Amsterdam is awash with art, canals and a vibrant nightlife – and with so much to do the cost of your trip can soon creep up. Yet it is possible to enjoy the city on a budget, and you won't even need to go Dutch...
Whether you're planning to go to Amsterdam or have already booked your trip, we've 29 tips for making the most of your time and euros, from cheap airport transfers and bargain beds to free opera tickets and how to avoid the queues at Anne Frank's house. Plus Eurostar's just launched tickets for direct trains from London to Amsterdam.
29 cheap Amsterdam tips, including...
Check Eurostar for fares from £35 one-way
Taking the train will never be the cheapest way to get to the Netherlands, but if you want to avoid queuing at the airport, and get there in less than half the time the bus takes, the Eurostar is a decent option.
Before now, to get to Amsterdam by rail you needed to take the Eurostar to Brussels, then change onto a high-speed Thalys train for the second leg of the journey (included with your Eurostar ticket).
But as of Wednesday 4 April, you can travel direct on the Eurostar from St Pancras in London to Amsterdam. There are two direct trains a day, with a reduced journey time of three hours 40 minutes (it was previously four hours 38 minutes).
Can you REALLY find £35 tickets?
Tickets for the direct trains are on sale and start at a headline-grabbing £35 one-way. Eurostar won't tell us how many £35 tickets are available it just says this isn't a sale and £35 is the normal starting price.
However, while booking ahead will likely give you the best choice of cheap tickets, it seems there is reasonable availability for the £35 fares. When we did a spot check in April 2018 across a few dates over the next six months, we found £35 tickets eight out of 10 times.
On the way back you'll have to change trains... for now
Annoyingly, while the journey from London is now direct, for the time being passengers will still have to change at Brussels on the way back the best option being to take a Thalys train first and then the Eurostar from Brussels. To do this, you'll still have to buy a Eurostar and Thalys ticket, starting at £43 meaning your return fare could cost from £78.
This is because the Dutch government hasn't yet set up passport control at Amsterdam station, so on your return you'll have to go through passport control in Brussels. Eurostar says direct returns will likely be available by the end of 2019. See The Man in Seat 61 for more info.
How to cut the cost of travelling by train
Whether you're booking to travel direct on the Eurostar or doing Eurostar and Thalys, the following tips can help keep prices down:
- Book ahead to bag cheap seats. As a general rule, booking early wins, unless you know a sale's coming. You can currently book a direct Eurostar up to 180 days ahead. A combined Eurostar and Thalys ticket can be booked up to 120 days ahead. Fares usually start from £43 each way for a combined ticket, or £35 direct, as above.
- Check three different sites – prices can vary. As well as Eurostar's website, it's also worth checking Dutch rail website NS International and Belgian site SNCB Europe (see The Man in Seat 61 for more details). NS International and SNCB Europe charge in euros, so make sure you book using specialist overseas plastic to avoid currency transaction fees.
- Under-fours go free. Kids aged three or under go free on Eurostar (and Thalys), as long as they sit on your lap. With flights, kids aged two or over need their own seat and you have to pay a surcharge even for babies who sit on your lap, so this can work out cheaper for a family.
Compare prices of trains, planes, buses and more
Amsterdam's only a couple of hundred miles from the south east of England, and while many travellers automatically opt for a budget flight, there are a whole host of ways to get there. So consider all the options, including Eurostar, coaches and even a mammoth 15-and-a-half hour direct ferry, leaving twice daily from Newcastle.
We've compiled a handy table to give you a rough idea of what you can expect to pay, based on the cheapest fares we could find. As a rule, you should book your transport as early as possible.
When deciding the best route, it's crucial you factor in the extra cost, time and hassle involved in getting to the start point in the UK for example, if you live in central London, Eurostar may win, while those in Essex may prefer the 'rail and sail' option from Harwich. Allow for check-in times too typically two hours if flying, or 30-45 minutes on the Eurostar.
Cost of getting to Amsterdam
|Transport||UK start point||Journey time (not incl check-in)||Cheapest possible return fare||Avg return cost (booked 4mths ahead)||Avg return cost (booked 6wks ahead)||Avg return cost (booked 1wk ahead)|
|Plane||London (1)||1hr 10||£35 with Vueling||£50||£69||£112|
|Megabus (operated by FlixBus)||London||10hr 15 (2)||£44||n/a||£54||£69|
|National Express bus (3)||London||11hr 15||£45||n/a||£48||£66|
|Plane||Manchester||1hr 20||£47 with Easyjet||£64||£73||£177|
|Train (Eurostar & Thalys)||London||4hr 38||£86||£106||£161||£301|
'Rail and sail'
|Direct ferry (on foot)||Newcastle||15hr 30||£117 (5)||£206||£212||£146|
|Based on prices found by MSE in April 2018. Prices vary averages are across five dates we checked, for a three-day trip. (1) We checked flights from any London airport. (2) Varies between services. (3) Prices incl £1 online booking fee. (4) Based on 6.5hr sailing and 1.5hr train with changeover time. (5) Cheapest found per person based on sharing 2-berth cabin.|
Book midweek for the best deals
Amsterdam is a stag and hen-do hotspot, which means weekends are at a premium. Yet you can slash the cost of getting there and staying there by visiting during the week.
When we looked in February 2018 at the price of booking a three-day mini-break at the end of March, we found that a couple could save £434 before they even arrived just by avoiding the weekend.
Return Easyjet flights from London Stansted started at £64 per person for a Monday-Thursday trip. But a Thursday-Sunday trip on the same airline, route and week would set you back at least £108 per person.
Booking a double room in a three-star hotel in central Amsterdam would cost £377 during the same Monday-Thursday period stay in the same hotel from Thursday to Sunday and the price shoots up to £723.
Not in a rush to get to Amsterdam? Take the coach from as little as £44 return
Yes, it'll take at least 10 hours (plenty of time to brush up on your Dutch). But the cheapest way to get to Amsterdam from the UK is often by bus (though it depends on the availability of bargain flights for your dates).
Megabus and National Express promise dirt-cheap prices although take their advertised lowest fares with a pinch of salt, as the cheapest tickets can be tricky to find.
- National Express runs several trips a day from London to Amsterdam for as little as £22 one-way (plus a £1 booking fee for web transactions). Tickets are released six weeks in advance.
- Megabus (now operated by FlixBus for journeys to or from Europe) advertises fares starting at £22 each way with no booking fee. Tickets are available from six weeks in advance.
Top 10 FREE things to do in Amsterdam
Don't think that everything you do in Amsterdam is going to cost. In fact, there's a plethora of freebies to choose from...
Get your walking clogs on. It's the best way to see any city, and even better, Amsterdam offers a whole host of 'free' walking tours to help you find your feet. Sandemans, Freedam Tours, Free Walking Tours and 360 all offer tours on a tips-only basis – you don't have to tip, though most of the reviews suggest you'll want to anyway.
Find some grass. No, we're not talking about Amsterdam's relaxed drug laws, but its green spaces. Vondelpark is the best known and most popular park in Amsterdam and is well worth a wander round or a pit stop, especially on a fine summer's day.
Enjoy the ballet or opera for free. Amsterdam is a haven for culture vultures. Tickets can be pricey, but there are opportunities to catch free shows too. Every Tuesday the National Opera and Ballet opens its doors for free lunchtime concerts.
Cruise the canal belt. OK, so it's not actually free to get on the canals. But just wandering or cycling along the towpaths is a great way to get a feel for Amsterdam's waterways.
Hit the beach. You can get a little sand between your toes at one of Amsterdam's free urban beaches, and better still, some spots are accessible via free ferries. These depart from behind Amsterdam Central Station – you get to take to the water and get off the beaten track. Pllek is 14 minutes away on ferry line 906; during the summer it has live music and a waterfront bar.
Find out more about Amsterdam's famous cannabis culture. Get a potted history of the city's drug of choice at the Cannabis College.
Take in a view of the city. Amsterdam hosts Europe's largest public library, the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam a five-minute walk east of Central Station. It's free to enter and offers great views of the city from the higher floors; the public can look at most materials for free.
Treat your ears to a free concert. The Open Air Theatre in the Vondelpark hosts free summertime performances of theatre, comedy and different genres of music between May and September. Between September and June the Concertgebouw on Museumplein holds free lunch concerts on Wednesdays (reserve a spot on the day; you can't do it online).
Take a selfie with the Amsterdam sign. The I Amsterdam sign is behind the Rijksmuseum on Museumplein, and is a popular spot for holiday snaps.
Squeeze into the world's 'narrowest house'. Actually, you've two slender homes to choose from. Technically Singel 7 has the world's narrowest facade – at just one metre, it's a sight to behold – though the other side of the house is wider. If you're being pedantic, you'll have to make do with Oude Hoogstraat 22, which is two metres wide and five metres deep.
Learn Dutch for bargain footie tickets
AFC Ajax is one of the Netherlands' most successful football teams – and has a storied European history too.
Be prepared to navigate Ajax's website in Dutch and it's possible to get tickets to home games in the Eredivisie (the country's top league) for as little as 13.50. If Ajax qualify for either competition, Europa League tickets cost a little more, while Champions League tickets go for significantly more if they're playing a big-name team.
DON'T book via Ajax's English website (visitajax.com) though – if you do, you can end up paying more for exactly the same tickets.
Fear not if you spreek geen Nederlands (speak no Dutch). The names of the type of match are in English, and it's pretty easy to work out what means what. If you're struggling, Google Translate is your friend.
There are a limited number of the cheapest tickets so if you know when you'll be in Amsterdam and want to catch a match it's best to book in advance.
Use one travel card on trams, metro, buses and trains (public ferries are free)
All travel within Amsterdam requires what's known as an 'OV-chipkaart' – essentially a card that you tap in and out with, much like a London Oyster card. There are different types you can get. (Children up to the age of four travel for free.)
Disposable time-based cards. These provide unlimited travel within the time permitted, and are probably the cheapest option if you're only visiting for a couple of days. One hour is 3, 24 hours 7.50, 48 hours 12.50, while seven days is 34.50. See a full list of prices. These are not valid on trains outside Amsterdam (such as to/from the airport). They can be bought on board trams and buses and at most stations.
Reloadable 'e-purse' cards. These are topped up like an Oyster card and charged on the basis of distance travelled, and can be used on trains throughout the Netherlands. The 'anonymous' card costs 7.50 (non-refundable, can't be used as balance) and can be bought at the airport and all train stations. The 'personal' card is only for residents with a Dutch bank account.
Public ferries run by GVB (the public transport operator for Amsterdam) are free for everyone, whether or not you have an OV-chipkaart.
There's also the Amsterdam Travel Ticket, which includes a return journey from or to the airport. A one-day ticket is 16 and a two-day is 21. If you're travelling to and from the airport and are planning on getting a 24 or 48-hour paper chipkaart anyway, you'll save a small amount (2.10 to be precise) with one of these.
Apartments can undercut hotels – particularly if you're going as a group
Like most popular European cities, it can be a challenge to find a budget-friendly place to stay in Amsterdam.
We found a room in a bright apartment in a trendy part of town for £260 for four nights, compared with £420 for a similar hotel in the same neighbourhood.
If travelling in a group you could save hundreds. A highly reviewed apartment for up to four people in the city centre came to £1,230 for a week, while a nearby three-star hotel was £2,689 for the same period.
It's worth noting city rules say only up to four guests can stay in a private letting. Despite this, we've seen many listings catering for five or more – stick to the rules to avoid getting caught out.
Anne Frank's house is a must-visit for many – but book ahead to avoid huge queues
Anne Frank was a teenage girl in Amsterdam in World War II. Her diary, documenting her time spent hiding in an annex with her family to avoid capture by the Nazis, was published in 1947 and has since been read by millions of people worldwide.
The house where she lived is now a museum and one of Amsterdam's most visited sights – but turn up without a ticket and you could have to queue for two to three hours.
To avoid waiting, book ahead. From 9am to 3.30pm each day you can only visit the house if you already have a ticket for a particular time slot (until 1 July 2018, all visitors will need an online ticket while the museum has renewal work). These can be booked online up to two months in advance. Tickets cost 9 for adults or 4.50 for kids aged 10-17 (plus 50 cent booking fee) and it's free for kids under 10 or anyone with a museum card.
Usually, from 3.30pm till closing time (10pm Apr-Oct, 8pm Nov-Mar or10pm on Saturdays) you can just show up and buy a ticket on the door for the same price – although you'll need to be prepared to wait. But if you're visiting before 1 July, make sure you book in advance.
Get on your bike for 8 a day
Famed for being cycle-friendly and easy to get around (it's a flat city), Amsterdam isn't short on places to rent a bike. If you don't mind pushing pedals, it can be a very cost-effective (and pleasant) way to see the city.
Prices vary depending on the bike and the rate tends to go down the longer you're renting for.
Discount Bike Rental is well reviewed on TripAdvisor and prices start at 6 for three hours or 7.50/day for a 'pedal brake bike' (no handlebar brakes – back-pedal to brake). MacBike and Rent-a-Bike are also visitor favourites.
It's worth keeping in mind that some shops also ask for a deposit and ID, so you might need to keep some cash to hand.
There are bicycle lanes on most roads, marked with white lines and a bicycle symbol, so it's hard to miss them – watch out when you're on foot though as the cycle lanes can get pretty hectic. You won't be expected to wear a helmet as locals don't tend to, though you might want to for your own safety.
Forget I Amsterdam's city pass...
I Amsterdam, the official tourist website, offers city cards for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours, costing from 59 to 98. The pass includes public transport, access to several attractions (eg, the Van Gogh Museum) and discounts on others.
But unless you're planning to pack in several of the specific attractions covered, you're probably better off going it alone. The card becomes better value the longer you get it for, but 59 for just 24 hours is pretty steep – and some major sights such as Anne Frank's house aren't covered.
... but DO consider a museum pass
If you're keen to make the most of Amsterdam's museums, the Museumkaart is a good option. This DOES include Anne Frank's house, and all museums in the city. It costs 59.90 for adults and 32.45 for children and teenagers up to 18. Some museums will let you skip the queue if you have one.
You can buy the pass from most of the museums that accept it. The pass you're given lasts for 31 days; it can be registered online to receive a year-long replacement, though annoyingly delivery is only available to Dutch addresses.
Get Our Free Money Tips Email!
For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out
'Nether' go without travel insurance
If you've already booked your trip to Amsterdam but haven't sorted out travel insurance yet, you're taking a risk. Don't wait until just before you set off to get travel insurance. To be covered for cancellation, injury, illness or a death in the family, you need cover from the day you book.
It's these eventualities that cheap travel insurance is there to protect you from. Our best buys include single-trip European cover from £5 a person, or annual from £9.
Don't forget your free EHIC (and if you already have one, make sure it's valid)
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is free, entitles you to treatment in an EU state-run hospital or GP surgery at the same cost as a local. So if they pay, you pay if it's free for them, it's free for you. (In the Netherlands, some treatments cost and some are free.)
You'll need to present an EHIC card to use it, so leaving it at home renders it useless. And don't forget to check it's in date.
Try a 'free' Friday night skate tour
If walking isn't your thing, why not get your skates on? Friday Night Skate starts and ends in Vondelpark (times vary, usually 6pm-7pm) – the route changes each week, and it usually covers between 9 and 15 miles.
If by any chance you're a keen skater and always take your own skates on holiday, it's totally free. For everyone else you can rent skates from 7.50 (plus a deposit) from inside the park.
Grab bargain flights to Amsterdam
Flights to the Dutch capital can be 'Dam cheap, if you know when and where to look. Yet don't just check one airline's prices – comparing is key. Comparison sites Kayak* and Skyscanner* are a good place to start – see our Cheap Flights guide for a full list, plus more tricks to cut flight prices.
Easyjet flies to Amsterdam from several UK airports, including Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, all London airports (including Southend) and Manchester. It releases seats five times a year and it's usually best to book as soon as you spot a good deal – see 18 Easyjet Tricks for more.
Ryanair doesn't fly there from the UK (only to Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands), but other budget airlines which do include Flybe and Vueling, alongside biggies British Airways and KLM.
Get to or from the airport for as little as 5.30 (or 4 with an OV-chipkaart)
Schiphol Airport is around 12 miles from the city centre, and there are a couple of ways to get you into the heart of Amsterdam. Instead of the 40ish a taxi will set you back, there's an airport train and bus station with regular services into town.
- The train is the quickest option, taking from 14 minutes. It's 4.30 for a one-way ticket (no cheaper with a return), though if you buy this at the station there's a 1 paper ticket charge (so 5.30 total), and annoyingly the Dutch rail site doesn't accept foreign cards. If you buy and top up an e-purse OV-chipkaart you can avoid these fees.
- The Amsterdam Airport Express bus takes a little longer at 25 minutes and costs 6 each way (or 10 return if you buy online). One benefit over the train is that it can drop you at Museumplein, Rijksmuseum or Leidseplein. It is possible to take slower bus routes and pay about 4 with the OV-chipkaart – check journeys on 9292.
- The Schiphol Hotel Shuttle will take you directly to one of many hotels, but it'll set you back a steep 17 each way (28 return), although per person prices will be lower the bigger your group is.
Trains and buses also run through the night, albeit less frequently.
Get max euros to the pound whether you pay by plastic or cash
One of the best ways to spend abroad is to use a specialist travel credit card that gives you near-perfect exchange rates every time.
Our current top pick is the Halifax Clarity* which offers no fees on overseas spending, though ATM withdrawals incur interest even if you pay off the card in full - so it's best to prioritise spending where possible. Plus, if you apply by 31 August 2018, you'll get £20 cashback if you make a transaction in a foreign currency by 30 September 2018.
As an alternative, the Barclaycard Platinum Visa travel card with near-perfect exchange rates and no interest on ATM withdrawals until 31 August 2022. You can use our eligibility calculator to see your chances of acceptance.
Always pay both cards off IN FULL each month, or you'll pay 18.9% rep APR on spending for Halifax Clarity (as well as 18.9% rep APR on all withdrawals), and 19.9% rep APR on spending for Barclaycard. See our Travel Credit Cards guide for full info and other best buys.
Paying on a credit card means you'll also get the super Section 75 protection on anything over £100 (about 117). This important law means your credit provider must take the same responsibility as a retailer if anything goes wrong.
Alternatively, if you want to take cash, use our TravelMoneyMax tool to ensure you get the very best rate.
Mobile roaming's now 'free' in Amsterdam though if you're a heavy data user, beware
New European Union rules which came into effect on 15 June 2017 have slashed the cost of using your mobile in most parts of Europe, Amsterdam included. You now won't be charged any extra fees to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and (most) data.
While this is generally good news for mobile users though, there are a few things to watch out for, particularly if you're a heavy data user some with unlimited or cheaper packages will still face extra charges for using their full UK data allowance. See our 10 things you need to know about 'free' mobile roaming in the EU for full details.
If you are likely to hammer your data allowance for instance if you'll be streaming or uploading lots of holiday snaps try to use Wi-Fi instead. An app from the free Wi-Fi sharing community Instabridge can help you find any available hotspots and connect you automatically.
Got the munchies? Try street food or vending machine 'fast food' from 1.20
If you're looking for a cheap way to fill up, Amsterdam is brimming with street food vendors serving everything from chips with mayonnaise to falafel and pickled herring (for the more adventurous).
For a 24-hour fast-food fix, Febo is a chain of 'restaurants' serving food out of vending machines. Expect to find burgers and fries or opt for something a little more Dutch such as a 'kroket' (meat croquette) or 'frikadel' (deep-fried sausage) – some items cost as little as 1.20 so fill your boots.
Find your feet with free maps
Find your way around all of Amsterdam's attractions by downloading a map to your phone in advance for offline use. Amsterdam The Map also offers a free trial of its GPS function to get you started and locate the top attractions.
If you prefer good old-fashioned ink and paper, you can pick up a free guide with details of tourist attractions, discount coupons and info on public transport from GVB ticket counters, at Schiphol Airport or ask at your hotel.
For more inspiration, 'smart' city guide app WeCity (available for iPhone) is run by locals and will suggest things to do, see and eat off the beaten cycle path. Google Trips is also useful for planning your trip and where to visit.
Stay outside the city to save £100s
The medieval city of Haarlem is just a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station and 30 minutes from Schiphol Airport, making it a great alternative to staying in the city centre.
It's difficult to do a scientific comparison, but when we checked availability for a long weekend stay in February 2018 on Booking.com*, 38% of the hotels available in Haarlem cost £88 or less a night, whereas in Amsterdam less than 5% of hotels fell into the same price bracket – the majority cost £130+/night.
For how to save £100s with top hotel comparison sites and more, see our full step-by-step Cheap Hotels guide.
Don't bottle it, book ahead for the Heineken Experience
Open 365 days a year, Amsterdam's Heineken Experience is one of the city's most popular attractions.
Tickets on the door cost 20, and expect to queue for a while (especially if it's a weekend). Buy your tickets online though and you'll save a couple of euros and guarantee entry at a specific time with a minimal wait. Online tickets are 14.50 for children (free if under 12).
The tour is self-guided and you'll get two beers or soft drinks included with your visit (soft drinks only for kids), plus the opportunity to learn about the history and brewing process of the Netherlands' most famous beer.
Service IS included in the price when eating out
By law listed restaurant prices have to include any service charge, so anything more is always optional.
But if you think the service was worth it and want to leave a little more, those that do tip tend to leave 10% in restaurants, or round up to the nearest euro in a cafe or bar.
It's also pretty uncommon to tip in hotels and taxis but you might want to consider a euro or two for a porter and taxi drivers.
Planning a last weekend of freedom? Don't get stung by pricey stag and hen-do packages
Amsterdam is one of the top destinations for stags and hens looking for a final hurrah, but beware tour companies do their very best to make some serious cash out of this.
There are plenty of companies offering stag and hen packages that combine accommodation and activities such as paintballing, beer bike tours and burlesque dance lessons. But if you're willing to plan it yourself, you can slash the cost.
Having looked at a few typical stag and hen-do packages, we reckon it's possible to HALVE the price if you take the DIY route.
Some packages we saw were charging £225 a head for a couple of nights in a hostel, a go-karting experience and entrance to a nightclub and casino. If you arranged all these yourself it could cost as little as £110 each.
With a group of 10 that's a massive saving of £1,150 for the weekend (just don't blow all the savings at once...).
Embrace the outdoors and camp in the city for 10/night
If you're visiting in spring/summer (or feeling brave) and really want to slash accommodation costs to the bone, one option is to, er, take your tent. The Gaasper campsite is open year-round, and just 15 minutes on the metro from Amsterdam's city centre.
During the off-season, tent pitches start at 10.25 for one person and 16.25 for two (in high season, it'll be 12.25 or 18.50 for two). It's located in a big park, and it boasts shower blocks, free Wi-Fi and an onsite restaurant. And if a night under canvas isn't for you, there's also space for caravans and camper vans. See a full price list.
Eat a three-course meal for just 5 (in an ex-squat)
While squatting is no longer legal in Amsterdam, over the past few years several restaurants have popped up in former squats and they are legal. They tend to serve up a couple of vegan or vegetarian dishes a day and you can usually call ahead to see what's on offer and book a space.
Expect to pay between 5 and 7 for dinner, and if you're lucky you might also be able to catch some live music or an art exhibition too.
Here are a couple in the city centre you could try:
Always pay in euros if you've the option
When paying in hotels, shops and restaurants, they may ask if you want to pay in pounds or euros.
In general, always opt for euros. If you select pounds, the overseas store/bank does the conversion, and rates tend to be awful.
See more info and a full explanation in Martin's 'Pay in euros' blog.
Download a free app to translate Dutch menus (and signs etc) instantly
You can translate text in 38 languages this way, or translate to/from a total of 103 languages by typing to input text within the app.
Get Our Free Money Tips Email!
For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes join the 10m who get it. Don't miss out
And finally... drugs are technically illegal, but some such as cannabis are 'tolerated'
Now, we're definitely not suggesting you partake, but we've had people ask about this so we wanted to cover it, since Amsterdam's 'coffee shops' are famous for much more than their mocha.
Regardless of their legality, drugs can be damaging to your health – for a full rundown of the risks of cannabis use, see NHS.uk. But if you're going to Amsterdam and are determined to visit a coffee shop anyway, it's important you know where you stand. Drug laws in the Netherlands aren't black and white and can be a little confusing.
The Dutch have an official policy of 'toleration' when it comes to 'soft' drugs. Production, sale and possession are technically criminal offences, but the authorities won't prosecute for small amounts under certain conditions.
Under the toleration policy, over-18s in Amsterdam (including tourists) are permitted to buy up to five grams of cannabis a day from coffee shops. You're NOT allowed to buy it in the street. You can consume it in a coffee shop or in a public place, as long as it's not at a children's playground or a secondary school (though it can be frowned upon anywhere outside a coffee shop).
Some other 'soft' drugs are also tolerated – see the Netherlands government website for full info. And remember, these rules apply only while you're in the Netherlands – bringing any classified drugs back home or across any borders is against the law, so DON'T do it.