Three weeks in Amsterdam, alone and a little broke
December 8, 2018 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Looking for activities / things to check out that are free or affordable and friendly to the solo female traveler.

I have companions for part of my trip but about 12 days will be solo. Tickets already secured for the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House, other than that the slate is empty.

Things I like: queer events; art; theatre; cinema; delicious foods; hanging out in cafes; browsing; interesting conversations; weird stuff; history

Things I don't enjoy: cycling; alcohol; cats; large concerts; crowds

I'm staying in the North end of town in a private residence and I will presumably be able to get around via transit or foot. Any other tips gladly accepted as I've never been to Amsterdam.
posted by SassHat to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, Netherlands (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are a ton of cheese shops in central Amsterdam and they all have samples of every kind of cheese that they sell. Make a circuit, sample some cheese, move on to another store. I usually buy at least one kind of cheese but you can get a free or nearly-free lunch eating delicious cheese samples.

The Albert Heijn chain of grocery stores sell a bunch of different kinds of big fresh salad bowls with protein. They're not super expensive and they're great to take back to where you're staying; all you need is a fork.
posted by terretu at 8:40 AM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Begijnhof has no entry fee and is worth visiting.
posted by jazzbaby at 9:17 AM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Van Gogh museum is in Amsterdam, I count that visit as one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life. Seeing a great hall of his paintings all at once is mind blowing. Getting a drink at the Hotel Akura bar is not all that expensive and It is high up in the hotel with great views of the city lights, I stayed there one night a while back, at the time it was one of only two five star hotels in the city. The waiter was nice and showed me how to drive to the museums from there. The coffee places near the canals have good Dutch Apple pie and with a slice of cheese it makes a great lunch, not too expensive. Go to the Van Gogh in daylight hours it is naturally lit, as I recall. In Rotterdam you used to be able to buy fresh smoked eel down by the docks, with a paper cone full of french fries with mayonnaise, they might have this there. Take care it is a big port city and it gets dark so early.

There are a bunch of links to free things to do in Amsterdam.
posted by Oyéah at 9:21 AM on December 8, 2018

Best answer: Here's a handy event calendar (just set the filter to "free"). You should find plenty of activities ranging from music to art exhibitions and festivals (although many seem to miss an English description so you my need to do some research/Google translating if something piques your interest).

There are also lots of street markets to stroll through, which pop up in different parts of the city on different days.

It seems that the ferries across the Ij are free of charge, and you could take one to visit the EYE film museum. The permanent exhibition in the basement shoud have free admission, and the building itself looks like it's worth seeing. Another, longer free ferry ride will take you all the way to the NDSM Wharf which has apparently been developing into a lively scene with street art and the like since I last went there.

And yes, visiting the Begijnhof (Beguinage) in Amsterdam has been on my own to-do list for a while now. Make sure to read a bit about the history of beguines in Europe first (it's fascinating!). You could do that at the Central library (free admission, obvs). It also looks pretty impressive!
posted by sively at 9:51 AM on December 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Check out the Amsterdam Event Agenda.

Completely agree on the AH salads... they also provide a green fork-spork combo that does the trick :^)

My favourite cheese shop is the Kaaskamer van Amsterdam (best toasties in NL), but totally agree to wander the cheese shops.

The very heart of Amsterdam centrum is pretty touristy and bar-hoppy, but worth a walk through.

When you wander, make sure, if you're out in the morning, you walk by the Pathé Tuschinski. If it's before noon or so, let them know you're a theatre buff and go into the Grote Zaal (large room)... it's stunning. Good five minute diversion.

Public transport is pretty easy - you can get an OV card (public transport card) at the Centraal train station that'll be usable on all train/tram/metro/busses in NL, and most all instructions/maps include English translations. I like the cafes around Spui, but your mileage may vary. If you happen to take a day trip to den Haag, Leiden, Utrecht, or Rotterdam, feel free shoot me a message, I'll have a few other recommendations. My wife and I live in Rotterdam, I'll post more later.

Whenish are you going? The Westergasfabrik complex usually has festivals, but those'll start up as the winter ends.
posted by Seeba at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh! Weird stuff! My favorite in NL is about a five minute walk from the Duivendrecht station:

Museum Vrolik.

Free medical museum on the ground floor of the university medical centre. Google Image Search
posted by Seeba at 9:56 AM on December 8, 2018

In a grocery shop in Amsterdam Chinatown I saw so many fliers for fascinating cooking workshops that I really wished I was there longer to take advantage of them. The advertisements were in English, so I suspect the workshops are too.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2018

Yeah, visiting some old cities by public transport is a good idea. I'd like to add Delft to that list.
posted by jouke at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are a ton of cheese shops in central Amsterdam and they all have samples of every kind of cheese that they sell. Make a circuit, sample some cheese, move on to another store. I usually buy at least one kind of cheese but you can get a free or nearly-free lunch eating delicious cheese samples.

There is a "cheese museum" (a small cheese shop with a bunch of free samples and a tiny free museum in the basement) across the canal from the Anne Frank House.

Get a train to Zaandijk Zaanse Schans, and head past the chocolate factory (it smells AMAZING) and over the river to see the windmills. Some have a small charge to go inside and see some historical museums. The Zaans museum is not free but has some interesting stuff on the industrial history of the area.

The Stedelijk modern art gallery is pretty interesting.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:26 AM on December 8, 2018

With so much time in Amsterdam you could see more of the country on day trips, but be warned that intercity train travel is fairly pricey and can eat up a lot of your budget.

Haarlem is an awesome day trip, a relatively cheap 15-minute ride from Amsterdam Centraal. The Museum Het Dolhuys near the station is a museum of psychiatry/outsider art in an old hospice. They also have the Teylers Museum (big daVinci exhibit on now), St Bavo's church, lots of shopping on the main street, and there's a Saturday market but it wasn't too exciting when I was there a few months ago (Delft's market is better, although more low-key in the winter months).

I also love Utrecht, which is a student-y city with unique canals, lots of pubs and cafes and the incredible Museum Speelklok (automatically playing musical instruments).
posted by Gortuk at 11:03 AM on December 8, 2018

A lot will depend on if you're there in August or in February or worse, April.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:26 AM on December 8, 2018

Get yourself a Museumkaaart and register it online using your accommodation's address. Registering it gives you unlimited access to almost every museum in the country.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:27 AM on December 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Amserdam has a great - and fairly new - public library - OBA Oosterdok. You can browse through books, recorded and sheet music - use the cafe or catch plays in their theatre. It is a much more interesting visit than a library in a country where you don't speak the language would normally be.
posted by rongorongo at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2018

Best answer: it's ollieballen season! get them with raisins.
posted by brujita at 12:42 PM on December 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Rittman Library, aka The Embassy of the Free Mind.

"The Ritman Library was founded in 1957 by Amsterdam businessman Joost R. Ritman. Ritman began collecting rare early books at a young age, after having been presented by his mother with a copy of a 17th-century edition of Aurora, a work by the German mystic Jacob Böhme. Decades of assiduous collecting resulted in an unparalleled collection of 27,000 works in the field of Christian-Hermetic gnosis, with 6 main collecting areas: Hermetica, Alchemy, Mysticism, Rosicrucians, Gnosis & Western Esotericism, and Comparative Religion."

"In 1984 Ritman decided to turn his private collection into a library that would be ‘hermetically open’ to all. His aim was also to acquaint a wide public, both scholars and non-scholars, with Hermetic, alchemical, mystical and gnostic works. Together, these works represent a challenging component of the European cultural and spiritual heritage. Over the past 25 years, the research carried out by the Ritman Institute has been made available by means of exhibitions, in the library and abroad, and through publications brought out by the library's own publishing house In de Pelikaan.

"Since 1 November 2017 The Ritman Library found its new home in the Embassy of the Free Mind in the majestic 17th century canal house of the House with the Heads, in Amsterdam. The museum and library are open from Wednesday-Saturday from 10am to 5pm with daily guided tours at 10.30am and 2.30pm."

They have a cafe and a bookshop. This would come under weird stuff and history and possibly interesting conversations.
posted by ljshapiro at 4:08 PM on December 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes travel, the hidden secret of the Netherlands for tourism is definitely that there is so much more than Amsterdam.

The Hague has the Mauritshuis and the Gemeentemuseem: Mauritshuis has an amazing collection of the Old Masters, most notably the Rembrandt painting of the anatomy lesson, and Vermeer's Meisje met Parel and his view of Delft. There are also lots of other great things there, it is one of my favorite museums ever, and insanely uncrowded compared to the Rijksmuseem. The Gemeentemuseem has more traveling exhibits of modern art, but when I was there they were doing a lot for De Stijl, because it was a centennary. Check the website to see what's up. Also w/r/t the Hague is the beach, which is wonderful, and you can rent a bike and ride out to it (you can do this anywhere).

You may want to look into whether its worth it to get a Museemkaart, which will last for about a month before needing to be registered.

For food, you may want to look into Surinamese food. Unfortunately, I neglected to save this somehow, but the eastern part of the city has at least one supurb Surinamese restaurant, but there are several. Indonesian food can also be great, although you have to do some research, as it can be a bit sweet and gooey for my tastes at times.

You might want to check out The Eye Film Museum. I haven't been but have heard good things.

See if the IJ-Hallen is happening while you are there. If it is, it is a great big flea market, so negative on the crowds, but full of great cheap stuff and fairly chill (it is the Netherlands after all, so doe normaal rules).

Transportation can indeed be pricey: you might want to look into Blablacar for day trips, or just plan it out carefully. There are loads of discount plans that you may or may not be eligible for.

One last idea: you probably have your accommodation sorted, but Antwerp is amazing. It's really surprising how different (Dutch-speaking) Belgium is from the Netherlands, but it is. I only spent a day there but have been dying to get back since.

Nature in the Netherlands is of course Dutch not-nature, but can be fascinating. I remember having a sudden realization where Escher got his ideas when I was in a park and noticed different canals flowing both and below me at the same time.
posted by Stilling Still Dreaming at 9:32 AM on December 9, 2018

Best answer: OCCII — Bottom end of Vondelpark. Squatty cultural community centre for all kinds of underground music and art.

Vrankrijk — In the middle of town, just around the corner from Dam. Squat / cafe / bar / queer cultural centre thingy.

Gartine — Don't tell anyone else about this, OK? Middle of town, down a side street near Spui. A cute little cafe with great food. Local / seasonal / all that good stuff.

Resistance Museum — On the way out to the East side of town, near the zoo. The Resistance Museum is really good. A fascinating collection of Dutch stories from the Second World War. Significantly less depressing than the Anne Frank house.
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When my wife and I went to Amsterdam a few years ago, the one thing that multiple people told me we *had* to do was hit an Indonesian rice table restaurant, and it turned out to be such good advice that we went to two of them. One I don't remember the name of and the other was pricey but fantastic, but I'm confident you could find a good one in your budget range.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:43 AM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

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