With its many music festivals covering every genre, the Netherlands has blossomed as a place to see your favourite DJ, artist or band play live, or discover a new emerging talent to follow. The efficient rail network can whisk you to every corner of the country in a few hours, bringing a wide choice of events within easy reach. From rock in Rotterdam, to hip hop in The Hague, here's our guide to the Netherlands' best music festivals.
The Game event at Melkweg © Emil Verga
Soenda – Utrecht, May
The vibrant university city of Utrecht is the natural home for Soenda, a house and techno celebration filling the grassy open spaces of Recreatiegebied Ruigenhoekse Polder (Polder recreation area) held during balmy Spring days in May. An spectacular light show and fireworks offer a night-time backdrop to such big names as Jeff Mills, Len Faki and John Talabo, as well as plenty of emerging talents. In November, an indoor version builds on its Springtime success.
Parkpop – The Hague, June
The Hague – a city best known for its politicians and lawyers (and also the band Golden Earring) – hosts one of the largest free pop music festivals in Europe every summer. For a few days in June its lovely parks are filled with about 200,000 visitors, enjoying drinks, music and a great atmosphere. Since 1981, Parkpop has attracted international headliners (Jason Donovan, Kim Wilde, Clouseau) while still showcasing local talent.
The Flying Dutch – Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Eindhoven, June
What else are you going to call an event where the world's top Dutch DJs fly by helicopter between three different venues? This tri-city electronic music festival spread across Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven taps into the success of names such as Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren, Tiësto and Hardwell – who calls it an "amazing concept". A joint audience of 100,000 fans saw the 2018 line-up.
Best Kept Secret – Hilvarenbeek, June
Why do acts like Run the Jewels, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, The National and LCD Soundsystem play this three-day festival deep in Holland's south? Perhaps because the organisers have always put on "A festival we'd want to go to ourselves". The extra effort at Best Kept Secret in Hilvarenbeek shows in the imaginative food and the lovely lakeside campsite among the trees of Beekse Bergen park.
North Sea Jazz Festival – Rotterdam, July
The Netherlands' biggest jazz festival has found a home amid the striking modern architecture of Rotterdam since 1976, but it hasn't been afraid to change with the times. With around 150 performances on 15 stages over three days, there's a show for everyone: something old, something new, something blues (not to mention hip hop, funk, and various other styles). Headliners in recent years have included Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock and Jamiroquai.
North Sea Jazz festival © North Sea Jazz Rotterdam
WishOutdoor – North Brabant, July
Held for three days over a summer weekend, this dance festival is usually sold out well in advance. Brabant is in the south of Holland but still only a short train trip from Schiphol Airport and this event maintains a family-friendly atmosphere. While Friday and Saturday are for over-18s, Sunday welcomes young children with an inflatable park and kid-friendly treats. It's a great place to introduce them to your passion for music.
Zwarte Cross – Lichtenvoorde, July
Add music and theatre to a major motocross event where amateurs are welcome and you have the biggest paid festival in the Netherlands. Now welcoming around 220,000 visitors, and the likes of Blondie, The Black Crowes and Kaiser Chiefs, "Black Cross" is a unique, bizarre experience. The small town of Lichtenvoorde is close to the German border but still only a three-hour train ride from Schiphol.
Revellers at the Zwarte Cross festival © Zwarte Cross
Schollenpop – Scheveningen, August
Scheveningen, a beach city outside of The Hague (around an hour from Schiphol by train) has a long expanse of sand lined with bars, restaurants and clubs. The beach party vibe lasts all summer and the free open-air festival Schollenpop pumps up the volume with the likes of The Boxer Rebellion, Killing Joke and The Cool Quest.
LowLands – Biddinghuizen, August
This three-day festival adds films, dance and other performing arts to the musical line-up across many genres. Recent years have seen The Prodigy, Basement Jaxx, Fever Rya, Grace Jones, La Roux, 2 Many DJs and Moderat, so expect plenty of indie and hip-hop. Biddinghuizen is about an hour east of Amsterdam and is famous for the Walibi Holland theme park, next to the LowLands festival site.
Festival goers at LowLands © Bart Heemskerk / LowLands
LeGuessWho? – Utrecht, November
With its compact centre of canalside bars and clubs, and mix of historic buildings with avant-garde architecture, Utrecht is a perfect host for this "City-wide celebration of global sounds". Churches, bars, halls and even industrial spaces become venues for a four-day festival that includes "The Biggest Record Fair In The World" with music from 500 different labels.
Ibaaku performs at LeGuessWho? in Utrecht. © Tim van Veen
Find your next festival in the Netherlands. Discover why Holland is the place to see your favourite DJ or artist. With listings of top festivals and venues including Spotify playlists, if music makes you travel then Holland is the place to be! FIND OUT MORE
Top image: © Piotr Piatrouski / Shutterstock