Like most European countries, the Netherlands has four seasons, which means closing the best time to visit it will have a lot to do with the weather and holidays both in the rest of Europe and in the Lower Lands. There are a lot of activities and different events going on all year round.
The best time to visit the Netherlands depends on the activities you want to do. During spring, all the tulip fields are in bloom and Keukenhof opens its doors. During the summer there are many festivals and outdoor activities and during Christmas time, winter markets, ice skating, frozen canals…
Sometimes you don’t get to choose when you can go on a holiday, and to that, I might add that any time is a good time to visit the Netherlands, in my opinion. However, you may have some preferences and, of course, you are not going to go during winter to the Netherlands and expect to see tulip fields. Do you want to know more about what you can do all year round? Keep reading.
Best Time to Visit the Netherlands
When going on a holiday you cannot always choose when to go, sometimes it has to be when you are asked to take them, sometimes it depends on the prices of the flights and sometimes on the availability. All in all, there are very moments when you can choose when to travel.
I have lived for several years in the Netherlands and that has taught me a lot about what are the best activities to do in every season, what you can’t miss when you should see what and when it would better to be avoided. I believe this is a country to enjoy all year around. What should be remembered is that although the weather is at its best in the summer, the museums especially are extremely busy, everything is relative. On a positive side, there is always something going on and noway you can get bored. Activities depend on the weather, so here are the average temperatures all year round:
|15 C/59 F
|5 C/41 F
|19 C/66 F
|21 C/70 F
If I had to pick one month, I would say the best month to go to Amsterdam is May or maybe June for a balance of great weather and fewer tourists since the school holidays haven’t started just yet. You can probably be a bit more flexible with cities outside of Amsterdam. This is the case in all the off-season months, right after the Autumn holidays (at the beginning of November), right after the Christmas holidays (during January and the first weeks of February) and so on.
If you are worried that it may rain, don’t worry, there are chances of rain even in the sunniest and warmest summer day. If you don’t like rain maybe you should avoid the whole north of Europe. However, I would say that even when it’s raining, it is worth it. Discover what is the best season to visit the Netherlands for you:
Autumn is my favorite season ever. I love this country during autumn because you actually live this. It is definitely very cold and rainy but it also has all the magical colours of the season and it is great to spend your time doing indoor activities. Some of my recommendations would be:
- Visiting Museums: this is something you can do all year round. However, visiting museums during this time of the year is even better, there are not so many tourists and it is way more enjoyable. Right at the beginning of last Autumn i got my museumkaart and that way I discovered what now is my favourite museum and all the favourite ones.
- Visiting castles: autumn is the perfect weather to visit these castles. It is the season that allows you to walk around and enjoy the whole surrounding of these beautiful Medieval structures. Castles during this time of the months have a magical feeling within them. If you want to know more, not so long ago I wrote an article about the most beautiful castles in the Netherlands and a list of them indicating where they are, to make it easier to plan your visit.
- Discover museums during the night: an amazing experience is going to the Museumnacht. For this you need to book ticket in advance, but it is a great way to attend a lot of events, talks and parties that take place inside most of the museums in Amsterdam during the night until 2 am!
- Film festival season: the Nederlands Film Festival takes place in Utrecht every autumn and the International Documentary Film Festival, in Amsterdam in November.
- Apple picking: in the Netherlands, there is an apple picking day (Landelijke Appelplukdag) and it is a tradition for children (yet extended to grown-ups too). This day takes place in November and you can see in this map what fruit you can pick up and where: map.
The Netherlands is not the coldest country in Europe but for me, after living for a decade in Spain, a winter there was like living in the North Pole. Some winter days give you the feeling of never wanting to leave your bed, but there are so many things to do that it is almost impossible to end up doing it:
- Everything has fairy lights: it is something silly but I love this detail! Fairy lights are everything and I find them encouraging to want to walk around in the city and visit all the shops. The best place to shop in Amsterdam are in Kalverstraat, yet the 9 Straatjes are my favourite spot to walk around and buy your Christmas presents.
- Light Festival: this is an outdoor and free activity. The Light Festival is the compilation of pieces of art made by Dutch and international artists who design something to be in the middle of the canals for a month. It is inevitable to run into these sculptures and original creations while walking around the city and there are many tours by foot and by boat organised to explain more about this initiative to anyone interested.
- Christmas Markets: not so long ago I made a guide of the best Christmas markets in the Netherlands. They start in December and they are definitely worth seeing. There are many of them all over the country but the one in Museumplein is the most popular one, with stalls, ice skating rings, fire pits and many activities for all ages.
- Indulge the typical festive Dutch treats: in the Christmas markets, pasticeries, supermarkets and everywhere, you will be able to find the typical Dutch treats, amazing sweets only available during this time of the year. These are pepernoten and kruidnoten, oliebollen, poffertjes and more.
- Discover Sinterklaas: the Dutch Christmas is all about Sinterklaas, with their own little treats, tradition and parades. It happens during the beginning of December, on the 6th, during the day of Saint Nicholas.
- Snow: it snows! It doesn’t snow always and not a lot but when it does its magical. The second winter I spent there besides snowing, all the canals got frozen and the people started ice skating in them. Something worth seeing!
- New Years Eve in Rotterdam: the city of Rotterdam is not as popular as Amsterdam. It is, however, a very beautiful new and inspiring city and it is definitely impressive during New Years Eve. In the huge port of Rotterdam it always takes place the annual fireworks spectacle and it is definitely worth seeing.
If that doesn’t convince you, find out more about why you should visit the Netherlands during winter, in this article.
I know that most people think the best time to visit the Netherlands would be in spring because of the tulip season and all the bulbs in full bloom but that doesn’t always mean good weather in this country. In any case, it is worth visiting it during spring at least once in your life. Until the middle of May you have time to see the patchwork fields in the Dutch countryside. What should you do during spring in the Netherlands?
- Visit Keukenhof: when it comes to flowers, there is nothing more spectacular than this park. All the bulbs that there are in this park are placed in shapes and create a theme park all made by tulips of all colours. You can plan your visit ahead here and you have to do it because it is quite hard to get in otherwise. After all, it is only open a month a year, because that is how long the tulips lasts alive and fully in bloom. You can visit the park, going by bike, by bus or car but the important part is going!
- Bike Excursions: either to Keukenhof or anywhere else, a bike excursion is a great idea. Cycling in the Netherlands is always a great experience, but when spring is here, the fields of tulips or sunflowers are in bloom in the whole country. The best destinations are between the biggest Dutch cities, like, for instance, Leidse Bollenroute.
- Pick up Tulips in Dam Square: in the month of January every year takes place the National Tulip Day, a day when 200,000 tulips are placed in the square and anyone can queue and pick up a bunch for themselves. They are a gift from the City Hall of Amsterdam to celebrate the existence of this beautiful flower.
- Go to the park for a picnic or a walk: every single city of the Netherland I have been to have amazing parks. Dutch like green, doing picnics, buying some treats in Albert Heijn and just enjoying the sun when it finally comes out.
- Visit the Botanical Gardens: everything green is beautiful in spring, including the botanical garden. I would recommend the ones in Utrecht and in Amsterdam, both enjoyable little corners in these big cities where one can enjoy nature. Going to the zoo could also be a great option, all the animals start having their cubs.
Summer is definitely the favourite season to travel to the Netherlands. And why is so? the Northern Hemisphere has summer holidays during the months of June, July and August. Plus, this gloomy and rainy country enjoys some sunny days during the months.
If you go to the Netherlands, even during the summer time, it won’t be because you want to go to the beach. The summer here is great, days are long, and when I say long I mean being outside and enjoying from the day light until up to 11pm! The feeling you get while being on a holiday here during the summer is that you have twice as much time to enjoy sightseeing and walking around. There are countless outdoor activities to do, including cycling, boat riding and picnics. But, what else?
- Museums: museums are open all year round but also during the summer time. Some of them do also outdoor exhibitions (such as the Rijksmuseum) and most of them allow you to book your tickets online to avoid queuing or not being able to enter because of the big amount of tourists visiting during this time of the year.
- Child-friendly cities: if you have to choose a country to go on a holiday with your children, definitely consider the Netherlands. Most museums are free for children in the city of Amsterdam and have big discounts in the rest of the country. You can be sure that cycling and going around is safe, even in the bigger cities, and everywhere there are workshops for children. I would recommend Artis, the Jewish Museum and their bread making activities and NEMO, Science museum.
- Cycling: of course, I had to mention this one. If you want to spend your holidays in Amsterdam, an option would be to rent a bike and visit one of the towns around the city and cycle there. Visiting the windmills and the amazing landscapes is the best experience.
- Summer festivals: in the Netherlands, summer means festivals. There is no Dutch person I know who doesn’t go to at least one festival during the summer. There are festivals in the biggest cities and in the smallest town. Some free ones and some expensive ones. Read more here.
- Pride Parade: every year, at the end of July, the Pride Parade takes place. This has to be one of the best reasons to visit the country during this time. It is one of the best parades in the whole world and one of the first ones. Everybody comes from all over the world just to participate and the whole city gets involved.
- Terrace: since the sun doesn’t shine a lot in this country, Dutch take any chance they get to be outdoors and enjoy it. All bars, restaurants, cafes and even most shops, have terrace where people can enjoy of some fresh food or beverage and enjoy the sun. Join them!
- You can swim in the open air: maybe the beaches are not the best ones, but Dutch know how to chill in hot days. Besides swimming in the canals, which I personally don’t find very attractive, there are many urban beaches, with what in Spain they call “chiringuitos” or beach bars, sand and music during the night. Here you have a list of the most popular ones, even though there are some others in Utrecht and in the Dutch country side.
- Open Air cinema: when I said that they enjoy the good weather, I meant it. The Dutch organise many festivals, including these open air film festivals with either independent movies or popular ones. There are many of them in Amsterdam, but my favourite one is Pluk de Nacht in Utrecht. It is a great experience, some of them are free, some of them charge you for the chair and you can sit on the floor or even bring your own. All of them have food and drink tracks, something very Dutch too.
- Pop Up Ice-cream stores: I had to mention this one because I was surprised when I discovered them. There are ice-cream tracks and ice-cream pop up stores all over the country. And if I may add, it is very decent Italian style ice-cream.
- Take a trip to Madurodam: if you want to see a mini version of the Netherlands, in The Hague there is a 1:25 scale of this small country. You can see all of the famous landscapes and buildings, small versions of all the windmills, bridges, museums, palaces, castles, railway system, airport and all. Since this small museum is outdoors, there is no better season to visit it and enjoy it.
- Visit the Oude Haven in Rotterdam: not everything is in Amsterdam. Rotterdam is also a great city to discover and specially during the long summer days. One of the activities to do is to walk around the old port of Rotterdam, a beautiful landscape. Afterwards you can go to eat some treats at the big and beautiful market of Rotterdam.