Top 11 free expat-friendly events in the Netherlands
As the warm weather hits, many of us become more sociable and enjoy going to events more than ever. Although there are plenty of events on every day, they can be expensive when you add them all up, so it's also tempting to just sit in the park for free and enjoy the great weather and vibrant atmosphere!
Throughout the year, whatever the weather, there are many events and festivals to attend for free in the Netherlands. It's always useful to have some events in mind that won't burn a hole in your pocket.
Expat events you can attend for free
Here are some great events in the Netherlands that are both ideal for expats and you can go to for free!
Amsterdam Pride (July / August)
The internationally renowned Amsterdam Pride returns to the Amsterdam for nine days of street festivals that you can attend completely for free, parties, films, exhibitions, debates and of course the Canal Parade! On Saturday July 28, the Vondelpark will be filled with activities like a rainbow market, sports workshops and performances.
Before Pride Park starts, the Pride Walk will begin by the "Homomonument" at the Westerkerk, and march to the park for the event’s official opening.
Edam Cheese Market (July / August)
Cheese is probably the most popular Dutch food that there is. The cheese itself may cost a pretty penny, but witnessing these age-old traditions is utterly priceless!
The Edam cheese market operates on Wednesdays in July and August! Tradition is preserved at the Edam cheese market, from horse-drawn cheese carts to old bargaining rituals. After a history spanning from 1680 until 1922, the Edam cheese market was revived in 1989 in cooperation with over 90 volunteers and is now going strong each summer.
The cheese market is now a major tourist event in the cosy and authentic town of Edam. Besides the spectacle of cheese carriers and merchants practising their trade, it is also host to an old Dutch street organ and the Edam cheese chapel.
Cheese Market Alkmaar (March to September)
Although Edam cheese is famous, the Alkmaar Cheese Market is an even more world-famous tourist attraction. It has been around since at least 1593. This market, packed with cheese, cheese-hauling carriers, scales and traditional dress, is a rare sight to behold.
Inside the monumental Waaghuis (Weigh house), in the centre of Alkmaar, you’ll find the Dutch Cheese Museum. The history of Dutch cheese making, trading and farming culture can be explored in this special location. Amongst the things on display, you can find historical artefacts, utensils, film and paintings from as early as the 16th century.
Floating Flower Parade (August)
For three days in August every year, around half a million visitors gather to admire this spectacle on the water. Floating parades of boats adorned with flowers sail on the waters of South Holland, passing by places like The Hague, Delft and Vlaardingen.
The Floating Flower Parade (Varend Corso) is a dazzling affair in which more than 50 boats are decorated with not only 450.000 flowers, but also 120.000 other plants and 80.000 fruits and vegetables. More specifically, flowers include roses, chrysanthemums, sunflowers, orchids, dahlias and more. There are also 36.000 bell peppers, 15.000 tomato vines and 30.000 exotic fruits in use.
International Fireworks Festival Scheveningen (August)
The 39th edition of the famous International Fireworks Festival Scheveningen is nearly fired up and ready to go! Enjoy the mesmerising spectacle of a multitude of colours and shapes filling the night skies over the coastal resort of Scheveningen for two weekends during the International Fireworks Festival Scheveningen!
The organisers of the festival invite production teams from around the world to light up the sky and compete in the art of fireworks. Each evening of the festival, two firework displays take place, one at 9.45pm and the other at 10.30pm.
Prince’s Day (September)
Prince’s Day (Prinsjesdag) marks the opening of the Dutch parliamentary season, and it comes paired with the gorgeous Glass Carriage, the Dutch King’s address to the Dutch government and many rituals and festivities in The Hague, the political centre of the Netherlands.
Expect music everywhere, military demonstrations, lots of theatre, museums with special programmes and access to significant buildings that are usually closed to the public.
One of the most emblematic events of the day is the tour that the Dutch monarchs traditionally make with the Golden Carriage (Gouden Koets) from Noordeinde Palace to the Ridderzaal of the Binnenhof. Due to restorations, the following years will see a "Glass Carriage" instead. This was built in 1826.
Departing at 1pm and always televised, the carriage brings select members of the Dutch Royal Family along a one kilometre route through The Hague in a procession that features prominent members of the military and high ranking officials. Lining the route are orchestras and, of course, spectators fascinated by the traditional procession.
Flower Parade of the Bulb Region (April)
The Flower Parade of the Bulb Region (Bollenstreek) welcomes thousands of visitors to enjoy the dazzling flower and bulb celebration.
The Bulb Region surrounds Leiden, The Hague and Haarlem and the climate and soil there has been perfect for bulb cultivation over the centuries. The parade features a remarkable variety of tulips and other flowers.
When the flowers are in bloom, the fields of the Bulb Region are arguably the most colourful in the world! If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the flowers from the train. But it’s even better if you attend the parade in one of the key locations on the flower route.
King's Day (April)
On King’s Day, the cities fill with outdoor parties and activities, turning the whole of the Netherlands into the biggest street festival of the year to celebrate the birthday of King Willem Alexander. People head out to celebrate, play music, make use of the temporary lift on sales permits by selling their goods, dress up and have a blast.
The Amsterdam vrijmarkt (free market) starts at 6am. Interesting areas to check out include the Pijp, Beethovenstraat, the Olympic Stadium, Amstelveld, Noordermarkt, Westerpark, the Jordaan and the DSM Vrijhaven. The Marie Heinekenplein will be also filled with local entrepreneurs offering drinks and snacks.
Five of the most active King’s Day cities are Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven. Check out how they will be celebrating on April 27!
Tulip Festival of the North East Polder (April / May)
If you can’t get enough of the bright, mesmerising sight of tulips, then the Tulip Festival of the North East Polder is for you. This reclaimed land in Flevoland is utterly breath-taking.
The land is more than four metres below sea level and was only reclaimed from the Zuiderzee in the 20th century. In such a short time, it has quickly become one of the go-to places during tulip season. As well as endless amounts of tulip fields, there are also stunning villages and gardens to visit along the route.
Remembrance Day and Liberation Day (May)
Remembrance Day and Liberation Day began as memorial days specifically for those killed in World War II, but since 1961 they have also paid tribute to victims of other military conflicts and peacekeeping missions. On May 4 (Remembrance Day) there is a two-minute silence at 8pm every year, which is an important thing to keep in mind if you think you might be in a public place at that time. Public transport and other traffic will stop at this time.
Liberation Day takes place the day after Remembrance Day, celebrating the freedom of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation after World War II with big free public events, namely pop festivals. These Liberation Day pop festivals are massive and occur in famous parks in various Dutch cities, for example Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, Malieveld in The Hague and Transwijk Park in Utrecht.
Parkpop, held annually on the last Sunday of June, is the largest free pop event in the Netherlands. Since 1981, this national pop festival has put The Hague on the map in terms of large scale free music festivals. It was even the largest free pop music festival in all of Europe for many years! This year, over 350.000 people are expected to attend.
Enjoy some fun events for free in the Netherlands
Who knew enjoying yourself at some of the most beloved events in the Netherlands could happen for free? Of course, transport, food and drink will have to be factored in, but nevertheless, with the free entry you can have a memorable time without spending much. Sign up for the IamExpat newsletter to stay up to date on the free events and festivals taking place throughout the year.