Amsterdam’s Spectacular Summer of Festivals

Whether it's the King's birthday or start of the cultural season, Amsterdammers love to party.
Whether it’s the King’s birthday or start of the cultural season, Amsterdammers love to party.

With 300+ festivals on its yearly calendar, Amsterdam has earned its reputation as a cultural hub, as well as an open-minded party city. Encompassing dance, theater, music, film, visual arts and gastronomy, festivals in the Dutch capital appeal to a broad range of tastes, interests and ages. From children’s puppet shows in Vondelpark’s Open Air Theater to classical music performances at Het Concertgebouw, there’s something for everyone on Amsterdam festival stages.

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

As the days lengthen in spring, the season of open air theater and concerts begins. From May 30–June 23, The Holland Festival returns, bringing acclaimed performances from around the world to venues throughout Amsterdam. Since 1947, the festival has been offering an eclectic mix of theater, music, dance, opera, film and visual arts. Programs emphasizing disciplinary crossovers embrace new forms in contemporary music and theater. Check out Liam Gillick’s free open-air exhibition on Museumplein, displayed throughout the festival.

From May–September, Vondelpark’s Open Air Theatre presents a program packed with dance, cabaret, jazz, children’s theater, stand-up comedy, one-off festivals and all music genres. Outdoor concerts and performances are planned on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, from June 7–August 23. While entry is free, donations are appreciated. If you’re a salsa fan, don’t miss today’s Summer Breeze Latin Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary in Vondelpark on Sunday, May 24. From 14:30–15:00, Patrick Mussendijk of Guateque Dance Company will lead a free salsa workshop.

Open Garden Days and Gay Pride

Museum Van Loon is one of many venues that open  private gardens to visitors during Open Garden Days.
Museum Van Loon is one of many venues that open private gardens to visitors during Open Garden Days.

Quieter but no less colorful are Amsterdam’s Open Garden Days, when some of the city’s greenest secrets are revealed: private gardens hidden behind the stately canal mansions lining the UNESCO World Heritage-recognized Grachtengordel (Canal Belt). From June 19–21, 2015, doors leading to the inner sanctum of these 17th century residences will be open to the public. Themed “Art in the Moat Garden,” this year’s Open Garden Days fest features 25+ private gardens in bloom. A ticket allowing access to all of the gardens costs €18 at the door; €16 if purchased in advance.

Divas from around the world will compete in the Stiletto Sprint, Handbag Toss and Bitch Volleyball at the Drag Queen Olympics.
Divas from around the world strut their stuff during Amsterdam Gay Pride.

Gay Pride arrives in late July, bringing the rainbow-hued crowd to town. With dozens of LGBT bars, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, saunas and hotels catering to gays from July 25–August 2, 2015, there will be plenty of action throughout the city. Street and club parties are planned all weekend long, culminating in the infamous Canal Parade on Saturday, August 1.

The Grachtenfestival and Uitmarkt

The annual Prinsengracht Concert is the highlight of the Grachtenfestival.
The annual Prinsengracht Concert is the highlight of the Grachtenfestival.

From August 14–23, Amsterdam’s canals will become the stage for world-class classical music when the 18th annual Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival) hits town. The 10-day festival is expected to attract over 60,000 visitors from the Netherlands and abroad to venues throughout the city.

Scapino Ballet Rotterdam performs on Museumplein.

Summer winds down with Uitmarkt, August 28–30, ushering in the cultural season, when Museumplein transforms into a giant stage for new, emerging and established talent. For three days, 450,000+ theatre, music, book and film lovers will enjoy 450+ productions ranging from classical concerts to drama, puppet shows, hip-hop, ballet and jazz performances by some 2,000 artists.

Thousands crowd Museumplein for free live performances during Uitmarkt.
Thousands crowd Museumplein for free live performances during Uitmarkt.
Sculptures on Museumplein during Uitmarkt.
Sculptures on Museumplein during Uitmarkt.

In addition to performances on Museumplein’s grassy lawn, the Manuscripta Book Market, Uitmarkt Junior for kids, and numerous craft, snack and information booths will add to the fun of Uitmarkt.

 

7 comments

  1. Oh my gosh thank you!!! Open Garden Day!!! Held exactly in the days I’ll stay in Amsterdam!!! Definitely will visit and spend a whole day there!!!

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  2. Well, crap. Just a couple weeks too early for the Gay pride and only a week early for the Garden days 😦

    Luckily I can still see an open-air concert while my sis and I are in town!

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  3. All those events sound great! Unfortunalaty we will be to late or to early to join them. But thanks to your post we have a very strong motivation to come back and dive into the world of classic music and Open gardens, not to mention the Gay Pride (just a week to early!). Thank you very much for sharing!

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  4. Wauw! It seems Amsterdam is like an explosion of cultural, diversity vibes! My boyfriend and I are coming next weekend! We hope we can manage to decide what of all those exiting activities we will do… But I see the most of the festivals are open next month so maybe we will come back when all the festivals are open! 🙂

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