Amsterdam lives up to its label of the Netherlands' cultural capital, with a string of year-round events. Plan for your trip to get the most of the city’s cultural life, from Gay Pride to King's Day and even a special day for a peak at canal houses.
Chinese New Year — January/February
The city’s Chinese community, together with many more locals and visitors, celebrate Lunar New Year in the historic Nieuwmarkt/Zeedijk area of Amsterdam. 2015 sees the start of the Year of the Goat, with festvities at Fo Guang Shan Temple, then down the street with traditional lion dancers and fireworks. It’s also a great opportunity to sample Asian good 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 – March
Around 500 museums around the country are free to visit, or else offering discounted admission. Look out also for extra special events for the week, including guided tours, workshops and kids’ treasure hunts (www.museumweekend.nl).
Bloemen Corso — April
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) – 27 April
This knees-up celebration the country’s monarch involves street markets, fairs and 24-hour parties. The parties takes place across the country, and it’s a national holiday, but in Amsterdam the locals see it as a great excuse for a proper open-air party. Except 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.
Open Gardens Day (June)
For one day a year, the private gardens of canal-side houses open to the public, opening up an otherwise hidden vast green world with huge 100-year-old trees, flowers and the occasional garden house. The only way to access these is through the houses themselves (www.opentuinendagen.nl).
Vondelpark Open Air Theatre (May-Sept.)
At the city’s most popular park, their open-air theatre, by the fountain, hosts a packed programme of well over 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 (www.openluchttheater.nl).
Holland Festival —June
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 (www.hollandfestival.nl).
Gay Pride – July
It’s a larger-than-life parade and party for the annual celebrations for the city’s gay community parades, with parties, posing and outrageous performances. A highlight is the Canal Parade, where boats travel from the Westerdok harbor to the Amstel river towards Oosterdok (www.amsterdamgaypride.nl).
Jordaan Festival — August
The diversity of this former working-class district is celebrated in this major street festival, which has been a popular fixture for over 40 years. It’s the place to especially hear Dutch singers (www.jordaanfestival.nl).
Sinterklaas Parade — mid November
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
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.