5 reasons to spend winter holidays cruising the Dutch cultural season

5 reasons to spend winter holidays cruising the Dutch cultural season

December 3, 2019 Off By John Authen


If you thought that the colder and darker days meant taking off your traveler’s hat and getting all cozy with a cup of tea and a book, we are going to prove you wrong. Of course, there is nothing wrong with spending a winter between the book covers, but if you are interested in arts and culture, the fall and winter months are when the Dutch cultural season really heats up. Here we’ve rounded up our favorite reasons to take a cultural river cruise in the Netherlands from October to March. 

1. Beautiful stories

What can be better on a cold day than a heart-warming story? In the Eastern Docks of Amsterdam, among artist studios and in front of the European river cruise ships, you will find the warmest place in town – the storytelling club Mezrab. On Tuesdays and Fridays, an international crowd gathers there to share true and fictional stories, drink fresh mint tea and enjoy a bowl of mama’s soup. And every late October or early November, Mezrab explodes into the Amsterdam Storytelling Festival with a full week of awe-inspiring programming. 

Would you rather be occupied with radically poignant or philosophical questions? Then the Brainwash festival happening in early October is the place to be. Star guests in the ranks of Slavoj Žižek and Thomas Piketty will be there to speak their mind and possibly blow yours.  

For the best of international theatre, dance and performance do not miss the ITA (International Theatre Amsterdam) and the Dutch National Opera. The latter is not just a remarkable theatre but is also a product of a unique city-planning synthesis as it curiously shares its building with the Amsterdam Municipality. 

2. Ground-breaking design

Every October the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven opens the design season. With over 2,600 international designers and presentations spread all around the city, it is an event no design enthusiast would want to miss. With new products, conceptual design solutions to global problems, works by young and establishes makers it is also an inspiration Mecca for design professionals. 

In December designers and policy makers gather in Amsterdam to ponder on the big question of What Design Can Do during a three-day symposium.

February is marked by Object Rotterdam – a beautiful design fair in Rotterdam. Initially held on a cruise ship, it is now housed in the iconic HAKA building in the old port. Object Rotterdam is part of the Art Rotterdam Week that includes a contemporary art fair, special museum presentations and pop-up shows.  

3. The world of film

Film lovers know that October is the time to sail their ships to Amsterdam for the International Animation festival Kaboom and International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The latter is really pushing the borders of what can be considered documentary by including art films and devoting separate programming to contemporary media technologies called Idfa DocLab

All throughout the year EYE Film Museum holds elaborate shows exploring life and work of prominent film directors like Stanley Kubrick and Andrey Tarkovsky.    

If you are around on February, head to Rotterdam for the International Film Festival Rotterdam and enjoy the newest fiction films of the year.  

4. Food for thought

Because all this intense culture cruising calls for nourishing meals, the Dutch National Restaurant Weeks, held twice a year in November and March are not to be missed. With hundreds of participating restaurants, it is a perfect opportunity to dive deep into the gastronomic culture of the Netherlands. 

5. And even in winter, there are tulips

Well, this list just got you excited about visiting the Netherlands in the winter, but now you are wondering whether you would have to come back on another river cruise through the Netherlands to see the vast fields of flower color. No worries, the Dutch have a surprising solution. Every year in the midst of January, on the National Tulip Day, the Dam square in Amsterdam is turned into a giant flower garden. And it’s not only insanely beautiful, but at 13:00 everyone gets a biodegradable package to pick 20 tulips to take home. A winter perk you will never be allowed on a tulip garden visit in spring.