There are many reasons to visit the Netherlands – perhaps you want to see the tulips in bloom, join the King's Day street parties in Amsterdam, or cycle along the country's many dykes and canals. As officials in Amsterdam look to create a balance between visitor numbers and locals, you may be keen to avoid the crowds yourself. You'll also need to factor in the notoriously fickle Dutch weather with its chilly spells even in summer, and what fits best with your budget. With all that in mind, here's everything you need to know to plan best time for your visit to the Netherlands.
High season: June to August
Best time to go for decent weather
June to August is the busiest time to visit the Netherlands. Expect high prices, accommodations to book up early, and crowds at the major museums. On the plus side, everything is open, and this is your best chance for balmy weather, perfect for enjoying a café terrace or a countryside bike ride.
Shoulder season: April to May, September to October
Best time to go for moderate prices
There are fewer crowds during shoulder season, and most sights remain open. Prices are moderate; you'll only need to book popular places in Amsterdam. Weather can be wet and cold. Bring warm clothes for outdoor cafés.
Low season: November to March
Best time to go to avoid the crowds
In the cities during low season, it may just be you and a masterpiece at a famous museum. Outside cities though, many sights close down through winter. Weather can be chilly and/or snowy, so only plan on biking at this time if you're particularly hardy. There are plenty of deals on accommodations.
The first month of the year is unavoidably cold and dark but on the bright side, lines at museums in major cities are nonexistent and you can thaw out in a cozy café by a fireplace. It's also the start of the annual tulip season.
Key events: National Tulip Day.
It's still cold and the nights are long but if you head south, you'll find the Catholic provinces getting ready for the year's biggest party, Carnaval, where on the weekend before Shrove Tuesday there are celebrations that would do Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans proud. Maastricht's party means days of uninhibited drinking, dancing and street music.
Key events: Carnaval, Amsterdam International Fashion Week.
If the weather complies, you can get a jump-start on bulb field viewing at Keukenhof Gardens in March, and since the season is still off-peak, you won’t have to fight the crowds to enjoy them. Europe's largest art show, TEFAF, takes place across 10 days in the first half of March in Maastricht.
Key events: European Fine Art Foundation Show (TEFAF).
April is all about King’s Day in the Netherlands. It's the show-stopping highlight of Amsterdam’s jam-packed calendar (expect plenty of uproarious boozing, live music and merriment, plus a giant market), but you'll find celebrations taking place all over the country. This is the biggest – and possibly the best – street party in Europe, which celebrates the monarch on April 27 (April 26 if the 27th is a Sunday).
Key events: King’s Day (Koningsdag), World Press Photo.
Alternating rainy and gorgeous weather and plenty of historic events make post-King’s Day a perfect time to explore the country. Hope for a balmy weekend to get out and visit the windmills.
Key events: Herdenkingsdag & Bevrijdingsdag (Remembrance Day and Liberation Day), National Windmill Day.
Visitors start flocking in for the summer peak season, and there are plenty of events happening countrywide. The promise of great weather and very long days draws people outside. It's typically sunny and warm, prime for bicycle rides and drinks on canal-side patios.
Key events: Holland Festival, Ronde om Texel, Oerol, Fashion Festival Arnhem, Rotterdam Architecture Month, Fiets Elfstedentocht, Pinkpop.
The days are long, the sun is shining, beaches get busy and outdoor cafés are mobbed with locals and tourists alike. Nobody wants to be inside.
Key events: Keti Koti, North Sea Jazz Festival, De Vierdaagse, André Rieu Season, Zomerfeesten.
August is a surprisingly pleasant time to visit, with temperatures that are much milder than in many other European hot spots. Many Dutch decamp for holidays elsewhere. The small town of Sneek hosts the largest sailing event on Europe’s inland waters, and rainbow flags blanket Amsterdam with the Pride Parade taking place on the canals.
Key events: Sneekweek, Pride Amsterdam, Noorderzon, Lowlands, Grachtenfestival.
Summer may be technically over but September is one of the best months to visit the Netherlands. There are some superb festivals along with fair weather and fewer crowds.
Key events: Wereldhavendagen, Nederlands Film Festival, SUP11.
A kaleidoscope of autumnal hues colors the country's parks and gardens, and while the weather may remain mild, low-season prices kick in and lines at major attractions start to thin out.
Key events: Leidens Ontzet, Amsterdam Dance Event, Dutch Design Week.
Cultural events and reduced low-season rates make up for the shorter days and chillier nights, while the arrival of Sinterklaas in Amsterdam heralds the start of the festive season.
Key events: Glow, Sinterklaas Intocht, International Documentary Film Festival, Le Guess Who?, 11-11.
Winter magic blankets the Netherlands (as, some years, does snow), ice-skating rinks set up in open spaces, and the country is a vision of twinkling lights. A long-standing Dutch tradition sees Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) bring children presents and families exchange small gifts on December 5 ahead of religious celebrations for Christmas. New Year's Eve in Amsterdam is marked by fireworks displays over the Amstel and elsewhere around town. Big stages on the Museumplein host live bands and plentiful beer tents for a giant party. Other cities have impromptu raucous celebrations on main squares.
Key events: Sinterklaas, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve.
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