New Year. This celebration is wild and not always wonderful. Youthful spirits celebrate the New Year with firecrackers, which they throw at the feet of passersby. This keeps hospital emergency rooms busy. January 1.

International Film Festival, Rotterdam. More than 300 indie films are screened at theaters around town. Contact tel 010/890-9090; www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com. Late January.


ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam. The world’s top tennis players converge on the port city for this ATP Tour event. Contact Ahoy Rotterdam (tel 010/293-3300; www.abnamrowtt.nl). Second week in February.


Windmill Days, Zaanse Schans. All five working windmills (out of eight windmills in total) are open to the public at this recreated old village and open-air museum in the Zanstreek, just north of Amsterdam. Contact Center Zaans Schans (tel 075/681-0000; www.dezaanseschans.nl). March through October.

Opening of Keukenhof Gardens , Lisse. The greatest flower show on earth blooms with a spectacular display of tulips and narcissi, daffodils and hyacinths, bluebells, crocuses, lilies, amaryllis, and many other flowers at this 32-hectare (79 acres) garden in the heart of the bulb country. Nearly eight million bulbs are planted every year. Contact Keukenhof (tel 0252/465-555; www.keukenhof.nl). March to mid-May.


Museumweekend. A weekend during which most museums in the Netherlands offer free or reduced admission and have special exhibits. Contact Museumweekend (tel 020/551-8910; www.museumweekend.nl). Early April.

Bloemencorso van de Bollenstreek (Bulb District Flower Parade) . Floats dressed to a different floral theme each year parade from Noordwijk through Sassenheim, Lisse, and Bennebroek to Haarlem. Contact Postbus 115 (tel 0252/428-237; www.bloemencorso-bollenstreek.nl). Mid-April.

Koningsdag (King’s Day) . Countrywide celebration honoring the King’s official birthday, with parades, street fairs, flea markets, and raucous street entertainment. Throughout The Netherlands, but best in Amsterdam. April 27.


Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day). Commemorates the end of World War II and Holland’s liberation from Nazi occupation. Celebrated throughout the country, but best in Amsterdam. May 5.

National Windmill Days. Around two-thirds of the country’s almost 1,000 working windmills spin their sails and are open to the public. Contact De Hollandsche Molen (tel 020/623-8703; www.molens.nl). Second weekend in May.

Vondelpark Openluchttheater (Open Air Theatre). Runs right through the summer with weekend programs of rock and pop concerts, stand-up, drama, and dance. Contact Stichting Vondelpark Openluchttheater (tel 020/428-3360; www.openluchttheater.nl). May through end of August.


Holland Festival. The city’s big cultural buffet of music, opera, theater, film, and dance. The schedule includes all the major Amsterdam venues plus international companies and soloists. Contact Holland Festival (tel 020/788-2100; www.hollandfestival.nl). Throughout June.

Vlaggetjesdag (Flag Day), Scheveningen. The fishing fleet opens the herring season with a race to bring the first Hollandse Nieuwe herring back to port (the first barrel is auctioned for charity). Contact Stichting Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen (tel 070/307-2900; www.vlaggetjesdag.com). Mid-June.

Open Gardens Days. If you wonder what the fancy gardens behind the gables of some of Amsterdam’s Canal Ring houses-turned-museums look like, this is your chance to find out. Six of the best are open to the public for 3 days. Contact Grachten Musea (tel 020/320-3660; www.grachtenmusea.nl or www.opengardendays.nl). Third week in June.


Amsterdam Roots Festival. This festival features music and dance from around the world, along with workshops, films, and exhibits. One part is the open-air Oosterpark Festival, a multicultural feast of song and dance held in Amsterdam-Oost (East). Contact Amsterdam Roots Festival; www.amsterdamroots.nl). Early July.

Over Het IJ Festival.
Performers stage avant-garde theater, music, and dance in Amsterdam-Noord beside the IJ channel, at the old NDSM-Wharf, TT Neveritaweg 15. Contact Over Het IJ Festival (tel 020/492-2229; www.overhetij.nl). July.

North Sea Jazz Festival , Rotterdam. One of the world’s leading gatherings of top international jazz and blues musicians unfolds over 3 concert-packed days at the city's giant Ahoy venue. Last-minute tickets are scarce, so book as far ahead as possible. Contact Ahoy Rotterdam; www.northseajazz.com). July.


Amsterdam Gay Pride. This is a big event in Europe’s most gay-friendly city. As many as 150,000 people turn out to watch the Boat Parade’s display of 100 or so outrageously decorated boats cruising the canals. In addition, there are street discos, open-air theater, a sports program, and a film festival. Contact Amsterdam Gay Pride (www.amsterdamgaypride.nl). Early August.

Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival). A 10-day festival of classical music, on a different theme each year, plays at intimate and elegant venues along the city’s canals and at the Muiziekgebouw aan [‘]t IJ. There’s always a performance or two for children. The festival culminates in the exuberant Prinsengracht Concert, which plays on a pontoon in front of the Hotel Pulitzer. Contact Stichting Grachtenfestival (tel 020/421-4542; www.grachtenfestival.nl). Mid-August.

Festival Oude Muziek (Festival of Early Music), Utrecht. Concerts of music from the Middle Ages to the Romantic era. Contact Stichting Organisatie Oude Muziek (tel 030/232-9000; www.oudemuziek.nl). Late August through early September.

Uitmarkt. Amsterdam previews its cultural season with this open market of information and free performances in Leidseplain and Museumplein, theaters, and concert halls. The shows run the gamut of music, opera, dance, theater, and cabaret. Contact Uitmarkt (tel 020/626-2656; www.uitmarkt.nl). End of August.


Open Monumentendag (Open Monument Day). Get to see historic buildings and monuments in the major towns around the country that usually are not open to the public, and get in free. Contact Open Monumentendag (tel 020/422-2118; www.openmonumentendag.nl). Mid-September.

State Opening of Parliament , The Hague. On Prinsjesdag (Princes’ Day), King Willem-Alexander rides in a splendid gold coach to the Ridderzaal in The Hague to open the legislative session by delivering the Speech from the Throne. Contact Gemeente Den Haag (tel 070/353-3000; www.denhaag.nl). Third Tuesday in September.


Leidens Ontzet (Relief of Leiden). Procession commemorating the anniversary of the raising of the 1574 Spanish siege of Leiden. Haring en witte brood (herring and white bread) are distributed, just as the piratelike band of “Sea Beggars” did after helping drive the Spaniards away. Contact Leidens Ontzet Secretariaat (tel 071/532-4724; www.3october.nl). October 3 (Oct 4 when the 3rd is a Sun).


Crossing Border, The Hague. Literature, poetry, and music are combined in this 4-day festival. Contact Crossing Border (tel 070/346-2355; www.crossingborder.nl). Mid-November.

Sinterklaas Arrives. Holland’s Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) launches the Christmas season when he sails into Amsterdam, accompanied by black-painted assistants, called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), who hand out candy to kids. During the next 2 weeks, he makes his way to towns across the country. Contact local tourist offices. Third Saturday in November. He arrives the next day in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam Light Festival. The center of Amsterdam is illuminated with contemporary light installations. The festival kicks off with a boat parade around the canals. Contact Amsterdam Light Festival (tel 020/420-2060; www.amsterdamlightfestival.com). Early December through mid-January.

Sinterklaas. St. Nicholas’s Eve is the traditional day in Holland for exchanging Christmas gifts. December 5.

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.