Hot sweltering days in Amsterdam… Say what? Ask any Amsterdammer about the weather in the Netherlands, and ‘hot’ would be the last thing any of us would say.
But having lived in the Dutch capital for a couple of summers now, hot is exactly how I would describe these long sunny days. Sure it’s not like the Mediterranean and the heat doesn’t last throughout the month, but when it does come - Amsterdam is like a torch light - pretty, but too hot to handle. If the canal's water starts looking delicious - that means you need a serious break from the heat - but fret not, I’ve rounded up 12 fun summer things to do in Amsterdam that will help you cool down and cope with the extraordinary weather! Just don’t forget to stay hydrated and plaster on that sunscreen!
1. Natural Swimming spots in Amsterdam
For a city that’s carved out of water, from the Amsterdam harbour behind the central train station to over 100 kilometres of canals, the perfect way to cool down in this summer heat is to dive right in. But don’t go where the boats are (who wants to swim in that gunk?) go where Amsterdammers actually go:
- Buitenzwembad Marienterrein: Literally translates to “Outdoor swimming pool Marine area” this is the sliver of boardwalk behind the stunning National Maritime Museum, next to a huge 18th-century merchant ship. You’ll see many people diving into the waters here, making it even more scenic with the VOC ship in the background as well as plenty of shade to lay your towel under.
- ‘T Twiske: in the eclectic neighbourhood of Amsterdam Noord, ‘T Twiske is where you can escape into the wild while still being a stone's throw away from the city. Swim in the huge open lake here and you’ll feel reconnected not only with yourself but with nature.
- Sloterpas: In Amsterdam West neighbourhood, there’s a huge lake that’s a favourite amongst residents for a quick cool-down, even with a floating platform in the water. There have been days when my friends and I would just bike here already in our swimming trunks and then dip right in.
2. Sailing around Amsterdam
It’s no surprise that the Dutch are excellent sailors and love sailing as their past time as well. After all, we are talking about a country that launched over 1000 ships during its Golden Age, exploring every corner of the world. Fast forward to present-day Amsterdam and the thrill of slicing through the water with a sail boat is still very much loved.
There’s a few places you can harness the power of the wind for your boat, or to rent a sail boat - which are completely different from the mini motor boats you typically see in the canals. With a sloop (a smaller sail boat) you can breeze around the lake in Sloterpas to cool down! It’s one of my favourite summer activities in Amsterdam, and by no means you have to be an expert Dutch sailor either!
3. Getting gelato at the hip Westergasfabriek
The silkiness of gelatos and the savoury flavours are the perfect remedy for catching a break in this heatwave. One of my favourite gelaterias in Amsterdam is also beside a historical waterway (Haarlemmertrekvaart) and at a creative cultural centre, Westergasfabriek.
Housed in a former coal gas factory, you can get yummy scoops of gelato at IJscuypje. My favourite flavour: the caramel sea salt as well as classics like pistachio. The beautiful historical gas factory is now home to Fabrique des Lumières, an immersive art centre that exhibits digital light shows of famous painters - which also makes for a cooling experience to escape the heatwave.
4. Dip in Westerpark’s pond
If you’re getting scoops of gelato at Westergasfabriek, you’ll be in the heart of Westerpark anyways! If not, Amsterdam West is such a laid-back feel-good neighbourhood that no matter where you are in the city, it’s worth stepping right out of the canal rings for.
In fact, for a hot Amsterdam day, there’s a mini pool on the east side of Westerpark. It’s called the “spartelvijver”(which translates to Spade Pond), a much-adored spot as a splash pond. Popular with families, lots of kids run around here and even take mini baths in this man-made miniature pool. The water comes from the tap (and no country does clean, healthy tap water like the Netherlands) with no chemicals - so you’re all set! The water from the pond also gets reused to water the nearby plants and trees, so everything about Westerpark is sustainable.
5. Getaway to Amsterdam beaches
What not many people realize or know about Amsterdam is the plethora of beaches you can visit when you’re here. It’s a well-known secret between Amsterdammers, the relaxing sandy spots that you want to keep to yourself yet also want to share with others because it just becomes more fun that way.
- Pllek: take the free ferry from Amsterdam Centraal station to this urban beachfront bar. This is where the creative set meets bohemian laissez-faire. You can sink your toes into the sand or just jive with a cold drink and the occasional live music show!
- Sloterpas Beach: this city beach kind of has everything you need to soak up summer - volleyball field, check. A variety of food trucks, check. Table tennis, check. Sandy beach? Major check.
- Curious about more Amsterdam beaches? Check out our list of 11 best Amsterdam beaches here!
6. Cruise around the canals
As a local, we either own a boat or we’ll frequently rent one purely to leisurely cruise Amsterdam’s canals. It’s the best summer activity for any Dutch or traveller, passing over 1,200 bridges around the city while feeling the breeze that tunnels through the heritage buildings.
My friends and I often pack cold drinks and snacks from Albert Heijn (a Dutch grocery store that stocks just about everything) and then hop into a boat set for no particular canal. From there on out, it’s just smooth waters and cruising Amsterdam.
7. Lounge on a rooftop pool
Soho House Amsterdam’s rooftop pool is a mecca amongst the city’s media moguls, creative industry and entertainment crowd. But since it’s a members-only club - you’ll need a Soho House membership or a friend who will take you in as a guest.
Otherwise, there’s also the rooftop pool at the W Hotel, which is smack bang in the heart of the city. Here, you don’t have to be staying at the W Hotel to enjoy a refreshing dip in the rooftop pool, you can just go up for a drink at the bar of the W Lounge. From the cocktail bar, you can change into your swimsuit and enjoy the superb monumental sights all around you.
8. Grab a cold brewed craft beer by a historical windmill
Aside from Heineken, the other beer that you’ll see on every terrace, house party, or picnic around town is - Brouwerij ’t IJ. That’s because, for residents, we’re proud that this craft beer is locally made in Amsterdam. The microbrewery has a gezellig (Dutch word for cosy) terrace, right at the food of Amsterdam’s biggest traditional windmill. So basically, two icons of the city in one place: Brouwerij ’t IJ beer and De Gooyer Windmill.
If you want to discover more secret spots in Amsterdam that only locals know, check out our list for those gems here!
9. Petting zoo and forest bathing in Amsterdam Bos
Amsterdam Bos is a vast open area that is three times the size of New York’s Central Park. It’s where deep forests meet grassland, lake and water aplenty.
This is where you can rent a canoe or a pedal boat out on Grote Vijver lake and feel like you’ve been totally immersed in the wilderness.
For families, there’s a petting zoo in Amsterdam Bos. Home to adorable animals like baby goats and sheep, kids are free to pet these fluffy pastoral animals on a day out in this huge park. Compared to the other parks in Amsterdam, due to the sheer size of Amsterdam Bos, you’ll never feel overcrowded or cramped, with plenty of spots to just relax. And while no actual bathing is required - many can participate in the Japanese activity of forest bathing - where one can take a mindful rest in nature. Amsterdam Bos is the perfect place for wilderness lovers, as well as an escape from the scorching city heat.
10. Stand-up paddle boarding in the Amstel
If you want to make the most of summer, yet want to do a laid-back activity at your own pace, then stand-up paddle boarding makes for the best calm fun in the canals. Go in your swimming suit, and whenever it’s hot, you can also plop off your paddle board for a quick dip in the cool water!
One of the best places to stand-up paddleboard is the Amstel river, a huge flowing course that runs through Amsterdam. On the Amstel you’ll find many people swimming on a hot day, surrounded by Golden Age buildings. So rent a paddle board, head on over to the large open Amstel area of Amsterdam, and feel the breeze!
11. Picnic behind the Olympic Stadium
This is one of those almost too good to share places in Amsterdam but hey, summer’s here and we all just want to enjoy cooling down! Behind the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam’s ritzy old moneyed neighbourhood of Zuid is Park Schinkeleilanden. It’s a mini island with a grassy small hilltop that locals love to come for a picnic, lay around under the trees with music, and swing our legs over the wooden boardwalk.
Sunsets here are just spectacular - and I always love coming here whether I’m with a friend, myself, or taking a date out! Most Amsterdammers don’t even know this spot themselves, so once you’re at the Olympic Station just follow the industrial paths behind the different run-down factories, passing by an abandoned bus, which gets you on Ijsbaanpad. From there you’ll see this magical haven.
12. Overlook the city on a Rooftop Bar
Alright, it’s no secret that we Amsterdammers love our terraces. Whether you’re in De Pijp, or up and down De Jordaan, on hot sultry days like this, we will be cooling down with ice in our drinks on an open patio. But let's elevate that to a few floors up; rooftop bars are where it’s at when people watching becomes even more atmospheric looking down from a bird’s eye view. Here are some of my favourite Amsterdam rooftop bars:
- SkyLounge Amsterdam: possibly the best view of the city is from this rooftop. Especially at sunset when you can see all of the rich colours lighting up the narrow canal houses in an ethereal glow.
- Floor17: for a city that doesn’t have many high rises, you know if you’re on the seventeenth floor, you’re in for a treat. During these summer months, the rooftop bar also hosts movie nights! Yep, they set up a whole outdoor experience with a big screen right on the rooftop.
- NEMO Science Museum: On a budget? You can go onto the rooftop of the NEMO Museum for free! Feel free to sit on the steps and take in the panoramic views of the Amsterdam skyline. There’s a cafe where you can get bites or drinks, but this whole rooftop is accessible to anyone, even without a ticket to the science museum.
Where to stay in and around Amsterdam
Don't worry - these places definitely have air conditioning and are really great spots within walking distance of everything so you won't have to worry about drumming up a sweat!