Amsterdam is in some ways an ideal city to visit on a budget. Many of its attractions are free or cost only a few euros: a coffee in a cosy café, a browse through the city’s ancient archives, or a perusal of the latest art exhibitions are all essential, affordable Amsterdam experiences.
The cost of staying here can be high, but it is still possible to find affordable rates, particularly during low season. Our experts have picked five great places to stay for less than £80 a night, as well as the best budget food and drink and some fun, free ways to enjoy the city.
Good timing also keeps costs down. Flight and hotel prices over the next few weeks are at their lowest, even though winter is a great time to visit: Amsterdam lights up for the festive season, not only with the customary Christmas twinkle, but with spectacular light sculptures, installations, and dramatic projections for the Amsterdam Light Festival. And best of all, it’s free. December 1 to January 22, 2017 ( amsterdamlightfestival.com ).
British Airways ( britishairways.com ), CityJet ( cityjet.com ), easyJet ( easyjet.com ), Flybe ( flybe.com ), KLM ( klm.com ) and Vueling ( vueling.com ) all fly direct from the UK to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Check for the lowest fares to Amsterdam on Skyscanner ( skyscanner.net ), which compares prices from all airlines. When we checked this week, there were two-night return fares from Manchester, Bristol and London until the end of January for £48, £64, £48 respectively for midweek flights and from £69, £74, £52 for Fri-Sun journeys.
Coach is the cheapest way to travel, although it will take between nine and 12 hours. Flixbus ( flixbus.co.uk ) and OUIBUS ( uk.ouibus.com ) offer the lowest fares, tickets are £19 and £23 respectively for a one-way trip.
London-Amsterdam trains ( eurostar.com ) take around six hours, with a change in Brussels.
Where to stay
November-March are the quietest months in Amsterdam. This means that hotel prices are at their lowest and it is easier to secure a room in the popular hotels . Alternatively, there are also lots of lively hostels in the city centre . Prices quoted below are the lowest for a double room in the next two weeks.
A charming design adventure, ideal for buzzy, sociable, hit-the-pillow-then-out-again stays. The rooms, set in what was built as a market arcade, are zany design oddities. A little out of the centre, though well served by public transport and located in a hip up-and-coming part of town to the west of the city centre.
Double rooms from: £44;
Hotel Not Hotel is a design adventure
Southeast of the historic canal area, the former offices of De Volkskrant newspaper have been given vibrant and stylish new life as an affordable hotel, with a club, restaurant, and even artists-in-residence. Situated a block away from the Amstel River, and only 10 minutes’ walk from De Pijp.
Volkshotel, in what was once a newspaper officeCredit: Mr Mark GROENEVELDO /Mr Mark Groeneveld
Hotel V sits on the cusp between the old city centre and the up-and-coming quarter of De Pijp, so is convenient both for conventional sightseeing and for a more local taste of the bar and restaurant scene. This is the ideal hotel if you’re here for a lively weekend break.
Designer chic meets capsule-hotel, though with ample space, classier fittings and a hipper atmosphere than you’d expect, attracting budget-conscious people with an eye for style. This hotel is some way out of town, just south of trendy De Pijp, but there’s a direct tram connection (in under 10 minutes to the centre) and close to Schiphol Airport.
Budget chic at citizenM Amsterdam
Seven Bridges is a 300-year-old canal house, sumptuously furnished throughout with the owners’ impressive collection of antiques. It’s also in one of the canal district’s most beautiful spots with (as you might have guessed) a view of seven bridges at the intersection of Reguliersgracht canal and Keizersgracht canal.
What to do
A stroll along Amsterdam’s historic canals offers one of the city’s greatest treats for free, but on days when even the thought of a walk outside is enough to freeze the blood, there’s plenty to do cosily indoors at no cost at all, here are five of the best.
“The Parrot” (named for a bird on its gable stone) dates from the days when Catholicism was tolerated in the Netherlands, provided that churches weren’t recognisable as such from the street. Behind a modest stone facade lies a neo-gothic church – intriguing to visit, and a warm, dry haven of calm.
Open Mon-Sat 10am-4pm; Sun 9.45am-1.30pm; Kalverstraat 58
Free concerts at the Concertgebouw
Every Wednesday, there’s a free lunchtime concert at the Concertgebouw. It may be a recital by students, but you can also strike lucky and find an open rehearsal in the main auditorium by the acclaimed Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra itself.
Open Wednesdays 12.30pm; concertgebouw.nl
The ConcertgebouwCredit: efesenko - Fotolia
Panorama at EYE
Panorama, in the basement of the EYE film museum, shows magic moments from movie classics, and snippets of rarities from the museum’s collection such as hand-coloured silent movies. There are also a couple of private pods where you can view entire films.
Open: 10am-9pm; eyefilm.nl
The EYE film museumCredit: © Henk Meijer / Alamy Stock Photo/Henk Meijer / Alamy Stock Photo
Schuttersgalerij (Civic Guards Gallery)
Group portraits of units of the civic guard were common in the 17th century. A few great ones once hung in this covered walkway beside the Amsterdam Museum. Now, they’ve hived off to the Hermitage, but today you’ll still find a mix of Golden Age paintings and contemporary art.
Open daily 10am-5pm; amsterdammuseum.nl
Stadsarchief (City Archives)
Amsterdam’s huge city archive is housed in the former headquarters of an international trading company, built in the 1920s. The archive stages great (pay-for) exhibitions, but a pick of its fascinating holdings is always on show for free in the building’s old safe-deposit vault.
Open Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat and Sun noon-5pm; amsterdam.nl/stadsarchief/
Where to eat and drink for less
Indonesian and Turkish restaurants offer tasty and affordable cuisine; eetcafés (“eat-cafés”) usually have a good-value dish-of-the-day, and bohemian De Pijp, south of the centre, is the quarter for bars and restaurants not too heavy on the pocket.
More traditionally Dutch would be hard to find. The cooking – and hefty portions – seem to come from an earlier age: pots of mussels, ham and mustard, North Sea prawn cocktail.
(Roelof Hartstraat 26, 1071 VJ; 0031 20 662 5454; lafalote.nl ; set-price menus from €17.50, £14)
Just couscous, and only three types to choose from, but made with fine ingredients, in the traditional manner, and served in convivial surroundings.
(Ceintuurbaan 346, 1072 GP; 0031 20 673 3539; couscousclub.nl ; dinner around €20)
A Slav chef with a background in Japanese macrobiotic cuisine and a taste for the Med could make for a culinary train crash, but Foodism offers healthy, imaginative and affordable dining. Eat tapas-style.
(Hugo de Grootplein 10; 0031 20 486 8137; foodism.nl ; three dishes from €20)
The restaurant is a little rundown. But if you can get past that, you’ll be rewarded with the best Surinamese cooking in town. The kitchen is ruled by a matriarch, who comes up with superb curries, satay and roti dishes.
(Ferdinand Bolstraat 21, 1072 LB; 0031 20 676 8264; moksi.nl ; dinner around €20)
Splendid Turkish tiles line the walls, light glints through the lamps’ coloured glass and from the kitchen come prime grills and eastern Mediterranean cuisine. Among old favourites there are more adventurous dishes, too.
(Ceintuurbaan 9, 1072 ER; 0031 20 676 1195; restaurant.maydanoz-amsterdam.nl/en ; dinner around €26)
A no-nonsense spot for Indonesian rijsttafels (feast of small spicy dishes – an Amsterdam speciality), cooked by a chef who used to be at the (far more expensive) restaurant next door.
(Utrechtsestraat 73, 1017 VJ; 0031 20 427 9865; tujuhmaret.nl ; Rijsttafel €27.75)
Watch | An insider's guide to Amsterdam 01:38
Bouchon du Centre
A tiny restaurant, where Hanneke Schouten runs the show on her own. She works with top-ranking local suppliers and has a passion for good, French cooking. It is not for picky eaters or vegetarians.
(Falckstraat 3, 1017 VV; 0031 20 330 1128; bouchonducentreamsterdam.com ; lunch and dinner around €29)
A last taste of the old, working-class Jordaan, which has survived the gentrification of the rest of the quarter. Local singers such as Willy Alberti and Johnny Jordaan were regulars here, and went on to become famous throughout the land.
(Laurierstraat 101, 1016; 0031 20 624 4167; caferooienelis.com ; glass of beer, €2.20)
De Engelse Reet
There is no bar at De Engelse Reet. Drinks are dispensed in a small backroom, opening into a voorkamer ('front room’ or parlour). The current owners have run the bar for four generations. Try one of the jenevers (Dutch gin) from local distillery De Ooievaar.
(Begijnensteeg 4, 1012 PN; 0031 20 623 1777; glass of jenever, €2.80)
Many decades ago a drinking hole for medical students, De Dokter is these days famed for its range of whiskies and both Dutch and Belgian beers. The whisky is very favourably priced – the 'whisky of the month’ is usually a top-class single malt.
(Rozenboomsteeg 4, 1012 PR; 0031 20 626 4427; cafe-de-dokter.nl ; whisky, from €4.50)
Budding writers and artists from the neighbourhood, students, and the young and easy-going come to have a good time here. During the day, it’s great for a quiet coffee; later on, music levels are upped and the Kingfisher hops. Cheap, daily dinner specials are chalked up on a blackboard.
(Ferdinand Bolstraat 24, 1072 LK; 0031 20 671 2395; kingfishercafe.nl ; cocktails, €7.50)
Bar Bukowski/Henry’s Bar
Named for the writer, poet and all-round renegade Charles Bukowski, this is a young, noisy, friendly place, with people packed in shoulder-to-shoulder most nights. Next door is the slightly more subdued Henry’s Bar, where inspired bartenders create superb cocktails.
(Oosterpark 10, 1092 AE; 0031 20 370 1685; barbukowski.nl ; cocktails from €7.75; beer €2.50)
This article was written by Rodney Bolt from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.