Cultural tips for Amsterdam this Summer
From blockbuster dance events and major exhibitions to creative theatre fairs, outdoor cinema and open-air theatre in the park, the city’s cultural scene truly comes alive every summer. Here are our picks for what’s on in 2023 so we can all experience that festival feeling that Amsterdam does best. See you there!
One of the highlights of Amsterdam’s theatre and dance agenda, Holland Festival is held at various locations across the city. It offers a heady mix of theatre, music, opera, film and visual arts in various languages. With programming consistently emphasising disciplinary crossovers, the festival has been a frontrunner in supporting modern and non-classical contemporary music and new forms of musical theatre.
Whether you’re a die-hard theatre devotee or just along for the ride, there’s always something new and surprising to look out for at the De Parade performing arts festival. Once on the festival terrain in Martin Luther King Park, you’ll find yourself enticed by artists giving outdoor performances in full regalia with a variety of short and full-length performances, open-air shows and events at secret locations.
Kwaku Summer Festival
This multicultural gathering brings people together for a vibrant combination of food, drink, dance and sport in Nelson Mandela Park. The origins of Kwaku lie in celebrating the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles in 1863. One of the biggest draws is the street food vendors, many of which only participate in this annual event offering tasty treats from all over the globe.
Vondelpark Open Air Theatre
We all know it's officially summer when the Vondelpark Open-Air Theatre kickstarts its seasonal programme. Keep an eye on their weekend agenda for a range of children’s performances, comedy, dance, opera, classical music and unmissable pop concerts. You’ll find a lot going on every Saturday and Sunday from June until early September.
One of the cultural highlights of the summer is the Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival), held annually in August on and around Amsterdam’s historic waterways. This UNESCO World Heritage site hosts a ten-day festival of classical music at some marvellous locations which form the perfect backdrop for classical music. Concerts are performed on stages by or even on the water, as the musicians play on pontoons and the audience listens from the canal-side or their own boats.
Queer & Pride Amsterdam
One of the world’s biggest celebrations of LGBTQI+ equality, Queer & Pride Amsterdam lights up the city every year with dance parties, film screenings, sporting events, debates, exhibitions and much more. Take part in the Pride Walk, discover the festivities on Pride Beach and show your support at the Canal Parade (5 August). All are welcome, and there's something for everyone. This year, Queer Amsterdam provides programming from 22 – 28 July 2023 and Stichting Pride Amsterdam from 1 to 6 August 2023. The overall program for the two weeks is called Queer & Pride Amsterdam.
To coincide with Queer & Pride, Milkshakein Westerpark is an electronic dance music event with a clear message of respect, freedom, love, tolerance and fun. There are multiple outdoor stages and indoor spaces to explore, offering an array of various music genres, vogue balls or performances.
The multi-day electronic music festival returns to its home base again in the breathtaking Amsterdam Forest - the perfect setting to get your groove on various familiar and novel stages. The 2023 line-up is customarily impressive, with names like Omar S, Ben UFO, Blawan, John Talabot & Orpheau the Wizard, Sevdaliza, Jeff Mills and Young Marco, among many others. Spread out across locations up and down the River IJ, the Wednesday and Thursday program of Dekmantel aan 't IJ ventures into a more experimental palette of music than its Amsterdamse Bos counterpart.
This renowned international modern dance festival is set to return to a variety of locations around Amsterdam in the first two weeks of July, bringing with it the best of the global contemporary dance scene. This dance festival traditionally showcases the grandmasters of the dance scene, as well as breathtaking new talents in a host of Dutch or world premières.
World Press Photo
Every year, World Press Photo returns home for its flagship exhibition, specially designed for the space of De Nieuwe Kerk, a 15th-century church in the middle of Dam Square. Witness the most powerful, moving and influential images taken by the most talented press photographers working around the world today. These photos generally tend to pack a punch!
Pluk de Nacht Film Festival
Amsterdam has a range of globally acclaimed festivals dedicated to everything from documentaries to the latest arthouse flicks. Pluk de Nacht brings not-yet-released films to Amsterdam’s summer nights at an idyllic waterside location with genres ranging from absurd rom-coms, indie and arthouse cinema to haunting horror flicks, documentaries or animation.
Boom Chicago Comedy Festival
Boom Chicago celebrates its 30th anniversary spectacularly during the 3rd edition of the Boom Chicago Comedy Festival. The festival opens with special guests Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema, and TV presenter Arjen Lubach. This builds up to a star-studded Alumni Weekend (6–9 July) with headliners Seth Meyers and Brendan Hunt and their fellow alumni Amber Ruffin and Heather Anne Campbell.
Over ‘t IJ Festival
Every July, Over ‘t IJ Festival brings a summery blend of location-specific theatre, one-off performances and fabulous food to a range of shipping container stages and pop-up venues spread across NDSM Wharf.
Red Light Jazz Festival
Experience Amsterdam's most notorious neighbourhood come alive during the annual Red Light Jazz Festival, which takes place in June across the Red Light District. Expect a cool lineup of jazz musicians throughout the weekend, showcasing the district’s rich jazz tradition, which spans back to the 1930s. The concert programme is partly free and partly paid, with performances in all manner of venues, from sweaty dive bars to iconic theatres and churches with superb acoustics.