12 Reasons to Visit Amsterdam in Autumn

Autumn is “shoulder season,” when backpackers return to school, summer vacationers return home, and locals reclaim their towns before winter’s chill descends. In Amsterdam, leaves on tree-lined canals turn from green to gold and rust before disappearing by November. Days gradually shorten, seasonal decorations appear, and Dutchies compensate for colder, rainier days by ramping up the gezelligheid in bars and cafés.

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Amsterdam’s Canal Ring is a free, outdoor museum.

To make the most of fewer crowds, lower airfares and shorter lines at major attractions in the months when the weather is still pleasant, here are a dozen awesome Amsterdam activities to enjoy in autumn:

Papienland has been serving up delicious apple pie since 1864.
Papeneiland has been serving apple pie since 1864.

1. Get lost in the Grachtengordel. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring is a free, outdoor museum. Its four main arteriesthe Singel, Herengracht, Kiezersgracht and Prinsengrachtare lined with 17th century canal houses, historic landmarks, unique boutiques and waterfront cafés. On a chilly fall day, nothing beats getting lost in the historic semicircle and ducking in for apple pie and hot chocolate at Papeneiland, on Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht, where 19th century locals consumed the same fare.

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DJs from around the world spin tunes at venues like supperclub during ADE.

2. Party hard at Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE). One of the world’s biggest electronic music extravaganzas, featuring 2,000 artists and 450 events in 100 venues, celebrates its 20th anniversary in Amsterdam, from October 14–18, 2015. For five days, top DJs from around the world will spin tunes at venues like Paradiso, Melweg, Trouw, AIR and Sugar Factory, as well as on rooftop terraces and at museums, clothing shops and cinemas.

3. Indulge in Chocolate Decadence. On October 24, a chocolate-inspired dinner will launch Amsterdam’s Origin Chocolate Event with a main course by Chef Chris Naylor of Michelin star restaurant Vermeer. Purchase tickets online until October 19 for the dinner and/or October 25 tasting event, which will showcase chocolate made of the finest quality cocoa from specific regions. Sample offerings from 14 top patissiers and cocoa gurus in the city with the largest cocoa port in the world.

4. Drink Herfstbok Bokbier. Available from October–February, Bock Beer is a ruby red brew with a warm, caramel flavor—perfect for autumn. While several Dutch breweries produce it, Amstel Bokbier is considered among the best. True aficionados won’t want to miss the PINT Bokbierfestival in the historic Beurs van Berlage building near Dam Square. From October 24–26, sample over 50 varieties of bock beer accompanied by live music at this annual beer festival.

Like oliebollen, poffertjes are a seasonal treat.

5. Eat Oliebollen. Spaniards have churros, Belgians have waffles, and Dutchies have oliebollendeep fried balls of dough flecked with raisins, similar to American donuts. By mid-October, they’re sold at mobile stands throughout Amsterdam. Poffertjes are a yummy variation.

6. Hear London Calling. From October 31–November 1, new bands from Britain and America will perform at this annual production. On the Paradiso stage, see newcomers Wild Smiles from the UK and DMAs from Australia, both named new talents of 2014.

7. Spend the night in a museum. On Museumnacht, November 1, 50 Amsterdam museums will welcome evening visitors for art, music, fashion and film events, alongside their regular exhibitions. At The Hermitage Amsterdam’s lavish 5th anniversary exhibit, Dining with the Tsars, view porcelain and creamware services from the Hermitage in St Petersburg in a setting reminiscent of the Tsar’s court. Until January 2015, the Rijksmuseum presents its collection of 20th century photography. On November 28, the Van Gogh Museum will unveil its revamped collection in the spectacular setting opened last year.

Tuchinsky
There’s nothing like date night at the gorgeous Art-Deco Pathé Tuschinski.

8. See a movie. When the weather’s wet, indoor cinematic action is just the ticket. From November 19–30, find some at the 27th annual International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA), when filmmakers from around the globe descend on Amsterdam for some 250 screenings, film discussions and public debates. Venues on and around the Rembrandtplein include the gorgeous Art-Deco Pathé Tuschinski and Pathé de Munt.

9. Embrace High Times. On Thanksgiving weekend, November 2327, High Times returns to Amsterdam to host the 27th Cannabis Cup. At the five-day fest, attendees can vote for their favorite strain and sample product that’s somewhat more stimulating than turkey.

Find more tips for exploring Amsterdam in my AFAR Guide.
Find more tips for exploring Amsterdam in my AFAR Guide.

10. Play Drag Queen Bingo. Every Tuesday evening, local drag queens play bingo at The Queen’s Head, a gay bar on the Zeedijk. Highly amusing no matter what your sexual orientation.

11. Swim in your birthday suit. It’s cold outside, but that won’t bother you at Zuiderbad, an indoor swimming pool near Museumplein that allows nude swimming on Sunday afternoons. Constructed in 1897, the building is now a national monument, and you’ll see why if you visit. Nude swimming in more modern surroundings is offered Tuesday evenings at Het Marnix in the Jordaan.

With pomp + circumstance, Sinterklaas arrived at Central Station from Spain by steamboat.
Sinterklass chugs into town via steamboat from Spain on November 16, 2014. Photo credit: Rich Theemling

12. Welcome Sinterklaas. On Sunday, November 16, Sinterklaas (the Dutch Saint Nicholas) will steam into Amsterdam from Spain with his band of helpers, the Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). After transferring to Amerigo, his white horse, the beloved Sint & Co. will parade through town, tossing pepernoten to expectant children. The merry band will stay in the Netherlands until December 5, when they’ll distribute goodies to good Dutchies and haul naughty ones back to Spain for a warm winter.

17 comments

  1. I totally love your blog. I never knew I would be able to discover and learn so much about Amsterdam and the dutch way of life here. I am so totally waiting to try out the Herfstbok Bokbie and the Oliebullen. I believe it will be a gastronomical delight and I am already salivating thinking about the same. It completely prepares me for my trip in November and I am looking forward to trying out most of these. Melissa, your blog is awesome. In my short trip of 3 days, I am sure I will be coming back with wonderful experiences.

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  2. All these wondrous places! I feel so overwhelmed, both with knowledge and a warm excitement blooming in the depths of my guts. I can’t wait to see this city in what seems to be the best month. Drag queen bingo? We don’t even have that in the gay district in my hometown of Tampa! And the Olliebollen look like they are absolutely worth traveling to Europe for. Paired with a glass of Herfstbok Bokbier and I will certainly die and go to heaven. Amsterdam undoubtedly has everything I am looking for this autumn!

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  3. I couldn’t have chosen a better time to read you blog as autumn is starting and I’m travelling to Amsterdam for the first time. Sadly I wont be able to assist to some of the activities you describe, but just reading your blog (+ your power of description) makes me enjoy them! And more important makes me wanna come back to share all the wonders this city offers with the people I love the most! thanks Melissa!

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  4. What a great article to read when planning a trip to Amsterdam in autumn…. exciting to experience all I can within this blog with the golden trees as my background. Definitely will use this as a guide to what I should watch out for in my short stay in A’dam!

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  5. What an enticing blog! I was a bit sceptical about travelling to Amsterdam in the fringe season because I thought everything would quieten down as winter looms. Au contraire! I cannot wait to lose myself in the rust-carpeted canals and indulge in the Oliebollen. See you soon Amsterdam!

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  6. I love your blog, its very informative and interesting. I am excited to come explore this beautiful city, your blog builds my anticipation. It has so much to offer, my experience in Amsterdam will be life changing. I cant wait to dance the night away, drink some great beer, and enjoy the high times.

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  7. After reading this blog, I will definitely visit Amsterdam in autumn. Hopefully with a “not too cold and rainy” weather and I believe there has to be more than 12 reasons though. For sure I will go with getting lose in the Canal Ring, tasting some delicious food and checking out the IDFA!! Wish I could stay for the thanksgiving weekend, because the five-day fest just sounds tons of fun.

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  8. Your blog is so well written! I guess this article is my favorite; really looking forward to discover your adopted city but it will be in early winter for me! That will be 4 amazing days before going back to school. My shoulder season maybe.
    Oliebollen look nice, hope I will have the chance to try out one of these

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  9. I´m glad that i will (coincidentaly) come to Amsterdam just on autumn, when coldness of the outside can be balanced by many indoor actvities. Mainly eating 😀 Thats what many travellers are loking for and i´m not a exception. Even though I´m gonna miss Chocolate Decadence by one day only, i will try Oliebollen for sure! I think, this little dainty looks to have much incommon with norwegian boller. Thank you for a great tip – visit Papeneiland for a piece of apple pie seems to be also very nice experience and necessary energy for another activities 🙂

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