View on Bloemenmarkt and The Munttoren ("Coin Tower") from Koningsplein. Photo: 123rf.com
Besides the Rijksmuseum and other tourist spots in Amsterdam, you should check out these free activities the next time you visit the Dutch capital too.
1. Admire art at the Civic Guards Gallery
Walk through the arched gateway to the Amsterdam Museum and you'll find yourself in a remarkable passageway lined with 15 enormous portraits of Amsterdam civic guards from the 17th century. Protected by a glass roof, the gallery also exhibits several modern portraits of contemporary Dutch celebrities, from ballet choreographers to footballers. Visit before December 31 and you can also see a special exhibition: a magnificent 40m-long multicoloured carpet, with designs representing all 179 nationalities living in Amsterdam. Also check out the live restoration of a giant painting of Napoleon entering Amsterdam in 1811 by Matthieu van Bree (above) – one of the largest paintings in the Netherlands measuring six by four metres.
2. Enjoy lunchtime concerts at Concertgebouw and Muziektheater
Grote Zaal at Concertgebouw (Concertgebouwplein 10, Tel: 31 20 671 8345; above) is renowned for being one of the world's most acoustically perfect concert halls. Hear those spine-tingling sounds for yourself without paying a euro, every Wednesday during the September to June concert season. As the clock strikes 12.30pm, the Concertgebouw treats visitors to a 30-minute concert. These may feature chamber music, symphonic performances or previews of a full concert to be played by a world-renowned orchestra or ensemble that same evening. On Tuesdays at the same time, the Muziektheater hosts free half-hour concerts in its Boekmanzaal room, where you can expect performances by members of the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra, the choir of De Nederlandse Opera and the Dutch Opera Studio.
3. Browse at Bloemenmarkt floating flower market
Located on a row of barges on the Singel canal, Bloemenmarkt – Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market – is the only one of its kind in Europe. Over 15 florists and garden shops are set up on the houseboats, selling everything from Dutch tulips and bonsai trees to plants from the Easter Islands, alongside rows of herbs and seeds. If you visit Bloemenmarkt in March or April, many of the bulbs for sale have been treated so that they can be planted as soon as you get home (they have export certificates) and will then flower within six weeks or so. Even if you are not buying, it’s a great way to spend a morning in the city.
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4. Relax in Vondelpark
Head to Vondelpark on a sunny day and you'll find it filled with locals dog-walking, roller-skating, picnicking or simply dozing on the grass. Luckily, it is the largest city park in Amsterdam at 0.48 sq km, so there is plenty of room for everyone. Don your walking shoes for a stroll around the ponds, lawns and gardens, keeping your eyes open for the several statues that can be found here, including the one of 17th century Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel and The Fish by Picasso. If you are visiting between June and August, enjoy one of the free dance, theatre, comedy or cabaret performances that take place over the weekend in the small amphitheatre on the island near the centre of the park.
5. Stroll along the canals of Jordaan
If there is one district that is best explored on foot, it has to be the Jordaan, located in the western part of the city centre. Originally a working-class neighbourhood – the famous painter Rembrandt lived here because of the low rents – it has become one of the most upscale areas of the Netherlands, known for its art galleries and boutique restaurants. The district is a peaceful strolling territory; wander around its labyrinth of narrow streets and canals, and look out for hidden courtyards, art studios and cafes. Stop by Chocolatl for free sugary samples, and don't miss the Bloemgracht canal, arguably the city’s prettiest, criss-crossed with quaint bridges and lined with multicoloured boats. Markets are held here regularly too; check out the Noordermarkt flea market, held on Mondays and Saturdays, which sells a mix of antique goods and handmade crafts.
This article was originally published on SilverKris.