The weather in the Netherlands: What’s it really like?

The Weather in the Netherlands: The Dutch Weather War

I arrived in Amsterdam in July 2018. I arrived with a fair idea of what to expect – directness, canals, and a beautiful tulip display called Keukenhof which I knew took place in the spring. The one thing I had no particular knowledge of was the weather in the Netherlands.

I knew that it would be very cold in the winter and a bit warmer in the summer. I had travelled in Europe during the winter previously so I figured I was prepared for a harsh winter, and being from sunny South Africa I knew I could easily handle the summer. But what I was not prepared for was Dutch weather. The summer of my arrival was the summer of the European heat wave. Sounds like a dream, right? But even I wasn’t prepared for 36-degree heat and I thought it hilarious when my roommate’s mother commented that I might be used to this heat, coming from South Africa but for them (living in Europe) it was really tough.

Summer in the Netherlands

So I arrived in extreme heat and managing this whilst getting around in Amsterdam. What does that mean? Well, I’m lucky enough that in South Africa I never really had to take public transport my car was my mode of transport, portable wardrobe, recording studio -everything. In South Africa we drive on the right-hand side of the road, so the chances of me driving for the next little while were unlikely- I figured trying to reorientate my driving side (including navigating traffic circles, turns and yields) would be something to tackle once I’d settled in more, so public transport would be my mode of commute for the next few months. As you can imagine, heat and public transport (public being the operative word here) was another experience to get used to.

What stands out to me now, is that during the summertime so many people emphasised taking advantage of the weather. Going to the park, the beach, festivals; anything happening in Amsterdam rather than sitting at home because “ You should really take advantage of the weather”. I’ve realised I didn’t truly understand the emphasis behind that statement until now thanks to the onset of everything that makes a Dutch winter.

weather in the Netherlands
The weather in the Netherlands makes everyone go beach mad when it’s warm image: ashyda / 10 immagini/pixabay

Winter in the Netherlands

The Dutch winter is a rather special breed, isn’t it? Freezing temperatures, coupled with extreme winds and gently topped with all-day sporadic rain; what a combination. I reckon it’s the wind that makes it so tough. Sure, in Cape Town one often experiences very strong winds but when it’s hot, the extreme wind is more bearable. I recently heard a story about a friend who tried cycling in Dutch winter weather but gave it up when he realised that he was basically moving backwards thanks to the wind.

I often walk past tourists layered up for the day and feel sorry for them- we all like to travel in mild temperatures, don’t we? Nothing too extreme (unless you thrive on 36-degree scorchers or playing the dangerous game that is walking the streets in the snow hoping not to slip) but weather that is pleasant and easy; from which you don’t constantly have to take refuge from.

Another friend of mine who also resides in Amsterdam wears seven layers to get around in the cold sometimes just to give you an idea of the struggle. Everyone from roommates to those handsome immigration officers at Schipol airport have commented on how terrible the weather is here.

Hey, it’s not all bad…

Now, I can believe this but I remain open to the possibility that there are some positives from this cold weather: winter fashion, in particular, is my favourite. It’s easier to look fashionable and stay warm. My winter staple is a scarf; I throw one on whenever I leave home in the winter. My logic is that if your neck is exposed you’re far more susceptible to getting cold and sick and I shudder whenever I see a naked neck in the winter. Also, I’ve been able to walk to the grocery store in pyjama pants before as the winter coat I had on over the whole ensemble made me still look like a normal member of society. Summertime doesn’t come with those sorts of illusions.

Overall though, I’ve given up on sourcing an appropriate umbrella- seriously, what is even the point if the wind will probably blow it inside out anyway- and have settled on the following armour to cope: Thermal vest(s), thick jacket with a hood, gloves and a scarf. For now… I think I’m ready for battle.

What do you think about the weather in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!

Shaakira Vania
Shaakira Vania
20-something year old traveller, coconut lover (Seriously-anything coconut), and Libran. I recently made the cross-continent move to Amsterdam and spend my weekends exploring the country, meeting new people and telling myself I will finish a book every month (a promise I'm yet to keep). If I had to sum myself up in three words they would be: quirky, curious, and meme-lover.


  1. Had no idea winter was so cold in the Netherlands

    …In the we get very changeable weather in the winter..well no all the year round actually!!
    It’s been known to rain..then have sunshine for a couple of hrs…turning to strong winds by tea time…followed by a cold cold evening /night….all in 24hrs!

  2. Not sure which South Africa you come from but we drive on the left hand side of the road in the south africa that I come from.



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