May is a very good time to visit Amsterdam. Actually it is one of the best months to visit the city. The tourist season begins in April , but May is more suitable for long walks on the streets of Amsterdam due to better weather. In June and July, tourists flock to Amsterdam in greater numbers, so the lines to museums and attractions will be longer, and hotel prices will be higher.
Weather in Amsterdam in May
The air temperature in May in Amsterdam is not too high, but quite comfortable. During the day, the thermometer can reach 16-17 ºС, at night it drops to +8 ºС. Of course, slight deviations are possible from one year to another. For example, sometimes it may go above 20°C during the day or there maybe frost at night. Fortunately, the likelihood of this is not too great, so it is not necessary to take a pile of different weather clothing with you.
But what is worth taking with you is an umbrella. The weather in Amsterdam in May is quite fickle – there are fewer sunny days than cloudy ones, and light rain frequently drizzles from the sky. You are unlikely to get wet there are times when raindrops literally hang in the air. But additional protection against rains will not hurt.
In general, if you dress accordingly according to the weather (more on that below), it is pleasant to spend May in Amsterdam for walking along the streets and relaxing in parks. You can even get out onto the streets of a night city – the temperature is unlikely to drop enough to ruin your plans.
A separate plus is the length of daylight hours. In the beginning of May, twilight begins at about 9 pm in the evening, and towards the end of May another half an hour later. You will have enough time to realize all your plans.
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What to do in Amsterdam in May
May in Amsterdam is a great time for walking and cycling, visiting museums and, of course, admiring tulips and other flowers.
Although the flowering season is coming to an end in May, you will still be able to see plenty. The famous Keukenhof flower garden is open only two months a year, from mid-late March to early-mid-May. In May 2020, the Keukenhof will work until the 10th, so if you come to Amsterdam for the May holidays, be sure to visit it!
On an area of 32 hectares, several million flowering bulbous plants are planted here, most of which are tulips. The lush flower beds on both sides of the footpaths are an amazing and colorful sight. There are also separate pavilions, indoor greenhouses, children’s playgrounds and other amenities.
Amsterdam’s museums are open in May for almost everyone, and some of them host temporary exhibitions or hold special events. You can create a rich excursion program for yourself, but most importantly, do not forget to buy tickets in advance (or rather a museum card immediately) and schedule a visit time.
Events and holidays in Amsterdam in May
In May in Amsterdam there are several public holidays, as well as numerous festivals and events. Here, every now and then, right on the streets you can stumble upon the performances of indie music bands, art objects and contemporary art exhibitions and sales, and various fairs. Read below about exactly what significant events are planned to be celebrated in Amsterdam in May 2020.
1. May 4 – The Dutch Memorial Day, Dodenherdenking
In early May, Amsterdam hosts Memorial Day for the Fallen. First of all, memorial events are held in honor of those who died in World War II, but on this day the victims of peacekeeping operations and later military conflicts are also remembered. At 7 pm in the evening on the city streets from Museum Square (Nieuwe Kerk Church) to Dam Square, there is a “silent procession”, Stille Tocht, in which hundreds of people participate. By tradition, the royal family also takes part in the procession. It is the queen’s duty to lay a memorial wreath at the foot of the monument to the fallen, at which the procession ends.
After the flower-laying ceremony, at 20:00, after the warning siren, a minute of silence begins – or rather, two minutes. During these two minutes, all residents of Amsterdam observe complete silence.
2. May 5 – Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag)
Immediately after the Day of Remembrance of the Fallen, the Dutch celebrate another national holiday, the day of the liberation of the country from Germans. On May 5, mass celebrations and festivities take place throughout the city. The most significant of them are traditionally concerts of Dutch music groups and guest artists.
But the epicenter of events in honor of Liberation Day falls not in Amsterdam, but in the small town of Haarlem, which can be reached from Amsterdam by train in less than half an hour. On May 5th, the Liberation Pop festival takes place in Haarlem, which will be interesting to visit not only for music lovers. In addition to free concerts, the festival offers other types of leisure activities, for example, exhibitions and sales of products by local craftsmen or tents with unusual food.
3. May 9 and 10 – Mill Day (Molendag)
Mill Day in Holland is celebrated on the second weekend of May and in 2020 falls on the dates of May 9 and 10. On this day, all the mills of the country open their doors to visitors so that they can familiarize themselves with their internal structure, work and the difficult profession of the miller. For their guests, the millers think out entertainments, give them skill lessons or put up a treat such as pancakes or other pastries.
4. May 16 – Drinks Amsterdam
In the city center, near the Beers van Berlage building, a popular venue for events, on May 16th the Drinks Amsterdam alcoholic beverage festival takes place, replacing the Gin Festival. On this day, seminars and workshops on the preparation of alcohol as well as tastings are held here.
5. May 17 – Museum Market
On the day of the Museum Fair, May 17, crowds of tourists flock to Museum Square as artisans of fine and decorative arts put up their works here for viewing and sale. The musicians are not far behind them, so the atmosphere is more of a street party.
6. May 21 – Ascension Day, Hemelvaartsdag and Hemeltjelief Festival
The Ascension of the Lord is celebrated on the 40th day after Easter and is considered a day off for many enterprises in the Netherlands. Due to the fact that this holiday is religious, there are not so many entertainment events on the Ascension Day. But I would like to highlight the Hemeltjelief Festival.
Unlike other festivals, entry to this one is not free, and tickets are quickly sold out, so you should take care of them in advance. It may seem troublesome, but this visit is worth it. In addition to music concerts, a variety of children’s entertainments are organized here and theater actors enact some dramatic performances.
7. May 20-24 – Mobile Kitchens (Rollende Keukens)
Rolling Kitchens is a food festival with free entry that takes place in Westerpark. Dozens of tents, racks and food vans fill the park, and here you can find not only “street” dishes, fast food and local delicacies, but also culinary masterpieces from all over the world. Visitors to the festival can also enjoy live music from all over Westerpark.
8. May 29 to June 1 – Taste of Amsterdam
“Taste of Amsterdam” is another food festival but it is only held in Amstelpark. For four consecutive days, Amsterdam’s top chefs put their culinary skills to the public. At the festival, you can not only try the dishes they prepared as part of a tasting or a full meal, but also learn the secrets of their preparation.
May is a great time to travel to Amsterdam, but you can make it even better by following the advice of experienced travelers. Here are a few points to consider if you are planning to arrive in Amsterdam in May:
- Take appropriate clothing with you. Usually a reasonable choice for May is something moderately warm – pants, sweaters, light jackets over long-sleeved shirts. If you are going to walk at night, it is advisable to stock up on outerwear more seriously – for example, a thicker jacket.
- Many streets of Amsterdam are paved with cobblestone, so it is better to take shoes without a heel. A flat, thick sole will be the best. If the sole is too thin, then you will feel every stone.
- In May, the tourist season gain momentum, so you need to worry about buying tickets to museums in advance so as not to stand in lines. Visits to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum can be scheduled for several weeks in advance. And even if you do not need to book a visit time, without buying a ticket online you will wait in line longer than you will be visiting the museum. Read our Amsterdam Museum Guide to decide which museum is worth visiting and which is not.
- You must also book a hotel in advance – at least two months. There are a lot of hotels and hostels in Amsterdam, but the demand for them is even greater, and by the time you arrive in the city all convenient and profitable offers will be gone.
- Think about renting a bike. Considering the fact that in May various fairs, art exhibitions and performances of indie groups take place right on the streets of Amsterdam. Of all types of transport, it is the bike that allows you to best experience the cultural life of the city.