It feels like the holiday season arrives earlier each year; in the Netherlands, however, the holiday season does indeed start earlier than in the United States. The traditional arrival (intocht) of Sinterklaas, the Dutch Santa Claus, in mid-November lends a festive air to the city. Sint's name day is celebrated on December 5; the day is marked by an abundance of indoor activities, from museum exhibits to live performances that abound midway into the cultural season.
While in the region, visitors can also revel in the quintessential coziness of a hot drink amid the warm patina of an Amsterdam brown cafe. If you are planning on visiting Amsterdam in November for the holiday season, here are some things to keep in mind:
- The tourist crowds have vanished, so intrepid November visitors have the run of Amsterdam's popular attractions and restaurants.
- Airfares and hotel rates are at off-peak rates, offering a more affordable travel experience.
- The winter holiday season kicks off with Sinterklaas' arrival in the Netherlands, and special holiday events, markets, and cuisine-related treats abound.
- The days are quite short; by the end of November, the sun sets around 4:30 p.m.
- November can be blustery, with frequent showers and winds up to 50 mph.
November Weather and Daylight
Nobody goes to Amsterdam in November for the beautiful weather. Afternoon highs average 48 degrees Fahrenheit, with the temperature falling to 37 degrees on average at night.
Remember these are averages, so the end of the month is likely to be cooler than these temperatures would indicate.
It also rains quite a bit in Amsterdam in November, with 32 inches being an average amount for the month. The month is also short on daylight even when it's a sunny day. On November 1, the sun rises at approximately 7:36 a.m. and sets at 5:11 p.m. By November 30, you won't see the sun come up until 8:26 a.m., and it sets at approximately 4:31 p.m.
What to Pack
First and foremost, you'll need a warm raincoat and a sturdy umbrella that can withstand the wind. If you find a large umbrella is too difficult to pack, buy one when you arrive and leave it at the hotel when you depart -- consider it a travel expense. A trench coat with a zip-out lining would be optimal so you can adjust it depending on the weather. In addition, pack comfortable ankle boots for all the walking you'll do, and sweaters and tops to layer over jeans or pants.
November Festivals and Events
- The Arrival of Sinterklaas (Intocht van Sinterklaas): Upon his yearly return to Amsterdam in mid-November, Sinterklaas circles the capital and stops in several squares and other public spaces to address his fans. Afterward, he embarks on a secret tour of the Netherlands and delivers treats to children all over the country until December 5.
- Dutch-American Heritage Day: In 1991, President George H. W. Bush declared November 16 as Dutch-American Heritage Day. This date celebrates 200+ years of friendship between the Netherlands and the United States, and honors the contributions Dutch and Dutch-Americans have made to U.S. society.
- Amsterdam Unity Cup: Coffee shop lovers should time their Amsterdam holiday to take in the Cannabis Cup, the world's premier marijuana, and hemp festival, where participants sample and vote for the year's best cannabis strains.
- International Documentary Film Festival: The world's premier documentary film festival returns to Amsterdam in mid-November with hundreds of films on a wide variety of topics.
- Museumnacht: The yearly Museumnacht (Museum Night) Amsterdam offers a chance to museum-hop into the wee hours (from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and sample a variety of Amsterdam's cultural institutions, plus the special "n8" (pronounced "Nacht") events each one has cooked up for the occasion.
- PAN Amsterdam: The Netherlands' top annual arts and antiques fair, renowned for its quality and diversity, offers wares for all tastes from rare books and manuscripts to authentic Old Masters.