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Amid the many exciting attractions in the Netherlands, there are a number of completely free activities and destinations inside Dutch borders that are perfect for families, budget travellers or locals looking for low-cost days out. Read on to discover the 10 best fun and free cultural experiences in the Netherlands.
Although visiting the historical museums at Kinderdijk Mill Network comes with an entrance fee, it is possible to access this rural UNESCO Heritage Site by bike. In fact, cycle paths run between most of the 19 monumental windmills contained within Kinderdijk’s borders and spending an afternoon exploring the surrounding area’s wonderful, rustic scenery is always rewarding.
Amsterdam’s largest park is located around 10 kilometres from its city centre and features several diverse geographical terrains including forests, lakes and grasslands. As Amsterdamse Bos is owned by the city’s municipality, it is completely free to enter its grounds and around 4.5 million people visit the park every year. Besides its wonderful, green spaces and numerous sporting facilities, the park also features a charming farmyard where visitors can pet and feed milk-white baby goats.
Visiting the beach at Zandvoort is a staple of Dutch summertime and during sunny spells scores of day-trippers head over to the town’s sandy shores. As Zandvoort is located on North Holland’s western coastline it is easily accessible from Amsterdam, Utrecht or the Hague, making it perfect for impromptu beach excursions.
Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park converges around a large glacial ridge that formed during the penultimate ice age. Today, the area around this geographic wonder is covered in dense forests, grassy heathlands and windswept dunes, which are inhabited by a diverse range of fauna and flora. As there are over 50 scenic footpaths spread throughout the park, it is an absolute haven for hikers.
Once a week, Amsterdam’s main classical music venue, de Concertgebouw, organises a free lunchtime performance where local prodigies practise their skills by reciting compositions in front of a live audience. These concerts usually take place on Wednesday from 12.30pm and continue for around 30 minutes.
📍 Concertgebouw, Concertgebouwplein 10, Amsterdam, +31 900 6718345
Despite being somewhat overshadowed by Amsterdam’s enduring popularity, Utrecht has more than its fair share of charming historical locales. Its beautiful, Medieval canal, Oudegracht, for example, easily rivals Amsterdam’s iconic waterways and features a system of ancient subterranean wharfs that now contain many independents shops, restaurants and bars.
As every discerning traveller knows, the elevation in the Netherlands rarely reaches much higher than sea-level and the country is among the flattest places on Earth. However, the southernmost Dutch province Limburg actually contains rugged terrain and shares a large hill called Vaalserberg with Germany and Belgium, which is recognised as the highest point in the Netherlands.
Begijnhof in central Amsterdam is hidden behind a large door on Spuiplein. Religious people have worshipped within this tranquil courtyard for over 700 years and many buildings inside Begijnhof were built to fulfil ecclesiastical roles. Today, Begijnhof contains Amsterdam’s English Reformed Church, which has held religious services in English for over three centuries.
During the warmer months of the year, the theater in Vondelpark’s center hosts live musical and dramatic performances. These shows usually start around early dusk and only take place on the weekends. It is always worth checking out the organisation’s online schedule, as famous names often make appearances on Vondelpark’s stage.
📍 Vondelpark Openluchttheater, Vondelpark 5a, Amsterdam, +31 20 428 3360
Rotterdam’s ultra-modern cityscape gained a particularly noteworthy addition in 2014 when Queen Máxima officially opened Markthal — a state-of-the-art, horseshoe shaped building which contains a gigantic market square, offices, apartments, and one of the largest artworks in the world, the Horn of Plenty.
📍 Markthal, Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298, Rotterdam, +31 30 234 6486