Spring in Amsterdam

Cool things to see and do in the Dutch capital from March through May

Spring is a glorious season to visit Amsterdam. As the days lengthen and temperatures rise, locals recover from the winter blahs. Barren trees turn to shades of neon green. Parks and café terraces fill with sun-starved Dutchies eager to absorb the first rays of the season. In the most anticipated seasonal display, crocus, hyacinth and narcissus blooms debut as an opening act to the floral showstopper of the Netherlands—the tulip.

Tulip-tourists descend on Amsterdam in April.

Beginning a crescendo that peaks in summer, tulip-tourists descend on the Dutch capital in April, followed by a steady stream of European weekend-breakers and American college students. The Dutch celebrate some of their biggest and most important holidays—King’s Day, Remembrance Day and Liberation Day—in spring, making it a good time to see how the locals get their groove on.

For visitors, here’s a baker’s dozen of cool things to do from March through May in Amsterdam:

MARCH

Amsterdam Coffee Festival: Westergasfabriek gets a caffeinated jolt as more than 100 artisan roasters, equipment makers, mixologists and coffee junkies descend on the transformed gas factory on the western edge of town. The annual fest spills the beans on the European coffee scene with tastings, demonstrations, food stalls, live latté art, music and other coffee-inspired entertainment.

Restaurant Week: Sample the cuisine of some of the best chefs in town when 90+ Amsterdam restaurants offer discounted lunch and dinner menus. The twice-yearly event showcases the fare of Michelin-starred venues, celebrity favorites and trendy eateries at prices that won’t make a major dent in your wallet or leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Chefs’ menus at discounted prices are on offer during Restaurant Week.

Roze Film Dagen (Pink Film Days): What started as a small, underground event in 1996 has morphed into the Netherlands’ largest film festival for LGBTQ films. Over 11 days, view features, shorts and documentaries from some 40 countries that testify to the diversity of the LGBTQ experience. Most screenings are held at the Ketelhuis cinema in Westergasfabriek.

A visit to Keukenhof is a MUST in spring.

Keukenhof: Europe’s most stunning spring garden is open just eight weeks a year, from mid-March through mid-May. Set in the tiny town of Lisse, about an hour from Amsterdam by public transport, the crown jewel of Holland’s bulb-growing region showcases over seven million prize blooms of some 500 Dutch growers in dazzling flower displays, inspirational gardens, and indoor pavilions.

Europe’s most stunning spring garden is open just 8 weeks a year.

Open Toren Dag (Open Tower Day): Amsterdam’s tallest towers might be overshadowed by the skyscrapers of Manhattan and Dubai, but what they lack in height, they make up for in historic relevance. On Open Tower Day, you can scale some of the town’s tallest towers and church spires to usually inaccessible parts offering great views across Amsterdam.

Enjoy free entry to A’dam LOOKOUT and other towers on Open Toren Dag.

APRIL

NEMO is one of many museums that feature special activities during Museum Week.

Museum Week: If viewing Golden Age masterpieces in Amsterdam’s world-renowned museums isn’t enough to inspire awe, visit during Museum Week, when many showcase the cultural heritage of the Netherlands by putting special collections in the limelight. Workshops, guided tours, tastings, children’s treasure hunts and other special activities add to the experience during this annual week in April.

Koningsdag is a day to eat, drink, dance and be merry on the streets.

King’s Day: If you’re a Koningsdag virgin, nothing can prepare you for the orange-tinged madness that begins on April 26, the night before the King’s birthday. On April 27, the actual day of his birth, some one million revelers descend on Amsterdam for the holiday formerly known as Queen’s Day.

One person’s junk becomes another’s treasure on Koningsdag.

The party begins with the vrijmarkt, a city-wide garage sale, when the tax authorities turn their heads as locals proffer unwanted treasures on the street and children sell toys and talents in Vondelpark. As the day winds down, the party ramps up, with dancing and drinking in the streets, party boats streaming down the canals, and beer-guzzling onlookers hanging from windows. If you don’t like crowds, this is NOT the holiday for you.

Party boats stream down the canals on Koningsdag.

Amsterdam Tulip Festival: Throughout April—or as long as the tulips are in bloom—displays of the flower synonymous with the Netherlands will appear in 85 locations throughout Amsterdam. Watch for them by museums, hotels, notable buildings and public zones, from Noord to Zuidoost and Oost to Nieuw-West.

Displays of tulips pop up throughout Amsterdam during the Tulip Festival in April.

World Press Photo: View the world’s best visual journalism and storytelling at this annual event featuring presentations, meetups, workshops, screenings and guest appearances. A roaming exhibit showcases prize winners at venues throughout the city.

MAY

Remembrance Day: The Dutch Memorial Day commemorates the soldiers and civilians who died in World War II, subsequent wars and peace missions. Hundreds participate in a “silent tour” from Museumplein to Dam Square, where the king places a wreath on the National Monument. At 8pm, the city observes two minutes of silence.

Liberation Day: In contrast to the solemnity of Remembrance Day, Liberation Day is a nationwide celebration of the Netherlands’ emancipation from Nazi Germany by Allied troops in 1945. On May 5, Amsterdam marks the occasion with art exhibits, public banquets known as Freedom Feasts, and a giant floating concert on the Amstel River, with the king and queen in attendance.

Vondelpark Open Air Theater: From May–September, enjoy dance programs, children’s theater, standup comedy, and classical to contemporary music at this open-air theater in Amsterdam’s beloved Vondelpark. Donations are requested, but all performances are free.

Kinderdijk windmills are among 700 that open their doors to the public on National Mill Day.

National Mill Day: Windmills may have little economic value today, but they played an important role in reclaiming land in bygone days and remain a Dutch icon. On the second weekend in May, some 700 windmills and watermills across the Netherlands open their doors to visitors.

Spring is also a good time to leave the capital behind on any of Nine Great Trips from Amsterdam. What’s YOUR favorite spring activity in the Netherlands? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Rotterdam, an hour or so from Amsterdam, makes for a great spring day trip.

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