Several boats moored beside Amsterdam's iconic canal houses
Robert Heaney

Amsterdam in May

For a true taste of the best of both worlds, a trip to Amsterdam in May could be just the ticket. As the early bridge between the city’s low and high tourism seasons, May is the perfect window of time to experience both the healthy buzz of the Dutch capital and the relatively meagre queues of the late low-season traffic.

Visiting Amsterdam in May

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Average Temperature: 45 - 61°F • Average Rainfall: 12 days/mth • Average Sunshine: 7 hours/day

As springtime begins drawing to a close, so too does the Amsterdam shoulder season. May lands you right on the precipice between low-season traffic and the impending waves of summertime tourists. That makes it a great time to enjoy the city’s healthy buzz while also making the most of the shortest queues for top attractions for the next few months.

Visiting Amsterdam in May will have you experiencing the first days of mostly mild weather, after many months of chill and rain. While you should still be prepared to pack an umbrella and perhaps some waterproofs too, you might not have to bundle up quite so warm anymore. What’s more, May is the first time when you can expect regular full days of sunshine, making for ideal exploring conditions.

Things to Do in May

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History & Culture

Few trips to Amsterdam would be complete without exploring some of its renowned cultural hubs. Taking pride of place is the striking Rijksmuseum, home to the Netherlands’ largest collection of art and historical artifacts, among which sit multiple works by the likes of Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Known for drawing in creatives from around the world, the Dutch capital certainly makes sure to celebrate its artists. The Van Gogh Museum leads the charge with its more than 1,400-strong collection of the famed Post-Impressionist painter’s works, while the MOCO Museum just down the road celebrates such modern and contemporary artists as Banksy and Damien Hirst.

The city as it stands today is nothing if not for its rich and diverse history, which it certainly makes every effort to chronicle. Central to this is the Amsterdam Museum, documenting the development of the capital from the middle ages to modern day. Perhaps most popular, however, is the Anne Frank House, which immortalizes the story of the famous World War Two diarist and stands as a reminder of the tragedies of war.

Outdoor Activities

With milder weather on the rise, there are few more perfect ways to explore the city than on your own pair of wheels. With more bikes than residents, Amsterdam is literally built to facilitate cycling, with over 470 miles of cycle lanes running through and around the city. For a more active approach to your trip, grab yourself a rental bike from one of the many stores dotted throughout Amsterdam for around roughly €10/day.

Since we’re talking about unique ways to see the city, why not do so from atop Amsterdam’s world-famous waterways? One of the capital’s largest tourism industries, canal boat tours offer a fantastic way to get from one place to another while also offering unique perspectives and insights into the cultural and historical significance of many of the city’s top monuments.

Just as May marks the final days of spring, so too does it serve to see out the Dutch tulip season. From the end of March, tulips will have been in full bloom throughout the Netherlands. For the best tulip and flower displays in the country, you’ll want to take a trip to nearby Lisse to explore Keukenhof Park, known also as the Garden of Europe and the most popular place to see tulips in bloom.

You might find the milder, clearer days of May to be the perfect opportunity to take a day trip or two to some of Amsterdam’s neighboring cities. Utrecht is considered Europe’s best canal city and is popular for its trendy yet provincial architecture and atmosphere. Rotterdam is the Netherlands’ principal port town and home to some of the country’s best modern architecture, alongside a killer nightlife scene. Most cities are accessible within a few hours by train, so it should be no trouble to work them into a free day in your itinerary.

Events in May

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Rolling Kitchens Food Festival

Over the course of a long weekend in late May, Amsterdam’s Westergas hosts the Rollende Keukens or Rolling Kitchens Food Festival. Dozens of food trucks and mobile kitchens set up shop to create one gigantic open-air food court, offering all manner of cuisine to tickle every taste bud. Joining the street food are also a selection of bar stands serving everything from health smoothies to stylish cocktails.

With free admission, the festival promotes a cheap and cheerful atmosphere, giving visitors the chance to experience anything from local Dutch staples to world cuisine in a relaxed, affordable setting. Complete with live music and performances, you can easily sink an evening into exploring the labyrinth of food stalls and dining beneath the stars.

World Press Photo

Often launching sometime in April, the annual World Press Photo exhibition typically takes place in Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk and can be visited for a number of months following its unveiling. The exhibition serves to showcase the award-winning images and videos submitted to the World Press Photo Competition, split among prize categories such as News, Sports, Nature and the Environment.

The largest photography competition of its kind in the world, World Press Photo offers aspiring and prominent photographers alike the opportunity to share their skills with the world, through the stories told by their work. An independent and international jury works to judge submissions each year and pick out the best of the bunch, ultimately landing on a single Photo of the Year.

Those with a penchant for photography, journalism and the visual arts might find a great deal of value from exploring the galleries of winning pieces. Complete with elaborate captions and often audio commentary, each image tells an intimate story, often shedding light on ongoing global affairs that otherwise go unseen.

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