When does Sinterklaas arrive in the Netherlands? The 2023 city guide

There’s one thing for sure: you do not want to miss the Sinterklaas’ arrival to the Netherlands as an international. These are some of the best days of the Dutch holiday season!

After all, what’s that smell? Is that gingerbread? And mulled wine? Why are people throwing cookies at me? And who are those strangely dressed coal miners in the streets?  🎄

Sinterklaas is coming to the Netherlands, baby! 🎅 (We’re sorry, there’s no Sinterklaas emoji, okay?)

But when? Who? Why? Here’s all you need to know about Sinterklaas’s arrival in the Netherlands in 2023. 

What is Sinterklaas’s arrival?

Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of the Western Santa Claus. The biggest differences are:

  • Sinterklaas arrives on a boat from Spain (not on a sleigh from the North Pole)
  • Sinterklaas has cheeky (and heavily criticised) helpers, Zwarte Pieten (not cute little elves)
  • Sinterklaas’s hat and robes make him look like a red Pope (rather than wearing Santa’s suit)
The arrival of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands will be met by crowds of excited children. Image: Depositphotos 

Sinterklaas’s arrival marks the beginning of the Dutch holiday season, with the festivities all leading up to Pakjesavond (Present Evening) on December 5. 

READ MORE | What happens during Christmas in the Netherlands? A guide to the winter holidays

But when will Sinterklaas come to your city in 2023? Hold on to your snow boots, for we’ve compiled all the cities our jolly Sinterklaas will visit this holiday season. 🚤

The ultimate list of Dutch cities Sinterklaas will visit in 2023

A different city is chosen every year for Sinterklaas’s initial arrival. In 2023, the small city of Gorinchem in South Holland will have the honour. 

On November 18, Sinterklaas will arrive by steamboat in the port, where he will be received by the no-doubt excited city residents. The arrival of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands is sure to start off the celebrations with a memorable bang!

But have no fear: Sinterklaas will visit almost every Dutch city. Here’s when he’ll be gracing your stad!

Sinterklaas’s arrival in major Dutch cities

Amsterdam — Sunday, November 19

Sinterklaas’s arrival in the Dutch capital will begin with him docking his boat in the Amstel River. Sinterklaas will then embark on a festive canal tour, and at the end, he will get the chance to speak to the mayor of the city. 

Then, Sinterklaas will continue his journey through the city on horseback and end his tour in Leidseplein at 4:45 PM. 

The Hague — Saturday, November 18

For the 76th time, Sinterklaas will dock his wonderful steamboat in the Hague. He will take a driving tour through the city’s shopping streets, where all the children of the Hague can wave and say ho ho ho to the saint. 

And the saint will be taking a trip on the tram in the Hague this year. Quite different to his usual travel on horseback!

Sinterklaas arriving in the Netherlands
Sinterklaas is an iconic figure in the Dutch Christmas tradition. Image: Erik Bro/WikimediaCommons/CC 3.0

Groningen — Saturday, November 18

Every year since 1947, Sinterklaas has visited Groningen. This year will be no different, as he will arrive in his famous steamboat in the major city at 12:35 PM. 

The parade will start at Praediniussingel and end at Academieplein. Sinterklaas will be seen sailing through the city from 12:35 PM to 1:30 PM. After his sail through the city, Sinterklaas and his helpers will embark on a walk through the city until 3:15 PM. 

Haarlem — Sunday, November 19

In Little Amsterdam, Sinterklaas will dock his boat between 12 PM and 1 PM. From there, Sinterklaas will ride on his horse, and his procession will work its way through the streets of Haarlem, ending the tour in the Grote Markt at 4 PM.

There, the Mayor of Haarlem will greet the saint, and the festivities will continue. 

Maastricht — Saturday, November 18

The saint will dock at the jetty of the Stiphout shipping company at the Kesselskade and then parade through the city, ending in the Aankomst Stadhuis. 

Rotterdam — Saturday, November 18

Sinterklaas visits the city of Rotterdam for the 72nd time this November. In accordance with tradition, the saint will arrive on his epic steamboat on the Willemsplein. Then, he will end his tour in Grotekerkplein. 

In Rotterdam, you can expect a jolly party celebrating the Christmas season with ginger nuts and lots of different entertainment.  Amongst food trucks and stunt actors, kids will also be able to get ‘Piet’ diplomas during the festivities.

Utrecht — Sunday, November 19

The parade in Utrecht will start at 11:30 AM at Ledig Erf. From there, the boat bearing our lovely Sinterklaas will go to the Weerdsluis and depart onto the podium. 

Once the party starts off there, the parade will continue with Sinterklaas on horseback, and then at 3 PM will arrive at Domplein. 

Leiden — Saturday, November 18

Sinterklaas will make his entrance to Leiden in the Beestenmarkt at 12 PM. Once there, the saint will lead the parade through the Haarlemmerstraart and Breestraat, eventually ending the procession at the Garenmartk. 

Leiden, already known for its epic festivals, will have bouncy castles and games galore for all the children attending. There will also be some fairytale characters (if Sinterklaas himself wasn’t enough!) and lots and lots of goodies. 😉

Other Dutch cities that Sinterklaas will visit

Alkmaar — Saturday, November 18

After his arrival in Hellevoetsluis, Sinterklaas can be seen making his rounds through the city of Alkmaar. Once Sinterklaas has departed from his boat, he will ride around the city on his trusty horse. 

The parade will then make its way through the city, with Sinterklaas eventually hopping on a bus to the Mare and ending his visit at De Hoef shopping centre in Alkmaar city. 

Almere — Saturday, November 18

Listen up, Almere residents! Sinterklaas will dock his boat in the Havenkom of Almere Haven. After such a long wait, the city will host the saint with great excitement as the Sintparade winds its way through the city. 

The parade and festivities will start at 10:45 AM in Almere, with Sinterklaas making his much-awaited arrival at 11:30 AM. 

Amersfoort — Saturday, November 18

Amersfoort has a long history of Sinterklaas celebrations. This year, Sinterklaas will arrive in the city around 12 PM. 

There are also many events going on during the festive period in Amersfoort, from the arrival of Sinterklaas to Christmas scavenger hunts and even meet and greets for the kids! 

Arnhem — Saturday, November 18

Sinterklaas will arrive in his boat at 3:30 PM in Arnhem. From there, the jolly fellow will wind his way through the city while on horseback, saying hello to all the children of Arnhem. 

Then, he will dismount from his horse at Eusebius Church for a meet and greet with children and their parents until 6 PM. 

Assen — Saturday, November 18

The starting point of Sinterklaas’s visit to Assen will be Garage Van Veen, and his parade through the city will end on Ceresstraat. 

Breda — Saturday, November 18

In Breda, Sinterklaas will arrive at the Market this year. There, not only will Sinterklaas say hello to all the waiting children, but he will be accompanied by a DJ, dancers, and a band.

Assendelft — Sunday, November 19

Holly Jolly Sinterklaas will arrive in Assendelft on Sunday, November 19. The mayor will greet the saint and his companions at 2 PM in the market, and the closing party for Sinterklaas’s arrival will begin at 3 PM in the Markt. 

Den Bosch — Sunday, November 19

Amongst one of the last cities Sinterklaas will visit is Den Bosch. But the saint will arrive in the city at 12 PM. His procession will work its way through the city to arrive at the City Hall at 1:30 PM. 

And, if you want to dance the afternoon away while everyone else walks through the city in the cold Dutch weather, there will be a DJ playing Christmas tunes from 12:30 PM at the City Hall. 

Den Helder — Saturday, November 18

The saint, surely tired after the longest day of parades and processions, will land in Den Helder on Saturday, November 18. He will be interviewed by the mayor there, so if you want to catch some of the saint’s inner thoughts, it would be best to get a good spot to watch and listen. 

After his interview, the procession will then proceed to the Sinterklaashuis in Den Helder. 

Dordrecht — Saturday, November 18

After a long trip from Spain, Sinterklaas will arrive in Dordrecht at 12 PM. Dordrecht has lots planned to celebrate his arrival; of course, there will be the usual festive parade, but there will also be a street party in the afternoon.

Thousands of people turn out to see Sinterklaas’s arrival. Image: Depositphotos

Also, for the children who cannot wave to Sinterklaas from the quays, there will be big LED screens for them to watch the Sinterklaas as he departs his steamboat. 

Eindhoven — Saturday, November 18

From 10 AM onwards, parents and children can wait in the Valkenswaard for Sinterklaas’s arrival. The saint will be welcomed by the Mayor of Eindhoven at 1 PM. Then, Sinterklaas will climb aboard his horse and continue his procession through the city on horseback. 

Leeuwarden — Saturday, November 18

Sinterklaas is expected to arrive in the city centre at 12 PM in Leeuwarden. Like in most other cities, Sinterklaas will travel through the city on horseback. 

The saint will also receive the honour of being offered the Key of the City from the Mayor on the Hofplein. 

Roermond — Sunday, November 19

In Roermond, Sinterklaas will arrive in the Roerkade at 2 PM, and his parade through the city will end at 3:30 PM. 

Scheveningen — Saturday, November 18

In this district of the Hague, Sinterklaas will arrive at the port at around 12 PM, and from there, he will take the tram through the city, visiting as many parts of the districts as he can.

The arrival of Sinterklaas marks the beginning of the Christmas season in the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

Tilburg — Sunday, November 19

For 123 years, the saint has visited the city of Tilburg, and this year will be no different. Arriving around 12 PM, the saint will quickly join the crowds of waiting people and take part in the parade.

There will be a Sinterklaas disco in the Spoorpark, and, over the festive season, there will also be a Saint Village to celebrate the winter holiday. 

Noordwijk aan Zee — Saturday, November 18

Sinterklaas will arrive in Noordwijk aan Zee by lifeboat, a majorly different mode of transport from his usual steamboat. At 10 AM, the saint will go to the podium on the beach, where the Mayor of Noordwijk aan Zee will meet him. 

Then, Sinterklaas will parade through the city in a carriage carted by two horses, waving and smiling at all the excited children of the city. 

Zaanstad — Saturday, November 18

From 2 PM to 4 PM in Zaanstad, Sinterklaas will be found on the streets with his companions. Presented by a DJ, the parade is sure to be a sight to behold and full of music, fun, and dance. 

Zierikzee — Saturday, November 18

From 1:15 PM, Sinterklaas can be found at the South Harbour Gate in Zierikzee. Sinterklaas has visited this city since 2005, and the whole festivities are organised by volunteers in the city. 

Sinterklaas’s arrival by city: quick guide

CityArrival Date
AlkmaarNovember 18
AlmereNovember 18
AmersfoortNovember 18
AmsterdamNovember 19
ArnhemNovember 18
Assen November 18
BredaNovember 18
AssendelftNovember 19
Den BoschNovember 19
The HagueNovember 18
Den HelderNovember 18
DordrechtNovember 18
EindhovenNovember 18
GroningenNovember 18
HaarlemNovember 19
LeeuwardenNovember 18
LeidenNovember 18
MaastrichtNovember 18
Noordwijk aan ZeeNovember 18
RoermondNovember 19
RotterdamNovember 18
ScheveningenNovember 18
TilburgNovember 19
UtrechtNovember 19
ZaanstadNovember 18
ZierikzeeNovember 18

What to expect during Sinterklaas’s arrival

During Sinterklaas’s arrival in the Netherlands, you can expect epic festivities; crowds, street parties, dance parties, DJs playing music, Sinterklaas—inspired villages and houses, meet and greets, and even speeches from the mayors of different municipalities. 😍

It’s a season of celebration and festive joy. Get a taste of some typical Dutch festive food, such as pepernoten, or grab some sweet animal—shaped marzipan. 

Who is Zwarte Piet? 

While Santa Claus has adorable elves, Sinterklaas has, well, Zwarte Piet, also known as ‘Black Pete.’

Yeahhhh. It’s about as bad as it sounds. The Dutch twist on typical Christmas traditions includes a companion to Sinterklaas, usually painted in black paint, wearing a thick wig with highlighted, red lips. 💋

zwarte piet and soot piet
The old version of Zwarte Piet features blackface, and the new Sooty Piet on the right. Image: Andre Engels/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0 and Ziko van Dijk/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

The tradition has been the subject of much controversy, but more and more municipalities are opting out of including Zwarte Piet in modern—day parades. 

READ MORE | Zwarte Piet: the full guide to the Netherlands’ most controversial tradition

Instead, Zwarte Piet is being replaced with “Sooty Piet,” wearing the trademark clothes but now with soot on their faces from climbing down chimneys. 

We’re sure poor Sinterklaas is just tuckered after a busy, busy period of parading and entertaining. 

Will you be meeting Sinterklaas when he arrives in the Netherlands? Tell us your plans in a comment below! 👇

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2022 and was fully updated in November 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Heather Slevin
Heather Slevin
Heather is a Dublin native, addicted to catching the Luas, the Irish version of a tram, for one stop, and well used to the constant rain and shine. Seeking to swap one concrete city for another (with a few more canals and a friendlier attitude to cyclists) here she is with the Dutch Review! As a Creative Writing student, she can usually be found sweating over the complicated formatting of her latest poem or deep inside the pages of a book, and loves writing, writing, writing.

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