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by Santorini Dave • Updated: November 15, 2018
When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?
- Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for enjoying the sights of Amsterdam without worries of others getting in the way of your view, is in late autumn and throughout most of the winter months. Of course, you’ll need to bundle up as it will be cold, and likely wet, but it may be well-worth it for the more peaceful experience. If that sounds a bit too chilly for your liking, consider coming between mid-September and mid-October, when crowds are few, but you’ll enjoy a better chance for sunny skies. The worst time for sightseeing is during the summer, when lines for the most popular attractions can mean a very long (sometimes as much as three hours) and sweaty wait.
- Best Time to See the Tulips: Visit Amsterdam in mid-April if you hope to see the tulips at their colorful peak. The season extends between late March and mid-May, but the middle of April typically brings the most prolific blossoms. Of course, this all depends on the weather, which can be difficult if not impossible to predict.
- Best Time for Shopping: Retailers in Amsterdam, and many other European cities, don’t put on big sales throughout the year, or even at the end of each season. Here, January and July are the months to shop, as that’s when the stores offer the most dramatic discounts as they clear out inventory. You’ll see store windows advertising UITVERKOOP OPRUIMING, which means “clearance sale.” You’ll have to bump elbows with countless other bargain hunters to get the best deals, especially in July, but with discounts up to 70%, it’s usually worth it. Keep in mind that the earlier you visit during the sale, the more choices you’re likely to have, but going closer to the end of the sale brings the biggest discounts.
- Best Time to Visit the Anne Frank House: If the Anne Frank House is the No. 1 to-do on your itinerary, visit in the winter (other than around the holidays) if at all possible. In the summer, it’s not uncommon to be stuck waiting in line for three hours, which is especially miserable on a hot and humid afternoon. If you don’t have a choice, timing your visit right is a must. Come before it opens, getting in line by about 8:30am, which should get you inside in about an hour.
- Best Time to Visit the Red Light District: Many tourists are curious about the Red Light District in Amsterdam, and just want to get a glimpse of what it’s all about. If that’s you, the best time to go all year round is in the early evening when you can see the glow of the red lights reflected in the dark canals, but it’s not too crowded yet. For those looking to participate, it’s possible to experience it 24 hours a day, although most of the action is from 9pm onward in the summer, and after 6pm in the winter.
Amsterdam Travel Seasons
- High Season (April through August, mid-December through early January): Summer is the peak of high season, though the months of April and May, while slightly less crowded downtown, are still considered to be part of high season, due to the influx of tourists that arrive to experience the blooming tulips and other flowers. The weather is likely to be pleasant, but by the end of May, you’ll need to be prepared to wait in long lines for popular attractions, and bumping elbows with the hordes of tourists in congested areas of town. When it comes to accommodation, you’ll likely pay too much for too little, as hotels are able to charge their top rates. Around the Christmas holidays, just before Christmas through New Year’s, expect rates and crowds to peak again.
- Shoulder Season (March, September): While March and September can be a gamble when it comes to the weather (go in late March or early September and you’ll fair better), you’re more likely to find some discounted rates, and less likely to have to battle thick crowds.
- Low Season (November through mid-December, mid-January through February): With the dismal grey, cool weather during the winter months, accommodation rates are at their lowest, noticeably dropping, and you may be able to get cheaper airfare too. Still, you’ll find plenty of indoor attractions, and far fewer tourists than there were during the summer, making this a good time to be here for many, depending upon what you have on your own particular agenda. It’s beautiful when snowy nights blanket the city, and in early February, if the canals have frozen, you can watch the locals glide across the ice – or even join them yourself.
Amsterdam Weather by Month
- Amsterdam Weather in January: January is the coldest month in Amsterdam, with average temperatures hovering around 3°C. Coupled with the winds that blow through the various canals, it can feel quite a bit colder than what the mercury actually reads. Still, as long as you’re dressed appropriately, you’ll be able to enjoy walking around the city most of the time. There may be some rain, as 69mm falls over eight days, and quite a few gray, gloomy days, from time to time there will be at least of few hours of blue, cloudless skies. Snow is a possibility, but when Amsterdam is covered in white, it’s especially beautiful. What can be more challenging, is the short days, with sunrise at 8:51am and sunset just after 4:30pm on January 1st. The later in the month you arrive, the longer the day will be – by January’s end, the sun will make an appearance at about 8:30am, dipping below the horizon about 5:30pm. When packing, focus on warm clothing, including sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, a winter coat and warm, waterproof boots. Bringing along thermal underwear, gloves and a scarf are also a good idea for those extra chilly days. You’ll also want to dress in layers so that you can easily peel some items off, as restaurants, coffee houses and most attractions will be cozily warm. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 69mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in February: February is slightly warmer than January, with the average high temperature increasing to 8°C, but at the same time, the average low takes a two degree dip to below freezing at -1°C, and combined with the fog and occasional winds, you can expect it to feel colder than the thermometer reads both day and night. February is a little drier, with 39mm of precipitation, though sunlight is still at a premium due to the frequent grey skies and short days. Be prepared by packing as you would for last month, with warm winter clothing, including thermals and other items that will allow you to dress in layers. (Average Max Temperature: 8°C. Average Precipitation: 39mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in March: With spring just around the corner, the weather is gradually warming this month, although cold snaps aren’t uncommon. Still, when precipitation falls, it’s usually in the form or rain rather than snow. The average temperature climbs noticeably to 6°C, with nicer afternoons reaching as high as 9°C, though the weather in Amsterdam can be erratic, especially in March, experiencing all four seasons in the same week – and sometimes the same day. As the month progresses, there is more sun, and more daylight, with sunset at about 8:15pm by March’s end, thanks in part to Daylight Savings Time. Plan on bringing warm clothing and dressing in layers, as most of the month is still technically winter and is likely to feel that way, though the later you arrive, the more likely you are to need your sunglasses. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 78mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in April: Spring has finally arrived, generally bringing a warming trend along with more dry spells – on average, just 36mm of rain falls this month. The sun comes back in a big way now, with fewer gloomy days and average high temperatures increasing to 12°C, while overnight lows are now well above freezing, averaging at 4°C. You can leave your heavy winter coat behind now as a light jacket and a sweater should suffice, though a scarf might be appreciated for days spent on or around the water. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 38mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in May: May brings noticeably warmer weather, with average highs increasing five degrees to 17°C and most days hovering around 12°C. This is one of the sunniest months in Amsterdam, with some 10 hours of sunshine a day, and by month’s end, the sun won’t go down until almost 10pm. It’s unlikely to feel truly hot, however, and evenings are still cool with low temps averaging 8°C. A light jacket is all you’ll need for after dark and chillier days, but bring your short-sleeved shirts and even a pair of shorts or a summery dress for those especially nice days. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 45mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in June: As summer starts to roll in, it’s mostly t-shirts and shorts weather in Amsterdam, with average afternoon highs of 19°C, but if you’re coming from an especially warm climate, it’s still likely to feel fairly cool. Rain is on the increase again with 69mm of precipitation in June, but as it’s generally spread out over just nine days, you can expect plenty of sunshine too. This month tends to be a mixed bag, with lots of sun interspersed with gray days and brief showers. Plan accordingly, by bringing some summer clothing, along with a light jacket or sweater for the evening as well as long pants and some long-sleeved shirts, just in case. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 69mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in July: July is one of the hottest months in Amsterdam, and while the highest temperature ever recorded was 32°C, on most days you’ll enjoy temperatures in the upper teens and low 20s. Combined with the high humidity, however, it can feel quite a bit hotter. This is the time when locals head to the beach, with the waters along the coast warmer now, averaging around 17°C, making it more enjoyable to participate in water sports and other activities. Although there is about 63mm of rain, when it does fall, it’s usually light and brief. Temperatures cool to around 13°C at night, so a light sweater or jacket is still a good idea if you’ll be out and about after dark. Otherwise, short-sleeved tops, dresses and shorts are standard attire. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 63mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in August: August is similar to July, also bringing high temps of 21°C, although things tend to be a bit more fickle – some years this month is characterized by lots of warm sunny, days and others there will be more cloudy days and rain. Although it is one of the hottest months in the city, it’s unlikely to ever feel scorching hot here, and you can usually count on at least some rain to cool things off with 54mm of precipitation over 11 days. Pack your summer wear including shorts or skirts, t-shirts and a bathing suit for dips in the sea, as the water will be as warm as it will all year at 18°C. You will still need a few warmer clothes for going out during the cooler evening hours, including long pants and a light jacket. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 54mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in September: The weather begins to change again in September, which is typically one of the wetter months of the year in Amsterdam, with an average of 75mm of precipitation over 10 days, though much of it will be in the form of light rain and perhaps a rare thunderstorm. The sun doesn’t come out as often, however, as much of the time heavy clouds will pervade city skies. The amount of daylight diminishes too, with sunset nearly three hours earlier than it was in June – 7:19pm by month’s end. On most days, temperatures will be a fairly pleasant 15°C to 16°C, occasionally getting as warm as 18°C in the afternoon. Bring a light rain jacket and plan for mildly warm and cool days as well as even cooler evenings with overnight lows now down to 11°C, and you’ll be well-prepared. (Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average precipitation: 75mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in October: October weather in Amsterdam can best be summed up as inconsistent. It can be nice and sunny one moment and grey and rainy the next. Sometimes it’s warm enough to enjoy lunch at an outdoor café, and at other times, it feels like winter has already kicked in. Average temperatures are around 11°C, with highs averaging 15°C, and precipitation picks up just a bit to 84mm that falls over nine days, in the form of mostly light rain. You’re unlikely to need your summer wear now, but bring a couple of short-sleeved shirts for those wonderfully rare sunny afternoons that you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of – the amount of daylight decreases even further, with the sun dipping below the horizon at about 5:15pm on October 31st, as the clocks change backward this month. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average Precipitation: 84mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in November: November is officially the wettest month of the year, bringing an average of 90mm of precipitation, much of it as drizzle or light rain, but toward the end of the month as temperatures drop, snow flurries are possible, though short-lived. The average temperature dips to 9°C, and overnight lows are around 4°C, making this a wet and chilly month to be in Amsterdam, but provided you bring layers, along with a waterproof jacket, you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy exploring the city. When packing keep in mind that you could very well experience a day or two of sunny skies and pleasant temperatures – or you could be in for the other extreme, a frigid night of -10 °C. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 90mm.)
- Amsterdam Weather in December: You’ll need your warm winter coat, a scarf, gloves and thermal underwear for a trip to Amsterdam in December. Temperatures average around 4°C, with averages highs just two degrees warmer, and overnight lows of 3°C – which means, no matter what time of day or night, it’s likely to be cold, though brutally cold weather that’s well below freezing is still rare. Most days are not only dark, their short, with just three hours of sunshine a day, and sunset around 4:30pm throughout the month. Precipitation decreases from last month, with 69mm of rain on average over seven days (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average precipitation: 69mm.)
Amsterdam Special Events by Month
Amsterdam in January
- New Year’s Day – January 1st, New Year’s Day, is a public holiday, but you’ll find many restaurants and some museums and other attractions, including the Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, open. As the January sales are beginning, it’s also a good time for bargain hunters and shopaholics to do some shopping. If you’re feeling brave and want to do what the Dutch do, start the year off by taking a New Year’s dive – the largest is held at the beach of Scheveningen, where more than 10,000 people plunge into the sea every year. If you don’t want to jump in yourself, it’s always fun to watch from the sidelines.
- National Tulip Day – Traditionally held on the third Saturday of January every year, National Tulip Day brings approximately 200,000 tulips to Amsterdam’s Dam Square, creating a massive temporary garden that is open to the public for free for flower picking. More than 10,000 people come for the event, which means you’ll need to arrive early – usually at least an hour before the 1pm opening time, in order to pick your own.
- Whisky Weekend Amsterdam – Over three-days in mid-January, Amsterdam’s Posthoornkerk becomes a tasting room and hot spot for whisky enthusiasts. Enjoy tastings and nosings along with whisky-friendly cheeses, a variety of Scottish products and traditional Scottish music.
- Food Soul Festival – Held on the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of January each year, the Food Soul Festival brings together some of the city’s best food trucks serving dishes from all corners of the globe, along with wine, craft beers and music into the warmth of the Kromhouthal in Amsterdam Noord.
Amsterdam in February
- Chinese New Year – Chinese New Year festivities take place at Dam Square over the weekend closest to the official New Year date on the Chinese calendar. Friday night kicks off the event with a firework display, and the weekend includes workshops, dragon dances, tea ceremonies and lots of food.
- 24H Oost – On a weekend in mid-February, the diverse neighborhoods east of the River Amstel known as Amsterdam Oost, hosts a variety of workshops and guided tours, performances, music, food and drink.
- Amsterdam Salsa Festival – Join salsa lovers over this annual weekend in mid-February where you can learn to salsa or brush up on your skills at a variety of workshops as well as take in performances by some of the world’s best salsa dancers.
- Valentine’s Day – There are lots of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Amsterdam, including taking a horse & carriage ride on the city’s cobblestone streets to one of the many restaurants serving special Valentine menus as well as embarking on a canal ride to see the illuminated waterways while enjoying dinner and drinks.
Amsterdam in March
- 5 Days Off Festival – Held annually in early March over five days, 5 Days Off is known as one of Amsterdam’s best electronic music festivals. Taking place at the Melkweg and the Paradiso, it focuses on techno, house, electronica and beat music.
- Pink Film Days – Roze Filmdagen, or Pink Film Days, is the largest film festival for LGBTQ films in the Netherlands. It’s been a prominent feature of Amsterdam’s gay and lesbian events calendar for over two decades. The festival includes 11 days of screenings in mid-March at the Ketelhuis cinema in Wetergasfabriek Cultuurpark.
- 24H West – This event on Amsterdam’s west side takes place on the second weekend of March. This is when museums, theaters, clubs, shops and more open their doors to the public, hosting a variety of unique and sometimes unusual events, such as theatrical high tea at ZID theater and dancing all night to electronic beats at the Radion Weekender.
- HISWA Amsterdam Boat Show – Popular with everyone who likes to get out on the water, this expo features hundreds of small and mid-sized boats, boating accessories, clinics and workshops as well as the chance to get hands-on through a variety of water activities. Those who are into wakeboarding, kitesurfing, windsurfing and standup paddling will find something too.
- St. Patrick’s Festival – Held on or around March 17th each year, the St. Patrick’s Festival is a one-day festival celebrating Irish culture with a focus on music. It showcases Irish traditional music as well as Irish music and musicians from other genres like pop, classical and jazz. Music workshops and Irish dancing are also included.
Amsterdam in April
- Tulip Festival – Throughout the month of April, the tulip is celebrated at this festival which features more than a half-million colorful, and sometimes rare, tulips that can be viewed in the gardens of museums, private homes and a number of city institutions.
- International PopArts Festival – This 10-day festival in mid-April takes places in a variety of venues, including several outdoor locations, with a full program of more than 30 performances, both nationally and from abroad.
- Cherry Blossom Festival – This festival in early April celebrates the return of spring at Amsterdam Bos. Although it’s especially popular with Japanese expats, it draws a variety of locals and foreign visitors who can enjoy the blossoms as well as the traditional Japanese food and drink served in a festival tent.
- King’s Day – This national holiday held on April 27 each year, is celebrated around the country to honor the King’s official birthday. Amsterdam hosts the biggest and best events including street fairs, parades and street entertainment. There are multiple dance parties throughout the city, catering to a wide range of tastes and music styles.
Amsterdam in May
- Remembrance and Liberation Day – Remembrance and Liberation Day is celebrated annually on May 4. It initially began as a day to honor soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in World War II, but it now serves as a day to remember the fallen from other wars in addition to peacekeeping efforts. In Amsterdam, most businesses will be open, and a commemoration will take place at Dam Square, where the Queen places a wreath and leads the nation in two minutes of silence.
- Rolling Kitchens – This yearly celebration of street food takes place on a long weekend around Ascension Day (the 40th day of Easter). Dozens of food trucks and mobile kitchens head to this culinary festival in the west of Amsterdam, where just about every type of cuisine is represented.
- 909 Festival – Located in Amsterdam Bos, this intimate music event in the forest is focused on some of the world’s best techno sounds, attracting big name DJs like Radio Slave, Speedy J and Jeff Mills.
- National Windmill Day – Held during the second weekend of May, this national holiday honors windmills. About two-thirds of the country’s nearly 1,000 working windmills will be open to the public. The windmills are beautifully decorated, and the miller at each one offers tours to explain the type of mill and how it works.
Amsterdam in June
- Taste of Amsterdam – Every year, Amstelpark hosts the Taste of Amsterdam, a four-day event in early June (June 2-5 in 2016) in which top chefs from the city’s best restaurants create starter-sized plates of some of their signature dishes for visitors to sample. Wine tasting, a live cook-off, workshops, kids’ activities and a farmers’ market are featured too.
- Holland Festival – The largest and oldest performing arts festival in the country, held at various venues around Amsterdam throughout much of the month of June, the Holland Festival offers a mix of music, dance, theater, opera, film and visual arts as well as western and non-western performances in a variety of languages.
- Amsterdam Roots Festival – This internationally-renowned festival features music and dance from around the world, as well as films, workshops and exhibits. Its programming attracts outfits from all over, from Africa and Latin America to Asia across three stages: the Dance Court, Urban Stage and World Stage.
- Open Garden Day – For one weekend in mid-June, visitors can peek behind the gables of some of the city’s magnificent canal-side homes to see their hidden “secret” gardens, all impeccably manicured with hedges, ponds and fountains.
Amsterdam in July
- Over Het IJ Festival – This 10-day festival features avant-garde theater, music and dance, as well as plenty of good food, in Amsterdam-Noord adjacent to the IJ channel.
- Comedytrain International Festival – Kicking off on July 1st and running for six weeks, this festival brings both international comedic acts from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, as well as hilarious homegrown talent to the Toomler Club in Amsterdam.
- Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Amsterdam – This international event for fashion fans and industry professionals is a series of public events held over 10 days in mid-July, including catwalk shows, take place at diverse cultural venues around Amsterdam.
- Amsterdam Gay Pride – This huge annual celebration that runs for two weeks starting in late June, is focused on equality for gay, lesbian, transgender, queer and intersex communities, with festivities that take place throughout the city. There are film screenings, dance parties, sporting events, exhibitions and more, with its highlight the world-famous Canal Parade.
Amsterdam in August
- Canal Festival (Grachtenfestival) – This 10-day festival in mid-August features classical music at elegant, intimate venues along Amsterdam’s canals.
- Appelsap Festival – Appelsap, which means “apple juice,” offers the chance to enjoy refreshing drinks along with some of the best Dutch and international hip hop artists at Flevopark throughout the month of August.
- World Cinema Amsterdam – Every year for 10 days in the second half of August, August 19-28 in 2016, film enthusiasts can enjoy indoor and open-air screenings at the Rialto cinema and Marie Heinekenplien.
Amsterdam in September
- Jordaan Festival – Held for three days in early September, September 2-4, in 2016, in the Jordaan neighborhood, Amsterdam’s most colorful folk district, this festival celebrates local history and folk music traditions through local singers and theater performances.
- Amsterdam Heritage Days – On the second weekend of September every year, the doors of important buildings, monuments and private homes are opened to the public free of charge to celebrate the city’s rich history.
- Amsterdam Fringe Festival – This event held annually during the first half of September, September 1-11 in 2016, features an extensive array of productions by cutting-edge local and international artists as well as producers at more than 25 venues across the city, including theater, musical theater, art, comedy and dance.
- Unseen Photo Fair – Around the last weekend of September, September 23-25 in 2016, this international photography fair brings galleries and photographers from across the world who contribute their very best work. It primarily focuses on undiscovered photography talent and unseen work by established photographers.
Amsterdam in October
- Amsterdam Dance Event – A five-day electronic and music conference, the Amsterdam Dance Event is held in mid-October, October 14-18 in 2016, and features more than 2,000 world-class acts from across the globe to 120 venues throughout the city.
- TCS Amsterdam Marathon – Held annually in mid-October, October 16 in 2016, this huge running event brings some 40,000 to the city to participate. The course begins at Olympic Stadium and passes many of the most notable landmarks and attractions in Amsterdam.
- CineKid Festival – The CineKid Festival is the largest international film, television and new media festival for kids aged 4 to 14. Held at the Westergasfabriek in mid-October, October 18-21 in 2016, it screens films from all over the world as well as a selection of the best television programs for children, attracting more than 50,000 parents, children and guests.
- Amsterdam Halloween Festival – This spooky festival offers nearly a whole week of action in late October, including events like an all-night horror movie marathon, a frightful edition of Friday Night Skate roller-skate, a themed dinner event, a kids’ party and the highlight, a costume party that includes makeup workshops, theater troupes, DJs and VJs, and a lineup of Dutch and international artists.
Amsterdam in November
- The Arrival of Sinterklaas – Similar to Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, this Dutch character launches the Christmas season with his arrival in mid-November, when he sails into Amsterdam from his home in Spain, bringing presents and treats for the children. Boats and floats bob across the water in central Amsterdam, while some 400,000 watch the spectacle from the banks of the canal.
- Amsterdam Light Festival – This festival that begins with a boat parade in the canals, illuminates the city center and the canals with beautiful, twinkling lights from the last Saturday in November through the New Year.
- International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – Held for two weeks during the second half of November, this renowned international film festival brings together more great films, talented filmmakers and devoted fans to one place than any other in the world. Films are shown at cinemas throughout Amsterdam, while a wide range of lectures, workshops, discussions and special events are held at venues across the city.
Amsterdam in December
- Christmas Markets – Multiple Christmas markets open throughout Amsterdam, from traditional Victorian-style markets to trendy markets located within old industrial buildings, there’s one for everyone during the holidays. Pick up seasonal delights like “pepernoten” (small, spiced biscuits), along with a mug of tasty gluhwein to warm up on a chilly day.
- Sinterklaas – Although Sinterklaas isn’t a public holiday, on the eve of December 5th, Dutch children leave their boots by the fireplace in hopes of finding them filled with sweets in the morning. On the day itself, families gather to exchange gifts and enjoy lavish holiday meals.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – Although the majority of Dutch people have adopted the tradition of gift exchange and family celebrations around December 24 and 25, many businesses remain open, catering to tourists who choose to spend their holidays here. Museum Amstelkring, a church that sits atop a two-story canal house in the heart of the Red Light District, offers Christmas Eve masses. On Christmas Day, many museums and restaurants will be open as usual.
- New Year’s Eve – On December 31st there will be parties throughout the city to celebrate the coming year. The city’s official celebration is held at the Oosterdok, with the VOC Shop The Amsterdam and the Scheepvaartmuseum forming a stunning backdrop for an impressive fireworks display. The Magere Brug, or Skinny Bridge, is one of the best spots from which to enjoy the spectacle.