In July and August, Amsterdam heats up with some of the year’s coolest festivals. Sit back with a glass of rosé — the city’s summer drink of choice — as we detail the season’s must-visit festivals.
Celebrate Surinamese and Caribbean music and culture at the vibrant Kwaku Festival, held over four consecutive weekends in July and August (with the event concluding August 4). Alongside live music, dance and a hugely entertaining amateur soccer tournament, the festival built a reputation for its food market, where you can feast on spicy satay, juicy ribs and crispy bara (savory Surinamese doughnuts).
Escape the urban bustle at the Hortus Festival through August 25. Set in the tranquil grounds of one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens, the 10th edition of this classical music festival has a distinctly Russian flavor. Look out for composer Maarten Bon’s adaptation of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps for four pianos on August 22.
Pluk de Nacht (“seize the night”) is the stuff balmy summer evenings are made for: food, cocktails and a movie on the big screen under the stars. Founded a decade ago by a group of film fans who saw worthy independent movies being passed over by Dutch distributors, the annual festival showcases cinematic gems unearthed at national and international film festivals — all for free. Expect everything from quirky romantic comedies to award-winning Scandinavian shorts. Enjoy the daily screenings from August 7 to 17 on Het Stenen Hoofd, a small pier on the IJ just west of Central Station, when the sun sets around 9 p.m. Don’t speak Dutch? No worries — the movies are in English or have English subtitles.
In its 16th year, the Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival) has become a fixture on Amsterdam’s cultural calendar. The 10-day (August 16 to 25) classical and world-music extravaganza (which attracted more than 53,000 visitors in 2012) promises to be even more spectacular this year as the city marks the 400th anniversary of its famous waterways. Twenty new performance spaces have been added to the regular roster of floating stages and historic waterside buildings, some of which — like the naval base on Kattenburgerstraat — have never before been opened to the public. Don’t miss Fiddler on the Roof, a short program of music by Mozart, Handel and others performed by a young violin and cello duo on the roof of a traditional houseboat (at Spiegelgracht 32 on August 18); and, a yearly highlight, the open-air Prinsengracht concert (August 24), when musicians set up on a pontoon on the famous canal and spectators crowd the waterway with boats.
Photos Courtesy of Ronald Knapp and Pluk de Nacht Film Festival