Watch the Netherlands burst into colour in this array of top 10 Dutch festivals that celebrate everything from flowers to fireworks.
If you’re living in the Netherlands, there’s no better time to explore the quaint Dutch villages than when they burst into festival fever. Immerse yourself in Dutch culture at one of these top 10 Dutch festivals below, or find more festivals in Expatica’s guide to festivals in the Netherlands.
How many top 10 Dutch festivals have you crossed off your list?
1. Flower parade, Noordwijk to Haarlem
Celebrate spring with flowers. Not just the famous tulips but hyacinths and daffodils also adorn the spectacular floats and cars that make up the annual flower parade in the bulb growing area of western Netherlands. Look on the website to view the routes and arrive early to find a good spot to watch the parades – it’s extremely popular.
2. Mardi gras
Each spring, just before Ash Wednesday, mardi gras or carnaval celebrations take place all over the Netherlands but the best are in Maastricht. Giant papier–mâché caricatures of local figures, ornately decorated floats and brass bands parade through the city and everyone downs loads of beer, sings bawdy carnival songs and dances in the streets.
3. Pinkpop, Landgraaf
Three days, three stages – the South Stage, the Northern Stage and the 3FM-tent – a superlative line-up and 60,000 music fans: that’s Pinkpop, the world’s longest running rock festival. You can buy a day ticket but the three-day ticket also entitles you to camp.
4. Flag Day, Scheveningen
Come and celebrate the first herring catch of the season on Flag Day at Scheveningen. While you’re waiting to see the flag-covered fishing boats race back, you can sample the classic dish of Dutch raw herring with chopped onion, listen to shanty choirs, browse stalls selling traditional Dutch arts and crafts, visit a lighthouse or watch one of the many musical performances near the harbour and elsewhere in the town.
5. The Hague Festivals
Take your pick from more than 200 exciting shows and events which are part of the annual summer Hague Festivals: music of all genres, literary, art, food, drink, and sport.
6. King’s Day
Come to the King’s birthday party on April 27, and wear something orange – everyone else will be. King’s Day (Koningsdag) is the annual holiday in honour of King Willem-Alexander. There are celebrations throughout the country but the biggest and best are on the streets of Amsterdam.
7. Gay pride
Amsterdam’s canals host the world’s only floating gay pride. Around 100 flamboyantly decorated barges, with their own resident DJs, are the highlight of this most liberal of city’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender annual celebrations, traditionally held around the first weekend in August.
8. Scheveningen Fireworks festival
You really do get a lot of bangs without paying a buck at this festival – the night sky is filled with the sights and sounds of thousands of fireworks for the two weekends of the free Scheveningen International Fireworks competition. Watch as competitors from all over the world try to outdo each other with ever more spectacular displays.
9. Canal Run, Haarlem
What could be more enjoyable than a run (or walk) around the picturesque canals of Haarlem on a midsummer’s evening? This annual event attracts all ages and levels of ability.
10. St Nicholas (Sinterklaas), Amsterdam
Watch a white-bearded St Nicholas or Sinterklaas arrive by boat in Amsterdam’s harbour at the beginning of the holiday season in mid-November. He parades through the streets on a white horse accompanied by his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten (the Black Peters), who throw sweets out to the crowds. These men are supposed to be Moors and with their blacked up faces are becoming increasingly controversial. Read more: Who’s that with Santa?
Photo credits: (Dutch carnival, thumbnail), Marcel de Jong (flower parade), via Wikimedia Commons (Dutch herring), Antonio Olmedo (Queen’s Day), Maurits Verbiest (Scheveningen fireworks), Sander van der Wel (Sinterklaas and Pieten).