"In season" in Amsterdam means mid-April to mid-October. The tourist season peaks in July and August, when the weather's at its finest. Climate, however, is never really extreme at any time of year; if you favor off-season travel, you'll find the city every bit as attractive during these months. Not only are hotels and restaurants cheaper and less crowded (with more relaxed and personalized service), but some very appealing events also take place. The bulb fields near Amsterdam, for example, burst with color from April to mid-May.
Summertime temperatures in Amsterdam don't often rise above 75°F (24°C), making for a pleasant, balmy climate.. Summertime temperatures don't often rise above 75°F (24°C), making for a pleasant, balmy climate. July and August are the best months for in-line skating in Vondelpark, soaking up rays on cafe terraces, dining alfresco in the evening, and going topless on the beach at Zandvoort. September usually has a few weeks of fine late-summer weather.
Mean precipitation -- and the precipitation in Holland can be pretty mean -- is high enough that rain shouldn't come as a surprise. Although the temperature rarely dips below freezing in winter, remember that Amsterdam and much of Holland is below sea level, making fog, mist, and dampness your too-frequent companions. This damp chill often seems to cut to the bone, so in colder months, layer yourself in Gore-Tex or something similar. There are, however, plenty of bright but cold days in winter, and if the temperature falls far enough, canals, rivers, and lakes freeze to become sparkling highways for skaters throughout the city and the surrounding countryside. Throughout the year, some rain can be expected. Average annual rainfall is 63 1/2 cm (25 in.). Most of it falls November through January, though substantial showers can occur year-round.
What To Pack -- Some pointers on being prepared for Amsterdam's often unpredictable weather: First, invest in a fold-up umbrella and hope you never have to use it; likewise, carry a raincoat (with a wool liner for winter). Second, pack a sweater or two (even in July) and be prepared to layer clothing at any time of year. Don't worry: You're allowed to leave space for T-shirts, skimpy tops, and sneakers.
If you own a pair of in-line skates or roller skates, or even one of those dinky self-propelled scooter things, consider bringing them along. You can go around in the bicycle lanes while saving money and staying fit.
The Best Times to Go
There's no worst time to visit Amsterdam: The city provides year-round stimulation to the brain's pleasure center. High season is the spring tulip season (early Apr to mid-May), and school vacations are in July and August. The city is very busy at both times, which means hotel rooms are hard to find and bargains don't exist at all (but who wants to tiptoe through the fallow tulip fields in November, or sit on a sidewalk cafe terrace in a snowstorm?). If you're planning to travel during high season, book several months in advance. Summer is also the best time for cycling, which is an essential Dutch experience; try a canal bike if you're fearful about going on the roads.
In winter, room rates are generally cheaper, and cafes and restaurants are less crowded and feel more genuine. You won't find such a big line to get into the Anne Frankhuis (though a line will still exist), you'll be able to stand longer in front of Rembrandt's The Night Watch and your favorite Van Gogh, and you might get a chance to go skating on the canals. You also get a better view of the canals, because the trees bordering them shed their screens of leaves in winter. As an added bonus, the lights from all those canalside windows, whose curtains never close, glow with Japanese-lantern charm on the inky surface.
A Dutch holiday can add a festive note to your trip, particularly if it involves a parade or special observance. But expect banks, government offices, shops, and many museums to be closed, and public transportation to operate on Sunday schedules for the following holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Koninginnedag (Queen's Day: Queen Beatrix's official birthday is Apr 30), Ascension Day (Thurs, 40 days after Easter), Pentecost Sunday (7th Sun after Easter), Pinksteren (Pentecost Mon), Christmas Day, and December 26.
In addition, there are two World War II "Remembrance Days," neither of which is an official holiday, though some establishments close: Herdenkingsdag (May 4) honors all those who died in the war; Bevrijdingsdag (May 5) celebrates the Liberation.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.