Things to Do

What’s on while you’re in town? Amsterdam is a cultural city with dozens of events daily, and this page has tips for things to do in Amsterdam.

First I mention some great websites with listings according to different categories and styles. Then scroll down for great annual festivals and events listed by each month of the year.

Academic and Cultural

check out Spui 25 on the lovely Spui square in the center of town for academic and cultural events in Dutch and English hosted by the University of Amsterdam. Debates and lectures by authors and thinkers take place in an intimate hall. The website may be in Dutch, but it’s worth translating! Registering to attend is free. Guest speakers from other countries mean the event will be in English.

De Balie near Leidseplein is a fabulous grand cafe but also a special venue for debates, seminars, theatre, and film.

General Events

The official events listing for all theaters and venues is called Uitburo Again, it’s in Dutch but nothing that a Google translate won’t cure.

For you hipsters, Unlike has a mix of cool shops, restaurants, hotels, and tips.


Amsterdam Light Festival. As the days are short in this part of the world, the Amsterdam Light Festival lights up the city with light sculptures, projections and installations by contemporary (inter)national artists. The boat route, Water Colors, takes visitors past artworks along Amsterdam’s canals and the Amstel. The walking route, Illuminade, winds through the city center. During the festival, light will play a central role in the city as museums and institutions organise light-related activities, introducing visitors to innovations in light art. Amsterdamsel Tours can also take you on a private Illuminade Walk, beginning from your (central) hotel.


Dutch National Holiday. King’s Day (Koningsdag) every 27 April throughout town is a street party that began as a national pride holiday and has grown into an international festival. All you need is bright orange clothing (the colour of the Dutch Royal House of Oranje Nassau). It begins with lovely children performing on various musical instruments, haggling over 2nd hand goods people sell during the vrijmarkt (free market), food vendors, drinks, free live music, and concentrations of parties on bridges and squares throughout town. The night before is King’s Night, famous for its clubbing atmosphere.

Photography/News. A world of mind-stunning international news in photos. The World Press Photo Exhibition exhibits the finest award-winning photojournalism from around the world in Amsterdam at the Oude Kerk. April and June

Fantasy Film. For films that challenge your sense of reality, check out theAmsterdam Fantastic Film Festival 14-24 April


Open Garden Days (Open Tuinen Dagen) brings out the gardener and voyeur in us all. Not only do you get to explore the gardens of the affluent, you get to peek at their furniture and personal lives as you walk through their houses to get to the gorgeous landscapes! mid-June


Art house film lovers. Grab a beach chair, wrap a blanket around yourself and/or pal, and Pluk de Nacht, Amsterdam’s open air film festival the first week of August on the Westerdoksdijk, a beautiful old harbour, just minutes west of Centraal Station. There is always a unique selection of unreleased independent arthouse cinema, documentary, animation and shorts. Admission to all festival activities and screenings is free. Films start at sundown.

Classical Music Outdoors. The Grachtenfestival is an annual classical music festival on special locations in the centre of Amsterdam and on the IJ banks, with new locations every year. Witness final classical pieces while on the site of special or monumental architecture with cultural and historical value.

East West Music Fusion. The LiteSide Festival brings East and West together from 20-22 August in the Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek just west of Amsterdam Centraal Station. Enjoy an East and West cultural crossover of music, dance, literature, theater, art, and film–and snacks. Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek (Amsterdam), 20 -22 aug 16.00-04.00 Dagkaart €15.00; passe-partout €25.00

Ramadan Festivities and Feasting. The Ramadan Festival gives everyone a sense of the atmosphere during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar…a time to give up some bad habits, fast by daylight, feast by moonlight. 11 Aug – 13 Sept throughout Amsterdam, see programme

Ships Ships and more Ships! SAIL Amsterdam is the largest free event in the Netherlands on and around the IJ river, taking in spectacular views of Tall ships, naval ships, and modern ships. There is no better way to celebrate the historic port city’s shipping heritage. every few years…

World Cinema. During World Cinema Amsterdam, visit Marie Heinkenplein (behind the Heineken Brewery) for open air screenings of fine world cinema and the famous Rialto Cinema for indoor screenings from all over the world. Some films subtitled in English, some in Dutch; check links above. 12-22 Aug


History. Open Monument Day is the chance to look inside more than 60 known and lesser-known landmarks. The theme: “The taste of the 19th century,” a time of flourishing industry, an expanding city and a colorful style. mid-September


Halloween. Fox Amsterdam Halloween Parade and Party every late October begins with a fantastical parade of cars and costumes through certain streets of Amsterdam before a big costume party that sells out fast!


Documentary Film. International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. For clever film lovers. IDFA is one of the world’s leading documentary film festivals, held annually in Amsterdam in November since 1988. Meet the directors. Blow your mind. mid-November

Around here, Saint Nicholaas is called Sinterklaas. The bearded man and Zwarte Piet first embark on Amsterdam for a grand parade for the kids. Around 12:30 on a Sunday in mid-November


Saint Nicholas. The Christmas season is alive and well when Dutch families have a unique tradition on the day of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of sailors and children. 5 Dec

Amsterdam Light Festival. The Amsterdam Light Festival brings light and color to the city after dark. Check out light sculptures, color parades, and other illuminating festivities the second week in December. Amsterdamsel Tours would be happy to lead you along the trail of light artists’ sculptures during these 50 days of lights.

Gay Christmas. Pink Christmas is a gay-friendly yuletide festival the third week in December.

Want your cultural or otherwise enlightening event posted here? Send them to

  1. Sandra Keneda says:

    It is a little late since our EFtour with you was near the end of May, but I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful tour of the Red Light District. I was group leader for a small EFtour that joined another one of your groups. Antonio was our ef guide. Since we have been home, almost everyone I have talked to remarked on how much they learned on your tour – not to mention how much fun we had. Thanks again. Coming from Oklahoma, we never expected a Texas girl to show us around Amsterdam, but you were simply delightful.
    Rose State College

  2. bose says:

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