In a city known for cultural connections and celebrations, there are some celebrations that rule the roost. Here are the top annual events and things to do in Amsterdam worthy of any itinerary through the Netherlands.
Chinese New Year—January or February
The city’s Chinese community, and many more visitors, celebrate Lunar New Year in the historic Nieuwmarkt/Zeedijk area of Amsterdam. 2015 saw the start of the Year of the Goat, with festivities at Fo Guang Shan Temple and down the street with traditional lion dancers and fireworks. It’s also a great opportunity to sample Asian goods along Stormsteeg and Geldersekade.
Stille Omgang (Silent Procession)—March
Catholics make a silent night-time procession through the Old City (actually the modern-day Red Light District) commemorating the 1385 ‘Miracle of Amsterdam.’ On that day, it is said that a communion wafer was recovered intact from a funeral pyre. Many thousands of worshippers gather for this annual procession.
National Museum Week—April
About 500 museums around the country are free to visit, or offering discounted admission, during this popular event. Look out also for extra special events and things to do during the week including guided tours, workshops and kids’ treasure hunts.
Translating as ‘flower parade,’ this colorful event marks the season for daffodils, lilies, dahlias and hyacinths coming into bloom with Amsterdam’s canals filled with glass-topped boats comprising the fragrant parade.
Koninginnedag (formerly Queen’s Day)—April 27
This knees-up celebration the country’s monarch involves street markets, fairs and 24-hour parties. The parties takes place across the country as it’s a national holiday, but Amsterdam locals see it as a great excuse for a proper open-air party. Expect to see events on the river and in main square such as Dam and Rembrandtplein with thousands of locals decked out in bright orange, the color of the flag.
Vondelpark Open Air Theater—June-August
At the city’s most popular park the open-air theater, by the fountain, hosts a packed programme of more than 100 free drama, cabaret, dance and music performances. These take place in the afternoons and evenings throughout the summer. Look out also for shows by new talent.
This month-long event turns the spotlight onto performing art in the main music venues of Amsterdam. Taking place since 1948, it’s mainly in the genres of classical music, opera, dance and world music.
It’s a larger-than-life parade and party for the annual celebrations of the city’s gay community. Expect parades—with parties—posing, outrageous performances and other things to do. A highlight is the Canal Parade, where boats travel from the Westerdok harbor to the Amstel river towards Oosterdok.
The diversity of this former working-class district is celebrated in this major street festival, which has been a popular fixture for more than 40 years. It’s the place to hear exceptional Dutch singers.
The world’s largest Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) parade threads through the city, led by the white-bearded character on a white horse, accompanied by his pieten; helpers in medieval garb called Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters). The legend dates back to 343 AD, and originates in Turkey.
Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve)—December 31
Literally translating as Old Year’s Day, the city’s clubs and bars get on the celebratory scene, with Dam Square hosting fireworks and street parties.