New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is celebrated extensively, with enough fireworks to entertain spectators for hours. But watch out, it can get pretty intense. No Dutch NYE is complete without three things: fireworks, bonfires, and, well, riots.
Here’s all you need to know about New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands, from the good ol’ traditions (fireworks) to the not-so-common traditions (shooting). Let’s get into it!
Fun fact! New Year’s Eve is actually called Oudejaarsavond in Dutch, meaning “old year’s eve.”
Fireworks in the Netherlands: ending the year with a bang
The Dutch take New Year’s Eve very seriously, and a key component to sparking those NYE vibes is, of course, fireworks.
In the Netherlands, fireworks can be heard almost all year-round. However, the frequency of those loud bangs in the night tends to increase throughout December as we get closer to the end of the year.
General fireworks rules and regulations in the Netherlands
In general, no untrained individuals are allowed to light fireworks in the Netherlands (we’re looking at you, prepubescent boys). That is, unless it’s New Year’s Eve.
Yep, in the Netherlands, between 6 PM on December 31, and 2 AM on January 1, you’re free to do basically whatever you want, even if you’re not a professional fireworks igniter.
Think of it as The Purge, but fireworks are your only weapon — and mass destruction is not intended.
Officially, regular folks are also only allowed to buy fireworks at specially certified stores between December 29 and 31.
This rule comes in an attempt to regulate the sales of somewhat dangerous party equipment. In reality, however, the Dutch don’t worry about the rules too much.
There are also certain types of fireworks that are banned completely, including single shots, category F3, firecrackers, and rockets. Does that mean you won’t see them when the clock strikes 12? We doubt it.
So, what NYE fireworks shows can I see this year in the Netherlands?
You’re guaranteed a banging New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands, no matter where you go. Some cities have public shows, some let you light up your own by yourself, and some have banned private fireworks altogether.
Wherever you end up celebrating, here’s what each major Dutch city is doing on New Year’s Eve.
Fireworks in Amsterdam
Despite a full-on ban on private fireworks in the centre of the Dutch capital, Amsterdam promises a great show this year. There will be several public fireworks shows around the city to welcome the new year in proper fashion.
It’s free to attend, you don’t have to bother with the hassle of lighting up your own, and it’s way less dangerous than New Year’s Eve in most other Dutch cities. Win-win-win, if you ask us!
Fireworks in Rotterdam
Sure, the second largest city in the Netherlands has also banned private fireworks this year, but don’t let that bring you down!
Rotterdam will put on the largest fireworks show in the country, from the beautiful Erasmus Bridge. This is a Dutch New Year’s Eve celebration you’re not going to want to miss.
Fireworks in The Hague
In The Hague, the municipality has established several fireworks-free zones around the city to protect humans and animals.
If you want to catch some sparks, The Hofvijver will once again house The Hague’s main fireworks show this year. On top of this, the large bonfire events at Scheveningen and Duindorp are set to go ahead as usual.
You can also bet your frozen hat on the fact that the traditional New Year’s Day Dive will take place at Scheveningen Beach.
Fireworks in Utrecht
Much like The Hague, the municipality of Utrecht has also implemented quite a few fireworks-free zones around the city.
There will not be a total ban, however, so you can still light up your sparkles between 6 PM and 2 AM.
Not enough fire: the Dutch and NYE bonfires
The Dutch love fireworks, that’s for sure. But it seems the promise of sparkles and loud bangs is not enough to create the ultimate New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands.
Dutch people have decided to also include massive bonfires as part of their celebrations, making a sport out of creating the tallest fire possible (we’re talking fires creeping up towards the 50-metre mark).
The most well-known New Year’s Eve bonfire takes place on Scheveningen Beach in The Hague. In 2019, the massive fire got out of hand, leading to fire storms and countless injuries.
This, as well as the past few years, has made some question whether the big bonfires in the Netherlands will take place on New Year’s this year.
There are a lot of permits to be approved before you’re allowed to ignite a pile of wood the size of the Royal Palace (fair).
That being said, if the public bonfires don’t work out, you can rest assured the Dutch will find some way or another to light stuff on fire. True to tradition, Dutchies love to set their Christmas trees ablaze when it’s time to get rid of them.
Shooting: because fireworks aren’t noisy enough for NYE
As if it wasn’t enough to light up fireworks for two months straight before the end of the year; New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is not complete without some shooting. Yep, shooting.
The concept of carbide shooting has been a Dutch New Year tradition for ages — it’s seen as a fun way to start the New Year with a bang.
How does it work? The Dutch put some carbide in an old milk churn, cover the top with a ball, light a small fire, and cover their ears for the imminent explosion.
The ball will fly several yards, making carbide shooting an easily competitive activity.
Since the 1970s, the explosive game has been quite the social activity, and today you can even find several organised competitions and gatherings based around carbide shooting across the Netherlands.
Time to make a mess! New Year’s riots in the Netherlands
The Dutch take New Year’s Eve very seriously, which, unfortunately, can bring out some not-so-nice sides to the festive celebrations.
With all that noise, heat and visual stimulation, New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands can be quite an intense affair.
Deliberate and accidental fires, vandalism, and general disturbances — walking the streets of Dutch cities on NYE is not for the faint-hearted.
It’s common to see riots in cities across the Netherlands on New Year’s Eve, with firefighters and emergency services on high alert.
Other weird Dutch New Year’s Eve traditions
New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is full of traditions. Riots and milk churn shooting set aside; some of them are quite weird — and lovely.
Oliebollen — because the New Year’s resolutions start tomorrow
The most easy-to-like Dutch New Year’s tradition is, arguably, an abundance of oliebollen — the deep-fried buns covered in powdered sugar that make us all go “lekker!”
The greasy delicacy has been eaten in the Netherlands for centuries and can be bought from street stands from autumn onwards.
But make no mistake; this distant cousin of the doughnut is traditionally a New Year’s treat, and certain Dutch people will absolutely frown if you buy it too early in the year.
Watch the Oudejaarsconference
Another Dutch New Year’s tradition is the Oudejaarsconference (Old Year’s Conference) — a comedy cabaret aired every New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands.
It’s a humorous reflection on the past year, hosted by one or more comedians, and it’s been a staple in Dutch New Year’s entertainment for ages. Trying to finesse your Nederlands? Join in on this one!
The practicalities of New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands
Everyone’s going somewhere, and everyone’s determined to have a GREAT time. It’s a recipe for disaster from a logistical point of view, so here are three things to keep in mind when planning your New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands.
Public transport during New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands
It’s no surprise that the public transport system in the Netherlands can be a bit of a struggle on New Year’s Eve.
Everything is even fuller than usual (since most people want to drink alcohol and therefore can’t drive), and transport schedules are significantly different from normal.
Between 8 PM on December 31, and 1 AM on January 1, the vast majority of public transport in the Netherlands (meaning buses, trains, and trams) will not run.
In other words: plan your movements in advance, and make sure you’re happy with your location before it’s too late.
Book in advance
If you’re in the mood for going out on New Year’s Eve, be it to a restaurant, bar, or maybe a club, you should make sure you reserve your table and book your tickets well before the night itself.
Venues and restaurants tend to fill up with reservations ridiculously early, so one quick phone call in advance can really save the evening.
Stay clear of 13-year-old boys with makeshift fireworks
If you want to stay away from the annual mayhem that tends to happen every New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands, you’re best off staying indoors.
If you do wish to risk it, however, a piece of good advice is to avoid teenage boys wielding fireworks altogether.
The Dutch are an innovative bunch, and some youngsters decide to experiment with fireworks (and their rules). However, with trial comes error, and let’s just say you don’t want to be around for that.
What are your plans for New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands this year? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2022, and was fully updated in December 2023 for your reading pleasure.
FAQ: New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands
Is it legal to set off fireworks in the Netherlands?
In the Netherlands, private individuals are allowed to set off fireworks between 6 PM on December 31, and 2 AM on January 1. This rule does not apply if you are in a fireworks-free zone, or if you live in a fireworks-free city.
What should you do if a fire gets out of hand?
If your fireworks or bonfire gets out of hand on New Year’s Eve, as soon as possible, tell someone to call the Dutch emergency number: 112.
Meanwhile, try your best to extinguish the fire. Before you start breaking out the matches, always remember to keep a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby.
Does Amsterdam have a fireworks show?
Yes, Amsterdam will have a few public fireworks shows on New Year’s Eve. Amsterdam has banned the private ignition of fireworks in 2023. However, public shows are still allowed.
Is New Year’s Eve a free day in the Netherlands?
New Year’s Eve is not a public holiday in the Netherlands — officially, it’s a working day. Still, public transport runs on heavily reduced schedules, and most people take the day off if they are able to.