When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?
When to fly
The most popular time to take flights to Amsterdam is from the start of the warm weather, when the tulips bloom, through to early autumn. In spring and summer the weather is usually good, with open-air dining on sidewalks and canal boats. Consequently, hotels are hard to come by and the city is very crowded. Try to avoid the height of the summer if you can. If you do take a flight at this time, be prepared for both cool and very hot weather. September and October are less crowded than the summer, the rates are lower, and the weather is often quite lovely. This is an ideal time for the beautiful low-angle light depicted in Dutch landscape paintings.
The most common – and arguably best - time to fly to Amsterdam is between April and September, as the temperature and daylight hours are more favourable for those seeking outdoor adventures (although it’s worth remembering that the weather is slightly temperamental at all times of year). The most crowded and expensive time to visit Amsterdam is the tulip season (April to mid-May) and July and August. The sun shining does make a difference to the feel of the city, with a much more cosmopolitan vibe in the air, but the benefits of this must be balanced with the drawback of the bustling crowds.
Most cultural events are scheduled from September through June, so if you go in the cold winter months (December-March), there will be plenty to do and fewer people trying to do it. And if you’re there during one of the winters when the canals freeze, you can join Amsterdam’s residents on skates which is a lovely way to see the city.
If you’re looking to avoid the hustle and bustle, any time outside of the peak season would be your best bet to visit, with cultural events starting up in September – the Jordaan Festival in late September and Museum Night [Museumnacht] in November are both not to be missed. Whilst the cooler –often just outright cold – months between December and March are less popular with visitors to the city, Amsterdam is particularly cosy throughout this time, making it attractive to some travellers. Expect popular attractions such as the Anne Frank Museum [Anne Frank Huis] to still be busy. Christmas is a clear exception to the off-peak rule, as tourists flock to experience the festivity of the city in its holiday grandeur.
When is the cheapest time of year to fly to Amsterdam?
Cheap flights to Amsterdam can be found relatively easily at almost any time of year. The best way to secure these is to search a couple of weeks in advance and to remain flexible with dates. As is expected, the most significant cost on even short breaks to Amsterdam will be hotels, so focussing on securing a good deal on an airfare over great value accommodation will usually not work out as cost-effective.
November and January are the cheapest months for tourists by far, and there are deals available for February and October too, although to a significantly lesser extent. Valentine’s Day is broadly celebrated in Amsterdam, meaning that prices do rise with demand around the middle of February.
The capital of the Netherlands is famous for its waterways and those narrow 17th-century canal house as well as for its laid-back and liberal approach to life. It has unique charm which exists independent of the seasons, and as a culturally rich, historical city, has lots to offer even outside of its peak season. In fact, the Amsterdam experience is even better when the city is less busy with tourists and flights are usually cheaper.
Its list of attractions is long. Major museums include the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House, and Van Gogh Museum, which has the world's largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh. The Anne Frank House, where Anne wrote her diary, is now a popular museum.
Visit some of the city's lesser-known cultural gems such as the secret attic church (Our Lord in the Attic - Ons Lieve Heer op Solder), the Museum of Bags and Purses and the Amsterdam Tulip Museum.
Amsterdam is well-known for its tulips, which bloom annually between mid-March and May, blanketing the city and its surrounding fields in all shades of colour. Many see this specifically as the most favourable time to visit, and tourists flock to make the most of the city’s natural beauty. The Keukenhof Gardens in particular become very busy around this time. The tulip bloom also happens to coincide with King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) – the celebration of the monarch’s official birthday – which is celebrated on April 27th annually.
King’s Day is celebrated with pop-up markets [vrijmarkt], street celebrations and outdoor parties. The canals quickly become packed full of revellers, all dressed in orange – the colours of the Dutch royal family. The city centres get extremely busy, as locals and excitable tourists alike gather together for this fun - and very Dutch - event. Whilst this isn’t the time to take a quiet getaway, it is certainly a vibrant and very real reflection of an authentic Dutch celebration.
Amsterdam has a mild, damp climate but the weather can be variable with temperature extremes even in summer. Spring and autumn especially bring changeable, unsettled weather. In the winter months clear, frosty days are the norm, the coldest months being December to March. Rain is likely all year round.Getting from the Airport to the CityAmsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is around 10 miles (16km) southwest of the city. Due to its size, there’s a great, wide range of facilities there to keep you entertained if you have a couple of hours to waste. Alternatively, the short journey can be made in as few as 15 minutes if timed well. A direct rail service connects the plaza just below Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam’s central railway station in between 15 and 20 minutes. Trains run regularly between early morning and late night. Airport shuttles are another great option and some can take you directly to your hotel – they service over 100 guesthouses throughout the city. Public buses are also available and run at various times – usually around every 15-30 minutes in daytime hours, and less frequently on weekends.Private taxis are available from outside the arrivals hall; book in advance via the Schiphol website or choose one upon arrival. The 15-30 minute trip.
Getting around Amsterdam
It’s easy to walk around Amsterdam in just a few hours. You need to keep an eye out though – cars have the right of way and bikes, trams and buses crisscross the city. Rent a bike to speed up your pace without turning the city into a blur.
Amsterdam is a very bike-friendly city. Bike lanes and bike racks are plentiful. Make sure the light on your bike is working; you can be fined for riding without a light after dark. To travel beyond the city, it’s easy to take the train or bus. It’s cheaper to rent your car in the city. The Netherlands road network is very good.
Amsterdam insider information
- Vereniging voor Vreemdelingenverkeer (Association for Foreigner Travel), abbreviated to VVV (pronounced fay-fay-fay), is nationwide. VVV Amsterdam provides information, has brochures and maps, makes reservations for hotels and tours, and sells reduced-rate passes for attractions.
- You can buy an all-day pass for the Canal Bus, which takes you to Amsterdam’s major attractions and provides historical commentary along the way. If you have less time or want to spend a day going only to museums, the Museumboot (Museum Boat) takes you to most museums, and the ticket includes half-price entry.
- Museumplein and Vondelpark are the area where you will find the three major museums — the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum — as well as the Concertgebouw concert hall, a variety of restaurants, Amsterdam's most elegant shopping area, and its best-known park. There are also small hotels that are a much better bargain than those along the canals and in the centre of the city.
- The Anne Frankhuis, the building where the Franks and two other families hid from the Nazis for two years, is just as they left it, and remarkably like the descriptions in Anne’s diary. The adjacent building contains exhibits about the occupants of the hiding place, including the original diary.
- If you walk along the canals after dark, you will see Amsterdam at one of its loveliest times. Subtle lighting bathes many of the 17th-century houses, and bridges are festooned with lights.
- The Jordaan is an up-and-coming area of Amsterdam that still houses artists and students but is home to an increasing number of trendy restaurants and boutiques.
- The tour of the Heineken brewery gives you a good view of beer-making, and the entry fee entitles you to some of the product.