When to Go to the Netherlands

Tulips at Keukenhof gardens, Lisse
Keukenhof garden, an hour from Amsterdam, is the greatest bulb-flower patch on earth...but it's only open for two months each spring.
By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw

Although Amsterdam can be plagued by crowds in summer, it's a great time to visit the Netherlands, given the long days, lively festivals, and sunny weather — and it's rarely too hot for comfort.

Amsterdam can also be busy — and hotel prices can be correspondingly high — in late March, April, and May, when the nearby tulip fields are flowering in full glory. April and May also have the bulk of the year's three-day weekends, which can affect hotel prices and sightseeing hours (but the holidays behind them, such as King's Day in late April, can mean memorable festivities). Fall comes with lighter crowds, though seasonal conferences can drive up prices in September in Amsterdam. Both spring and fall have generally mild weather, but be prepared for rainy and cold spells.

The Netherlands' off-season (from late October through mid-March) is cold and wet, as coastal winds whip through this low, flat land. If you don't mind the shorter days, winter's a fine time for visiting Amsterdam. But smaller towns and countryside sights feel dreary and lifeless once the cold weather arrives — except during carnival season in late winter, when some towns (mostly in the south) host colorful, raucous parades and parties. Some sights close for lunch in the off-season, tourist information offices keep shorter hours, and some tourist activities (like English-language windmill tours) vanish altogether.

Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands guidebook.