Festivals in the Netherlands

The big organized festivals such as Lowlands, Dancevalley, Pinkpop and Sensation, usually sell out very fast. Advised is to buy tickets before you go to the festivals, to prevent disappointment buy them as quick as you can. For most free festivals such as Carnaval, Queens/Kings day and the Vierdaagsefeesten, you don’t need to get a ticket.

  • Every two years, the country goes football crazy as either the European Championship or the World Cup is held. Complete streets will be decorated with orange flags, the country’s national colour. It’s not uncommon for literally fifty percent of the population to be watching a game if it’s a particularly important one. Often bigger cities will put up large TV screens for the general public, like on the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam. Likewise, cafes and bars are another popular place to watch games.
  • In the Southern Netherlands (North Brabant, Limburg and to a smaller extent also in Twente, Overijssel and the south of Gelderland), the Catholic celebration of Carnaval is held since mediaeval times. It occurs immediately before Lent; which is usually during February or March. Mainly in Limburg – where carnaval is called “vastelaovend” – carnaval is celebrated very traditionally. Every town get’s a new name and is symbolically ruled by the local carnaval-association. It is expected that you dress up in a weird- or funny-looking costume. Parades can be seen in many towns on Sunday, sometimes also occurring on Monday. Parades can also be held in the evening, usually on Saturdays all the wagons are then lit up by numerous small lights. The other days of the week, many activities can be found ranging from street painting (stoepkrijten) to beer drinking contests, some of the activities have their own dress-code like the farmer’s wedding (the “boerebroelof”, a tradition in almost every town in Limburg and some of North Brabant). The cities of Venlo (Jocus Riék), ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Oeteldonk) and Maastricht (Mestreech) are advisable for attending Carnival.
  • King’s Day (Koningsdag) – is held every year at April 27th all over the country (except if this day is a Sunday, then it will be held at the Saturday before). In every village and town, you will find frolicking Dutch, free markets and authentic Dutch games. Nowadays King’s day much more becomes a day of festivals and parties. It is advised to wear orange clothing, as most Dutch people walk around in their national colour. An advisable city to attend at this day is Amsterdam, because it’s one of the largest events of the year there. In several larger cities (most notably The Hague and Utrecht), the festivities start in the evening of the 26th of April. This day used to be Queens Day (Koninginnedag), which was held on the 30th of April.
  • Pinkpop – is a three-day pop festival every year with Pentecost (“Pinksteren”) in Landgraaf, Limburg.
  • Lowlands – every last weekend of August at Biddinghuizen, Flevoland. This festival has pop, rock and alternative live music as well as theatre performances.
  • Summercarnaval – A big parade through the center of Rotterdam. One of the largest events in the Netherlands.
  • Heineken Dance Parade – A big dance parade through Rotterdam. Much in the spirit of the popular Love Parade in Germany.
  • Northsea Jazz Festival – Big summer jazz festival, held in the Ahoy stadium, Rotterdam since 2006 as it moved there from The Hague. Around 1,800 jazz, blues, funk, soul, hip Hop, Latin and R&B acts play during this 3 day event.
  • Vierdaagsefeesten – Summer festival in Nijmegen lasting seven days, during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, which always starts on the 3rd Tuesday in July. The Nijmeegse Vierdaagse is a walking event where people walk a route of 30-50 km for four days in a row. You only can join the walk if you have registered yourself. The celebrations (that are mostly not attended by the walkers) start already the weekend before until the weekend after and over 1 million people attend. During the festival, there is a section for all the top Dutch bands, pop, alternative and rock, electronic dance music and of course the numerous terraces and bars.
  • Sensation – (Formerly known as ‘Sensation White’) One of the best-known parties in the world organized by ID&T. 40,000 people all dressed in white gather to hear some big and upcoming house music DJs. Several international editions are being organized several times a year around the world with the main concert being held in Amsterdam ArenA every summer. Sensation Black (with hardstyle music) was previously hosted annually in the same location but is now being held in Belgium instead.
  • Dance Valley – The largest and oldest dance festival, with over 40,000 visitors. Annually the first weekend of August in park Spaarnwoude, near Schiphol Airport. The focus is on celebrating summer, and has circus tents in which every tent is a different genre in dance music.
  • Mystery Land – Dance festival with a flower-power theme. In the last week of August near Schiphol Airport. Most dance genres are present, including even electro. Also has activities such as workshops and theatre, which are usually uncommon with dance festivals.
  • Defqon.1 – Dance festival focussing on the harder dance styles, such as hardstyle and hardcore. Residing in Flevoland, usually in mid June, but in 2009 is held in mid September.