Gassan Diamonds, a family-owned diamond cutting and trading company, offers free tours seven days a week in 27 languages. Tour guides share information about the diamond cutting process, as well as help you discover more about the four C's: carats, colors, clarity and cuts. You even have the chance to watch these diamond craftsmen at work. After the tour, take a peek at the sparkling jewelry on display in The Boutique. You'll find brands such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Omega, Rado, Longines and Tissot. Maybe you'll even find something for your special someone. It is free to look around, but you'll have to pay if you want to make a purchase (sorry to break the news).
Make your way to Dam Square and enjoy the constant hustle and bustle. The square is home to many attractions, both free and paid, including the Royal Palace, National Monument, Madame Tussauds and others. Admire the beautiful exterior of the Royal Palace and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). The National Monument, situated at the other side of the square, is a memorial to the victims of World War II, as well as a symbol of liberation and peace. The Dam is also home to many events, such as celebrations, fairs and memorials. You can also take pictures of (or with) the living statues. Who knows who will be there. Maybe you'll even see Batman. As it's less than a kilometer from Centraal Station, Dam Square is a spot you cannot miss.
If you are looking for a cost effective (aka free) canal cruise alternative, take the public ferry across the IJ River. The public ferry service, which is part of the public transportation company GVB, is completely free. You can go by foot or take your bike or moped scooter with you. Go in the morning and do a bike trip, so you can explore a bit of the north side of Amsterdam. Set sail in the evening and watch the sunset over the water. There are several routes from Centraal Station: to Buiksloterweg, NDSM ferry dock and IJplein. The NDSM is the furthest from Centraal Station, which in turn promises the longest ferry ride.
Make sure to visit the Centrale Bibliotheek on the Oosterdokseiland, which is just a short walk from Centraal Station. You'll find more than a few great reads at this library. First, head up to the Le Place restaurant on the seventh floor. Grab a delicious bite to eat or enjoy a refreshing beverage. Sit by the window or outside on the terrace and soak in the amazing view. Le Place even has free Wi-Fi, so you can post a picture to Facebook and make all your friends jealous back home. After, if you feel like reading a book or watching a movie, you have approximately a half million books, magazines, CDs, DVDs and games to choose from; this library is the largest in the Netherlands. In order to check out material, you will need a library membership.
In the center of the lively Kalverstraat and Spui area is a hidden oasis: the Begijnhof. Concealed by the numerous houses and other buildings surrounding it, the area boasts a tranquil courtyard and charming chapel. Escape the busy city life and take a breather. The Begijnhof, which dates back to the fourteenth century, was originally home to a group of unmarried religious women called Beguines. These women were associated with the English Reformed Church (Engelsekerk). The last Beguine died in 1971. The church proudly displays panels that illustrate the Miracle of Amsterdam. Additionally, you can receive Eucharist at the chapel Monday through Saturday at 9:00 and Monday through Friday at 17:00. Sunday's service at 10:00 is in Dutch and the 11:15 one is in French. Whether you are religious or not, the Begijnhof is worth a visit.
Amsterdam provides many places to escape busy city life. Whether you need a quiet afternoon to yourself or want to play with your children, Amsterdam offers many green spaces to get away. Vondelpark is one of the city's many parks to help you do just that. It's perfect for a long walk or bike ride. Bring a blanket, pack a picnic, lie on the grass or read a book. Stop by the Blauwe Theehuis, tucked away in the center of the park, and have a drink on one of the largest outdoor terraces in Amsterdam. In the summer months, attend one of the open-air concerts. When you're about to leave the park, use a side exit and admire the gorgeous houses; it's one of the richest areas of Amsterdam. Take a break from all the sightseeing and busy street corners and enjoy a moment to yourself in the Vondelpark.
The Red Light District, also known as De Wallen or Rosse Buurt, dates back to the fourteenth century. It was a place sailors would come if they required female companionship. Today, the Red Light District is home to coffeeshops that sell cannabis, prostitutes, sex shops, live sex shows, bars and various museums. You'll know when you enter the area; you'll see short pillars with red lights. If you miss these markings, you'll get the hint when you see scantily clad women standing in red neon-lit windows. You may be in for a bit of a culture shock. Make sure to visit the information center if you have any questions. The Red Light District is not recommended for children. Women, you could be mistaken for a prostitute if you walk unaccompanied. Instead, find a friend that's willing to explore with you or travel in a group.
The Magerebrug, also known as the Skinny Bridge, is one of the most famous bridges in Amsterdam. Legend has it that this narrow wooden bridge was originally built for two wealthy, skinny sisters who lived on opposite sides of the Amstel River. According to the legend, the reasoning was simple; they wanted an easier way to see each other. The name "Skinny Bridge" comes from the width of the original bridge: a bridge barely wide enough for two persons to pass (and even that was difficult). This changed in 1871, when the bridge was replaced with a wider one. Today, this bridge sparkles at night over the Amstel River. The atmosphere creates the perfect place to share a romantic moment with your significant other.
The Bloemenmarkt, located in the heart of Amsterdam on the Singel canal between Muntplein and Koningsplein, is the worlds only floating flower market. The vendors are situated on several houseboats. The Bloemenmarkt provides the perfect opportunity to admire the flowers, smell the scents and maybe even bring home a piece of the Netherlands in tulip form. Even in the winter, the Bloemenmarkt is still a nice place to visit, as the vendors often sell fragrant Christmas trees. Peruse the stalls. Spring, fall, summer and winter, the Bloemenmarkt is completely free to look around. Don't forget to compare the size of your hand to some of the larger tulip bulbs. Be sure to snap a photo for the folks back home.
The Concertgebouw, internationally renowned for being one of three halls with the best acoustics in the world, offers a lunchtime concert series on Wednesdays at 12:30. These concerts are completely free to the public. Lose yourself in the sound of sweet, classical music and modern compositions. Make sure to queue early. In addition to this series, the Concertgebouw program offers a wide range of shows, from piano music to chamber performances and jazz to children's concerts. You can even turn the entire experience into a complete event; have lunch at the Concertgebouw Café or dinner in the Mirror Hall before certain concerts. You can also enjoy one of the many delicious restaurants nearby. If you don't want to go in the evening or cannot make the Wednesday lunchtime series, you can alternatively watch a Sunday morning concert followed by brunch. The Concertgebouw is a place you cannot miss.