There’s no need to ask yourself whether or not you should go to a festival in Amsterdam – you can skip straight to working out WHEN and WHICH ONE!
Can you believe that there are 300 or so festivals in the city throughout the year? The long and varied list of events attracts crowds of Dutch locals and international tourists to the capital. And it’s no wonder – there’s something special about the atmosphere in Amsterdam that makes it the perfect venue for events.
Amsterdam Pride is always held over the first weekend in August, with the world-famous Canal Parade as the highlight. The event is a week of celebration, commemoration and demonstration led by members of the LGBTIQ community – and everyone’s invited. There are often demonstrations in favour of gay rights and against discrimination and marginalisation. For a whole week, all kinds of LGBTIQ cultural events are held around the city. The idea is to inform, educate and encourage conversations.
Regulierdwarstraat, a busy street famous for its gay bars, becomes party central during Amsterdam Pride. During the day, there’s entertainment galore on stages on Dam Platz, on Bursplein, by the Homomonument and next to Rembrandtplein. Later on, the dancing at Rapido at the Paradiso club and Funhouse XXL at the GasHouder events venue goes on until the sun comes up the next day.
The highlight of the week has to be the Canal Parade. Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors follow the parade along the River Amstel and the canals. A community comes together to celebrate itself. Groups make their way loudly through the city on boats, as the people watching dance in the streets. It’s bright and brash, with all the colours of the rainbow on display. And let’s just say that some of the outfits don’t leave a lot to the imagination. Hailed as one of the best Pride parades in the world, the Canal Parade gives everyone a chance to be themselves, regardless of their sexuality or anything else.
August Canal Festival
The Grachtenfestival is held in Amsterdam in the middle of August. For ten whole days, the city celebrates classical and contemporary music from all around the world. But it’s not just famous artists taking to the stage. The idea behind the festival is actually to let young musicians showcase their talent. The historical city centre provides the perfect backdrop with its canals and buildings. With most of the events happening outside, the festival has quite an atmosphere.
But not all the concerts are held on or along the canals. Museums, theatres, public buildings and private homes throughout the city are turned into venues with stages set up for the varied performances on the programme.
The Prinsengracht Concert is the highlight of the Grachtenfestival. An impressive line-up of artists perform on a stage floating in front of Pulitzer Hotel. What makes this open-air concert so special is that visitors can get right up close to the stage in their own boats. Entry is free, but you have to move fast, given that the concert attracts tens of thousands of people every year.
Tickets for some of the festival’s concerts will set you back around EUR 20, but there are some free events too. Want our advice? Get your hands on some tickets pronto!
August Uitmarkt - The culture festival
The Uitmarkt, the biggest culture festival in the Netherlands, comes to Amsterdam during the last weekend in August. Over 2,000 artists entertain and delight visitors at over 30 venues spread throughout the city.
This event shows off the country’s rich culture in all its glory. From synchronised swimming in the canals to a silent disco at the National Maritime Museum. With a soundtrack featuring hip-hop beats, classical sounds and everything in between. Musicians, dance groups, actors and comedians take to the stage to entertain visitors, who have the chance to get involved in all kinds of workshops.
The Museumplein in front of the Rijksmuseum is the main festival venue. That’s where you can find the huge book market – a dream come true for any bookworm. Young culture vultures can head straight to the Uitmarkt junior area here.
The musical singalong on the main stage on Museumplein is one highlight of the festival even though it happens to be the closing act.
You don’t need to worry about getting your hands on a ticket, though, because all the public events during the Uitmarkt festival are free. You can find out more on the official festival website.
October Amsterdam Dance Event
The Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) takes place over five days in the middle of October. This festival is all about electronic music. And it’s one mega party. Over 2000 DJs from all around the world are in the line-up. The likes of David Guetta, Paul van Dyk and Fatboy Slim will be there, but festivalgoers will also be able to dance to the beats of fresh new talent at more than 140 venues. It’s up to you to decide if you’d rather party at one of the massive events at somewhere like the Ziggo Dome or keep it low-key at a smaller venue.
The ADE, the biggest electronic music festival in the world, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021. As a springboard for future projects, it’s influential in setting the music scene for tomorrow. Contacts are made and contracts are signed at the festival.
You can get your hands on tickets online – from the official event page or the relevant venue website – or in person at the ticket office. Prices vary depending on which event you have your eye on. Or you can treat yourself to an all-access pass that’ll set you back EUR 450 for the full five days.
ADE is drawing a bigger crowd to Amsterdam every year, so make sure you check out the programme and buy your tickets nice and early.
December amsterdam light festival
At the start of December, when the days are as short as they get, the Amsterdam Light Festival lights up the city for 53 days. Light artists from all around the world show off their work throughout Amsterdam, including on and along the canals.
The idea behind the festival is to make light art accessible to as many people as possible, giving them the chance to get to know the artists and be inspired by their creativity. And we can safely say that the concept is a hit! The festival, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2021, expands every year. The cultural and corporate worlds come together to create exciting and innovative ideas.
The best way to enjoy the lights is from a boat – especially with so many of the displays floating on the water. Why not book yourself onto a special light festival tour? You’ll have to be quick, though, because they sell out fast.
The Amsterdam Light Festival isn’t all about the displays – don’t forget to check out the varied programme of fringe events while you’re there. And download the handy app too!
I can say with conviction that Amsterdam will offer you the festival that suits your taste. If you would rather not commit, you can just let yourself drift. After all, it’s always exciting to discover something new. There are always guaranteed to be good alternatives to sold-out events. If you really want to experience a particular event, find out about it early and book in good time, that will save you disappointment.
The joie de vivre of the Dutch and the mix of international visitors make every festival an unforgettable experience either way. In this relaxed atmosphere, it’s easy to make contacts and return home with a whole suitcase full of new impressions and beautiful memories.