Boat rental Amsterdam

Best Amsterdam Events 2023

As one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, Amsterdam hosts many amazing annual events throughout the year. The Dutch capital’s social calendar is packed with everything from fairs and festivals to exhibitions and events on Amsterdam’s charming canals.

Whether you wish to attend an annual Dutch festival in honor of King Willem-Alexander, join a vibrant gay canal parade, or listen to live music performances at the historic canal belt of Amsterdam, this guide to best events in Amsterdam for 2023 has got you covered.

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1 Amsterdam Light festival

The highlight of the winter season, the Amsterdam Light Festival (ALF) is one of the city’s finest annual events. For 7 weeks in December and January, visitors will have an opportunity to see some of the best artists in the world showcasing their fabulous light artworks, contemporary exhibitions, and installations in the city center. One of the best ways to experience this annual event is by hopping on a boat and seeing these charming light installations from Amsterdam’s beautiful canals. Admiring this spectacle at night when the light sculptures and installations shine brightly definitely promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Apart from witnessing these artworks from the canals, there is also the option of following the Amsterdam Light Festival walking route that is free of charge and takes you to past 20 light artworks. The 2-hour bicycle tour with both Dutch and English guides is also one of the best options to discover these art exhibitions. This bike tour starts from A-Bike Dam Square l. You can even vote for your favorite art installation. It is also worth mentioning that some of these artworks will become a part of the permanent collection that is scheduled to travel around the world.

Kingsday Amsterdam Events

2 King’s Day Amsterdam

There is no shortage of fabulous Amsterdam events and the annual King’s Day Amsterdam is one of them. Held each year at the end of April, this annual Dutch festival in Amsterdam commemorates the birth of the famous King Willem-Alexander and celebrates the historical arrival of the male monarch. It is one of the most popular national holidays in the Netherlands and offers a variety of festivities throughout the day. From dance parties and street parades where millions of locals dress in orange clothing to a giant flea market where you can score some seriously awesome second-hand items, there is plenty to look forward to during Amsterdam’s most colorful festivity.

Travelers can join the unforgettable boat parties on Amsterdam canals, listen to bands perform in the streets of Rembrandtplein and Prinsengracht, or admire the spectacular firework display in the evening. As for the dress code, everything is about orange ranging from dresses and face paint to shirts and hair ties. If you wish to party the day before, Koningsnacht hosts music concerts and other celebrations. To sum it all up, King’s Day Amsterdam is a massive celebration that should be included in your Amsterdam travel itinerary.

Pride Amsterdam

3 Amsterdam Pride

Amsterdam is without a doubt one of the world’s most gay-friendly destinations, so it comes as no surprise that the Amsterdam Gay Pride is the number one summer event in the Dutch capital. Held each year at the start of August, the celebration includes everything from a vibrant canal parade to open-air concerts and street parties. The opening speech is held at the Homomonument on Westermarkt, while the famous Pride in the Park music concert takes place at the beautiful Vondelpark.  Don’t miss the Canal Boat Parade on Saturday when nearly 100 boats with drag queens and go-go dancers sail through the charming canals in Amsterdam.

The Dutch capital is home to many awesome night clubs and during the Pride event, many of them throw unforgettable parties. During the daytime, make sure to check out the festival’s sports program, as well as open-air theatre performances, street discos, and the famous film festival. The festival lasts for about 2 weeks and with numerous events and with over 100 gay and lesbian concert venues, bars, and shops, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained.

4 SAIL Amsterdam 

For those who don’t know, SAIL Amsterdam is actually not an annual event. It takes place every five years, and the festival is celebrating its 10th edition in 2025. SAIL is definitely one of the most anticipated events in Amsterdam this year. It lasts for 6 days when the city becomes an awesome exhibit for historical ships and other smaller motorboats and sailboats. The main event at the largest nautical event in Europe definitely when 20 large shops sail through Amsterdam’s charming harbor.

Organizers of SAIL Amsterdam say how this is going to be the grandest edition of the festival with more than 50 shops and 600 vessels creating a 12-km long boat parade. The 5 main areas with a variety of themes include: Orange Ocean, the Heart of SAIL (Amsterdam IJhaven), Red Ocean, the Cultural Heart (Amsterdam city center), Green Ocean, the Sustainability, Technique and Innovation center (NDSM-Werf), White Ocean, the Young Amsterdam area (Amsterdam Noordzijde) and Blue Ocean, the Business Heart (Amsterdam Oosterdok). If you are searching for a nice event to take your kids to during the summer holidays, SAIL Amsterdam is an ideal celebration for this occasion.

5 Concert on the Amstel

Concert on the Amstel is the highlight of the famous Liberation Day in the Netherlands. It is held each year on May 5 when millions of people gather to commemorate the Dutch liberation. On this day back in 1945, the German forces surrendered bringing WW2 to an end for the county of Netherlands. To celebrate the social freedom and liberation, many events and activities are planned through Amsterdam on this important day.

The celebration concludes with the biggest event of the day, the popular Amstel concert that starts at 21h. Expect to see talented musicians ranging from Dutch bands to international DJ’s performing at various spots in the city. The music ranges from traditional Dutch songs to classical and pop music performances. The main concert at the giant floating podium in front of the Royal Carré Theatre is attended by King and Queen.

6 Canal Festival

Held annually in August, Amsterdam’s Canal Festival is an extraordinary 10-day event that celebrates the city’s Unesco-listed canals. It is one of the cultural highlights of the summer season in the city attracting thousands of both locals and tourists who come here to enjoy classical concerts performed on the water and on various stages.  There will be more than 150 classical music concerts around Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht. Whether you wish to listen to classical concerts at a museum, concert hall, cruise ship, or a canal home, Canal Festival offers something for every fan of classical music.

Listening to a concert from a boat docked along the canals is definitely one of the must-have experiences while exploring the Dutch capital. The highlight of the festival is the famous Prinsengracht Concert that takes place just a stone’s throw from the Pulitzer Hotel and is held on a pontoon. Apart from classical music, visitors will have an opportunity to listen to other music genres like jazz and blues. Keep in mind that due to the COVID 19 measure this year, there will be fewer tickets available for the festival.

Chinese New Year

7 Chinese New Year

Being a multicultural destination, Netherlands is home to a large Chinese community and many of them live in the city of Amsterdam. Therefore, the Chinese New Year in Amsterdam is definitely one of the events that many people look forward to. Make your way to Dam Square and the Nieuwmarkt/Zeedijk where you can see everything from fireworks and lion dances to the spectacular dragon parades. On Chinese New Year in Amsterdam, there are also many special activities that you can enjoy including tea ceremonies, live music, and even calligraphy workshops.

Foodies visiting Amsterdam for Chinese New Year are in for a real treat. Head out to the first floating Chinese restaurant in Europe, the popular Sea Palace. For a more casual foodie experience, pay a visit to the open street markets where you can sample some traditional Chinese cuisine. There are also many Chinese restaurants with special events on Chinese New Year along Geldersekade and Stormsteeg in Amsterdam.

Herengracht - Jordaan

8 Jordaan Festival, Amsterdam

Travelers who wish to experience the folk music culture in the city should pay a visit to the Jordaan Festival. From lively open-air performances by Dutch musicians to drumming bands and even opera, there is no shortage of fun things to do during this amazing festival. Expect to hear many songs about life that are called levensliederen, as well as numerous ballads. The festival takes place in the Jordaan neighborhood in September and is full of charm and character. This trendy neighborhood is just a short walk from the Centraal Station and is popular with both tourists and locals. It is famed for its charming cafes, classy dining establishments, stunning architecture, and chic boutiques, making a perfect setting for this annual festival.

Make sure to check out to superb cabaret shows, as well as the mass sing-alongs which attract large crowds of people singing together at the same time. If you are planning to visit with your kids, you’ll be pleased to hear that many games and entertainment activities are included in the festival’s program. Not to be missed is the impressive flea market where travelers can visit colorful stalls and find excellent bargains.

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Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

9 Vondelpark Open Air Theatre

Vondelpark is one of the most popular parks in the city of Amsterdam. It attracts millions of tourists and offers a vast array of outdoor activities. In summer, it hosts the Vondelpark Open Air Theatre with events taking place regularly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It’s an ideal place to unwind and enjoy live music, theatre, cabaret, and a variety of other performances in an inviting setting.

This year, due to the COVID 19 situation, special measures will be taken in the month of August at the Vondelpark, so that both locals and tourists can enjoy music and culture. Apart from theatre performances, the stage is open to stand-up comedians and pop music artists. Vondelpark Open Air Theatre is one of the most anticipated events in Amsterdam this August. 

10 Funky Vegan Festival

Food events in Amsterdam are plentiful, but what about travelers who prefer their meals to be vegan? Welcome to the Funky Vegan Festival that will take place at Dok Amsterdam. If you are curious about veganism or just want to indulge in some hearty vegan cuisine, Funky Vegan Festival offers everything from casual pop-up restaurants and food trucks to live music and other various entertainment options. Expect to find both local and international food vendors selling delicacies like vegan roti, pancakes, Asian dishes with a vegan twist, and much more.

In case you get thirsty, an extensive list of craft beers and local natural wines can be found at the festivals. As for entertainment, there will be a fire show, as well as local DJ’s and live bands. The festival is child-friendly and you can also bring your pet along. Some of the other activities at the festival include a fitness workshop, vegan speed dating, deep breathing workshops, deep house yoga, and guest speakers.

Since many events on this list are taking place on Amsterdam’s stunning canals, one of the best ways to experience these annual festivals and parties is by renting a boat and enjoying the festivities from a unique perspective.

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