Just because you are in Amsterdam for a night, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun without breaking the bank. Other than food and transportation into the city, most of the things listed below are free. With little time and little money, you can still enjoy Amsterdam by strolling down narrow streets on beautiful canals lined with historic houses.
Canals, canals everywhere
Canals are what makes Amsterdam, well Amsterdam. It’s what most people think about when they think of Amsterdam (well of course other things too but that is a whole different topic).
Some 160 canals run for miles and miles (47 to be exact) throughout the city. Fun fact: there are more canals in Amsterdam than Venice.
These canals offer great views of the city and are lined with unique gabled houses, quaint cafes, and markets.
One of the best views can be had at the Huis aan de Drie Grachten (House on Three Canals) in the Wallen district. The beautiful 17th century house faces three different canals.
A walk through the Red Light District at night
Though not for everybody, the Red Light District (in Dutch De Wallen or De Walletjes) is surprisingly one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam.
The district is the center of one of the world’s oldest professions, prostitution. Prostitution has dated back to the 17th century at this location.
The sights of the Red Light District are extraordinary as you walk past all types of women in leather and lace standing in windows of storefronts.
With prostitution comes an increase in sleaze, drugs, and crime. With that said, the area is still considerably safe. Just don’t look for trouble and watch out for pickpockets.
No where else in the world that I know of can you find half naked women in windows just across the street from the oldest church in the city, Oude Kerk. There is even a bronze statue in front of the church dedicated to sex workers all over the world. Only in Amsterdam.
It’s not a good idea to take photos in the Red Light District since video cameras might be watching you and big security guards hidden behind doors could pop out at any moment and confiscate your camera. Never take pictures of the women in windows. If you want to take a few photos, take them for a safe distance.
French fries topped with…mayonnaise?
When you think of condiments for french fries, you probably think of ketchup. But in Amsterdam, you will find street stalls all over the city selling this tasty treat with a large dollop of mayonnaise.
French fries with mayonnaise in Amsterdam is called patates frites met mayonnaise. You can find them served at a variety of establishments from small streets stalls to large restaurants.
The snack is usually made from whole Dutch potatoes fried in clean fat. The fries are then served in a handy paper cone and topped with a large “scoop” of mayonnaise.
If you want, you can skip the mayonnaise and use regular ketchup but since you are in Amsterdam why not give it a try?
One of the best places to try the snack is at Vleminckx at Voetboogstraat 31-33 in the center of the city. Vleminckx has been serving Belgium fries to locals and tourists for over 55 years.
Find a stand that sells raw herring fish
One of the best things about Amsterdam is that you can eat without ever entering a restaurant.
Just as with the french fries with mayonnaise, you can find another Dutch specialty, raw herring, sold by vendors all around the city.
It may look strange but its actually pretty good.
The snack is simple, but delicious if you love seafood. The herring is prepared with salt, sometimes pickled, but always served raw. Accompanying the snack is usually diced onions and sweet pickle chips along with a toothpick to help you eat.
The best time to enjoy herring is when the season starts in June. This is when the freshest herring is caught in the North Sea.
One of the best places in the city to try the tasty seafood dish is at the iconic Stubbe’s Haring near Central Station. The Stubbe family has been selling herring for over 100 years. Otherwise you can find it sold at carts all over the city.
The photo above was taken of a herring stand found outside of a bar. The bar was giving away herring for free in hopes of convincing customers to come into the bar for a drink. Not a bad business idea if you ask me.
If you only have a night in Amsterdam and low on funds, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to enjoy Amsterdam on a short trip. You may not be able to do all the famous museums in city, but the best part of traveling here is people watching, strolling down one of the many photogenic canals, visiting free sights such as the Red Light District and churches, and sampling unique street foods.