Popular Free Outdoor Events In Amsterdam
Although you may not believe it when you arrive to Amsterdam on one of these mid-June days, the summer has in fact arrived, although that’s still only according to our calendars. The last couple of weeks actually felt a bit more like autumn, yet better weather seems to be on its way. With that in mind, let us share some of the fun outdoor events taking place in the Dutch capital this year, varying from cultural festivals to art and music events. None of the events listed charge any entrance fee, so no advance booking is needed to secure your ticket, which is a big benefit when you like to maintain all your flexibility (as we tend to do), or when the weather isn’t that good or suddenly changes drastically and you’d rather stay indoors.
Let’s start with some of the best free outdoor art events taking place in the Dutch capital this year:
ArtZuid, now until 22 September
One of our favorite events coming back to Amsterdam every two years is the International Sculpture Route ArtZuid. While walking the art route you get an opportunity to enjoy some fantastic art works of artists like KAWS and John Chamberlain, and to discover an entirely different part of town, which you’d normally not visit, because it’s simply put just off the usual tourist trail. It’s a perfect way to escape the busy city centre too and to enjoy a greener, genuine part of Amsterdam. Have a look at our post published earlier this month for a first impression.
Miro, now until 11 October
A show right on the tourist trail is the Miro exhibition in the gardens of the Rijksmuseum. This summer you’ll find 21 sculptures of the Spanish artist, who is mostly known for his abstract paintings including stars, figurines and other symbols. Maybe unknown for many, Miro also made over 400 sculptures during his life. This is the first sculpture exhibition of Miro in The Netherlands and the four metres high Oiseau Lunaire, which for years was stored in the depot of its previous owner in New York, even makes her public debut here.
Miffy Art Parade, now until end of September
When walking from or to the Rijksmuseum over the Museumplein – the big square surrounded by the Stedelijk, the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum – you will likely also stumble over a row of Miffy statues in different outfits. The by origin Dutch rabbit (locally called Nijntje, being an abbreviation of ‘konijntje’ – meaning ‘little rabbit’ in Dutch), popular among children worldwide, has her 6oth birthday this year. Among others, the occasion is being celebrated by the Miffy Art Parade, a parade of 60 Miffy sculptures painted by different artists located throughout the country (besides in Amsterdam, you can also find them in for instance Utrecht, The Hague and Maastricht). To be honest, walking past them you can’t not let your inner-child come out…
Summer is also the festival season in Amsterdam and although many of them are paid ones, and they will usually sell out fairly quickly, there are also some excellent free festivals taking place in the city, ranging from music festivals to performing arts and cinema:
Vondelpark Open-Air Theatre, now until late September
Every summer the city’s most popular park, the Vondelpark, hosts the Vondelpark Open-Air Theatre, taking place every weekend from Friday until Sunday. Each part of the day is reserved for different disciplines. On Friday evenings you can for example enjoy free modern dance performances, whereas on Sundays you can join free concerts, ranging from more classical music in the mornings to more popular music in the afternoon. At the different entrances of the Vondelpark you’ll usually find the program at one of the fences, where you can see what is going on. The stage is actually a bit hidden for those not familiar with the park, so make sure to check the maps how to get there.
Keti Koti Festival, 1 July
The first of July marks an important day in Dutch history. On this day in 1863 slavery was officially abolished in the former Dutch colonies of Suriname and The Netherlands Antilles. ‘Keti Koti’ – meaning ‘broken chains’ – is a Surinamese term, symbolizing this change. The Keti Koti festival is organized not only to remember this day, but also to celebrate that things have luckily changed and to build bridges between the Surinamese population and the other ethnic groups living in The Netherlands. Expect music, dance and loads of good food. Contrary to previous years this year the festival will be at the Museumplein instead of the Oosterpark, due to the latter being renovated.
Roots Open Air, 5 July
This year is already the 33rd year that the world-music festival Roots is being organized. The festival is divided in an open air part, the Roots Open Air, which is accessible for free, and an indoor part, for which you have to buy tickets. Musicians and bands from all around the world will perform during the festival. Besides that, you’ll come across different food and non-food stalls, where you can buy and taste more of these different cultures. The open air festival is taking place on Sunday, the 5th of July in Park Frankendael from 2pm until 10pm. The indoors part of the festival is already starting at the 30th of June.
Amsterdam Canal Parade – Gay Pride, 1 August
The Amsterdam Canal Parade is part of the Amsterdam Gay Pride Festival – already starting the week before the parade – and is as much fun for straight as for gay people. On the 1st of August in total 80 colourful decorated boats – one more spectacular than the other – full of happy people, many dressed-up in costumes, will sail through the Prinsengracht, over the Amstel and towards the Oosterdok. We would almost say it is as good as King’s Day, but okay, let’s be honest can pink really beat the royal orange colour? You be the judge while loads of fun will be had.
Pluk de Nacht, 5 – 15 August
The Pluk de Nacht (translated as ‘Seize the night’) Open Air Film Festival takes place in that month of the year when we can usually expect some nice summer evenings in Amsterdam. But of course, in The Netherlands you just never know. Every evening as soon as the sun starts setting some short movies will be shown. When the sun is below the horizon, the main movie will start. The movies shown have usually made it to international film festivals, but not (yet) to the Dutch cinemas. Access is free, yet, if you like to sit a bit more comfortable you can rent a beach chair. After the 15th of August the festival will by the way move to two other Dutch cities, namely Arnhem and Utrecht.
Grachtenfestival, 14- 23 August
During the ten-days lasting Grachtenfestival (Canal festival) you will be able to enjoy all kinds of classical music performances at different locations throughout town, with the Prinsengrachtconcert as one of the highlights. Do note that not all performances are free, check the program online to see which ones are and which ones are not.
Sail, 19 -23 August
Sail is said to be one of the largest public events in the world and with some 1.7 million visitors (double Amsterdam’s population!) during its last edition back in 2010, it’s hard to believe there could be any larger event. As the name reveals already, the event is all about boats and not just some boats: you will see modern vessels, navy vessels, replicas of old VOC (Dutch East-India Company) ships and many more. You can enjoy the event from the shore, but you can also try to get on one of the boats hitting the Ij river.
Uitmarkt, 28 – 30 August
The Uitmarkt is the largest annual festival in The Netherlands and marks the start of the new Dutch cultural season by top performances in the field of music, dance, performing arts and many other art disciplines. Expect about 2,000 performers at 30 different locations throughout town – among which at the Leidseplein and the Museumplein – and a very large crowd of people. Previous editions were reportedly visited by over 500,000 people.
Jordaan Festival, 4 – 6 September
If you’d like to get a taste of typical Amsterdam folk music and see popular Dutch singers perform, make sure to visit the 41st edition of the Jordaan Festival, taking place from 4 to 6 September at the Appeltjesmarkt, right across from the Jordaan. Although the line-up is not known at the moment of writing – and likely unknown abroad – we’re sure the Dutch will introduce and entertain you, singing along with their idols.
So, there’s a large number of events pleasing our eyes and ears, but how about our stomach? Whilst you’ll basically find food stalls everywhere where there is a festival, your chance for a bit nicer bite is at one of Amsterdam’s food festivals:
Food Truck Festival Trek, 17 – 19 July
Durign the Food Truck Festival Trek the Amstelpark in Amsterdam Zuid is being transformed into one open air restaurant. Besides numerous food carts you’ll find a lot of entertainment, like theatre and live music, all around you. Amsterdam is only one of the eight cities the festival will be in, so if you can’t make it to the festival in the Dutch capital, perhaps another city will fit your plans?
Lastly we don’t want to withhold the Pure Markt and the Neighbourhood Foodmarket from you, both markets taking place at different locations one or more times a month throughout the year, and thus also during summertime.
The Pure Markt (pure market) offers its visitors artisan, Dutch and international food in respectively the Amstelpark (every 2nd Sunday of the month from April through October and December), the Beatrixpark (check agenda) or the Frankendael Park (every last Sunday of the month from March through October and December). The Neighbourhood Foodmarket takes place at the Westergasterrain once a month on a Sunday and is the place to be for Amsterdam’s finest food made by artisans from in and around the city.
As you can see, there’s plenty of events in Amsterdam to choose from this summer. Let’s now just keep our fingers crossed for some more sunshine, so we can enjoy them as they’re meant to be enjoyed!
Looking for some indoor events this summer in Amsterdam and around? Have a look at our article covering the must-see exhibitions in The Netherlands this year!