Amsterdam for Culture Vultures

Sculptures on Museumplein during Uitmarkt.
Sculptures on Museumplein during Uitmarkt.

As Amsterdammers wind down from Gay Pride in August, they begin ramping up for the fall cultural season. Celebrated through artistic expression and cultural events in venues throughout the city, the season brings everything from visual and performing arts to electronic music and singing in the streets of the Jordaan to town. There’s something for everyone who appreciates the arts.

De Krakeling presents live theater, dance, magic and musical performances for kids of all ages. Photo credit:
De Krakeling presents theater, dance, magic and music for kids of all ages. Photo credit:

All through the year, cultural options abound in the Dutch capital. There are classical concerts at Royal Concertgebouw, jazz programs at Bimhuis, cabaret at Carré, international cinema at EYE Film Institute, live theater at City Theatre Amsterdam and DeLaMar Theater, and pop, hip-hop, soul and electronic music at such world-renowned clubs as Paradiso, Melkweg and Sugar Factory. For kids of all ages, De Krakeling offers live theater, magic, music and dance geared for the young and young-at-heart.

Amsterdam city government supports the arts as a way to bind communities and stimulate cultural and economic growth. This is particularly evident in August, when two fabulous festivals showcase the performing, visual and literary arts.

The Grachtenfestival Celebrates Jazz and Classical Music

The annual Grachtenfestival brings live music to city venues.

For jazz and classical music aficionados, the 18th edition of the 10-day Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival), from August 14–23, 2015, will bring live music to venues throughout Amsterdam. Since 1997, the celebration has drawn 60,000+ visitors annually to the Dutch capital, who come for performances on pontoons, boats, canal houses, hotels and historic museums.

Other stages include outdoor spaces on Museumplein, Rembrandtplein, Bijlmerplein, Erasmuspark and Vondelpark. For young musicians, the Junior Grachtenfestival features entertainment, workshops and opportunities to perform. Toddlers through school-age kids can get interactive with instruments and experience live music up close and personal.badge_AmsterdamInterNations

The free opening program at 21:00 on Friday, August 14, 2015 will launch Grachtenfestival at Het Compagnietheater, where daily “yam sessies” will be held at 22:30 in the festival café. The public is invited to jam and groove with Grachtenfestival musicians at these free sessions of improv fun. Outdoor presentations of Fiddler on the Roof beginning at 16:00 on August 16 and August 23 will feature violin duos featuring Ruña ’t Hart and Shin Sihan performing on the Marc flat boat moored opposite numbers 30-34 on the Spiegelgracht.

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

Uitmarkt Rings in the Cultural Season

There’s classical ballet and live music—classical, jazz, pop, rock and hip-hop—as well as theater, dance, cinema, books and art at Uitmarkt, one of Holland’s most popular cultural events. From August 28–30, 2015, the celebration of Holland’s cultural scene will showcase some 2,000 performers at almost 30 Amsterdam venues, entertaining 500,000 visitors throughout the weekend.

Find more highlights in my AFAR Guide to Amsterdam.
Scapino Ballet performing on Museumplein for Uitmarkt.
Scapino Ballet performing on Museumplein for Uitmarkt.

The lively festival kicks off the new cultural season each year. Over three days, dancers, singers, groups, soloists and orchestras perform in theaters, nightclubs, cafés and concert halls, as well as outdoor stages on Museumplein and Leidseplein.

Beer's to you at the Jordaan Festival.
Beer’s to you at the annual Jordaan Festival in early September.
Sing along at the annual Jordaan Festival.
Sing along at the annual Jordaan Festival.

Sing Along at The Jordaan Festival

From September 4–6, 2015, sing along with Dutchies at the annual Jordaan Festival, one of Amsterdam’s oldest celebrations of local music and culture. Running since 1975, the lively community party brings everything from melancholy Jordaanese folk music to opera and Dutch classics to the streets. Even if you don’t know the words, enhance your fun by trying to sing along!

Find Your Soul at Amsterdam Dance Event /
Talented VJ ED performs at supperclub during ADE. /

Want to ramp up the volume and de-code the beat? From October 14–18, 2015, talented DJs from around the world will perform at venues throughout Amsterdam, to the delight of electronic music fans, as part of the annual Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE). Featuring internationally acclaimed artists performing alongside upcoming talent and everything in between, ADE covers the spectrum of electronic sub-genres. See you there?


  1. Having just spent a week in a bustling Paris, full of outdoor art exhibitions and cinemas en plein air, etc, this entry struck all the right summery chords for me. This blog was my first source of information about the city happenings in Amsterdam and I am happy I stumbled upon this lovely and well-curated post about how folks here spend their fine-weather leisure time. The sheer range and enthusiasm I see in options for exploring excites the tourist in me. Additionally, if I were homesick at all for the familiar ritual of outdoor concerts on the central lawn in my tiny hometown in the mid-western summer weather, this post also showed me that there is a familiar formula at work in Amsterdam for community building- being outdoors and appreciating the arts together. Looking forward to exploring, so thanks for the boost!

  2. Perfect!! It looks like I will be in Amsterdam for these events. Honestly, going through this blog has been the most helpful guide for my travels. I cannot wait for this jazz festival. As an American tourist a little bit nervous about exploring a new city, the community atmosphere makes it feel much more like home. I am half-expecting to find my friends and family there — just speaking a different language! Thank you so much for this amazing resource!

    • Actually, virtually all Dutchies speak English fluently, Nicole. But it’s always polite to ask, “Spreken Engels?” before you start blabbing away in our native tongue!

  3. 2,000 performers Aug 28-30? I will be in town around that time, and definitely would like to take part! I never would’ve known about this if it weren’t for this blog. Very informative, and talks about everything and anything going on in the city.

  4. Sweet! This blog has given me so much insight on the happenings in Amsterdam. From reading just several of the posts I’ve collected information that will help me make my way around Amsterdam seeing more than just the typical touristy sights and also tips on how not to look like a tourist. I can’t wait to explore the city and really get a taste of the culture. Thanks to this blog it looks I will getting just the taste I want.

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