With cobblestone lanes wrapped around arched bridges and canals, Amsterdam makes a charming stop at any time of year.
All the romantic scenery, coupled with mild weather, makes it tough to decide when to go. Every travel season in Amsterdam has pros and cons, whether it’s sniffing fields of fresh tulips or waiting in crowds to catch a glimpse of a Rembrandt. Here’s our guide to help you decide the best time to visit Amsterdam.
June to August is best for great weather and festivals
With warm weather, lots of daylight and amazing outdoor events, summer is one of the best times to visit Amsterdam. Open-air electronic music festivals are popular with the locals and draw international crowds, most notably the techno-heavy Awakenings Festival (in July) and the progressive- and percussive-minded Dekmantel (in late July to early August).
This is the peak season for Amsterdam, so queues for attractions and prices for accommodation are at their highest. Book seats at your must-eat restaurants at least two weeks before travel, and time slots at popular sights like the Anne Frank Huis and Van Gogh Museum at least six weeks prior.
Packing tip: Pack layers of clothing – Dutch weather is notoriously fickle and there can be chilly spells even in summer. A light jacket and small umbrella will mean you’re prepared for the weather but won’t stand out like a tourist.
November to February is best for budget travelers
Wallet-friendly accommodations make winter a great time to travel. You won’t freeze thanks to mild temperatures (usually around 37°F/3°C), although expect some gray and dreary conditions. In December and January, a little snowfall is also common (although it often turns Amsterdam’s streets to muddy slush – not a winter wonderland).
Typically, February (right before tulip season) is the cheapest time of year to visit Amsterdam. With some luck, canals might freeze over and fill up with ice skaters – thinning out the already-low traffic in Amsterdam’s incredible museums even more. After marveling at Dutch Golden Age paintings or bundling up for a canal cruise, bruin cafés (brown cafes) are the perfect way to warm up with hearty food and cozy candlelight.
March to May is the best time to see the tulips
March to May is tulip time, marking the start of Amsterdam’s spring (usually about mid-March to mid-June). Smackdab in the middle of this period, around April, is generally the best time to experience a tour de force of tulips in full bloom. This is also prime time for visiting flower markets like the famous Bloemenmarkt which explodes with fresh-cut stems and kaleidoscopic petals.
As such, accommodation and flight prices for Amsterdam tend to go up in April and May. A cheaper option is Amsterdam’s second shoulder season, September to October. Prices and visitor numbers drop from their peak-season highs yet the weather stays mostly sunny and mellow (although a little rainfall may be par for the course).
Here’s a monthly guide to what you can expect through the year in Amsterdam. Remember that some events straddle the months, and all events are subject to change.
January might be cold and dark, but museum queues are sparse and downtown areas actually have elbow room. On the third Saturday in January, the Dutch celebrate Tulpendag, a kickoff celebration preluding tulip season, with thousands-strong tulip displays along the Dam.
February is shy of sunshine and festivities, but thankfully, Amsterdam has lots of lovely bruin cafés to warm up and indulge in the traditional Dutch gezellig (cozy) culture. Amsterdam celebrates Chinese New Year with a parade from the Kuan Yin Shrine Buddhist temple in Chinatown to Dam Square.
Key Events: Chinese New Year
Tulips bloom in March and bring ecstatic vibes. Despite this, the weather can be unreliable – waterproof clothes are a must. The three-day techno and house festival DGTL takes place over Easter, christening the season for open-air dancing.
Key Events: DGTL, Open Tower Day
Longer days, higher temperatures, fewer crowds, and full blooms – April is an Amsterdammer’s favorite month for good reason. King’s Day, the biggest street party of the year, is an extravaganza of orange outfits, flea market shopping and beer.
Terraces and cobblestone streets get busier in May. This month, you can enjoy mild weather and observe the last tulips bloom. During National Mill Day in the second week of May, you can peek clamber around inside windmills and watermills (look for the ones with a blue pennant).
Key Events: Remembrance and Liberation Day, National Mill Day
Peak summer season is here! The weather is at its best, waterside patios and open-air events are in full swing. The Netherlands’ biggest festivals for garden tours and the performing arts take place this month.
Key Events: Holland Festival, Open Garden Days, Awakenings Festival, Taste of Amsterdam
In July, lazy Amsterdam days are at their longest. Crowds swarm outside of historic buildings and museums, but it’s the perfect time to experience outdoor music, bicycle rides and sunset drinks on tiny canal-side terraces.
Key Events: Amsterdam Roots Festival, Over het IJ Festival, Vondelpark Festival
Lots of outdoor events take place in August, bringing the high season out with a bang. Amsterdam’s temperatures are a bit milder than other European capitals at this time and the city experiences few summer closures in comparison.
Key Events: Amsterdam City Swim, Pride Amsterdam, Grachtenfestival, Amsterdam International Art Fair, Sail Amsterdam, Uitmark
September is one of the best months to visit Amsterdam. Summer is essentially over, but the good weather tends to linger for a few weeks yet. Many good festivals, fewer crowds.
Key Events: Amsterdam International Fashion Week, National Restaurant Week, Open Monument Days, Jordaan Festival
Autumn in Amsterdam is a whole cozy mood. Warm, toasty colors erupt across the city’s parks and gardens. Low-season prices also start to kick in and queues begin to dwindle.
Key Events: Amsterdam Dance Event
Shorter waits for restaurant tables and emptier museums make up for the lack of events – and sunlight – in November. In the month’s second half, the festive season begins with St. Nicholas’s arrival by boat.
Key Events: Sinterklaas Intocht, PAN Amsterdam
Winter is a magical time in Amsterdam, even if snow is usually nonexistent. Ice-skating rinks are popular hangouts and the city goes a-twinkle with fairy lights.
Key Events: Christmas, New Year’s Eve