Choosing a good time to visit Amsterdam is possibly the first step in planning your trip to this beautiful city of mine (well, it's not mine, but you know what I mean!) and hopefully this post will help you pick the best month to visit Amsterdam, depending on what exactly it is you want to do here, or perhaps I should say, what or who you want to avoid!
Because picking the best time to visit Amsterdam is really all about who you are, who you're travelling with, and what you want to do while you're here, I've therefore tried to cover a few different bases and I hope this post covers them so you're able to choose the best time to go to Amsterdam for YOU. Good luck, and happy planning!
(And if you're in the planning mood, check out this list of the best hotels for all budgets (and tastes!), this list of the best photo spots in Amsterdam, an overall city guide to the best Amsterdam neighbourhoods to stay in, and an individual guide to my favourite neighbourhood De Pijp, where I live.)
So, when is the best time to visit Amsterdam?
I'll quickly come clean straight away and say that in my honest opinion there is no one and only best time to travel to Amsterdam. At any time of the year, I'm confident you will find something to do that you'll enjoy. (My list of over 100 free things to do in Amsterdam is a good place to start, by the way.) Personally, I love Amsterdam most in the summer... but I love being anywhere in the summer as it's my favourite season. (And if you've already made up your brave mind to come to Amsterdam in the summer, then get stuck into this list of things to do in Amsterdam in the summer.)
However, summer is also a busy time in Amsterdam as it's when we have the most tourists and most festivals and events, and it's also true that all that good weather can go to people's heads a little (that or the alcohol!) so it's not always relaxing or showing the city off at it's best (i.e. the streets can be a bit dirty and chaotic!).
If you get lucky with the weather, spring and autumn are arguably the most beautiful months to be here with either the cherry blossom and tulips scattered all over the city, or the golden autumnal shades of the trees along the canals. As I mention above, it really does depend on what you want to see, what you want to do, and who you're travelling to Amsterdam with. So let's get stuck in and explain some of the best times to come to Amsterdam, depending on what you're hoping to do.
Best time to visit Amsterdam to avoid other tourists
The tourism stats for Amsterdam - which show a year on year increase in tourist numbers, FYI - prove that the best time to visit Amsterdam if you want to avoid other tourists is in the winter. January, February and December are the three months with lowest recorded hotel overnight stays (and these are considerably lower than summer months). November and March are also comparatively quiet, but by the time April rolls around the numbers start to go up and stays high until October.
Of course, this quite sensibly relates to the weather because winters in Amsterdam can be cold and dreary, but they can also be astonishingly beautiful with the occasional days of bright blue skies and sunshine although temperatures are cold by most people's standard (between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius, and lower at night). This year we experienced the Beast from the East cold snap - or the Siberische Beer (Siberian Bear) as the Dutch called it - and I know this made exploring the city quite a challenging experience for many of the tourists visiting (and for locals like me who had to wear thermals under their jeans which can bring on quite a sweat when cycling - I'll just leave that image with you).
Pretty much all of Amsterdam's best known and most loved museums stay open throughout the winter (possibly closing for Christmas Day and New Year's Day only) and you'll see the Dutchies are keen to be outside during winter either on their bikes, wrapped up in blankets in a bar's terrace or just walking through one of the city's parks so don't think that the city sleeps or goes quiet in the winter. It really doesn't.
There's a definite influx of travellers arriving in Amsterdam for New Year's Eve parties and I've noticed people also choosing Amsterdam as a place to come for a family holiday over Christmas, which I think is an excellent idea and something you'll always remember. You can find more tips and advice for planning a Christmas-time trip to Amsterdam here. Likewise Valentine's Day in February is also a little busier. What I will say quickly about coming to Amsterdam in winter is that it's still busy enough - the streets are never free of tourists! - so definitely worth buying skip the line museum and attraction tickets online in advance as there can still be queues for the most popular attractions like Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh and Anne Frank House.
There are also lots of things happening in Amsterdam over the winter, not least the fantastic Amsterdam Light Festival, Christmas Markets, and ice skating on the rink outside Rijksmuseum. Just make sure you bring warm clothes and an open mind or sense of humour about the weather!
Best time to visit Amsterdam with friends or as a group
Amsterdam has long been popular with groups of single-sex travellers here for hen dos and stag dos (or bachelor and bachelorette parties), so groups of travellers in Amsterdam don't have the best reputation and I have therefore heard that it can actually be quite tricky to find Airbnbs that will take such groups and hotels will also be wary of such a booking. However, you can help avoid this stigma by booking a trip to Amsterdam outside of the busy summer months (July and August), and also choosing a non-central location to stay in where you'll have more flexibility on options and price.
But that doesn't answer the question of the best time to come to Amsterdam in a group. I would highly recommend early summer or early autumn as the best times to travel to Amsterdam with a group of people., i.e. I would say the best months are May, late September or October. The weather should be fairly reliable, but the city won't be rammed with other groups of travellers so you'll avoid the highest prices for accommodation and other activities, and you'll also have more choice of things to do. Things like booking an area or large table in a restaurant or bar should be much easier as will moving around the city on bikes, should you choose to do so. (And if you do please swot up on these tips for cycling in Amsterdam so you don't cause yourself or anyone else an injury). If you want to party (see below!) there are still festivals happening in these months, and enough other travellers that places will still have a lively and buzzing atmosphere.
Best months to visit Amsterdam as a family
My advice for families looking for the best time to visit Amsterdam would be similar to the months I refer to above for groups. However, if you have young children and want to have a more relaxing, quieter stay, I would go for winter months to avoid other tourists - so things like moving around on public transport are a lot easier - just bring lots of layers and warm shoes (and waterproofs!) for your little ones.
Alternatively, if you have slightly older kids, and you have no choice but to travel in the summer holidays and you don't mind crowds, the summer months are a great time to come to Amsterdam as there are just as many family-oriented festivals and activities. I also highly recommend coming to Amsterdam for Easter as there's a great family atmosphere here then with egg hunts organised all over the city, lots of opportunities to find tulips in the public parks (which have fantastic playgrounds for kids) and we can sometimes get very, very lucky with the weather around this time. If you're feeling brave, visiting in late April is also a lot of fun for kids to join in the family-oriented King's Day activities. Find out more about them in this post.
Best months to visit Amsterdam for the tulips
Of course if you want to come to Amsterdam to experience the tulips and make a day trip out to Keukenhof or to the tulip fields then spring is obviously the best time to go to Amsterdam, specifically late March and early to mid-April. But you don't need to leave the city to find tulips as there are flower beds all over boasting beautiful blooms of this most iconic Dutch flower (even though it was originally Turkish, but we'll ignore that for now). The whole month of April is the Festival of Tulips in Amsterdam, and confusingly there is also a national tulip day (Tulpendag) on the third Saturday in January that launches the whole season so some events take place then.
Best time to visit Amsterdam to party
My partying in Amsterdam days are long over sadly (and they were a bit half-baked at the time... and no, not like that!) but again knowing the best time to come to Amsterdam specifically for the nightlife or to party is a bit dependent on what you want to do.
The peak of Amsterdam nightlife's calendar is in October when the world's dance music industry and world-leading DJs descend on the city for ADE, Amsterdam Dance Event. The parties are (apparently!) epic and will cater for most music tastes despite the event's name and focus on dance music. To experience a real street party and carnival spirit wash through the city - by day and night - the two highlights of Amsterdam's year are King's Day on 27th April and Pride in early August (check each year for dates). The day of Pride's famous canal parade is the climax of the latter and is an event for all the family, and it's well worth trying to get a spot along the canal early to enjoy the show and stumble upon a house or street party with live music and DJ sets blaring out of many houses and bars along the parade's route.
Again there are plenty of festivals in Amsterdam during the summer but don't dismiss those that happen in the other seasons. The Dutch are quick to take advantage of the milder weather as soon as it rocks up in spring and this is reflected in bars and clubs, and likewise they'll hold on to it for as long as they can into autumn. You can also be rest assured that there are several events and club nights for New Year so don't assume that's a terrible time to be in Amsterdam either, just again don't expect to get the cheapest hotel deals, though I imagine booking far in advance will help.
Best time to visit Amsterdam for romance
Ignore Paris and Rome, I think Amsterdam has plenty to offer the couple looking for romance. Just walking along the canals or going for an evening dinner cruise of the waterways all lit up is ridiculously romantic, and the city is full of cosy restaurants and bars to find a quiet corner and lean into your lover. Yes, of course, a Valentine's weekend in Amsterdam will always prove a hit and you may find hotels doing decent deals for the occasion. (My recommendations for romantic hotels are Amstel Hotel, The Dylan, The Hoxton, and definitely Hotel Ambassade which has a lovely and very romantic restaurant). Of course you're likely to be surrounded by other lovey dovey couples taking advantage of similar deals so if that's not your cup of tea then think outside the box.
Personally I find spring is very romantic in Amsterdam, not just for the cherry blossom but also for the so-called spring snow which arrives shortly after. You can find out more about this on this website, and if you've read The Fault in Our Stars you may recall them visiting at the time of the spring snow and it's mentioned a number of times. Autumn is also a beautiful time to visit Amsterdam and of course the weather is better for walks and spending time outside, but truth be told, I think you could do a lot worse than coming to Amsterdam in winter because it's quieter, the bars and restaurants are warm and cosy, and while the weather is unpredictable there's still enough to do indoors so you can keep warm or dry. (Again this post has some good ideas of free things you can do inside and I have to say the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh and Stedelijk museums make for great dates.) This is also a good time to go as you will be able to get tables at the best or most popular restaurants in town.
Best time to visit Amsterdam solo
I honestly would love to encourage any solo traveller to come to Amsterdam at any time of the year because it's a great city to move around solo and arguably doing that in the summer months is much easier than in a group so you can still enjoy the city in the summer with minimal stress. Summer is also when you're most likely to meet other travellers or find opportunities to socialise - if that's what you want to do - but it's also true that hotels and hostels will be more expensive then and single travellers may consequently pay a premium. It may be a good idea to also time your visit outside of most European school holidays (mid-July to early September) as this is when hotels and flights will be more expensive. With this in mind I think September and October would be great times to visit as you could get lucky with the weather, and there's enough to do in terms of events and festivals but you won't be overwhelmed by crowds or choice. The same applies for June though if the weather is good you could be mistaken for thinking that the whole city is on holiday already because it often feels that way to me on a sunny day in early summer!
And that's really all the advice I have! If I haven't covered your particular situation please do leave a comment so I can update this post with some appropriate advice. If you'd like to save or share this post, here are some images you can pin:
And if you'd like more inspiration or information for planning your visit to Amsterdam, check out some of the posts below:
Things to do in Amsterdam in Winter
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.
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Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.