Wondering what’s the best time to go to Amsterdam? Depending on the time you choose to visit The Netherlands, you might have a completely different experience. Are you after a cultural experience or a romantic getaway? Or maybe you can’t wait to see the tulip fields? This guide will help you decide what’s the best time of year to visit for you.
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 What’s the Best Time to Go to Amsterdam?
- 2 What to Do in Winter in Amsterdam:
- 3 What to do in Spring in Amsterdam:
- 4 What to do in Summer in Amsterdam:
- 5 What to do in Autumn in Amsterdam:
What’s the Best Time to Go to Amsterdam?
The best time to travel to Amsterdam is during spring and summer, in my opinion. If you only visit once, do not miss the spring months when the blooming flowers overtake the entire country. If you are a fan of outdoor activities, and, more importantly, boat tours, you might prefer to visit during the summer months. The wind becomes refreshing while the sun warms you up as you sit on an open boat, sailing along the Amstel river.
The spring and summer months are, unfortunately, the touristic high season. The rates will be higher and the hotels will be booked out, so it’s better to book Amsterdam accommodation in advance.
If you’d rather experience the city and its cultural offerings without the constant stream of tourists, look into visiting during autumn and winter. The good weather usually holds until October, turning Amsterdam into a gorgeous maze covered with yellow and red colors. November is a rainy and overall dreary month, perfect for cozy evenings and cultural exploration.
December and beginning of January are also very popular: what could be more romantic than spending the holidays in the city of canals? However, as you move into the New Year, the colder months offer a welcome respite from the influx of tourist. Which means you will have the streets to yourself, as long as you’re ready to brave the wind.
When is tulip season in Holland?
Tulip season in Holland lasts through most of the spring. If you are longing to see endless tulip fields, the best time to visit the Netherlands is between mid-March to mid-May. Visit in April to see the tulips when they have already opened but haven’t begun to wilt yet. It is during April that Amsterdam is taken over by the tulip festival.
Ready to jump on a plane? Check out my guide on how to see the tulip fields from Amsterdam.
After two years of living in The Netherlands, I can confidently say that Amsterdam is worth a visit regardless of the season. But if you had to choose… what would you prefer? Take a quiz to find out which season was meant for you!
What to Do in Winter in Amsterdam:
Winter season is the perfect time to explore Amsterdam. The city is filled with lights and decorations, the Christmas Markets are ready to welcome you with a cup of hot Glühwein and there are far fewer tourists in the center compared to the warmer months.
Your chances to snag a good deal on accommodation progressively increase after the hectic madness of the holidays. So if you’re looking to visit Amsterdam on a budget, this might be your time.
Looking for ideas? Check out my recommended things do to in Amsterdam in December with the best seasonal events that will make the holidays truly memorable.
What is the weather in Amsterdam in winter?
Thanks to global warming, winters in Amsterdam have been getting milder and milder in the last couple of years. With the temperature holding firmly above zero, what little snow the city gets, doesn’t last for more than a day or two. This means that your chances for a snowy Christmas are quite low. The average temperature throughout the months of December to February is in the region of 6° Celsius. It’s possible to get cold wind so dress warmly and don’t forget a hat!
Amsterdam Winter Events (December – February):
Amsterdam Light Festival
When: 29th November – 20th January
Amsterdam’s biggest winter event, the Light Festival, takes art and illumination to a whole other level. During the Festival art installations are peppered all around the historical city center. You can either take the walking route through the streets or experience the artwork from the perspective of a boat tour. The art changes every year making the event one of a kind and absolutely unforgettable!
When: 5th December
Dutch celebration of St. Nicholas is an alternative to the Santa Claus craze. On the eve of December 5th children get their presents from St. Nicholas. On that day you will get caroling children coming to your doorstep. The real show is when Sinterklaas arrives in Amsterdam in November. You can follow along with the boat trip and the parade and have a lot of fun!
When: throughout December
The city really transforms in the winter months, with fun Christmas markets popping up all over. The two main ones are the huge ice skating rink on Museumplein, surrounded by little stalls, and the cozy Rembrandtplein where you can treat yourself to the Dutch oliebollen and a warm drink.
National Tulip Day
When: 19th January at 13:00
Don’t miss this fantastic celebration of the tulip! It takes place on the Dam square where 200,000 tulips are waiting to be picked by the visitors. Did I mention that it’s absolutely free as well? All you have to do is wait in the queue and you will get a bag and your pick of tulips to brighten up a dreary January day.
When: 14th February
The city is filled with special offers that will make this day all the more charming. Restaurants have discounts, there are concerts and exhibits, you name it… Looking for more romantic things to do in Amsterdam? Here are some ideas for your dream getaway!
Ice sculpture festival in Zwolle
When: 15th December 2019 – 3rd March 2019
Zwolle is a Dutch city only an hour’s trip from Amsterdam. Aside from a fantastic Christmas market, the ice sculpture festival is the glittering gem in the crown of winter Netherlands events. Get ready for an exhibition that unfolds over 1200 square meters of ice, with the best ice artists from all over the world and inventive designs.
What to do in Spring in Amsterdam:
Spring might just be my favorite season in The Netherlands. It’s the time of a new awakening making it the peak tourist season because everyone wants to see the flowers bloom.
If you’ve been planning your dream trip with the sole purpose of seeing Holland’s endless tulip fields, this is the right and the only season to do it as tulips bloom from mid-March to mid-May. For more information see my guide to visiting the tulip fields. With plenty of cultural events in the works, its the perfect opportunity to fall in love with the blossoming Amsterdam.
The average temperature in Amsterdam in spring ranges from 9° Celsius in March, to 13° on average in April and finally, 17° in May.
Amsterdam Spring Events (March-May):
Open Tower Day
When: March 23rd
Just for one day, the best towers in Amsterdam open their doors for you to enjoy unparalleled city views. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to the best Amsterdam viewing platforms!
This event is definitely worth your attention as many of the historical and modern buildings are closed to visitors for the rest of the year. The highlights? Climb the Beurs van Berlage or one of the church towers for great views of the center. The best part— the entry is free. Just don’t forget to show up early!
When: 21st March – 19 May
The spring flower garden of Keukenhof is one of the most well-loved seasonal attractions in The Netherlands. It’s only open during the spring season when the tulips bloom in their thousands. Easily reachable with shuttle buses going from the Schiphol airport, the park is a maze and exhibition at once. There are over 800 varieties of tulips alone!
Is it crowded? Definitely. But is it worth seeing? For sure! If you have a choice, visit during the peak season in end of March or April when the flowers are still fresh. Towards the season’s end, some of the flowers start to wilt, putting a damper on all the fun.
When: 3rd March 2019 – 5th of March 2019
In the Catholic provinces of The Netherlands, Brabant, and Limburg, the celebration of the Carnaval is a way to ease the transition into the Easter fasting. Join the exuberant costumed parade, the singing and dancing, and, of course, the drinking. If this sounds like your kind of crazy, take a trip down south to Maastricht to discover what this time is all about.
Cherry Blossom Festival
When: End of April – Beginning of May
With the coming of spring, the cherry trees all around the city blossom as well. If you happen to visit the city during this period, head over to The Kersenbloesempark in Amsterdamse Bos to join the Cherry Blossom Festival. The event is to be held on April 6th but the date may change depending on the weather.
Looking for cherry trees in the city center? Try Westerpark for a beautiful petal-covered alley or go to Weesperstraat behind the Hermitage Museum.
Tulip Festival in Amsterdam
When: throughout April
Are you ready for tulip paradise? For the whole month of April Amsterdam turns into a land of tulips, with floral arrangements adorning the canals, streets, and parks. Tulips are planted in advance at every corner, lighting up the city in many different colors. There’s nothing left for you to do except wander the streets in utter delight. If that sounds like your cup of tea, take a look at the best accommodation deals because this is the peak season in The Netherlands.
When: 27th April
April’s biggest celebration is Kingsday, the loudest, biggest and by far the most orange party in The Netherlands. On this day the whole country spills onto the streets to drink, dance and make merry in honor of their monarch.
Don’t hold out any hope for doing any exploration on this day: it’s a sea of people, with parties on roofs, squares and even boats. The royal family joins in the celebrations as well, and you’ll meet a lot of foreigners partying as well. The Dutch get the day after Kingsday as a public holiday, meaning everyone is sleeping it off while the streets are filled with evidence of last night’s debauchery.
Elfia Haarzuilens Fantasy Fair
When: 13 April 2019 – 14 April 2019
If you like fandoms, cosplay and geeking out, chances are, you’re going to love Elfia. Fans of Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, Steampunk and Folklore— they’re all welcome here! This festival takes place at the beautiful Castle De Haar on the outskirts of Utrecht. Every spring a two-day fantasy fair unfolds on the castle grounds, welcoming all the dreamers into their midst. You can come in costume or just wander around getting snacks and get the best photo opportunities! Here’s the scoop on all the things to do at Elfia.
National Museum Week
When: April 8, 2019 – April 14, 2019
If museums are part of your every itinerary, you might want to plan around the National Museum Week. During these days the museum entry is free for more than 400 museums all over the country. That includes some of the most popular museums such as Anne Frank House, The Royal Palace, and Rembrandt museum.
Keep in mind that there will be a lot of people heading out to get their fill of culture! Looking to visit outside of these dates? Consider getting an iAmsterdam city card which grants you unlimited museum entry and public transport.
National Mill Day
When: 11 May 2019 – 12 May 2019
Did you know that once per year more than 900 windmills all over the Netherlands open up for visitors? It’s the perfect time to go on a day trip and enjoy your time in the Dutch countryside.
The event is free for all, but there might be additional charges for tours depending on the location. This is the perfect weekend to get outside of Amsterdam and explore one of Holland’s trademark symbols. Looking for day trip ideas? Check out Haarlem or Leiden, two cozy Dutch towns that have windmills that are open to visitors.
Alkmaar Cheese Market
When: 29 March 2019 – 27 September 2019
Cheese markets are a tradition from a time long past. However, those curious to see how deals were made during the Golden Age can visit the cheese market at Alkmaar. Held every week during the warm months, it offers a glimpse of a typical trader’s day, in all its glory. A trip to Alkmaar is a great way to get a glimpse of the country outside of Amsterdam. Wondering what else the city has to offer? Here are my tips on how to spend a day in Alkmaar.
What to do in Summer in Amsterdam:
If you enjoy a relaxed summer by the water, this is the best time to visit Amsterdam for you! When summer comes to Amsterdam at last, the Dutch spill outside to enjoy the weather. You will be hard-pressed to stay put in view of the endless torrent of boats on the canals. Many people chill out on the grass in Vondelpark and Amsterdamse Bos, while others prefer more active pastimes.
You won’t find a better time for a boat tour or a cycling tour, although the city is definitely about to get busy. To get a well-rounded impression of The Netherlands, leave the city to see the windmills. Need inspiration? Here are the best day trips from Amsterdam. Also, stick around for the cultural festivals and events that last through the summer months.
The weather in Amsterdam in summer is on average 22° Celsius, however every year there are a couple of abnormally hot weeks when Amsterdam gets 30° degrees or more. It usually happens around the end of July and beginning of August. On these days don’t forget to put some sunscreen at least because the sun can be unforgiving, even if the wind gives the illusion of relief.
Amsterdam Summer Events (June-August):
De Rollende Keukens
When: 29 May 2019 – 2 June 2019
What: This open-air food festival in Westerpark in Amsterdam is a yearly affair. If you like food— and how can you not— then come and visit for all sorts of deliciousness served from trailers and mobile kitchens. There’s music, drinks, movies, and a great atmosphere!
Pinkpop Music Festival
When: 8-10 June
The oldest music festival in Europe, Pinkpop is in a league of its own. If you are the kind of person that enjoys outdoor festivals, you’re going to love the experience. The lineup is strong from year to year with headliners like Bruno Mars, Mumford and Sons, Oh Wonder, and many others.
When: 10 June 2019
If you’ve been here for a bit, you might know by now how much love I hold for medieval architecture and castles. There are many castles and mansions throughout The Netherlands, all holding a reminder of a turbulent history.
Whether you have been dreaming of knights through your childhood, wanted to run away to Hogwarts or are looking forward to some real-life stories of blood-thirsty rulers Game of Thrones style, there is so much fun waiting on Castle Day!
Over 120 castles open their doors to visitors on this day. This is the time to discover the secret history behind some of the country’s best properties. Not sure where to start? Head to Kasteel de Haar in Utrecht or the beautiful Muiderslot on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
Open Garden Days
When: 14 June 2019 to 16 June 2019
Amsterdam’s canal houses are a big part of the city’s charm and appeal. Walking past the row of houses that are still prime property today, it’s easy to wonder what’s on the other side. Well, for one weekend visitors are allowed to go past the narrow facades and peer into the secret gardens of Amsterdam’s finest.
Do not miss the opportunity to visit the private gardens that open up once a year. You can buy the ticket at Museum van Loon for 20 EUR. It grants access to 30 gardens throughout Amsterdam which you can visit throughout the weekend.
Gay Pride Parade
When: 27 July – 4 August
The Gay Pride Parade is one of the most vibrant events during the Pride Month throughout the whole of Europe. I am utterly convinced that this celebration of life and self-expression is one of the best ways to experience Amsterdam. There are many parties in Amsterdam held throughout the Pride Month but the big culmination of it all is the glorious Canal Parade.
The famous boat parade moves through the city canals, showing off before the crowd of observers along the route. The city is plunged into colorful chaos and endless parties, and with the great summer weather, this is an occasion to remember. Bring your camera and gawk away!
Canal Festival in Amsterdam
When: 9 August 2019 – 18 August 2019
The Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam is one of my favorite events. The summer weather offers many opportunities to enjoy classical music throughout the week. Many free and paid concerts take place in the open across Amsterdam’s prettiest canals, drawing quite a crowd.
The musicians are true professionals, creating magic out of notes as the sounds reflect on the canal houses and spread through the streets. If you’re in town during the event, check the schedule and wander through the city to catch the latest performance.
Cheese Market in Alkmaar
When: 29 March 2019 – 27 September 2019
The wonderful Cheese market continues throughout the summer months until autumn. Please refer to the below section to get more information on the event.
When: 12 August 2020 – 16 August 2020
SAIL Amsterdam is an event which takes place only every 5 years. In other words, it’s a big deal! Tall ships from all over the world sail to Amsterdam to show off on the Ij. You will see an insane number of boats on that day and the waterline is extremely filled with people, looking for a good spot. I went to the event in 2015 and ended up climbing on top of the bike parking rack to have a better view— it’s no secret that the Dutch are quite tall!
What to do in Autumn in Amsterdam:
If you’re a lover of a long and warm autumn, this is the best time to visit Amsterdam for you! Autumn in Amsterdam is beautiful but it doesn’t come right away. Even as the days roll into September, the warm weather continues to hold, perhaps, all the way to October. When the leaves turn red and yellow, the city is drowning in colors. It is a great time for boat tours and lazy walks in the park. This time can rival even the bloom of springtime.
The great autumnal craze often holds till November, which, in my humble opinion, is easily the nastiest month of the year. It is the windiest and rainy, without the benefit of the festive holiday mood.
This is the perfect time to hide in museums, art exhibitions, and cozy brown cafes. This is the perfect moment to use all the benefits of the iAmsterdam city card which gets you unlimited access to over 40 museums and free public transport.
Amsterdam Autumn Events (September-November):
Moose Mating Season in De Hoge Veluwe National Park
When: throughout September
Did you know that Holland can actually surprise you with its beautiful nature? The so-called “Bronsttijd” is one of the best seasons to head over to this beautiful National Park. With the warmth of September in the air, exploring De Hoge Veluwe on a bike is a really special experience. This is a chance to combine biking and nature-watching. Only during September can you head out for a moose watching excursion. Make sure to bring a strong pair of binoculars and book a spot in advance— they sell out quick! Here’s all you need to know about De Hoge Veluwe Nationaal Park.
Cheese Market in Alkmaar
When: 29 March 2019 – 27 September 2019
Take a short trip from Amsterdam to the cozy Alkmaar where a cheese market reenactment takes place every week. The Kaasmarkt in Alkmaar continues to operate through the warmer months, preserving the rich history of The Netherlands and paying respects to the cheese carrier guild. Ready to eat some cheese? Here are 7 other things to do in Alkmaar in a day.
Amsterdam Dance Event
When: 16 October 2019 – 20 October 2019
ADE is the biggest music festival for electronic music in Europe. If you’re eager to get a peek into the clubbing scene and jam to some fantastic sets, you might want to plan around that. It’s the best weekend for partying and getting to know the up and coming DJ’s.
Museum Night Amsterdam
When: November 2nd, 2019
The Amsterdam Museum Night is an event geared towards the local younger audience, meaning that it can be hard to score a ticket – the only payment option is iDEAL, the Dutch payment system. A ticket costs 19,95 EUR and allows access to all 50 museums throughout the night, plus one additional museum of your choice after the Museum Night. So if you are a night owl and have friends in The Netherlands, you’re in luck. You get to enjoy readings, food & drinks, DJs and special tours.
The arrival of Sinterklaas to Amsterdam
When: November 18
St. Nicholas is the benevolent version of Santa Claus in The Netherlands, and his arrival in Amsterdam is celebrated far and wide. Join the festival and watch Sinterklaas sail into the city on its ship and parade through the cobblestone streets with his faithful sidekicks Zwarte Piets.