Whether it’s summertime and you want to enjoy the sunshine like the rest of us in the city, or you just prefer to be in the fresh air, there are plenty of outdoor activities to do in Amsterdam. From tours, to getting on the canal in fun ways, to getting a taste of nature, there’s something for everyone.
It might take a while for some people (like myself) to be ready to be indoors with lots of people, and while we don’t have the best reputation for weather, sometimes the magic is in the sprinkles of rain. But don’t be fooled! We have some glorious sunny days perfect for picnics or getting wet.
Now that I really think about it, as a local, my favorite things to do and see in the city are outside in the fresh air. I mean, this place is a feast for the eyes. I sit on the side of the canal and I’m mesmerized by the movement of the water, the birds nesting, and the boats passing by.
We’re all about memorable experiences here, so get ready for some postcard-perfect moments, alongside just plain fun things to do!
Best FREE outdoor things to do in Amsterdam
Get on that bike!
Where you’re staying may have bikes available for you to use for free. Book the best place for you on Booking.com (and choose free cancellation 😉 ). Before getting on the bike, brush up on the rules of the road, first. Remember bikes are more prevalent than cars and you don’t want to cause an accident because you don’t know where you’re supposed to cycle, how to give a proper signal, or who to give the right of way. Here are some great tips on how to use a bike in Amsterdam safely.
Take a dip in the canals or the beaches in the city
While there are designated swimming spots in the city, you’ll find people in the water or a hot day in a bunch of places. Stick to where you see the locals and don’t just hop in the canal willy-nilly. Canals are routinely flushed, but there can be dangerous algae that can make you very sick and bikes at the bottom that you can get snagged on. A popular spot not on the iamsterdam list is by the striking museum near Centraal Station, Nemo. Again, be careful, but it’s so popular that officials know people go there, so if it was considerably unsafe, I think they would tell you to leave.
Take a walk
Borrrrring, right? This has to be the most obvious thing on here, but it can be overlooked with all the FOMO that comes with visiting a new city. You’re running around because you’ve gotta do this and see that! But sloooow down and stroll along the canals, walk through Flevopark, window shop on PC Hooftstraat, and check out the Picasso in Vondelpark. There is so much to see by foot that sometimes I’ll take public transportation into the center and just walk. I love my bike, but I’m not looking around when I’m cycling. Like driving, you focus on the road and your surroundings. Two feet is typically the best way to explore.
Visit the Rijksmuseum garden
Why is this place still a secret to so many? It’s free and very pretty. Sure, it’s a bit small but it’s a nice break from the pavement and cobblestones. It’s 14,500 m2 of different garden styles that is available to anyone wanting to take it all in. You’ll find a greenhouse from the 19th century, a water maze, and some original statues. You just have to check it out! It’s open from 9am-6pm.
Have a picnic
One of my favorite pastimes is having a picnic in Amsterdam. Whether I’m on a bench, on the side of a canal, in the park, or on a dock, there’s something special about it. Most of the grocery stores have great grab-and-go selections so you can have healthy food without much fuss. I like to carry my travel towel for those moments when you just want to take a moment for an outdoor meal or snack, though we do have lots of benches if you aren’t a fan of plopping on the ground for a bite. Some popular places are along the canal walls, Museumplein, and any park or grassy area you come across.
Get casually wet in the city
If you’re looking to cool off but didn’t wear your swimsuit, pass through Haarlemmerplein to run through the water fountains that randomly pop out of the ground in the middle of the square. It’s a favorite for kids, but there’s no shame in using it to cool down a bit. In nearby Westerpark, there’s a small, narrow area typically filled with some water on a hot day that kids use as a kiddie pool, but it’s the perfect spot to take off your shoes and wade through.
Outdoor markets or festivals
One of my favorite things about Amsterdam are the outdoor markets and festivals. If you visit the famous Albert Cuyp Market, you’ll want to watch my video on the best foods to try while there. Other markets to check out are the Ten Katemarkt next to de Foodhallen (an indoor food stall place), Dappermarkt in the east, and Noordermarkt – but this one is only open on Saturdays. These are regular markets, but we also have Pure Markt and Sunday Market which are my favorite with it’s delicious prepared foods, producers, and unique crafts.
Keep your eye out on the iamsterdam website for different festivals that pop up. Obviously, (if you’ve been around for a while) we’re all about the food festivals. There are far too many to name, but the food trucks here are insane in such a great way!
Nature and Outdoor activities
Learn about bees
Bees are so important to the environment, I think we all know that. But during this activity in Westerpark, you can have an intimate look into how they work, learn about missions to help the bees, learn about wax and pollen, and of course, taste the honey and honey wine.
Visit the Amsterdam Forest
Amsterdamse Bos (or Amsterdam Forest, in English) is just south of the city near the airport, and is pretty massive with a lot going on! You can take a bus there and just walk through and take in the sights, or you can book a Forest Discovery game to make things a bit more interesting.
SUP on the Amsterdam canals
How cool is this?! I see people do this all the time and it looks so freeing. I’d suggest the morning session when canals are the quietest, but there are still plenty of quiet canals you can easily paddle through without being disturbed much. Book some time for yourself on a SUP!
Rent a private boat
Captain your own boat with the canal bikes or with a service like Mokumboot. Similar to the bike tips, ask the person you are renting from what the basic rules of the water are. The number one rule is that the long tour boats pretty much have priority and only go the direction you’re supposed to go if it’s one way.
Head to the dunes
If you want to head out of the city, see some sand and feel the tiniest bit of adventure, head to the dunes. The dunes around here are very special to us and they are quite striking. In some parts, you might see some Highland Cattle! If you want to learn a bit about why the dunes are so important while having someone lead you around, then book this experience. It’s outside of Amsterdam, so you’ll either have to drive or take public transportation, but it’s a completely different experience worth mentioning.
There are many cruise companies to choose from in Amsterdam, but I’d suggest taking a smaller open-air boat instead of the long enclosed ones. I’ve been on a few of the smaller ones and they just feel better, are more relaxed, still touristy, but in a nice way, and the staff has always been amazing. Here are some to choose from:
Private photo shoot
If it’s a nice day and you want to take home some photos from your trip, hire a photographer. This is something I want to do more of when we travel, but we have actually done it in Amsterdam, too. I mean, yeah, we’ve also had friends do it, but it’s nice when someone knows the perfect spots AND how to pose you. I still suck at that!
Most interesting tours in Amsterdam
Historical walking tour
Amsterdam is known for many things, but it’s nice to put some context behind those things, right? Take a general walking tour to orient yourself with some of the city and get local recommendations. You can find the “free” walking tours pretty easily, but just know that the guides have to pay the company a couple Euros for taking you on the tour, so either tip them well, or pre-book a paid tour.
Black Heritage Tour
To understand how the Dutch brought Africans to the Netherlands as slaves and how their legacies shaped this country, this is the tour to take. It all gets swept under the rug but now, Jennifer, has created this tour to shine light on the subject because we all deserve to understand the real history!
Countryside by bike tour
I think every single person who is able to ride a bike should do this countryside bike tour. Yes, Amsterdam is charming, and the canal houses suck you in, but GET OUT! Haha, but really, get out of the city and into the countryside for a peek of what most of the country looks like. If you’re able to come in the spring, it’s the best because you see new babies. It just can’t stop saying “awwww” in my own head.
Jewish history tour
You’ve heard of Anne Frank, I’m sure and you probably know that tickets to the Anne Frank House sell out quickly. I’ve been in it, and while it’s interesting, if you really want to learn more about the war and the effect it had on the Jewish community, consider taking a Jewish history tour. If you like museums, also check out the Jewish Historical Museum, The National Holocaust Museum, Holocaust Memorial and Dutch Theater.
LGBT History tour
From history to the modern day, you’ll learn what it was like to be gay centuries ago in the country that was the first to have legalize gay marriage. This tour starts at the Homomonument — the first moment created for those who were gay and lesbian and died in the Holocaust.
Food tour in the Albert Cuyp Market
I hope those 18 things to do in Amsterdam outside give you a start in planning your adventure. People come here with preconceived notions of what to expect, but I promise you that there is so much more! Catch all of my Amsterdam videos on our YouTube channel and subscribe if you want to see more 😉
Enjoy my favorite city in the world
Wishing you joy and travels.