Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Are you planning a trip to Northern Europe and wondering what the best time of year to visit the Netherlands is? You’ve come to the right place then, as this page will give you the most comprehensive look at the main factors of visiting the Netherlands season by season.

I lived in the Netherlands for a solid portion of my adult life, spending time in Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Groningen. The country can be lovely to visit any time of the year, but it can also have downright miserable weather on any given day. Don’t worry though, I’ve provided all the info you need here to choose the best possible time for you to visit the Netherlands!

Introduction

This article will discuss the best time of year to visit the Netherlands and go through what it’s like to visit season by season and month by month. Weather data provided is for Amsterdam, but it’s a small country and the weather is pretty consistent throughout, so you can use Amsterdam as a good basis for the country in general when it comes to the weather.

Sunrise and sunset times are also provided for Amsterdam and given at the last day of each month. Again, it’s a pretty small country and sunrise and sunset times don’t vary greatly from one side to the other.

We will also discuss how crowded it is in each season and give you a brief introduction to the events and festivals that you might be able to participate in month by month. By the time you read through this you should have a pretty good idea what the best time of year to visit the Netherlands is.

Amsterdam view on the water
Amsterdam is amazing to visit any time of the year!

Spring in the Netherlands

Let’s start by talking about Spring in the Netherlands. Much changes in the country from the beginning of March to the end of May. Winter’s gloomy darkness gives way to long nights of warm sun as summer approaches.

Spring is a great time of year to visit the Netherlands. And since the country is particularly known for tulips and flower production, Spring is also one of the most popular times for visitors.

Weather

Spring is the driest season in the Netherlands. Rainfall is significantly less than the other three seasons and as spring ends, the days start to get really long as the summer solstice approaches. Temperatures warm up from March to May and become comfortable to sit outside on the terrace for a drink.

The average high and low temperatures as well as total average rainfall and end of month sunrise/sunset times are listed in the table below (all for Amsterdam).

While the average high in May might only be 64 degrees, May is often considered the best month in the Netherlands for a combination of warmth and sun. With an average of 231 hours of sunshine, May is the sunniest month of the year. And while the average temperature might not be too high, in recent years the temperature in May has been higher and May has become the beginning of beach season.

sunset at Zandvoort beach in the Netherlands
By the end of spring, the sun is setting close to 10 PM over the North Sea

Crowds

After summer, spring is the next most popular time to visit the Netherlands. Amsterdam can be crowded year-round, but the rest of the country is not too crowded with tourists in the spring, with one huge exception. Anything related to the Dutch flower fields near Lisse will be crazy crowded with people from all over the world who have come to see the famous tulip fields.

This is especially true for Keukenhof Gardens. The famous flower garden in Lisse is only open 6 weeks per year and it is jam packed every day. You will definitely feel the crowds, especially if you’re taking the bus from Schiphol Airport, which is how almost all tourists get there.

In central Amsterdam the streets aren’t too packed in March or April but start to get busy through May. You will start to see why over tourism is a thing in Amsterdam by the end of spring. Still, the crowds are peanuts compared to summer crowds.

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Events/Festivals

The main draw for a spring trip to The Netherlands is the opportunity to see the famous Dutch tulip fields and gardens. The Netherlands is the world’s top tulip exporter and fields full of the colorful flowers can be found all over the country, though the most extensive farms are in the provinces of North Holland and South Holland.

April is prime time for tulip fields, but it’s also possible to see some early bloomers in late March or some stragglers in early May. Flower season officially kicks off on the spring equinox (March 21) and runs about 6 weeks from there.

For up to date info on flower fields be sure to follow updates from Tulip Festival Amsterdam.

Chris Heckmann and Nimarta Bawa in the Lisse tulip fields - best time of year to visit the Netherlands
You’ll have to visit in spring to see those famous Dutch tulip fields

Keukenhof Gardens also opens on March 21 each year. Expect significant crowds when visiting Keukenhof. Lastly, the annual Tulip Festival and Flower Parade in Lisse takes place every April, usually on the third weekend of the month (check the website for exact dates).

In April you’ll also find possibly the biggest national event of the year: King’s Day. King’s Day is April 27 and it’s a national holiday where everyone dresses in orange and fills the canals of the cities – especially Amsterdam – with boats. Copious amounts of alcohol is consumed. It’s basically one massive street and canal party.

Lastly, May 5 is Liberation Day, a national holiday that celebrates the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis. There are usually outdoor concerts and festivals, complete with big celebrations.

Conclusion

Spring is quite possibly the best time to visit the Netherlands. You can experience the famous Dutch flower fields and multiple other national celebrations. On top of that the days are long and it’s the sunniest season in the Netherlands. The crazy summer crowds also haven’t arrived yet, which will make your visit a bit more pleasant.

Summer in the Netherlands

As spring fades into summer, the Netherlands really comes alive. The days are long, the temperatures rise, and summer festival season kicks in. Summer is the busiest season for tourism in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam, where the streets are noticeably busier.

Weather

Summer brings the warmest temperatures to the Netherlands, but also the most rain. While the days aren’t as gloomy as in winter, the rain falls harder when it does come. July and August are particularly known for bringing a lot of rain to the country. So while those months give you the best chance for warm beach weather, they also pose the risk of raining out your plans.

While the average summer high of only about 73 (22.5 C) might seem quite low if you’re from the US or Australia or really anywhere else, it’s pretty common in Northern Europe. Residential air conditioning is very rare in the Netherlands. So when a heat wave does come – it got to 99 (37 C) in July of 2019 in some parts of Amsterdam – it can be downright brutal.

The best thing about summer – especially June – is that the sky stays light almost all night. With sunset past 10 PM and twilight till about midnight, you hardly even notice the dark from about May till July.

One important thing to note is that in much of Europe you can almost count on it not raining in summer. But this isn’t Spain or Croatia. An entire week of miserable weather is common year round. Summer won’t save you from that. You’re much more likely to have nice days in July than you are in December, but if you’re counting on sunny summer days your entire trip you’re going to be gravely disappointed.

The average high and low temperatures as well as total average rainfall and end of month sunrise/sunset times are listed in the table below (for Amsterdam).

Of the summer months, my favorite is without a doubt June. It might not be as warm overall but it rains less and the sun seemingly never sets. An evening trip to the nearby beach in Zandvoort aan Zee is totally possible in June. Catching the sunset at 10:06 PM over the North Sea from the beach is a sight to behold!

Crowds

Summer is without a doubt the busiest season for tourism in the Netherlands. This is especially true in Amsterdam, but also affects other touristy places like Giethoorn, Zaanse Schans, and The Hague, to name a few. Summer holiday season is in full swing in Northern Europe and people flock to Amsterdam and the other major tourist attractions.

crowds of people in Amsterdam
While the photo might not be from summer, it gives you an idea of just how busy the streets of Amsterdam can get

Overtourism is a serious problem in Amsterdam. If you visit in July or August you will see what I mean. The streets are jam packed, the major museums are fully booked, and decent restaurants are impossible to get a table at without a reservation. It’s just the way it is though, as Europeans with children do their traveling during the summer school break.

Either way, the summer crowds can be overwhelming. Locals try to avoid the city center in the summer because there are just too many tourists walking around. The city has taken measures to try to limit tourists – like strict regulations on short term rentals (I.e. Airbnb) – but it remains to be seen if these things will have any measurable effect.

So essentially, if you’re visiting in July or August just expect to rub shoulders with your fellow travelers when you’re in central Amsterdam. The other cities aren’t as bad and don’t really have an overtourism problem, so if for some reason you’re avoiding Amsterdam (which I don’t recommend), you’ll be fine.

Events/Festivals

Summer is peak festival time in the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. The Dutch absolutely love festivals. This means basically a large outdoor gathering of people listening to DJs and most likely tripping on something not totally legal.

In summer there is some sort of festival literally every weekend, not just in Amsterdam but all throughout the country. Only a few of them are big enough to be noteworthy though. And in reality they’re all pretty much the same and if you’re not into DJ house music you’re not going to want to attend one.

Other than that there are a few other big summer events:

In June there is the Holland Festival in Amsterdam. This is the largest performing arts festival in the Netherlands and features live music, theater, opera, dance, and more. It takes place over the course of a month at various locations in the city.

July brings one of Europe’s largest gay pride celebrations to Amsterdam. Pride Amsterdam is a massive event with boat parades, street parties, live drag shows, and more. It takes place over the course of 9 days in late July or early August. If you’re in the city during this time it’s going to be hard to miss!

Pride Amsterdam boat parade
Pride Amsterdam is one of the largest gay pride events in Europe

Amsterdam also holds the largest summer house music event in the country every August. The Loveland Festival is the country’s premier music festival (but again, it’s all DJs) and takes place over a weekend in early August. Unlike Pride Amsterdam, you can easily avoid this if you want to.

Conclusion

Summer is the warmest time of year and has the longest days, but can also have heavy rainfall and cold days are not uncommon. There are tons of events in festivals all throughout summer, making it a great time to visit the Netherlands so long as you can handle the crowds.

Tourism in Amsterdam has gotten out of control as of late and the city is actively trying to deter people from visiting. Plus if you want to see those famous Dutch tulip fields, you won’t see them in summer!

Fall in the Netherlands

As the kids go back to school at the end of summer the days get significantly shorter and the temperature starts to fall. The number of gloomy days increases even though  total rainfall stays about the same as summer. Still, fall can be a great time of year to visit the Netherlands.

Weather

Fall in the Netherlands starts out beautiful and declines swiftly from there. By the fall equinox, the days are starting to get shorter and shorter and the gloominess of winter is on the horizon. October temperatures are decent, by once daylight savings time hits you can count on it being pitch black by 5:30.

As winter nears the wind starts to really pick up, especially in North Holland and South Holland (Amsterdam and Rotterdam/Hague). Wind in the Netherlands can be downright nuts. No one really knows Amsterdam as a windy city, but damn it can be windy.

Biking in the rain in Amsterdam
As winter nears, scenes like this becomes more common

I lived in Wellington, New Zealand, known as “Windy Wellington”, and I will tell you straight up that the wind bothered me more in Amsterdam than Wellington. The gusts might not be as high in the Dutch capital as they are in the New Zealand capital, but the wind just never seems to end!

Now combine that wind with sideways rain and you have a recipe for a miserable day touring around the Netherlands. This shouldn’t deter you from visiting in fall, but just know that after winter, fall is the next worst season in this part of the world.

Again, the average high and low temperatures as well as total average rainfall and end of month sunrise/sunset times are listed in the table below for fall (for Amsterdam).

Overall, the temperature in fall is comfortable for walking around Amsterdam or exploring the Dutch countryside. The main issue with fall is just that your daylight is limited and the days start to get windy and grey the closer you get to winter.

If you want to visit in the shoulder season and have to choose between fall and spring, then spring is the obvious choice.

Crowds

The good news about fall in the Netherlands is that the summer crowds are gone and the streets are comfortable again. September can still seem busy, but as the leaves start to change around October most travelers are flocking to warmer European destinations like Italy or Spain.

Events/Festivals

In October you will find the largest music event in the Netherlands: Amsterdam Dance Event. Again, this is all house music. No bands or instruments. Only DJs. That’s what the Netherlands does.

Serena Alessi at Amsterdam Dance Event
Amsterdam Dance Event is not my scene, but my friend Serena could care less that I’m not there

Amsterdam Dance Event is a 5-day electronic music festival and conference that runs continuously at venues all over the city. More than 2500 DJs perform at over 200 venues and the party runs all day and night. The highlight of the event is the Amsterdam Music Festival, which takes place on a Saturday night at Johan Cruyff Arena (the Ajax football stadium). If you’re into electronic music, it’s hard to top the Amsterdam Dance Event.

Conclusion

Fall in the Netherlands can be gloomy but with some luck you could get an entire week of sunshine. The days become significantly shorter as you approach November. Fall brings a lot less tourists to Amsterdam, however, which is a major benefit when you’re walking around the Red Light District or Museumplein or one of the many other busy areas of the city.

Winter in the Netherlands

Oh winter. The season we all get jealous of bears who get to sleep right through it. Winter brings darkness to the Netherlands, in more ways than one. The days are short around the winter solstice and the skies are often grey.

But winter does have a few things going for it. There are some large events, Christmas markets throughout the country, and as a bonus it doesn’t really get that cold.

Weather

Even though the Netherlands is pretty damn far north, the Gulf Stream and the country’s location on the North Sea keep winter temperatures relatively mild. It hardly ever stays below freezing for days on end. When it does, the canals freeze and the locals skate around. This happens rarely these days. Even overnight lows typically stay above freezing throughout winter.

Overall it’s really not that cold. The further inland you get the cooler it gets. But this isn’t Switzerland or Austria. There are also no mountains in the Netherlands so no high elevation to bring temperatures down.

The problem with winter is the gloominess. Even if the overall rainfall might not be that much, endless days of grey sky and a light misty rain mixed with gusting winds can really bring you down. On top of that, with a sunrise near 9 AM around the solstice, the winter darkness can really give you seasonal affective disorder.

Yet beautiful winter days do exist. The photo below is from a warm, sunny February day in Giethoorn. Not every day is dark and gloomy. Many people luck out with great winter weather on their trip to the Netherlands. It’s a risk you take, but the reward of lower hotel prices and far fewer tourists might be worth it!

Winter in Giethoorn - a couple kissing on the canal in a boat
A beautiful winter day in Giethoorn

Again, the average high and low temperatures as well as total average rainfall and end of month sunrise/sunset times are listed in the table below for winter (for Amsterdam).

Crowds

The big draw for a winter visit to the Netherlands is the lack of crowds. It’s the off-season and far fewer people visit than in the summer or even fall or spring. Amsterdam can still get busy in December for Christmas Markets and New Years celebrations. But overall you won’t feel the crowds in winter. If you’re looking to avoid as many other tourists as you can, winter may be the time for you.

Events/Festivals

Winter might be dark and gloomy, but it brings some fun events to the country. The Netherlands is hardly the best country in Europe to see Christmas markets, but Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the big cities have some pretty fun markets. Enjoy some gluhwein and some fine Dutch winter foods. The Christmas markets run most of the month of December.

Winter also brings the Amsterdam Light Festival to the canals of Amsterdam. The Light Festival runs from November to January and features various works of artwork made from lights that decorate the bridges and canals around Amsterdam. It’s a great time for a nighttime canal cruise!

Near the end of winter, Carnival comes to the Netherlands. While it might not be as internationally famous as Rio de Janeiro or Venice, Carnival in the Netherlands can get pretty lit. While many Dutch cities have Carnival celebrations, it’s far more popular and extravagant in the south in cities like Breda and Den Bosch. People dress up in crazy costumes and consume copious amounts of alcohol as they watch the parades. If you get a chance to experience Dutch Carnival do not pass it up!

Best Time of Year to Visit the Netherlands – Conclusion

So when is the best time of year to visit the Netherlands? That’s a decision for you to make based on the information I’ve provided you in this article. But if you ask me, spring is the best season to visit the Netherlands and May is the best month.  

May is often warmer than the monthly average, especially with climate change warming up Northern Europe, and those sunny evenings are to die for. And best of all, you get to avoid the crowds of peak summer. But any time you visit the Netherlands I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

Netherlands Travel Basics

Getting to the Netherlands

Unless you live in or are coming from somewhere else in northern Europe, you’re likely flying into Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Schiphol is well connected to just about everywhere on the planet and has direct flights to every continent except Australia. If you’re coming from elsewhere in Europe you can also look for flights to Rotterdam or Eindhoven.

Lay of the Land

The Netherlands is a small, flat country that has very few hills. From the northern tip to the southern tip of the country is barely a 4 hour drive. There are a lot of cities in such a small country and they are all pretty close together, well connected by train.

How to get around the Netherlands

The best way to see the Netherlands is by utilizing public transportation. The Netherlands has an amazing rail network and every city has an extensive tram, metro, or bus network. For tips about how to get around the Netherlands check out my 7-day Netherlands Itinerary!

Maarken on a day trip from Amsterdam
You can get just about anywhere in the Netherlands on public transportation, including Marken

You can also choose to rent a car if you’ll be spending more time in the countryside or smaller towns. Rental cars in the Netherlands are not exactly cheap, but you can find a great deal on a rental car with Rentalcars.com

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Language

Dutch is the official language, but the Netherlands has one of the highest rates of English proficiency in the world, even when you include English speaking countries. It’s unlikely you’ll come across someone who doesn’t speak English on your trip unless you’re in some really small towns.

Hotels and accommodations

Hotels are affordably priced in most Dutch cities, but ridiculously overpriced in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam I recommend staying at Mercure Sloterdijk Station. You’ll be a 5 minute train ride from downtown while avoiding the excessive noise. The staff is excellent and the rooms are much more spacious than hotel rooms in the city center.

Cycling

In the Netherlands, the bicycle is a form of transportation. Everyone who lives there has a bike (often more than one) and most people commute to work by bike. No trip to the Netherlands is complete without renting a bike at some point. Just be careful when on the bike paths, as they can get very crowded. Stay to the right and don’t run any red lights and you should be fine.

Food

The Dutch aren’t known for their food, but you can find some excellent restaurants around the country. See my post about eating in the Netherlands for a full rundown of Dutch food culture.

Travel insurance

Before you visiting the Netherlands it’s advised to purchase travel insurance so that you’re protected for the unexpected. World Nomads provides coverage to travelers in over 100 countries. You can find a great policy on World Nomads by using the link below.

Source: https://aroundtheworldwithme.com/

By Lala