Helpful tips for the very best festivals within the Netherlands

  • Netherlands

    • 3 -5 March: Carnival (Carnival), Maastricht

      This Dutch town stages certainly one of Europe's biggest and most lively carnivals. For three days, the Prince of Fools (Prince Carnival) and the entourage lead the town and also the celebrations, with increasing numbers of people preparing costumes, materials, and floats for the grand Carnival parade (Boonte St”orrem).

      A number of Dutch cities host Carnival celebrations, parades, and a range of vibrant events; get all the information you need in Expatica’s help guide to celebrating carnival within the Netherlands.

      March: Silent Walk (Stille Omgang)

      This silent night-time procession (only in Dutch) through Amsterdam commemorates the Catholic ‘Miracle of Amsterdam’, which happened in 1345 inside a house on Kalverstraat and turned Amsterdam right into a pilgrimage city of importance, the ‘Miracle City’. The week of this festival in Amsterdam starts with masses congregating in the Beguinage from Wednesday to Saturday, and culminates within the Silent Procession held on Saturday night through Sunday morning. In 2020 the walk will on the evening of 16 March.

      March: Opening of Keukenhof Gardens (near Lisse)

      The greatest Keukenhof flower festival on the planet blooms with spectacular displays of tulips and narcissi, daffodils and hyacinths, bluebells, crocuses, lilies, amaryllis, and lots of other kinds of flower at this 32-hectare (80-acre) garden in the middle of the bulb country. You will see around eight million flowers in view in a spectacular display from 23 March to 19 May 2020, in what is a lot more than only a tulip festival.

      13 March: Festival of trees (Boomfeestdag)

      In March each year, holland celebrates this Tree festival nationwide by encouraging children in Basisschool to plant trees in parks, streets, squares and rural areas.

      11 -27 March: National Restaurant Week

      This is a Dutch festival for foodies, where one can dine in some of the top restaurants within the Netherlands for up to 50% from drink and food. It’s vital that you book early as places fill up ahead of time.

      13 April -7 July: World Press Photo exhibition

      Each year the earth's largest World Press Photo exhibition starts in Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk before touring 45 countries worldwide.

      10 -14 April: Flower Parade (Bloemencorso), Noordwijk to Haarlem

      A procession with about 20 floats staging giant dolls made of flowers along with jugglers, dancers and players make their means by a 42km route from Noordwijk to Haarlem flower parade.  After completing the course of some 12 hours, their arrival marks the start of well-deserved celebrations.

      April 27: King's Day (Koningsdag), Amsterdam

      King's Day, formerly Queen's Day, is the annual Netherlands festival honoring King Willem-Alexander, whose investiture happened on 13 April, 2020. Over fifty percent a million locals and tourists cascade into the center of Amsterdam for what feels like the world's biggest street party, along with celebrations held all over the Netherlands. There is a gigantic sunrise to sunset street carnival, while the city center fills with stalls manned by everyone from kids selling old toys to some unique flea market along with a range of bands playing on procedures in the streets of Rembrandtplein and Prinsengracht, as it’s the main one day people sell without a license. Special performances from musicians and theatrical folk are held for kids and there are parades to entertain everyone. Orange ribbons, orange hair, and orange-painted faces abound, much like Dutch flags – don something orange, too, to fit in. The celebrations reach their climax in the evening with a firework display that emblazons the night time sky. For party-goers, celebrations and music concerts start the night before on Koningsnacht. Explore Expatica’s guide to King’s Day events.

      4 May: Remembrance Day (Herdenkingsdag)

      Remembrance Day within the Netherlands commemorates all those who lost their resides in wars or peacekeeping missions because the outbreak of World War II. The main events are held in Amsterdam’s Dam Square, usually attended by members of the royal family and government, although events are held around the country, notably in Waalsdorpervlakte near The Hague and also the war cemetery Grebbeberg. Dutch flags fly at half-mast and there's a two-minute silence at 20:00, typically when individuals in towns gather around a monument, listen to speeches and lay wreaths as part of this festival in the Netherlands.

      5 May: Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag)

      The Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany in May 1940 and lots of died at that time before liberation on 5 May 1945. Flags fly high as the Netherlands celebrates freedom and democracy with a range of Liberation Day events happening round the country. One of the oldest pop concerts in the Netherlands, Bevrijdingspop, is held in Haarlem.

      11 -12 May: National Mill Day (Nationale Molendag)

      The second weekend in May is dedicated to National Mill Day every year, where some 950 working windmills and watermills open to the general public and millers decorate the mills and put on the selection of family activities. Search for blue pennants or ask at the local tourist office to find the best bike route.

      29 May -23 June: Holland Festival, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam, and Utrecht

      Each year, these four cities get together to present a cultural buffet of music, opera, theatre, film, and dance. The Holland Festival includes all the major Dutch companies, plus visiting companies and soloists from around the world.

      8 -10 June: Pinkpop, Landgraaf

      This huge pop and rock Dutch music festival, held in the town of Landgraaf in Limburg, has been running since 1970, making it one of the oldest in the world. Its name originates from the Dutch pinksteren meaning Pentecost, that is when it is traditionally held. It is a Pinkpop festival with all-star line ups from the worlds of rock, pop, dance, electro, hop, indie, punk, folk, alternative and much more.

      15 June: Flag Day (Vlaggetjesdag), Scheveningen

      The harbor, crowded with fishing boats and lined with restaurants that serve up just-caught seafood, is where the Dutch herring fleet is launched. The colorful Flag Day (Vlaggetjesdag) Netherlands festival is held each year around the 1st or 2nd Saturday in June. Fishermen’s wives dress up in their traditional costume and the shipping fleet then returns with the new season’s herring catch, amid much fanfare.

      26 -27 July: Rotterdam Summer Carnival (Zomercarnaval)

      Now more than two decades old, this Rotterdam summer carnival welcomes several million people to Rotterdam for the Dutch answer to Rio. Latin music and the vibrant energy of Brazil are used gusto by more than 25 bands marching noisily with the city streets. During the night, revelers can enjoy live music performances played on two procedures in the city center.

      12 -14 July: North Sea Jazz Festival, Rotterdam

      This Dutch jazz festival began in 1976 and it has run annually since then. The performances in the three-day event are locked in an indoor sports arena along with a concert venue, Rotterdam Ahoy. Up to 70,000 music lovers arrived at hear more than 1,000 local and international performers playing new and established music in a festival that's one of the popular features of the jazz calendar. Although the audiences are big the festival still seems to retain an intimate atmosphere.

      27 July -4 August: Amsterdam Gay Pride

      One of Europe's most gay-friendly cities sees thousands of people turn out to watch the highlight: the Canal Parade display of 80 outrageously decorated boats cruising the canals – the world's only floating gay pride. In addition, you will find street discos and open-air theater performances, a sports program and a film festival. When you get bored with festivities, there are other than 100 lgbt bars, clubs, hotels, shops and social events in Amsterdam.

      August: Canal Run (Grachtenloop), Haarlem

      A beautiful ‘watery’ trail along the Haarlem canals and canals lined by having an enthusiastic audience guarantees a pleasing and sporty course evening for young and old alike. This annual midsummer event stretches across the canals of Haarlem. This Dutch canal festival is more than Two decades old and offers an opportunity for both walkers and runners to tour the center of Haarlem, taking in the cultural and attractions. If you choose to participate, the many spectators lining this beautiful route will cheer yourself on, so there's a great atmosphere.

      9 -17 August: Scheveningen International Fireworks Festival (Vuurwerkfestival)

      Every year fireworks producers head for this little beach town near Den Haag to participate in a contest exhibition – Scheveningen Fireworks Trophy. During four times of this noisy colorful Dutch celebration, a large number of spectators gather to watch this vibrant and burst of noise and light. Obtain the best look at Fireworks festival from one of the beachfront cafes.

      9 -18 August: Amsterdam Canal Festival (Grachtenfestival)

      This classical music festival is really a showcase for concerts played in unique architectural venues of historic and cultural value. Music lovers of all ages are welcome and a special place is given to young artists.

      23 -26 August: Jordaan Festival, Amsterdam

      This loosely organized Jordaan festival in Amsterdam happens in the trendy Jordaan neighborhood, featuring various genres of Dutch music took part in the Westermarkt. The program is very varied, so you might hear folk, drumming bands, opera or cabaret – and be prepared to participate in the sing-a-longs.

      2 -3 October: Relief of Leiden (Leidens Ontzet)

      These processions and festivities commemorate the defeat from the Spanish siege on 3 October 1574 that came close to starving Leiden into submission. In this Dutch celebration (sometimes known as 3 October), citizens distribute herring and white bread (haring en witte brood), just as the pirate-like band of Sea Beggars did during the siege, helping to drive the Spaniards away. You can also expect musical entertainment on the streets, fireworks, fairgrounds – and bowls of steaming hutspot, a carrot and onion stew which is traditionally eaten in the evening.

      16 November -5 December, 2020: St Nicholas (Sinterklaas), Amsterdam

      With more than a kilometre of floats and boats, Amsterdam hosts the largest Saint Nicholas parade in the world. Every year, Sinterklaas sails into Amsterdam with 600 black-painted assistants (Zwarte Pieten) and plenty of small-spiced biscuits (pepernoten). At least 400,000 spectators will line the canals to welcome him to the city on a Sunday in mid-November. From his arrival in mid-November until 5 December, Sinterklaas makes a number of appearances through the city and the Netherlands where he hosts exhibitions and meets children.

      The big gift-giving day is then 5 December (pakjesavond) when St Nicholas drops off presents on children's doorsteps before leaving for Spain, following the traditional legend. Read more about celebrating a Dutch Christmas.

      20 December -6 January 2020: World Christmas Circus, Amsterdam

      The best acts from the world’s circuses get into action under the big top at Koninklijk Theater Carré.

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