Welcome to Spring in Amsterdam!
Continuing my series of posts sharing the best things to do in Amsterdam in each season, this post aims to give you an overview of some of the best, most fun, and most special things to do in Amsterdam in spring. Springtime is a very popular time to visit Amsterdam because of some very famous flowers that pop up and burst into bloom... yep, I'm talking about tulips. So absolutely if you want to see tulips in Amsterdam, you need to plan your visit to Amsterdam for March, April or May. (And if you only want to know about how to see tulips in Amsterdam or the surrounding region, this is the post for you.)
However, there are many other things to see and do in the spring in Amsterdam, so don't panic if you're a hay-fever sufferer or just not that interested in tulips (they're actually not Dutch originally anyway - they're Turkish!) and read on for some of the many other good reasons to visit Amsterdam in spring. (And you can find similar posts for things to do in the summer, the autumn/fall or the winter.) And if you haven't yet made up your mind about when to come, read this guide for the best times to visit Amsterdam depending on what you want to do and who you're travelling with.
If you're still planning your trip, bookmark these posts so you can make your Amsterdam spring visit the very best:
The Weather in Amsterdam in Spring
I think in each of these seasons in Amsterdam posts I've written, I've started off the weather section with the word "Usually" or "Normally" because the weather for each season in Amsterdam is somewhat unpredictable (apart from winter which is nearly always cold and grey!) and spring is no different. Spring in Amsterdam can be warm, dry and with bright blue skies. However, it can also be rainy, dreary and with an unrelenting cold wind. The warmest days can be T-shirt-wearing weather, while the worst days can feel like the peak of winter. This is not much help to you if you're planning a trip to Amsterdam during the spring months, other than suggesting you take a look at the weather forecast before you arrive in the city, and that you have some layers, an umbrella and a warm coat, just in case.
Needless to say that March temperatures and weather in Amsterdam will be a lot more like winter than the end of May, which could be very sunny and summer-like, so you can be somewhat confident that you should wear warmer clothes the earlier in spring you visit Amsterdam. April is the true anomaly, as I've had some April days in Amsterdam when I can sit outside in the sun wearing a summer dress, but I've also had reason to still wear my winter boots during the another (or maybe even the same!) month of April in Amsterdam. Again, my best advice is to check the forecast and prepare for changeable weather. Needless to say, nights are always chillier than daytime and in terms of daylight, you can enjoy longer evenings in May than in March, though neither have the extremes of summer and winter, and evenings in spring will turn quite cold though you'll see locals are still committed to sitting outside and enjoying restaurant and bar terraces as much as possible.
Best Things to do in Amsterdam in Spring
Now we've got the weather bit out of the way, let's really get stuck into the many fun things to do in Amsterdam in spring.
Enjoy ALL the tulips!!
Think of Amsterdam in spring and it's almost criminal if your mind doesn't than conjure up images of tulips. The Netherlands is world famous for its association with tulips and even after living here over five years I still get giddy when I see tulips being sold in the markets as for me it really is the very first sign of spring being about to begin. And of course, don't even get me started on those ridiculously photogenic striped tulip fields and the delights of Keukenhof (see below), but does Amsterdam as a city have much to offer those coming to Amsterdam in spring in order to indulge in a little tulip fever? Yes, it does! It has a whole festival (and numerous parks and gardens and flower beds scattered across the city filled with tulips. Tulip Festival is a month long celebration of the nation's favourite flower running throughout April, and it features a number of different events and installations, though they change each year so be sure to check out the website for more information.
And the best places to see some tulips around the city? I love the tulips on show in the garden in Vondelpark, in the pond outside the Rijksmuseum in Museumplein, and those growing in the round flower beds on Magere Brug, but just keep your eyes open everywhere and you can't fail to see them.
Visit Keukenhof Spring Garden
If the Tulip Festival wasn't enough pollen for your noses, then get yourselves to Keukenhof for an overload of spring flowers and blossom. Each year this famous spring garden is open for only a few months (normally from middle of March to the middle of May) and is very popular so be sure to get your tickets in advance - this will also make your journey getting there a little easier. The gardens are some distance from Amsterdam so consider this a day trip rather than something to do in the city. Either way don't do what I did which is expect Keukenhof to be home to all the famous striped tulip fields you see, although these will surround the garden and you will see them. See below to find out how to see these fields in question.
When you visit Keukenhof will influence exactly what kind of flowers you will see. If you go later you will miss the best of the tulips but there will be more summertime flowers, and visiting Keukenhof when it first opens will mean you won't see everything in full bloom, so if you really want to see tulips then I would go earlier in the month, but if you're not fussed about your spring flowers then go later, and you will also enjoy better weather then.
This post about visiting Keukenhof from Amsterdam including tips on how to get there should help you plan a trip. Alternatively, you can book your ticket and transfer in advance to make it an easier trip or combine your visit to Keukenhof with a tour to somewhere else like other picturesque Dutch villages..
Visit the tulip fields close to Amsterdam
(Photo by Karen from Wanderlusting K who shares some tips for how to see the tulip fields for free!)
I would only sort of be lying if I told you that it's hard work to find the tulip fields in the Netherlands in the spring because they are actually everywhere, covering much of the country (because remember this country is a world leader in horticulture and more specifically tulips!) but it's also true that you can't just expect to stumble upon the tulip fields for your all important photo opportunities. However, a little planning goes a long way. Or you can book a tour in advance like this cycling the tulip fields tour, an ultimate tulip experience starting in Amsterdam, or a very special combined private tour of the Keukenhof and nearby tulip fields.
If you're heading to Keukenhof you'll be delighted to know that the fields surrounding the spring gardens are indeed striped tulip fields, and indeed they can be found all around that part of the country (the nearest town is called Lisse). Once at Keukenhof you can hire a bike to go touring the surrounding fields, or you can just got for a stroll by yourself. Other areas (close-ish!) to Amsterdam where you can expect to find tulip fields are north of the city between Schagen and Den Helder, the most northerly mainland point in North Holland. Get a 50-minute train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Schagen and if you head off in a westerly direction (follow signs for Sint Maartenszee) and you will easily find the fields.
And if you're looking for other ways to find tulips, here are my best tips for seeing tulips in Amsterdam and beyond.
Admire the city's spring blossom
I think we've officially done tulips now, so lets move on to other pretty floral things you can see in Amsterdam in spring; spring blossom!! Despite living here for five years, every spring I am surprised by just how pretty the city is with clusters of blossoming trees and plants waking me up from winter. Just wondering around the city will lead you to find cherry blossom trees and more, however, if you really wanted to overindulge your senses or hayfever, the best place you should go to for spring blossom is Bloesempark (Blossom Park so I guess the clue is in the name!) in Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Woods), which is just a short tram ride from the centre of the city, where there's a beautiful collection of Japanese cherry blossom trees. There is one weekend when this is the best time to visit - in early April - but really if you visit anytime between late March and late April, the odds are good that you'll see the spring blossom there and all around Amsterdam, especially in the city's parks.
See the spring snow
If tulips and cherry blossom don't do it for you, then let's leave flowers behind completely. At least the flowers that look like flowers. If you've read or watched The Fault in Our Stars you may remember the protagonists' visit to Amsterdam coinciding with the "spring snow" or the falling of the elm seeds from trees all across the city. As a local this deluge of natural confetti is a little annoying as the seeds stick to our shoes, and buggy and bike wheels, and it covers the streets and canals, but I can't deny how pretty it is when you see it falling over one of the old main canals in Amsterdam. And yes, it really does look like snow!
There is a Springsnow Festival celebrating the event where you can find more information about it and when is the best time to try and see it.
Visit Hortus Botanicus for spring flowers
Another place where you can see spring flowers - and more! - is Hortus Botannicus, the city's botannical gardens. Tucked away in one of my favourite parts of the city centre, the Hermitage area, this small but historic botannical garden comprising of three large greenhouses and some outdoor gardens is where at any time of the year you will see some local and international plants, trees and flowers, but of course in the springtime you can expect the spring flowers you typically associate with Western Europe. Hortus Botannicus is also a good place to go on a cold day as the large greenhouses are heated!
Please note that entry to the Hortus Botanicus is not free unless you have an I amsterdam City Card which will also give you free public transport and free or discounted entry to museums. You can read my review of the I amsterdam City Card and get more information about whether it's worth it here.
Go on a day trip to see some windmills
(Photo by Kirsten of Travelaar)
Another way to see the tulip fields and/or spring blossom while also ticking off a very nice thing to do as a day trip from Amsterdam is heading on the train or getting a bus to Zaanse Schans - the famous village home to lots of windmills and some seriously typical Dutch scenery, complete with tulip fields lining your way there! It's also true that spring is a better time than summer to visit this scenic village and its many windmills, as the peak summer tourist season is yet to kick in. There are also lots of possible ways to get to Zaanse Schans on an organised tour, and entry to Zaanse Schans is also free with an I amsterdam City Card.
However, if you don't have much time and don't want to use up a day away from Amsterdam, worry not! Amsterdam is home to eight windmills and some of them are very easily accessible, like the windmill at Brouwerij 't IJ (which yes means you can stop there and have a beer in the windmill's shadow!).
Have fun and wear orange on King's Day
Want to see Amsterdam party hard? Well, then you need to make your way to the city for the end of April. On the 27th April - the day of the current Dutch King's birthday, the country is given a day off to party and sell their junk on the street in the so-called vrijmarkten, free markets, which sees the government relax laws so anyone can sell anything on the street. Another thing you need to know is if you're in Amsterdam on King's Day you will see a lot of people wearing orange so that's the colour to wear if you want to blend in with the crowd.
If you want to know more about King's Day and how to celebrate in Amsterdam read this post about enjoying King's Day in Amsterdam like a local.
Find new life at one of Amsterdam's city farms
It wasn't until I had children that I found out just how many city farm there are in Amsterdam, and regardless of whether you have kids of your own or not, going to see the baby farm animals there is a lovely spring activity, and a great way to escape the urban landscape for a few hours. Our favourites are the goat farm in Amsterdamse Bos, and the petting farms in Amstelpark and Westerpark. You should also know that there is a small urban farm in De Pijp.
Visit one of Amsterdam's city markets
While Amsterdam's markets are open all year round, you won't find me eager to stroll around them in the winter months. Instead spring is the time I like to dust off my shopping bags and get some fresh vegetables and fruit at one of the city's best daily or farmer's markets. The best ones for some variety on what's on offer are the Saturday markets at Kinkerstraat, Noordermarkt and Lindengracht, and of course I'm a fan of the daily market on Albert Cuyp though it is very busy at weekends so maybe go during the week if you can.
Open Tower Day
Now moving on to more of the spring-time festivals and events in Amsterdam. Open Tower Day follows the same principle as Open Monument Day where both historic and modern monuments and buildings in the city open their doors to the public for free for just one weekend. Open Tower Day shifts the focus to the tallest towers and spires in Amsterdam, allowing the general public to climb their heights and see usually closed off parts of historic buildings and churches, and subsequently promising some great views across the city. The festival usually takes place in March but dates will vary each year so be sure to double check the exact weekend.
Cycle when there aren't so many crowds
It's true that cycling in Amsterdam is an all-year activity but if there is a prime time to enjoy riding a bike around Amsterdam it's arguably springtime. Mainly this is because there are slightly less crowds thanks to lower tourist numbers in the city, but it's also a more reliable time of year to cycle than winter in terms of the river. Hire your bikes from a reputable company and read up on these tips for cycling safely in Amsterdam and then plan your journey into the city centre, around the main ring canal, or around one of Amsterdam's parks.
Remembrance and Liberation Day Celebrations
As a Brit it is quite sobering to live in a country that was occupied during the Second World War. While our D-Day celebrations and Remembrance Day honouring are solemn events they are still somewhat triumphant in spirit. It's not quite the same here in the Netherlands where they remember Liberation Day on the 5th of May. In a somewhat confusing set-up this day is a national holiday every other year, but each year you can expect a number of events marking the occasion. Not least, in Amsterdam, there is a very famous concert on the canals to honour the fallen and remember the lessons learned from that period of history.
There are other events celebrating Remembrance and Liberation Days so do check out this page if you're going to be in Amsterdam in early May.
Eat chocolate... for Easter, of course!
While the date of Easter will vary it is of course something of that always happens in spring so take full advantage of this by using it as an excuse to find some of the best chocolate shops in the city. My personal favourite is Van Soest on Utrechtsestraat where you can find the prettiest and tastiest Easter Eggs and other shaped models.
Explore the De Pijp neighbourhood
Any season is a good time to explore one of Amsterdam's old neighbourhoods but because I live there and I'm biased, spring is a lovely time to wander around De Pijp. Brimming with places to have a coffee (and a slice of cake), a more than decent meal, and home to the Netherlands' oldest daily market, Albert Cuypmarkt, you'd be amazed how much you can see and do in just a few hours in De Pijp. Be sure to wander around the small but much-loved Sarphatipark which will also have some blossom on its trees and daffodils and other spring flowers pushing up from the ground.
World Press Photo Exhibit and Festival
One of my favourite annual exhibitions begins in spring - normally from April through to July - and it takes place in one of Amsterdam's oldest church, Nieuwe Kerk. The World Press Photo Exhibit is a thought-provoking collection of striking photos depicting world events and people's stories from the last year. With the organisation being based in the Netherlands, Amsterdam is also lucky enough to host the World Press Photo Festival which takes place in April and offers the opportunity for visitors to hear the stories behind the photos in greater depth. Both are unmissable if you are interested in photography or current political events.
So I appreciate this isn't everyone's cup of tea but if you have even a slight taste for asparagus, spring is the time to eat it and the Netherlands is one of the best country's to do it in because the delicious, full-flavoured spring vegetables haven't travelled far at all, and the Dutch honour this by making a meal of it... literally. Serving ever so slightly al-dente asparagus with a special sauce (which is not dissimilar to hollandaise) and ham and potatoes, believe me when I say it's a lot more delicous than it sounds!
Go for afternoon tea
Again, any day of the year is a good day to go for afternoon tea but there's something special about having afternoon tea on a crisp, cool but blue-skied day, especially in a place that is going to treat you to some of the vegetables and produce that are coming into season like the aforementioned . Gartine is one such place and is well worth visiting (and reserving ahead!) if you want to see inside a quirky, old, brown Dutch cafe filled with vintage crockery. My other favourite places for afternoon tea include Betty Blue, Hotel Droog, and the Museum of Bags and Purses.
And that brings this post on the many wonderful things to do in Amsterdam at spring to a close. If you have happened to visit this city in March, April or May and you'd like to add some suggestions here, please do so in the comment!
For further reading to help plan your Amsterdam trip please find some possibly useful posts below:
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All photos by Frances M. Thompson, except Spring Snow from the Spring Snow Festival website.
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Frances M. Thompson
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