What It's Like in November in Amsterdam

Weather Outside Is Frightful, But There's Much to Do Indoors

The arrival of Sinterklaas in Utrecht.
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It feels like the holiday season seems to arrive 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 Dec. 5. It's marked by an abundance of indoor activities, from museum exhibits to live performances that abound midway into the cultural season; visitors can also revel in the quintessential coziness of a hot drink amid the warm patina of an Amsterdam brown cafe.

Pros

  • 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 for a more affordable travel experience
  • The winter holiday season kicks off with Sinterklaas' arrival in the Netherlands, and special holiday events, markets, and treats abound

Cons

  • The days are quite short; by the end of November, the sun sets at about 4:30 p.m. 
  • November can be blustery, with winds up to 50 mph, with frequent showers

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. Plus, it rains quite a bit, with 3,2 inches an average amount for the month. Remember that these are averages, so the end of the month is likely to be cooler than these temperatures would indicate.

November is also short on daylight even when it's a sunny day. On Nov. 1, the sun rises at 7:37 a.m. and sets at 5:12 p.m. By Nov. 30, you won't see the sun come up until 8:26 a.m., and it will go down at 4:32 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 want a large one that is difficult to pack, buy one when you get there and leave at the hotel when you depart; just consider it a travel expense. A trench coat with a zip-out lining would be optimal so that you can adjust it for the weather. Otherwise, take 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 he delivers treats to children all over the country until Dec. 5.
  • Dutch-American Heritage Day: In 1991, President George H. W. Bush declared Nov. 16 a day to celebrate the 200 years of friendship between the Netherlands and the United States and to honor the contributions of the Dutch and Dutch-Americans 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.