Amsterdam Travel: Things to do in Amsterdam in Autumn

Welcome to Amsterdam in Autumn!

Amsterdam in autumn is a bittersweet time for me, because the weather gets cooler and the days shorter, but I have to admit, really it's a lot more sweet than bitter, thanks to treats perfect autumn treats like apple pie, speculaas and pannekoeken!

The bitter part comes from it being the end of summer, arguably my favourite season in Amsterdam (and you can find all the fun things to do in Amsterdam then here), and the realisation that winter (arguably my least favourite season... anywhere!) is just around the corner. However, there is no denying that Amsterdam is BEAUTIFUL in Autumn and so even if your sole purpose is to take photos, then yes come to Amsterdam in September or October for the trees turning a thousand shades of gold. But there's more to Amsterdam in autumn than just great photo opportunities. For example, if you'd like to come to party, you definitely need to come to Amsterdam in October because it's home to one of the world's largest dance music festivals. And if you'd like to avoid the crowds and hopefully beat the coldest of the cold temperatures that are on the horizon, then Amsterdam in November is the time for you. But why? Well, read on to find out all the reasons to come then with these fantastic things to do in Amsterdam in autumn, and there's also a list of events by month, and some more information about the weather and what to pack for that time of year.

(Be sure to also bookmark these posts to help you plan your Amsterdam trip: Best Hotels in Amsterdam, 100+ Free Things to do in Amsterdam, Tips for Cycling in Amsterdam, and How to See Amsterdam from the Water.)

Best things to do in Amsterdam in Autumn

Admire the golden trees along the canals

If you come to Amsterdam and don't walk along the canals - regardless of the time of year - you're missing out. If you happen to spend time in this fair city in autumn and you don't spend at least an hour or two looking at the golden shades of Amsterdam's trees on fire, then you should book return flights immediately for the same time next year... also shame on you!

Autumn is the time when I personally think the canals are at their prettiest. I sometimes find summer canal scenes too green - with all those leaves blocking the pretty canal houses - and winter is just too bare and grey. Spring is definitely a close second, but sadly, there isn't that much blossom along the canals so basically autumn wins the jackpot.

Golden hour for photos

Speaking of golden things, autumn is also the best time to see the most beautiful golden hours. Thanks to the sun falling lower in the sky but also not shying away completely, the first and last hours of daylight in Amsterdam on an autumn day are absolutely the BEST time to take photos in Amsterdam. And if you want to know where you should be heading to take your pics or go Instagram crazy, here are my favourite picks for the best photo spots in Amsterdam.

Go on a canal cruise

I very, very rarely recommend going on one of Amsterdam's large touring boats to see the canals but in autumn I will make an exception. Partly because it's a more relaxing way to see the beautiful colours of the trees along the canals if walking or cycling isn't possible for you, but also because it's not really the best season to hire your own private boat or hop on a pedalo (though you can if you fancy it!). I've tried a few of the canal cruise companies over the years and had positive experiences with this company, and this one also which also offers seasonal discounts.

Park walks

If canal scenes don't do it for you, or that just wasn't enough fall foliage for you, then head to one of Amsterdam's mighty fine parks to see more trees on fire. If you're heading to Amsterdam in September or early October you may even get lucky with the weather and it will be warm enough to sit outside for a while or even have a picnic - I make no promises, but it has happened! My favourite parks to wander around at this time of year are Oosterpark, Beatrixpark, Vondelpark and if you're feeling adventurous, Amsterdamse Bos - the woods just outside the city centre.

Farmers Markets

Autumn is also the best time to wander around Amsterdam's farmers markets as it's the time of harvest. Expect tons of seasonal produce including pumpkins, squashes, other root vegetables, apples and berries. In addition to Amsterdam's most famous daily market at Albert Cuypmarkt, you should check out the farmers markets at Noordermarkt on Saturdays,  the daily (except Sunday) market at Ten Katemarkt in Oud West suburbs and the organic market on Nieuwmarkt, also on Saturdays.

Noordermarkt Flea Market

On Saturday it's home to a farmers market and on Monday it's where you can find one of Amsterdam's best flea markets at Noordermarkt. I love coming here in autumn because the weather is kind enough that I can stand outside for several hours and I can even swiftly try on some of the vintage clothes that catch my eye 

Visit a Sunday market

Have you guessed yet that I think spending time at a market is a good thing to do in autumn in Amsterdam? Well, you'd be right. My last suggestion for autumn markets are a few Sunday markets that combine handmade-crafty-artsy stores with street food. There's our big favourite Pure Markt which rotates around a handful of Amsterdam's parks (so you can see some of the beautiful fall colours in the trees) and the Sunday markets at Museumplein and on Rokin, which are both more central in Amsterdam.

Begijnhof

Again this is another one of Amsterdam's little spots I'll always recommend seeking out, however, I recently unearthed this photo I took of Begijnhof in autumn many years ago and I was taken aback by how beautiful it looked with golden leaves on the trees, so that's why I'm including it here. And if you want the history lesson, Begijnhof is a little enclave tucked away near Spui in the centre of Amsterdam which used to be home to a group of Beguines, or lay Catholic women who devoted their lives to the church. Nowadays it's still home to only women, and it's also where you can see the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam. Begijnhof is also free to visit, and is on my list of free things to do in Amsterdam.

Visit some of Amsterdam's museums

Let's get another predictable Amsterdam thing to do off the list shall we? But this one really is valid for autumn as it's one way to hide from rainy or windy or cold (or all three!) weather should it hit unexpectedly (which is very possible) and also the museums in Amsterdam should be slightly less crowded at this time of year than during the peak summer months. That said, if you're hoping to go to some of the more popular museums, like Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House, and Van Gogh Museum, I highly recommend you still book tickets online and in advance so you can jump the queues. Alternatively, look into getting the Iamsterdam City Card which gives you free or discounted access to museums, free public transport, and I believe you can also queue jump.

Also be aware that autumn is when Museumnacht takes place (see below), usually on a weekend in November. This is when many of Amsterdam's museums open up at night and you can enjoy parties, live music and drinks in them as well as the current exhibitions. We've been a few years and our favourite parties have been at Rijksmuseum and at FOAM photography museum (which is also a great museum to go to!).

Dutch Apple Pie at Winkel 43

If all that walking, museum-going photo-taking and market-finding has left you hungry, then go get yourself a slice of Amsterdam's best apple pie. I'll be honest and say I'd recommend to eating traditional Dutch apple pie at Winkel 43 (which is handily on Noordermarkt so can be combined with a market visit) to anyone and everyone, no matter the time of year they're visiting Amsterdam, but there is definitely something special about this spiced slice of apple goodness and thick, crusty pastry in autumn. Swallow it down with a warm coffee or cup of tea and you will be ready to go find more autumnal treats in Amsterdam in no time.

Try specualaas

You know those little biscuits you get with your coffee in some spots in Europe. They're spicy sweet and sugary, tasting of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and many other spices you can't quite put your finger on, well, that's speculaas or speculoos as it's sometimes called. A flavour that dates back to the time when the Dutch were among the first to import spices from the countries they colonised, speculaas has stood the test of time and is most popular in koekjes (cookies) though you can find all sorts of speculaas-flavoured treats and even speculaas spread for on bread at breakfast. The bakery Simon Meijssen is considered to have the best freshly-made speculaas cookies so keep your eyes out for one of their branches scattered across the city.

Eat at a "Farm-to-Fork" Restaurant

Again, because it's harvest, now is a really good time to try one of Amsterdam's (many!) farm-to-fork restaurants. The concept is that ingredients are locally sourced, fresh and menus change according to what's available on the day. Our favourite farm-to-table restaurants in Amsterdam are De Kas in Park Frankendael, As in Beatrixpark, The Rijks restaurant (just to the side of the Rijksmuseum), and Gartine in the centre of town, which is especially good for afternoon tea.

Try some hearty Dutch food

If none of the above sounds like your cup of tea, then maybe going Dutch will, and I don't mean splitting the bill (though that's also fine), but rather trying some Dutch food. Stodgy, stomach-filling and heart-warming, many traditional Dutch dishes are perfect to eat in autumn as they can be a bit heavy for summer palettes. It's certainly the time of year when the locals start to tuck into their stammpot, hutspot or erwtensoep. If you want to know what any of these words refer to try getting a reservation at Moeders restaurant, which serves up the best traditional Dutch meals while also having a quirky interior and theme; mothers. You will enjoy your meal surrounded by photos of mothers and you can add one of your own! 

Visit a brewery

No matter where you are, autumn is also a good time to try some local craft beers. Amsterdam has become a bit of a haven for craft and microbreweries and so you don't have to try too hard to find one. However, my favourites are the two that have been around the longest; Brouwerij 't IJ (which is located under a windmill!) and De Prael, which is a social enterprise employing those with learning difficulties or experiencing other setbacks. Yes, you can also go and visit the Heineken Experience (again definitely get tickets in advance!) but as I'm not a huge fan of the beer itself, so I also like to recommend other breweries! 

Get in the Halloween spirit

Autumn is of course also the time of Halloween and while the Dutch don't celebrate this anywhere close to the same extent as other countries like the USA, if you like to get spooky at  this time of year, there are plenty of ghoulish activities you can do in Amsterdam, including Amsterdam Dungeons and the Torture Museum you can even set yourself the challenge of finding two spookily named streets in Amsterdam - Spooksteeg (Ghost Alley) and Bloedstraat (Blood Street), both of which have haunted histories.

Try the thing Amsterdam is most famous for!

This is another, ahem, activity I rarely recommend to people, because again it's not something I do a lot or even ever now I'm a semi-responsible parent, however, if you are going to partake in experiencing the cannabis culture in Amsterdam, autumn is a good time to do it because the coffee shops won't be bursting with tourists (like they are in the summer) and all the young Dutch holidaymakers who come to the city and also partake in summer will be safely back at school or university, one hopes! You can also make this a cultural experience by going to the Hash Museum, or by going on a "Ganja tour" of some of the city's most famous coffee shops.

Enjoy a film festival... or two

Autumn is the season for film festivals in Amsterdam and there are quite a few to choose from, but I've listed the most popular ones below. Amsterdam is home to some really beautiful cinemas so consider this a great excuse to explore some of them too. My favourites are Rialto in De Pijp and arguably Amsterdam's most famous cinema, the Pathé Tuschinski.

(Early) Christmas Shopping

Because the streets are a little quieter, and because shops will be running some out of season promotions to keep the summer spending spirit up, autumn is a good time to do some shopping in Amsterdam. Whether you want to see what high street shops are popular in the Netherlands by strolling down Kalverstraat, or if you want to explore the independent shops and boutiques in the famous Nine Streets, Amsterdam has shopping for everyone.

Go for a run

Yes, you can lace up your trainers and go for a run through one of Amsterdam's parks (Vondelpark is my favourite for running) but you should also know that autumn is the time for the biggest organised running races in Amsterdam. The Dam tot Damloop (Dam to Dam Run), a ten-mile race which goes from Amsterdam to Zaandam near the coast is usually held towards the end of September and then Amsterdam Marathon takes place in October. So if you're a runner, autumn is definitely the time to plan a trip to Amsterdam!

Amsterdam Festivals and Events in Autumn

I've already referred to a few events and festivals above, but these are what's happening in Amsterdam in autumn, month by month so you can really pin down what to do during your autumnal visit to this city of mine. Please note that I've not included specific dates as these will change year on year, and it's possible some of these events will not take place in the future so do check the websites I link to or do a quick Google, to confirm dates.

Amsterdam in September

Open Monumentendag or Open Monuments Day is when historic or significant buildings and monuments - that are normally closed to the public - open their doors and invite people to pop inside and have a look around, all free of charge. It's a national initiative but there are normally many, many different places in Amsterdam taking part. 

On the Roof Film Festival does exactly what it says on the tin; shows a number of movies on the roof of one of Amsterdam's tallest buildings, the VU University Amsterdam. If you go to an English-speaking movie there it's almost certain they will have the original audio with subtitles so you won't miss out.

Unseen Amsterdam is a contemporary photography festival that takes place at Westergasfabriek in Westerpark (also a nice place to visit in autumn!), which aims to showcase and support up and coming talent.

Nederlands Theater Festival or the National Dutch Theatre Festival usually has several events taking place in Amsterdam, and it is closely followed by the Amsterdam Fringe Festival. Most shows and performances for both will be in Dutch, but you may be able to expect a few English surprises!

Draaiorgelfestival is not something I ever thought I'd recommend but this barrel organ festival (yes, that is a thing!) is quite something, and is also one of the few festivals where you see something that that feels uniquely yet unexpectedly Dutch. The barrel organs are anything but as bland as they sound - they're grand, intricate and beautifully painted - and the music can really get on your nerves amazingly quickly, but they add a lot of atmosphere.

Amsterdam in October

ADE is the biggest event happening in Amsterdam in October, and while it's certainly not for everyone (and hasn't been for me in recent years!) if you like dance music or want to come to Amsterdam to party, timing your visit with Amsterdam Dance Event is exactly what you should do, though do everything you can to book your flights and accommodation early, as hotel rooms will get booked out and prices will go up months in advance because of the festival.

PINT Bockbier Festival is an event celebrating bockbier, a strong, dark and seasonal beer that comes into its element at the time of this festival. This is a must-attend festival for any beer enthusiasts and this year (2018) the festival is dedicated entirely to Dutch beers only.

Afro Vibes is an annual festival celebrating African arts including music, theatre, performance, dance, poetry and design. There are events held throughout the country, with many of the headline acts and names descending on Amsterdam. 

KLIK Animation Festival is where people come together to enjoy "provocative quality animation" from around the world as well as from the Netherlands. The organisers believe passionately that animation is its own art form and this is celebrated at KLIK by fans and those working in the industry alike.

Read My World is a festival that I wish I'd heard of sooner considering I'm an author and writer by profession. This international literature festival aims to showcase new and emerging literary talents from all corners of the world, and each annual festival will focus on a different country or part of the world. In 2018 it's Turkey's turn.

Amsterdam City Walk is for those who love walking long distances in urban environments. Offering a number of different organised city walks ranging from 12 to an impressive 33 kilometres, this is definitely one special way to see A LOT of Amsterdam on foot during your autumn visit. Tourists and visitors to Amsterdam are very welcome to join in but you must sign up in advance via the website.

Cinekid Festival brings the world of cinema and film to the next generation. This family- and child-focused festival aims to get children more interested, involved and invested in the art of making films of all genres. I can't wait until my son is old enough to take part!

Grachtenrace is another event I am ashamed to say I've not yet witnessed, though it's a popular one with locals as they can watch over 100 "sloepen" row boats battle it out on a race through Amsterdam's canals. When speeds on the canals and waterways are usually very restricted (below 5km/h) this is an opportunity to see the waters on some of the city's canals get a bit choppy and lots of people battle it out.

Origin Chocolate Event, I believe, is as close to a chocolate festival that Amsterdam has. Bringing together chocolate makers from all over the world, as well as those representing cocoa producers and ethics in the industry, this one-day chocolate festival has something for everyone from those who just want to try lots of samples to those who want to learn, and even children who can enjoy some kids-only activities.

Amsterdam in November

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam is one of the highlights of the city's annual film festivals with participants arriving from all over the world. It's considered by many to be the industry's leading documentary festival and so the line-up at IDFA tends to reflect this each year and there is always a strong focus on diversity, both by nature and by design.

Amsterdam Art Weekend is a weekend celebration of contemporary art with exhibitions hosted in venues across the city including museums, galleries and other institutions. Expect all forms of contemporary art to be on display from the visual arts through to sculpture and photography. 

Museumnacht is the aforementioned night in November that sees fifty museums across Amsterdam stay open at night for people to not just explore the exhibits but also enjoy live music, performances and DJs until the early hours. It's a very unique opportunity to see Amsterdam's museums in a way that's rarely available to visitors. You pay for a one-off access ticket which gives you entrance to as many of the participating museums as you can squeeze into one night!

The Amsterdam Storytelling Festival is another event I wish I'd heard of rather than just stumbling over when researching this article. Dedicated to highlighting the importance of storytelling, most of the events take place in the Podium Mozaiek theatre in Amsterdam West, but there will also be things happening at the central OBA library close to Centraal Station.

Turn on the Lights is where they turn on the Christmas lights for the Bijenkorf, the city's most famous department store, in the centre of Amsterdam. You see, we're already getting a bit festive in Amsterdam in November because of Sinterklaas' pending arrival (see below) and these celebrations taking place in early December. Consider Bijenkorf the Harrods or Macy's of the Netherlands so if you like these kind of things be sure to check the dates for when the lights go on.

TEDx Amsterdam usually takes place each year in November so if these are your cup of tea then see if you can get tickets. The event takes place in Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, one of the city's most prestigious concert or performance venues and there is always a line-up of speakers to remember.

Ice Amsterdam is where an ice rink opens up in Museumplein and you can skate in front of the beautiful Rijksmuseum, or just stand on the make-shift "Magere Brug" imitation bridge and watch others doing it, which is what I normally do. It's definitely recommended that you book tickets in advance! And if you want to extend your icy experience in Amsterdam you can also go for drinks in the Ice Bar, but again book tickets in advance.

Sinterklaas Arrival is quite an event for Dutch people... if you're under the age of ten, but it's also a nice family event for people visiting. Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) is the Dutch (and Belgian, and I believe some German people's) version of Santa Claus or Father Christmas and you'll see he looks very similar but not quite the same. His story is also different. He comes to the Low Countries from Spain, by boat (obviously) and so he will arrive in Amsterdam (and funnily enough several other Dutch towns and cities) on the water and then will parade through the streets.

Amsterdam Weather in Autumn

The weather in Amsterdam will change a lot from early September through to the end of November. The former can feel as warm and sunny as summer, but the latter can be very cold and winter-like. Already in September, the days are getting shorter so you can expect evening and night temperatures to drop, even if the day is quite warm. In September daytime temperatures can be as high as in their 20s (Celsius) and October is normally (hopefully!) a month in the teens, and then November is where we dip into temperatures that are under 10 degrees.

Rain is a definite possibility in Amsterdam in autumn, but it's quite rare we have days of nothing but rain. I'll go out on a limb and say that snow is very unlikely in autumn in Amsterdam, though we did have some in early December a few years back so never say never! Poor old November can be quite a cold, windy month so I would prepare for the most unkind weather then, though it can also come good and hold off the worst winter weather until December. I suppose, I'm trying to say that September and October are more likely to have better weather than November so keep that in mind if you are fair-weather travellers!

What to wear and pack for Amsterdam in Autumn

With all the above in mind, I would bring long sleeve tops and trousers of your choosing to Amsterdam and then layers for going on top should temperatures drop or the rain come in. A lightweight waterproof jacket should be coverage enough, unless temperatures are predicted to drop below average, though of course November will be much colder than September which can sometimes feel as warm as summer months. As with visiting Amsterdam in any season, comfortable walking shoes are a great idea, and the good news about Amsterdam nightlife is that you don't need to dress up as much as you would in other cities so trainers, jeans and T-shirts are very acceptable in many bars and even clubs, though if you're going to one of the more upmarket restaurants or bigger nightclubs this may not be the case. Most ADE nights and parties are relatively casual too. In general, the nights will be much cooler than daytime so have a cover-up or jumper with you if you are planning on being out at night.

If you're coming to Amsterdam in September, be warned that there may still be some of Amsterdam's most regular summer visitors hanging around: Mosquitoes. So having repellent and/or an after-bite cream with you is not the worst idea in the world. These pesky pests can even stick around in October and later so just keep that in mind.

If you're planning on cycling in Amsterdam, think about the bag you're going to bring. Backpacks or an over the shoulder bag will be safest and easiest to cycle with as not all rental bikes have baskets or safe places to put your bags. November is apparently Amsterdam's wettest month, usually, so if you're worried about that bring an umbrella or "poncho" style waterproof cover-up, but I can't honestly say that I've noticed November having a lot more rain than other autumn and winter months.

And that's it! My guide to Amsterdam in autumn. I hope it's helpful and if you'd like to save or share this post, here's an image you can pin:

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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