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When's the Best Time of Year to Visit the Netherlands?

A tulip field in the Netherlands | © dassel / Pixabay
Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 6 June 2018
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Much like other coastal countries in north-western Europe, the Netherlands experiences warm summers and cool winters, punctuated by spontaneous rainfall. If you’re planning a trip, read on to discover more about the country’s seasonal weather patterns and its yearly, cultural calendar, so you can decide when’s the best time of year to visit.

January

The Netherlands returns to a slower pace after the festive season and people tend to retreat indoors to enjoy quieter activities. Thankfully for anyone who can’t stand the cold, winter isn’t too harsh in the Netherlands, with the temperature usually remaining above 3°C. Furthermore, most major Dutch museums remain open throughout winter and are noticeably less crowded during the colder months of the year. This means that visitors to the Netherlands this month can experience many of the country’s cultural highlights without having to cope with many other tourists, so you can wander through famous sites like the Rijksmuseum or Mauritshuis at your own leisure.

Rainfall: 8 days

Temperature: 1-5 °C (34-41 °F)

Rainclouds above the Rijksmuseum

February

Though the temperature does rise slightly in February, the weather usually remains cold, frosty and wet in the Netherlands during the second month of the year. With this in mind, it is always advisable for travellers to pack warm, waterproof coats in order to avoid getting caught off guard in freezing rain, hail or snow. While this type of weather certainly isn’t for everybody, it does have its benefits. For instance, canals in Dutch cities often freeze over in February and become solid enough for ice-skating.

Rainfall: 11 days

Temperature: 0-8 °C (32-46 °F)

People ice-skating on Amsterdam’s frozen canals

March

Two major events mark the start of spring in the Netherlands, both of which usually take place in March. Firstly, cities, towns and villages throughout the southern Dutch provinces celebrate Carnaval – an enormous, three day-long folk festival, that traditionally precedes Ash Wednesday, involving parades, street parties and tongue-in-cheek rituals. Around three weeks after Carnaval, tulip season in the Netherlands officially begins and the country’s most famous flower garden, Keukenhof, opens to the public. Although you should expect some wintry chills during March, the weather usually remains relatively agreeable and the temperature sometimes even reaches above 10 °C.

Rainfall: 9 days

Temperature: 3-9 °C (37-48 °F)

Keukenhof Gardens burst into full bloom in March

April

April’s weather patterns are notoriously unpredictable in the Netherlands. In fact, there’s a common Dutch phrase that encapsulates the month’s capriciousness: ‘April doet wat het wil’ which translates as ‘April does what it wants’. This fitting expression refers to the fact that the weather often turns from hot to cold, or wet to dry without warning. Fortunately, things tend to warm up before the end of the month, just in time for King’s Day – a nationwide public holiday held on April 26th. Larger cities around the Netherlands host events, ranging from music festivals to canal parades, and smaller Dutch towns organise charming street markets and other low-key, community-driven celebrations.

Rainfall: 12 days

Temperature: 4-12 °C (39-54 °F)

People celebrating King’s Day on Amsterdam’s Museumplein

May

As summer approaches, more and more tourists arrive in major cities around the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. Though this isn’t necessarily a problem, it does mean that more popular attractions, such as the Van Gogh Museum or Keukenhof Gardens can get crowded. Fortunately, for anyone who prefers to travel alone (or with a few friends), there are many stunning spots in the Netherlands that rarely become busy. For instance, de Hoge Veluwe National Park features many stunning natural sights and is ideal for hiking, cycling and wildlife-watching. Looking for somewhere even more remote? Consider heading north to Friesland or Groningen provinces, which share a stunning coastline that’s protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Sight.

Rainfall: 12 days

Temperature: 8-17 °C (46-63 °F)

Dozens of footpaths trail through de Hoge Veluwe

June

Days seem to last forever in June and the sun doesn’t set until around 10pm in most parts of the Netherlands. While there’s plenty happening in cities around the country, it is definitely worth heading to the coast during this month, as the Netherland’s rugged, golden beaches look particularly specular during drawn-out, sunny spells. Feeling adventurous? Then consider going to Terschelling for Oerol – a 10-day long, performing arts festival where dunes, beaches and forests around the island are transformed into impromptu stages, hosting an expansive range of live events.

Rainfall: 9 days

Temperature: 11-19 °C (52-66 °F)

Terschelling hosts an island-wide performing arts festival called Oerol during June

July

Anyone eager to visit Amsterdam over July should expect to encounter many other travellers with the same idea. The city attracts scores of visitors during this month, who are all keen to experience Amsterdam’s charming parks, bars and canals, while basking in the summer sun. Other cities around the Netherlands such as Rotterdam, Utrecht or the Hague also draw in crowds, but are generally more relaxed than the Dutch capital. Although it isn’t for everyone, there is something special about city-life during this sun-soaked period, and travellers who enjoy the hustle-and-bustle of larger cities should definitely consider booking flights to the Netherlands during July.

Rainfall: 12 days

Temperature: 13-21 °C (55-70 °F)

Nightfall in Rotterdam

August

At the beginning of August, Amsterdam’s world-famous Pride celebrations conclude with an enormous boat parade through the city’s canals, in honour of sexual diversity. Thankfully, for everyone involved in the parade, August in the Netherlands is usually warm and sunny, with occasional refreshing light showers. Several other large-scale celebrations take place in the Netherlands over August, including Lowlands in Flevoland, which ranks among the largest popular music festival in Europe, and Into the Great Wide Open – an alternative music, art and film festival held on Vlieland island.

Rainfall: 11 days

Temperature: 13-21 °C (55-70 °F)

Amsterdam’s Pride celebrations conclude on the first weekend of August

September

September remains relatively warm in the Netherlands and there are usually several sunny spells peppered through the month. Even though the summer has pretty much finished, there’s still plenty happening around the country. For instance, during the first week of September, every year, the village of Zundert hosts a world-renowned flower parade, featuring dozens of floral floats that are shaped like animals, mythological creatures and human figures. Later on in September, thousands of professional and amateur athletes flock to Amsterdam to participate in Dam to Damloop – a 10-mile road race from Amsterdam’s city centre to Zaandam.

Rainfall: 10 days

Temperature: 11-18 °C (52-64 °F)

A float at Zundert’s flower parade, Bloemencorso

October

In October, Amsterdam hosts one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world – Amsterdam Dance Event (or ADE). Hundreds of venues through the city host events related to EDM during the festival, including club nights, pop-up DJ sessions and seminars about music production. Aside from ADE, October is usually fairly slow-paced in the Netherlands, with most people spending their time indoors. It is also worth mentioning that Dutch breweries release heavy, dark seasonal beers around October, called bokbiers, that match wonderfully with the month’s colder, damper weather.

Rainfall: 9 days

Temperature: 8-15 °C (48-59 °F)

Glass of dark bokbier
© Ysbrand Cosijn / Shutterstock

November

The temperature drops considerably in November, heralding the beginning of winter. Nonetheless, the Netherlands rarely becomes too cold for outdoor activities like hiking or cycling, and spending time in nature is very rewarding during this month. For instance, Dutch national parks such as Zuid-Kennemerlandor De Loonse en Druinen, look specular in autumn with the glowing orange and gold hues that almost match the sunset. There’s also plenty happening in cities over November, including Museum Night in Amsterdam on the first Saturday in November, and Le Guess Who? alternative music festival in Utrecht.

Rainfall: 7 days

Temperature: 4-9 °C (39-48 °F)

Wild horses at Zuid-Kennemerland National Park

December

As the temperature drops in December, everything becomes very cosy in the Netherlands. For instance, many Christmas markets appear around the country, selling festive items ranging from delicious, speculaas cookies laced with spices to kitsch wooden decorations. Although Dutch people celebrate Christmas, Sinterklaasavond on December 5th serves as the main gift-giving holiday. During this special date, families gather together, exchange presents and share large meals. Although the Netherlands occasionally experiences snow over December, it is quite rare for it to settle, due to the country’s oceanic climate.

Rainfall: 7 days

Temperature: 3-6 °C (37-43 °F)

Speculaas cookies are eaten during the festive season in the Netherlands
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