Amsterdam in Summer
Amsterdam in summer is a huge part of the reason we live in Amsterdam. The city seems to gain new life, new energy and new levels of fun during the summer months (June, July and August) and unlike the years I lived in London, I don't like to leave Amsterdam when summer rolls around. It's partly because there are so many fun and brilliant things to do in Amsterdam during the summer, but it's also because the whole city seems to relax a bit more. Cyclists pedal slower, cafe and bar terraces are filled all day long, and the parks have a festival atmosphere every single day, no matter what time of the day it is (though of course the evenings are a lot more festival-y!).
If you're planning your Amsterdam trip right now, here are some more posts you can check out later:
Below this list of things to do, I've listed a bit more information about what the weather is like in Amsterdam during the summer, as well as some important things you should know about visiting Amsterdam in summer, but please know that the things I've selected for you to do in Amsterdam in summer months have been chosen so you can avoid the majority of the crowds and you can perhaps feel more like a local than a tourist.
The Best Things to do in Amsterdam in the Summer
So I know I said you'd feel more like a local Amsterdammer doing the things on this list, but perhaps the first thing on this list isn't one for locals. But the summer is definitely the best (or only!) time to go on a boat ride on Amsterdam's canals. Whether it's a large canal tour boat, hiring your own boat or even getting some exercise on a pedal, I've put together a big list of ways you can see Amsterdam by water here, including some important things to know if you are hiring your own boat.
If you prefer to stay off the water, there's still something calming about sitting at the water's edge of a canal and either having a picnic or just watching the world and other boats go by. My personal favourite place to sit by the water during the summer is watching the sunset from the banks of the River Amstel. On a sunny summer's day, if you make your way up to where you can find the bar-restaurants Hesp and Girassol, you will see a stretch of a footpath totally occupied with sunbathers and others already in place to watch the sun go down. BYO drinks and a picnic and enjoy soaking up the very last of the sun's rays.
If the weather is being kind - and indeed, we've had several very hot days in Amsterdam during the summer with temperatures in the 30s - then you will want to know where you can cool down, especially if you're travelling with young children who will need this more than anyone - also it's a great free and fun activity for them! So splashing in one of Amsterdam park's splash or paddling pools, is definitely worth doing. Most big parks in Amsterdam have kids' areas with splash pools and our favourites are the ones at Vondelpark, Beatrixpark and Westerpark.
If you do go to Vondelpark, be sure to seek out the flower garden which should be full of beautiful roses in the summer. Going to look at the roses in Vondelpark is an annual tradition for us (and the tulips in spring, FYI!) and handily it's nice and close to the children's play area and splash pool - something for everyone!
All this splashing and park-strolling may build up a hunger, or perhaps you're like me and always hungry! Well, summer in Amsterdam is a good a time as any to go on a culinary exploration of the city. Eating Amsterdam Food Tours are good as a summer activity because a) it will still be fun even if the weather lets you down and b) if the weather does come good, all the better as you will actually spend quite a lot of time walking around outside. I have done the Eating Amsterdam tour of Jordaan, which includes a private boat trip - again perfect for a summer's day! - and had a thoroughly good time, let down only by grey skies for my photos.
If you're dodging museums but still want to visit a bit of Amsterdam's history, then Begijnhof is where you need to go. Beautiful on a summer's day and completely free to visit, this enclosed courtyard and collection of old houses has plenty of history, including the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam, and will offer a little respite in an otherwise bustling corner of Amsterdam's busy shopping area. If the weather is scorching hot, pop inside the church there which should be nice and cool.
Speaking of cooling off in churches, if you want to discover another blink-and-you'll-miss-it building steeped in history - and yes, you want a dark, cool spot to catch your breath in - pop inside the H.H. Petrus en Pauluskerk or De Papegaai Kerk, which is just a doorway squeezed between shops on Kalverstraat (at number 58).
And if you want to actually explore a church in a different way, and get an amazing view of the Red Light District to boot, then climb the tower of Oude Kerk. I was lucky enough to do this on a beautiful sunny day in late spring, and it's only actually possible to go up the tower in warmer months, so for amazing views and a really interesting guided tour (and a bit of a workout!) then this is well worth considering.
Okay, enough inside places. It's summer! We want to be outside, and what better way to be outside on a warm summer's day, on a beach... Yes, a beach. In Amsterdam! While visiting some of the beaches in Amsterdam require a more open mind than others, there are several spots where you can find sand and water and while most of these city beaches are man-made, it's worth knowing that in Amsterdam you're only a 30 minute train ride from some of the Netherlands' best natural beaches (Zandvoort, Bloemendaal aan Zee and IJMuiden). Blijburg aan Zee is one of Amsterdam's most popular city beaches and is arguably the biggest in the urban landscape. You can get there by taking the number 26 tram and it's only about a 15 minute ride away from Centraal Station. Other city spots include Pllek in NDSM Werf in Amsterdam Noord, Strand Zuid next to Beatrixpark in Amsterdam Zuid (South), and Amsterdam Roest in Amsterdam Oost (East). All of these spots are great for older kids but perhaps not with little ones who like to run off (and into the water!) instead maybe take your toddlers to the lake beach at Sloterpas which has a more natural gradient into the water.
If you actually came to Amsterdam in summer to really swim, not just poke your big toe in ice cold North Sea water, then I suggest you go swimming in Flevobad in Amsterdam Oost. Arguably, Amsterdam's best outdoor pool, it's located in the huge Flevopark that is ofter untouched and unexplored by visitors to Amsterdam. Basically, if you rock up here in your Speedos on a warm summer's day, you can expect to be surrounded by locals.
If you want to do some exercise but don't really want to get wet then, I recommend hiring a bike... and then leaving the city. Because Amsterdam is so busy in the summer, and because tourists are liabilities on bikes (apart from you, of course!) cycling in the city sounds lovely and romantic but the reality is very different. Instead go on a long bike ride to Ouderkerk, a small town about 10 kilometres southeast of Amsterdam. You can cycle long the water's edge most of the way, you'll go past a windmill and you'll also have a few restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from (including an Ijscupje - see below!) as a reward for all that hard work.
If you want to stay closer to Amsterdam on two wheels, you can set yourself the challenge of finding all of Amsterdam's windmills. Most of them are located away from the city centre and there all over Amsterdam so you'll definitely see plenty as you embark on this route. This page has a map with the closest ones to Amsterdam as well as some further out of the city. Be sure to time your visit to the one near Brouwerij 't IJ with when you feel most thirsty as this is a lovely craft brewery that also run free tours at weekends.
Another great place to explore by bike in the summer is Amsterdamse Bos, or Amsterdam Woods. With a goat farm and play parks a plenty for little people, cafes and running routes for older or fitter folks, a water sports centre where you can hire kayaks, and a rowing lake to watch teams race, there's plenty to see and do on a summer's day. There are also regular events happening there (including Pure Markt, see below), and this is definitely a place to escape the city and enjoy nature if the heat makes Amsterdam feel a little crowded and sticky.
Now surely it must be time to replace some of those burnt calories from all your beach-going, cycling and outdoor-swimming... Just as well there are some amazing places to get ice cream and gelato in Amsterdam. My personal favourite is Ijscupje, a local chain of take-away ice cream bars scattered across the city, but there are lots of independent gelateria as well. In De Pijp alone (where we live) you can find an Ijscupje, an Italian-owned Massimo Gelato and De Lepel (also run by an Italian) where you can get gluten-free ice cream and cones! (And if you're confused by the photo above, that's me resting a cup of ice cream on my huge 9-months-pregnant belly a few summers ago.)
As I briefly mentioned, Amsterdamse Bos is one of the locations for Pure Markt, a regular(ish) Sunday outdoor food and artisan goods market that rotates around some of Amsterdam's parks. Stalls sell handmade and crafted goods, street food, and world delicacies, and there are a few bars (find the Hungarian pink fizz - it's the best!) and live music. It's a great family day out as there's normally plenty of space for people to run around in, or there may even be a playground nearby. Just please don't eat up all the cakes at American Baking Company's stall - that's our favourite! Read more about Pure Markt here, and find out when and where the next one is here.
At the risk of putting you off all the delicious food I just mentioned, did you know that it's Nieuwe Haring season in June? This means you can try one of the most Dutch of all the Dutch foods - pickled herring! I put off trying this delicacy for many years because it just sounded gross, but I was pleasantly surprised when I finally had some - it's a lot like sushi. You can find several fishmongers around Amsterdam selling this (at all times of the year) but June is when the freshly(ish) caught stuff is available. I tried it at a stall on Albert Cuyp Markt.
Let's return to something a bit cultural shall we? Possibly my favourite garden in Amsterdam, is Rijksmuseum Garden just outside Rijksmuseum (funnily enough). It wraps around the whole museum and has a large chessboard, a fun water feature for kids to play in, and several permanent and temporary art exhibits to look at. Go to look around or just find a spot to sit and read, either way you won't regret it on a sunny day. Find out more about my love for Rijksmuseum Garden here.
Below, I talk about how Amsterdam has wonderful late night summer evenings, and you probably want a few ideas for how to spend them. One of my suggestions is the free open air theatre in Vondelpark. Performances range from music concerts, to comedy shows to dance and theatre (and during the day they'll have family-friendly stuff on stage). Okay, so some of it may be in Dutch but certainly not all. The website isn't very up to date unfortunately but their Instagram seems to have some future listings mentioned.
Alternatively, hang out with wild animals at the late night "ZOOmeravonden" (Summer Evenings) at Artis Zoo. I'm hoping to try this myself this year, and you can definitely make a night of it if you go on to have dinner at Hermitage restaurant which is located opposite the Zoo's grounds.
If you don't need entertainment and just want to do some classic boozing, but with a nice view, then you should definitely head to one of Amsterdam's rooftop bars to enjoy the sunset and a long evening outside. I'm ashamed to say I haven't really done any of Amsterdam's rooftop bars (yet!) but many of my friends here have and they list Canvas at Volkshotel and SkyLounge in the Double Tree Hilton are among the best. There's also one in De Pijp, at the top of Hotel Okura, but it's sadly not an outdoor bar.
If heights give your vertigo, then try drinking in a waterfront bar of which Amsterdam unsurprisingly has several. Our favourites are Hannekes Boom, Pllek (again), Edel and Noorderlicht (which also does really good food!). For a less young and hipster crowd (though I make no promises!), try the EYE Film Museum bar and cafe which has some of the best views in Amsterdam. Other people also rave about Waterkant and Amstelhaven (though we ate at the latter and didn't rate it!).
You won't be shocked in any way to learn that there are tons of summer festivals in Amsterdam. There's something happening every weekend if not every day. The highlight of these (for me and very likely most of the rest of the city) is Pride, which usually takes place the first week of August, culminating in the famous canal parade which is well worth grabbing an early spot along the route for (just hope your bladder can go the distance!). To find out which other festivals are on during your visit, this is the best website.
So, Amsterdam Summer Weather: What's that really like?
Good question! As with most of West Europe, the weather in Amsterdam during summer months can be unpredictable and certainly not guaranteed sunshine or warmth. However, in general, you have more of a chance of good weather in summer months (June - August) than you do any other time of the year, insofar as temperatures will be in the mid to high 20s, and the sun should shine. You can also expect low humidity too (most of the time) unless there is a storm brewing. I've spent five summers in Amsterdam now and while sometimes it rains more than I would like and yes, it's not always possible to leave a jumper at home, one thing you can rely on is long evenings (and yep, very early mornings!). Close to Summer Solstice (21st June) you will find that the sun rises as early as just before 5am (though it will be light earlier) and it sets as late as just after 10pm. This means long lazy summer evenings outside until much later, or if you're an early bird, plenty of opportunity to seize the day!
Things to Know about Visiting Amsterdam in Summer
Needless to say the summer is Amsterdam's busiest season for visitors. You will not be alone in coming to Amsterdam in June, July or August! The centre of town (basically anywhere within the main ring canals) will be busy and full of tourists most days and especially at weekends. Despite warm weather some of the city's most popular museums, sites and landmarks will have queues outside them and will be packed full inside. My personal opinion, therefore is that if you specifically want to visit many of Amsterdam's museums don't come in the summer. You'd be much better off coming to do that in the winter or spring months when there are fewer other visitors and museums can be somewhere you take shelter and find warmth!
Regardless of when you come to visit ALWAYS book your tickets for museums online and in advance so you can avoid the queues which for some attractions like Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum can be several hours long!
Summer is also Amsterdam's busiest season for... MOSQUITOES! If you're coming to Amsterdam in the summer (and even spring or autumn) I highly recommend bringing mosquito repellent for evenings and if you want to sleep with your windows open you will almost certainly be inviting in a few new blood-sucking friends so keep your curtains closed as soon as you open your window!
Have you visited Amsterdam in summer? What did you enjoy doing? I'd love to hear your suggestions....
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Frances M. Thompson
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