: August 3-6, 2017
Lineup: Chance The Rapper, The Killers, Muse, Arcade Fire, Blink 182, Alt-J…

Few music festivals carry the same level of esteem or star power than Lollapalooza. It was created in 1991, by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell, as a farewell tour for his band. Since then, the festival has evolved into an extravaganza of music, dance, comedy, and crafts, with over 160,000 festival goers taking part over the three days. This certainly isn’t a bad spot for a festival either, scenically flanked by Lake Michigan and the towering Chicago skyline.

 

Sziget

Sziget

Where: Budapest, Hungary
When: August 9-16, 2017
Lineup: Kasabian, Major Lazer, Pink, Alt J, The Vaccines, Charlie XCX…

Sziget is a giant of the European festival circuit, attracting more than 350,000+ revellers to its charming island location, in the heart of Budapest, each year. The sheer scale of the festival – 50 venues and 200 daily performances over seven days – is mind-blowing. This festival allows you to stay in Budapest and explore the city; its cool “ruin” pubs (shout out to Szimpla Bar) and thermal baths await. To take part in the live music, ongoing parties, theatre performances and even circus exhibitions, Sziget is only a tram or river ferry away.

 

Reading and Leeds

Reading-Leeds

Where: Reading, England & Leeds, England
When: August 25-27, 2017
Lineup: Kasabian, Eminem, Muse, Two Door Cinema Club, Major Lazer, Haim…

Reading and Leeds Festival rightly sits among the world's genuine rock elite. Held over England’s summer bank holiday weekend, this festival is a right of passage for many of the local students who add to this festival’s young and enthusiastic crowd. Beyond being a slice of heaven for British indie/guitar loving festival goers, recent Reading and Leeds lineups have expanded to include more next generation dance, hip hop and alternative pop bands. Eclecticism at its finest.

 

Burning Man

BurningMan

Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
When: 27 August – 4 September 2017
Lineup: You’ll know when you see them…

Described as "an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression and self-reliance", Burning Man is more of an artistic escape than a music festival, with each camper providing a service or performance for their space over the event. There are also interactive sculptures, the chance to meet a wonderful variety of free sprits and the famous annual burning of a large wooden effigy. The performing DJs are last-minute surprises – techy producers like Deadmau5 and Tyco – but that’s just part of the action in a place that has its own pyrotechnics and laser regulations.

Top 8: Must do’s in Europe (if you like to party)

8. Amsterdam, Netherlands

As one of the world’s most relaxed cities, in regards to drugs and sex, it’s not hard to imagine why Amsterdam is popular amongst partygoers. While not everyone’s cup of tea, the infamous Red Light District is a main attraction, and it’s an experience that every young traveller should have. There are sex workers peering out of brothel windows, raucous bars, haze-filled ‘coffee shops' and strip shows all squeezed into a few city blocks; the place is crazy. If you’re after a night or two of debauchery, look no further.

As one of the world’s most relaxed cities, in regards to drugs and sex, it’s not hard to imagine why Amsterdam is popular amongst partygoers. While not everyone’s cup of tea, the infamous Red Light District is a main attraction, and it’s an experience that every young traveller should have. There are sex workers peering out of brothel windows, raucous bars, haze-filled ‘coffee shops' and strip shows all squeezed into a few city blocks; the place is crazy. If you’re after a night or two of debauchery, look no further.

7. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona certainly comes alive at night and, no, it doesn’t sleep. Everything happens late at night; late night dinners and drinks are the norm. The same goes for clubbing, as well; the city’s big clubs don’t even open until midnight - 1am and they kick on well into the morning. So, be prepared for a big one - you can sleep when you’re dead!

Barcelona certainly comes alive at night and, no, it doesn’t sleep. Everything happens later around these parts, with late night dinners and drinks the norm. The same goes for clubbing as well; the city’s big clubs don’t even open until midnight - 1am and they kick on well into the morning. So, be prepared for a big one - you can sleep when you’re dead!

6. Lagos, Portugal

In peak season, Lagos’ warm cobblestone streets are swarmed with partygoers sampling the smorgasbord of small bars and clubs the town has to offer. The venues are dirt-cheap and have their own unique novelties/drink deals/competitions that they use to draw in the punters each night. The result is plenty of booze-fuelled antics and a bunch of laughs.

In peak season (summertime), Lagos’ warm cobblestone streets are swarmed with partygoers sampling the smorgasbord of small bars and clubs the town has to offer. The venues are dirt-cheap and have their own unique novelties/drink deals/competitions that they use to draw in the punters each night. The result is plenty of booze-fuelled antics and a bunch of laughs.

5. The Prague Pub Crawl

In terms of pub-crawls, they don’t get any better than Prague’s. The ‘Prague Pub Crawl’ is arguably the biggest pub-crawl in Europe; the sheer number of travellers who go on the crawl each night is crazy. If you jump on board, you’re in for a wild ride. The guides take you to all the best spots in town (Prague has some awesome clubs) and you get the usual perks - free entry and drinks at each stop.

4. "Sparty", Budapest

Budapest’s Sparty (spa + party), held most Saturday nights at Budapest’s renowned Széchenyi Baths, will blow your mind. DJs play to a psychedelic light show, creating an incredible atmosphere for the hundreds of revellers drinking and dancing in the bath’s waters. Don’t stress if the weather is bad either; you’ll be more than warm enough in the bath’s toasty waters.

3. Oktoberfest, Munich

With all the hype and tradition surrounding Oktoberfest, one can be forgiven for being a little skeptical as to whether it can be as good as everyone says. But, let me tell you, its even better! The atmosphere is truly incredible - the steins, the sing-alongs, the rides, the food - a day at Oktoberfest blurs into one extremely foggy (but fond) memory. Also, don’t be deterred if you don’t drink beer; there’s other drink options available.

With all the hype and tradition surrounding Oktoberfest, one can be forgiven for being a little skeptical as to whether it can be as good as everyone says. But, let me tell you, it's even better! The atmosphere is truly incredible - the steins, the sing-alongs, the rides, the food - a day at Oktoberfest blurs into one extremely foggy (but fond) memory. Also, don’t be deterred if you don’t drink beer; there’s other drink options available.

2. Ios, Greece

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There are plenty of party options throughout Greece, but Ios is something else. There’s an abundance of bars and clubs, all packed together in the middle of town. The atmosphere is electric and, with party goers hopping from one place to the next, the whole town turns into one big party. The fun doesn’t stop there either; during the day, head to Far Out for their epic pool parties.

1. Sail Croatia

Living on a party boat for a week, and island hopping through the stunning Croatian islands, pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? While there are many different routes you can take, the outcome is always the same - amazing parties, beaches, activities and vibes. It’s a great way to meet people; by living and partying together for the week, you become like family with your fellow sailors. The must-do for the young party traveller, Sail Croatia has the potential to be the best week of your life.