The picturesque Dutch capital is packed with art and culture, and fortunately many sights are free of charge if you’re a visitor who wants to see a lot while saving money. It’s a city which can also be navigated on foot, or if you feel like covering more ground more quickly, you can rent a bike for a few dollars to really look like a local. Any exploration of Amsterdam’s charms should begin with a long walk along some of its 400-year-old canals to view the elegant, gabled townhouses lining them. When it comes to important churches, it’s free to enter the Westerkerk, its famous bell tower having become a symbol of the city. The Protestant church on Prinsengracht is the largest in the Netherlands, and it is the burial site of the Dutch master, Rembrandt. The Amsterdam Treasures collection is located in the basement of the City Archives, and has a lineup of items of interest from a 16th-century woodcut map of the city to photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 “bed-in” at the Amsterdam Hilton.
Just a 10-minute walk from Central Station is the Amsterdam Public Library, packed with books and music, and comfy chairs to do some reading, and with a top floor balcony offering a spectacular view of the city. Known for its collection of paintings from the Dutch golden age, including Vermeer’s “The Milk Maid,” the Rijksmuseum has an admission fee, but if you’re watching the pennies you can explore the gardens free of charge to enjoy sculpture exhibitions, or you can check out the mini-Rijksmuseum at Schiphol Airport which features rotating exhibitions. The Civic Guards Gallery is a free section of the Amsterdam Museum, featuring an alleyway dedicated portraits which date from 1530, or you can check out the indie art galleries in and around the Jordaan neighbourhood. If you’re travelling with kids, the Vondelpark has imaginative playgrounds, duck ponds, and free children’s shows at the open-air theatre in summer. And for getting around, the IJ channel commuter ferry behind Central Station is ideal; on the five-minute ride you get a great view of the waterfront, while watching cyclists rushing to make the boat.