Are you thinking about visiting the Netherlands? If so, it’s a beautiful, diverse country with much to offer tourists. Doing a little research before finalizing your travel plans can ensure you visit at the perfect time. You’ll enjoy the beautiful weather and all the sites without too many crowds.
Below, read about the best time to visit Holland. We’ll also discuss the worst times for a vacation to this northern European country, traveler tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and more. Let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit the Netherlands
There are so many reasons to plan a trip to the Netherlands. Let’s look at some of them.
The Netherlands, also called Holland, is a relatively small country located on the European mainland north of Belgium and west of Germany. It’s situated on the North Sea across from Great Britain.
The largest city in the Netherlands is Amsterdam, followed by Rotterdam and The Hague (home of the United Nations’ court and justice systems).
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Holland is one of the happiest countries on earth, according to CNN. You’ll notice it right away when you visit. While the Dutch aren’t always outgoing people, their contentedness shows, and it’s contagious. The Dutch express their happiness in several annual celebrations and festivals.
But it’s also evident in the way they live in the moment. Even though the Dutch are notoriously industrious and productive, they never seem to be in a hurry or too busy to stop for pleasure.
The Netherlands is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Best of all, the Dutch government actively protects it and encourages residents and visitors to enjoy it.
The cities – particularly Amsterdam – are pedestrian and especially bike-friendly. There are national parks, lakes and canals, North Sea beaches, and incredible cloud coverage.
Arts, Culture, and Cities
The Netherlands is incredibly rich in culture, history, art, and more. The country has produced some of Europe’s greatest artists. You can see treasures from Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Mondrian, and others on display in museums.
Visit the world’s largest flower market, participate in one of the dozens of festivals, and marvel at the historic architecture. Finally, the party scene in Amsterdam is worthy of its legendary status. If you like to explore the more exotic or erotic side of life, don’t miss a trip to Amsterdam.
Get Into the Countryside
Besides the cities, there are dozens of beautiful towns and open spaces in the countryside. See the famous Dutch windmills in incredibly pastoral settings. You’ll discover cultural, historical, and artistic secrets along the way.
Overall Best Time to Visit the Netherlands
The best time to visit the Netherlands is in the spring or fall, between April to June and September to November.
Why are spring and fall the best times to visit Holland? You get a perfect combination of temperate weather and moderate crowds during spring and autumn. At the same time, you have plenty of special events, and communities are vibrant and active.
Nature Puts on a Show
Perhaps best of all, the Netherlands is most beautiful during this time of the year. Like much of northern Europe, Holland explodes in color in the fall, particularly in the countryside.
In preparation for winter, leaves change colors in a spectacular display. In the springtime, the famous Dutch tulips bloom.
For a good reason, seeing spring tulips in this part of the world is a bucket list item. Fields of breathtaking, perfect tulip buds in a rainbow of colors stretch far and wide during harvest season. Multiple festivals take place.
Lower Crowds, Lower Prices
Despite all the celebrating, crowds are much more moderate than in the summertime. June, July, and August are considered peak tourist seasons in most of Europe, especially late June-early August.
You’ll have to peer over the heads of other tourists to see the most famous paintings, and the bike paths will get crowded. Demand will be high for everything from tables at cafes to accommodations. High demand means high prices.
April, May, September, and October are considered shoulder season for tourism in Holland, meaning they precede and follow the peak season. You can enjoy the best amenities in excellent weather by visiting during the shoulder season without spending as much or fighting the summer crowds.
Cheapest Time to Visit the Netherlands
The cheapest time to visit the Netherlands is in the wintertime after the holidays, from January-March.
Tourism slows down in the winter in Holland, much like in many parts of Europe. The lack of demand drives prices down, especially for hotels. January is also often the cheapest month to fly from North America to Europe.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot to do in the Netherlands in wintertime, though. The Amsterdam Light Festival, which begins in December, continues through most of January and keeps the city active and vibrant long after most places have ended the holiday celebrations.
It isn’t as cold and dreary as you might assume, either. Despite being on the North Sea, the Netherlands has a temperate climate.
Temperatures stay above freezing most of the winter, and the country sees much less snowfall than other popular European destinations like France and Germany. Tulip season, a massive deal across Holland, also kicks off in January.
National Tulip Day is the third Saturday, often coinciding with the end of the Light Festival. You can also catch Mardi Gras celebrations in some places in February or March.
Least Busy Time to Visit the Netherlands
Winter is typically the least busy time to visit the Netherlands, particularly January-March. That is for several reasons, some of which we’ve already discussed.
Many of the country’s major holidays and festivals happen outside of winter. Europeans generally travel and get out more when it’s warmer, and service businesses cater to the busier crowds.
Restaurants set up tables on the sidewalks, stores have specials, and museums and other institutions have a lot of events. Finally, the weather is undoubtedly a factor. Still, you can absolutely enjoy your time in the Netherlands. Let’s look at how.
How to Enjoy the Netherlands in Wintertime
Truthfully, there isn’t a wrong time to visit the Netherlands. If the weather isn’t suited to strolling and biking, head to one of the country’s more than 450 museums to learn about Dutch and global culture, history, science, and more.
The Netherlands also has a thriving gastronomic scene. Munch on stroopwafel while you enjoy coffee in a cafe; sample locally-made beers from old breweries; and languish over a long, multi-course meal.
You can still enjoy canal cruises since many boats have indoor compartments where you can see the beautiful sites around the cities. And don’t forget about ice skating, which you can only do when it’s cold.
Worst Time to Visit the Netherlands
The worst time to visit the Netherlands is likely the winter. As we pointed out above, it doesn’t get frigid and snowy like in other European places. Still, temperatures in the 40s make it hard to enjoy a bike ride in the countryside.
Many outdoor activities are unavailable, and there are fewer events. In addition, the colder weather drives life indoors, changing the overall atmosphere. Still, as discussed above, there’s plenty to do in the Netherlands in winter.
In some people’s opinion, the worst time to visit the Netherlands is during peak tourist season, which occurs from late June to early August. That’s because the crowds are high. The number of people sometimes makes it hard to get tables in restaurants or access the best places.
Still, there are some fun events worth checking out. What’s more, if you’re visiting to experience the livelier side of Holland (especially in Amsterdam), you might prefer more people and parties.
Visiting the Netherlands During the Busy Season
We’re not necessarily saying that late June-early August is the worst time to visit the Netherlands. Still, crowds create issues that can detract from your overall experience.
Besides the obvious reasons, are there other draws for the Netherlands during peak season? Yes, and one of them is all the festivals and holidays. We’ve included a complete list below for you to check out.
As long as you adequately prepare, you can manage the crowds. Buy tickets for popular museums and sites ahead of time, and reserve your visit if possible. Plan where you want to eat, and be flexible with backup plans.
Things to Consider
There are several things to consider as you plan your trip to the Netherlands. Let’s look at a few of them.
- The first and most important is what you want to do while you visit. If you want to do a lot of outdoor activities, avoid winter.
- Second, consider the crowds. That’s why we recommend visiting in the spring or fall. The weather is beautiful, but there aren’t too many other visitors.
- The cost of travel and accommodations is another issue, and it sometimes correlates to the size of the crowds. It may impact your ability to travel within the country feasibly and affordably, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
Finally, decide whether you want to attend a festival or celebrate one of Holland’s many holidays.
Annual Festivals and Major Dutch Holidays
Some people love to visit countries and cities during their liveliest season, while others prefer to avoid them. Whichever category you fall into, use this guide to help you plan your visit:
- January 1. New Year’s Day. Participate in or watch a traditional cold-water swim.
- Third Saturday of January. National Tulip Day
- Late March-early May. Keukenhof Flower Show
- Spring. Easter, Pentecost, and Passover, which are all official holidays in the Netherlands
- Late April. Bloemencorso, a 25-mile flower parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem
- April 27. Kingsday
- May 4 and 5. Dodenherdenking, or World War II Rembrance Day, and Bevrijdingsdag, or WWII Liberation Day
- June. Holland Arts Festival
- July. Amsterdam Roots Festival
- The first week of August. Amsterdam Pride
- Early or mid-September. Open Monumentendag, when historical sites and museums that are usually closed or charge fees are open and free.
- Mid-November. Sinterklaas Procession, the unofficial start to the winter holiday season in the Netherlands.
- Early December-late January. Amsterdam Light Festival
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s answer some common questions about visiting the Netherlands.
Is the Netherlands safe to visit?
Yes, the Netherlands is considered very safe. Still, always check your country’s travel advisories before booking international travel. In the United States, the State Department handles them.
In addition, take proper precautions whenever you visit a foreign country. Learn some basic phrases to help you get by and navigate emergencies, just in case.
What is the currency used in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands uses the Euro as its currency. The value of any currency fluctuates, but the Euro and US dollar usually stay relatively close to each other.
Why is it called Holland and the Netherlands?
Like most places in the world, the country that we call the Netherlands today did not always exist, nor did it emerge organically. Instead, national borders resulted from centuries of migration, warfare, interactions, and cultural exchange.
In short, Holland and the Netherlands were regions or kingdoms in the present-day unified nation. While the history is a little more complicated, the Dutch government uses the name the Kingdom of the Netherlands or simply the Netherlands.
Holland actually refers to one region of the country, even today. It’s in the west along the North Sea and includes two provinces, North Holland and South Holland. The former includes Amsterdam, the latter being home to The Hague and Rotterdam.
To complicate things further, people from this country are Dutch. Where does that come from? The word Dutch originates from an early language that was a precursor to German and Dutch. Loosely translated, it means “the people.”
Is the Netherlands in the European Union?
Yes, the Netherlands is in the European Union. It also plays a critical role in foreign relations. The city of The Hague is home to the court of the United Nations. The Hague is on the North Sea between Amsterdam (to its north) and Rotterdam (to its south).
Do people in the Netherlands speak English?
Many Dutch people and people in the Netherlands speak English, as they do in much of Europe. European education systems simply prioritize fluency in multiple languages from an early age, as do European families. It’s not uncommon for Dutch children to learn two languages at home.
Still, it’s polite and wise to learn some common phrases in Dutch before you visit. Locals appreciate the effort, and it can help you read street signs, find a bathroom in a hurry, or read a menu.
There’s Never a Bad Time to Visit the Netherlands
As stated above, there’s never a bad time to visit the Netherlands. Even in winter, temperatures typically remain above freezing, and the nation’s forests, hills, coastline, and greenspaces look breathtaking. Cultural institutions also stay open, and the cities are always bustling.
While the best time to visit Holland or the rest of the Netherlands is in the spring or fall, you’ll have an unforgettable experience no matter when you go. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Holland today!