The Dutch have a very busy social calendar and an active festival scene; from the moment the tulips begin to blossom events seem to be sprouting up daily until the summer starts to fade. From music and art to sports and food, there are many diverse and interesting cultural celebrations to attend in the Netherlands.
New Year’s Dive Scheveningen
Brave, poetic or just crazy, every January 1st the Dutch go out and celebrate the new year by diving into the icy cold waters of over 60 locations around the Netherlands. From freezing lakes to chilly beaches, thousands upon thousands gather from far and wide to brave the sub-zero temperatures in joyous celebration.
International Film Festival Rotterdam
Around the last week of January the International Film Festival takes place in Rotterdam. This unique event puts a firm focus on cutting edge and innovative movie making, highlighting indie flicks and independent filmmakers around the world. It’s a great opportunity to discover some of the world’s biggest upcoming and coming talents, including film-related events, exhibits and performance art.
Holland Flower’s Festival
February sees the Netherlands largest indoor flower fair and market, held in the picturesque Middenmeer. A combination of Dutch artistry and beautiful nature, stunning gardens and inventive flower beds showcase shrubs and bulbs, as well as trees and large cultivation products. The festival continues to be popular, attracting 25,000 visitors every year.
Mid-March, the Netherlands becomes home to the world’s most important art and antique fair, The European Fine Art Fair, in Maastricht. Drawing the top dealers, collectors, critics, and fanatics from around the globe, the city temporarily buzzes with a feast of visual wonders and antiquity.
There is no better time or place to experience the famous tulips of Amsterdam than in March, when the fields are in full, glorious bloom at Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower park. The area plants over seven million bulbs each year, which are displayed in a series of gardens and pavilions. However, it isn’t just the tulips that steal the show, you’ll find roses, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, irises, carnations, lilies, and many other flowers all offering a rich feast for the eyes and nose.
Alkmaar Cheese Market
Every April the city of Alkmaar plays host to cheese and dairy lovers from around the world, with the opening of its famous cheese market. The Netherlands city is home to a traditional, age-old weighing practice where thousands of kilos of cheese are carried from Waagplein Square to the large scale, a tradition which has taken place every year since 1593. What was once an important part of the cheese industry is now a popular tourist attraction and cause for local celebration.
One of the biggest events on the Dutch calendar, Queen’s Day takes place on the last day of April. The Netherlands is bathed in a blanket of orange as people dress up in bright orange outfits and drape orange flags and banners in celebration of the national holiday. During the event, Amsterdam becomes the center of the festivities, with market stalls, live music, stage performances, and parties in bars and on street corners across the capital.
Tong Tong Festival
The bizarrely names Tong Tong Festival (previously known as the "Pasar Malam Besar"), is the world’s largest Eurasian festival, held every May in The Hague. Half a century old, the Tong Tong is an interesting cultural event that includes a tradeshow and a opportunities to taste Eurasian snacks and cuisine.
One of the biggest events on Europe’s dance music calendar, Sensations began in 2000 and continues to draw thousands of clubbers to the Netherlands every July, hosting the best international DJs and artists as a colorful explosion of sights and sounds washes over the Dutch capital.
Another popular musical event on the European club calendar is Lowlands, a vibrant three-day festival taking place every August in Biddinghuizen. This mammoth gathering attracts about 55,000 visitors each year with a thrilling line up of DJs, bands and musical talent.
Heritage days, locally known as Open Monumentendag, take place every year around mid-September, and give tourists and locals the unique opportunity to explore behind the scenes of 4,000 historical buildings and homes throughout the Netherlands.
Crossing Border The Hague
Crossing Border is regarded as the Netherland’s finest literature festival, also covering music, film and visual arts. The Hague bustles with writers, artists, musicians, poets, filmmakers, fans and critics in the cultural center.
Maastricht Christmas Market
For those looking to begin their Christmas celebrations a bit earlier, on the last day of November the Maastricht Christmas market begins. An excellent excuse to visit this picturesque town and explore its stunning street scenes, it is actually a combination of many smaller markets with plenty of goods and vendors on offer.