Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is located in the western part of the country, on the Ijsselmeer — the Netherlands’ largest lake connected to the North Sea via the North Sea Canal. The river Amstel ends in the center of the city and connects to more than 60 miles of canals for which Amsterdam is famous. Most of the canals are navigable by boat.
In the spring, the season with the least rain, days are getting longer with more sunshine and temperatures are slowly rising. All of this makes for good reasons to visit Amsterdam in the spring and experience the many events and fabulous things to do and see.
Amsterdam is easy to reach via its enormous international airport, Schiphol. In my experience, the easiest and fastest trip from the airport to your hotel is with the blue connexxion shuttle that departs just outside arrivals. It’s cheaper than a taxi and less hassle with your luggage than managing down the elevators to the trains.
As often as I have visited Amsterdam, I always look forward to another trip. Apart from all the beauty of the canals, the history, and the outstanding art scene, this is a city that constantly reinvents itself. New suburbs, new attractions, and new scenes spring up all the time. It is an old, historic city with a very young vibe.
No doubt, spring is a season where Amsterdam offers a host of events and sights you really shouldn’t miss.
1. King’s Day
The Dutch know how to party and they adore their royal family. It’s King Willem Alexander’s birthday on April 27 and an occasion for the entire country to party heavily all day long, but especially so in Amsterdam. The king’s last name is Orange-Nassau, therefore, orange is the dominating color of the day. Everybody wears something orange and so should you if you visit, at least a scarf, cap, or orange flower in your buttonhole. You want to show solidarity in the country’s best wishes for the king’s health and good fortune.
Cafes open at 9 a.m. and from that time one, the cheering and orange-clad crowds fill them and roam the streets. Musical events usually start at noon and the partying continues in pubs, clubs, and bars after dark. Street trade is unregulated on this day which means that stalls are open all over the city, allowing for good bargains and second-hand purchases. There is also a big flea market in the city center.
These streets and places in Amsterdam are the center of activities: Rembrandtplein, Spui, and Leideplein. Whereas the biggest party is at Westerstraat and Prinsengracht. Events for kids are held at Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest and most famous park. Naturally, there are pretty lively canal tours too. Museums are generally closed on King’s Day, but there is enough entertainment in the streets.
Don’t expect to see the king and queen in Amsterdam this year. They are scheduled to celebrate King Willem’s 55th birthday in Maarstricht.
Pro Tip: Do not drive to or in Amsterdam on King’s Day. Traffic will be horrendous and alcohol is also flowing freely. Go by train, tram, taxi, or, the Dutch’s favorite means of transport: the bicycle and using your feet.
2. Open Tower Day
It is a very special event to see Amsterdam for the height of her many towers. These are not usually open to the public, but April 26 is a date to bookmark. That is when Amsterdam holds the Open Tower Day, this year also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the event. Some of the towers that have taken part in past years are De Bijenkorf, Kalverpassage, Zilveren Toren, QO, Cityden Amsterdam West, A’DAM Lookout Amsterdam Noord (my favorite including the world’s highest swing), Oranjekerk, and The Edge. Just make sure to visit the website for the latest list of the towers that will participate this year. Apart from the views, there will also be talks.
3. Visit A Windmill
The Netherlands is the country of windmills, many of them still working. Visiting one (or more) is an interesting sight which gives you insight into what life was like for millers in past centuries. On May 14, the country actually celebrates National Windmill Day when windmills all over the country are opened to the public. Even better for a spring escape to Amsterdam is the fact that the Windmill van Sloten — located on the outskirts of Amsterdam on a ring canal — is open to the public year-round. Enthusiastic volunteers show you around on a guided tour and you get to meet the miller himself, who, whenever possible, will demonstrate how he turns the cap of the mill, moves the vanes so they catch the wind, and puts the sails on the vanes. This is not something you can experience every day.
A different windmill is the Riekermolen Mill which stands proudly on the banks of the river Amstel in Amsterdam and is a drainage mill. Next to it you see a bronze statue of Rembrandt honoring the many drawings of windmills he made.
4. Be Dazzled By Keukenhof Tulip Gardens
Keukenhof in Lisse is also known as the “Garden of Europe” and the largest flower garden in the world. Every year in the fall, 7 million bulbs are planted by hand so that they are in full bloom at the time of the Keukenhof Tulip Festival, lasting this year from March 24–May 12. Each year the festival has a different theme and this year it is Flower Classics. The theme combines roses and tulips in arrays of all colors to symbolize roses for love and tulips for eternal beauty of flowers.
It’s not only flowers that make Keukenhof such a dazzling sight, there are also walkways among the flowers, statues by international artists, pavilions, and ponds.
The Dutch flower fields in the middle of Keukenhof are called Bollenstreek and they’re close to major cities, among them Amsterdam. There are several ways to get there, all of them easy and comfortable.
5. Open Canal Boat Tours
There is no better way to admire the beautiful architecture of Amsterdam’s Golden Age of the 17th century than to go on a lengthy canal boat ride along the famous grachts (canals), like Single, Herrengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keisersgracht. In the spring, the weather should be good enough to choose one of the many canal boats for an even better view, the joy of gliding under the many bridges, and watching the pedestrians and cyclists crossing them. You have a great choice of tour operators. All of them come with explanations, some even with wine and cheese, or even a meal. I especially liked the evening tour because seeing all the lights of Amsterdam reflected in the water made it an even more magical experience. You might want to bring a sweater or cardigan in the spring or even sit below deck — it’s chilly.
6. The Heineken Experience
Are you a beer lover? Then you might enjoy a historical tour of Heineken, one of the world’s largest beer producers. If you are a real enthusiast and want to learn about the brewery history in Amsterdam, this 4-hour private tour is your best bet. Not only will you get to sample beer but also tour the famous Heineken Museum and hear about other breweries like Oedipus, De Prael, and Three Sisters. You will be surprised to hear how much of Amsterdam’s history is connected to beer and brewing.
7. Wine Festival Amsterdam
We have told you about the beer experience in Amsterdam, and now it’s wine’s turn. From April 21–24, Amsterdam hosts the annual wine festival. The wines that result from the harvest season of the Northern Hemisphere are celebrated here with yet another big party. Apart from sampling the wines, there is live music from bands of the wine countries, games of pétanque, and much more.
The venue Westergas in Westerpark is super interesting. Once the city’s gaswork, this complex of 19th century industrial buildings has been transformed into a hub of creativity and excitement by creating a complex of buildings that house entertainment venues, bars, restaurants, galleries, and shops. Related to wine, the Wester Wijnfabriek is a place where you can taste 70 types of wines, blend your own wine in a lab, and fill up bottles to take with you and enjoy at your picnic in Westerpark. It’s an all-out wine festival to round out your spring experiences in Amsterdam.