Amsterdam is a brilliant year-round destination – in this corner of northern Europe, you’re glad to see the sun but it’s not essential to the experience. There are lots of fun festivals and events in Amsterdam throughout the year, and if you can adjust your dates to coincide with an event, whether it’s Gay Pride or the King’s Birthday, do it. Amsterdammers know how to have a good time.
Amsterdam has warm, mild summers and moderately cold and wet winters. And no matter what the weather forecast says, it’s best to pack assuming you may well experience all four seasons over the course of a few days. The climate is certainly not severe enough to make much difference to the city’s routines, which makes Amsterdam an ideal year-round destination. That said, high summer – roughly late June to August – sees the city’s parks packed to the gunnels and parts of the centre almost overwhelmed by tourists.
Spring and autumn are not too crowded and can be especially beautiful, with mist hanging over the canals and low sunlight beaming through the cloud cover. Even in January and February, when the light can be at its gloomiest, there are compensations – wet cobbles glistening under the street lights and the canals rippled by falling raindrops. You can, however, have wonderful sunny days at any time of year, and Amsterdammers always hope for long periods of bright, cold winter spells. In the summer, from around June to August, mosquitoes can be annoying – a side effect of all those canals.
Take both sunscreen and an umbrella in summer, and plan to dress in layers at any time of year. Nights can be cold, so be ready with a jumper, even in summer.
Imagine Film Festival (Throughout April) A mix of features and shorts hosted across the city, including at the EYE, ranging from science fiction to horror, produced by both Dutch and foreign directors.
Koningsdag/King’s Day (27 April) The highlight of the festival calendar: a celebration of the King’s birthday, with the entire city centre given over to one massive party.
Bevrijdingsdag/Liberation Day (5 May) The country celebrates the 1945 liberation from German occupation with bands, speeches and impromptu markets around the city.
Holland Festival (Throughout June) The largest music, dance and drama event in the Netherlands, showcasing productions at venues around the city.
Nomads Festival (Late June) Hugely popular house music festival with its own organic market and Arabian-style chill-out lounge. Tickets sell out fast.
Vondelpark Open Air Theatre (Mid-June to August) Free theatre, dance and music performances throughout the summer, presenting anything from jazz and classical music concerts to stand-up comedy shows.
Julidans (First half of July) Twelve-day festival dedicated to contemporary dance. It is held in numerous locations around the Leidseplein, with the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam as its throbbing heart.
Cannabis Cup (Mid–July) Three-day event celebrating and judging new cannabis blends, with seminars, tours and music events. Venues include several coffeeshops and the Melkweg, which also hosts a competition to find the best cultivated seed.
Amsterdam Pride (First weekend of August) The city’s flourishing LGBTQ+ community celebrates with street parties held along the Amstel, Warmoesstraat and Reguliersdwarsstraat, at this major celebration that is one of the world's best Pride events.
Grachtenfestival (Ten days in mid-August) International musicians perform at over 90 classical music events at historical locations around the three main canals, as well as the River IJ.
Uitmarkt (Last weekend in August) Every cultural organisation in the city, from opera to theatre, advertises its forthcoming programme of events with free preview performances held around the Museumplein and Leidseplein.
Open Monument Day (Second weekend in September) Over the course of a weekend, monuments throughout the Netherlands that are normally closed or have restricted opening times throw open their doors to the public for free.
The Jordaan Festival (Second or third weekend in September)
A three-day street festival in the Jordaan. There’s a commercial fair on Palmgracht, talent contests on Elandsgracht, a few street parties and a culinary fair on the Sunday afternoon at the Noordermarkt.
Amsterdam Dance Festival (Late October) A five-day dance music festival, hosting hundreds of national and international DJs taking over venues across the city. Tickets for all events have to be purchased separately and tend to sell out quickly.
Museum Night (Saturday in early November) A great opportunity to explore Amsterdam’s museums in the wee hours. Most museums are open until 2am, hosting DJ performances, workshops and concerts.
Amsterdam Light Festival (Late November tlil mid-January) In the months with the longest nights of the year, the streets inside the canal ring are illuminated with an extraordinary array of light art, designed by artists and designers from around the world.
New Year’s Eve (31 December) Fireworks and celebrations are everywhere, and most bars and clubs stay open until early morning. This might just qualify as the wildest street partying in Europe.
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