Where can you find some strange events in the Netherlands? These are my top 3 traditional Dutch festivals involving orange hats, herring for breakfast and single men holding hands.
When it comes to herring festivals in Holland Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen, in English known as Flag Day, is the first one that comes to mind. On Facebook I posed the facts & fiction question:
Vlaggetjesdag is only celebrated in the sea side resort Scheveningen
In the last fact & fiction you could read that the Vlaggetjesdag was held on Pentecost, preferably the Monday. Most probably our national herring day dates back many centuries, but it was mentioned for the first time in 1787 in a local newspaper referring to Buisjesdag in Vlaardingen.
Buisjesdag in Vlaardingen was the precursor of Vlaggetjesdag. A buis was the type of ship used for fishing in the 18th century. Fishers’wives & their children would pray in the Grote Kerk Vlaardingen for a safe return of the men & a good herring catch. Afterwards women and children stood on the shore waving their husbands and fathers goodbye while the the buizen sailed off.
In the early days, Vlaardingen was the centre of the herring fishing and the start of many of the traditions you can now still see on Vlaggetjesdag. I will explain why Vlaardingen was thé port for herring in the Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen Trivia Tour.
The name of Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen first appeared in the media in 1947. But, it was just one of the many herring festivals in Holland. Other ports at the North Sea coastline such as IJmuiden and Katwijk had their own Flag days. Vlaggetjesdag took over the concept of Buisjesdag, but was celebrated on a different day. Plus, although many traditions have its intention changed.
Nowadays, many herring festivals in Holland have changed their focus. IJmuiden celebrates the fishing industry with the Havenfestival and the fishers’town of Urk, Flevoland organises the Visserijdagen
A fresh start of spring in Holland. Outside it’s still rather cold and…where’s the sun? When it comes to the temperature spring really has to warm up, but nature is ready for it. Just take a look outside and see the new born lambs curiously looking at the young tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. The start of the season brings excitement, some people even get a bit stressed when they see spring has come. Here are my 7 favourite spring events in the Netherlands
Tip 1: Easter on the Beach
Easter is one of these spring events in the Netherlands I wouldn’t want to miss out on. There are lots of activities being organised. When I’m not on a bike showing you and your friends how amazing the Dutch countryside is, I enjoy my Easter brunch on the beach. The real tourist season starts in the Easter weekend. Weeks before Easter the beach is inspected and levelled. The beach boulevards are full of trucks offloading material. Right after the beach is prepared, the beach restaurant owners can set up their restaurants. In the Netherlands cafes and restaurants can only be found on the beach between March and October. This means that every year before Easter the owners have to set up their beach restaurants again. Just to be able to welcome me & you for an Easter brunch. Isn’t that great?
Tip 2: Blossoming Fruit Trees, Asparagus and Bike Races
Another part of the food sector depends on good weather. Every year the fruit and vegetable farmers anxiously wait for the results of the season. Apple-, cherry-, peartrees are not only useful for their fruits, but also for their blossom. Walking trails take you through picturesque fields full of fresh, scented flowers. But, besides walking there is another option. Known all over the world, a typical Dutch activity is cycling. As spring is also the start of the cycling season, many regions in the Netherlands offer arrangements, excursions or routes for the cyclist. Cycling routes go through areas full of blossoming trees, or later in the season through fields of fruit, where farmers give you the opportunity to pick your own fruit or make an arrangement so you can take a picknickbasket and have a picknick in the garden.
Next to the fruit farmers I mentioned the vegetable farmers. Which vegetable am I talking about? The asparagus! Strawberries, the delicious fruit of the season are often linked with the “white gold”. Asparagus are mainly cultivated in the region Limburg, the region in the south of the Netherlands. Here they can also prepare these tasty vegetables in many different ways and a meal doesn’t even have to cost much. And, while you’re at it, try some of the Limburgian wine ( yes, Limburg also cultivates its own grapes).
For the cycling fanatics, it is also the season in which bike races start. Limburg, with its Dutch mountains is also the ideal place for bike races such as the Amstel Gold Race. It is nice to see the cyclist pass by, with the thousand of spectator standing at the sidelines yelling and admiring. Of course, right after the race you can create your own track and set a new record.
Tip 3: Keukenhof and Flower Parade
When you think of spring in Holland, you think of mesmerizing tulip fields, enchanting daffodil fields and hyacinth fields filling the air with their spring perfume. Keukenhof is a must see when you are in the Netherlands around Easter. The park is dedicated to the tulip and other spring flowers. It is a beautiful park where you even get to shoot some good pictures of all that the Netherlands has to offer: a field of tulips in front of a windmill where a girl dressed in Dutch folklore clothes sells cheese.
A very popular spring festival is the flower parade, in Dutch we call it Bloemencorso. These parades are in the bulb flower region, that means in the area of Leiden, Lisse en Haarlem. It’s a great parade to see the beautiful spring flowers and the creativity of the locals, who work on the floats for months.
Both Keukenhof and the Flower Parade are big attractions and they welcome thousands of visitors from every part of the world. If you don’t want to be in a traffic jam of tourist buses for hours or are curious about the many other festivals & activities in the area, just take a look at Flower Festival Lisse for some original ideas. Cycling through the spring flower fields is -of course- one of my favourite ways to pass time and I would definitely recommend you to add it to your visit to the Netherlands in spring.
Tip 4: Cheese Markets
Enough about flowers, let’s talk about cheese. The cheese market season also starts in April. It’s one of those spectacular spring events in the Netherlands that is not to be missed when you come and visit. There are markets in Gouda, Alkmaar, Edam, Hoorn and Woerden. Cheese farmers and traders meet on the market square to negotiate the price of the cheese, Dutch cheese girls offer tastings of different cheeses and there are many special activities. It’s a great outing for the whole family.
To see where and how the Dutch -Gouda- cheese is made, I would really recommend you to add a visit to a cheese farm and a historical cheese warehouse.
Tip 5: King’s Day
King’s day is on the 27th of April and Dutch love to celebrate this on the streets. Amsterdam is an orange heaven and should be visited on this dat, but be aware: on the 27th itself everything is fully packed, trains are full, roads are full, streets in Amsterdam are full. If you really want to be in Amsterdam on the 27th go to the city a couple of days before and make sure you have your accomodation booked long before, because Amsterdam will be crowded.
I have been in Amsterdam once on King’s Day and I have to say I didn’t really like it. To get there it takes a lot of patience and walking around in the city is a real pain: it’s just too busy for my liking. I prefer other cities such as Utrecht or The Hague, where every neighbourhood has their own flea market and you can play old Dutch games. Nevertheless, if you want to have an authentic King’s Day experience try celebrating it in a small city or even a village. It’s much easier to get connected with the locals and the celebration is much more intense as it’s much smaller and intimate.
Now King’s Day doesn’t start on the 27th of April, but the evening before. On the 26th in the late afternoon I would suggest you to go to The Hague to celebrate the Life I Live festival. Bands are playing everywhere, special theatre shows are organised and there are lots of things to do and see. It is one of the few nights this very special atmosphere can be sensed in The Hague, people are just having fun and there’s a common vibe everyone can feel.
Tip 6: Liberation Day
Shortly after King’s Day Day the Dutch commemorate the people who died in World War II, during peace operations or in war situations. The day after, the 5th of May it is Liberation Day, the day that we celebrate the end of World War II and think about the meaning of freedom. For this we have special Liberation Festivals in different cities in the Netherlands, where bands and known Dutch artists perform. This website gives you more information about who is performing where and what other activities are planned.
Tip 7: Museumweekend
Spring in the Netherlands means being outdoors. But, if the weather is bad, you can always enjoy the musea. In april Dutch musea organise special activities in a weekend that is cleverly called Museumweekend. Entrance in the musea is for free or you pay very little.