All You Need to Know About Spending New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands
Wondering what those loud booming (and honestly, bomb-sounding) noises are outside day and night recently in the Netherlands? It’s fireworks.. and you haven’t seen nothing yet. With it being New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands right now, it’s time to brace yourself. There’s going to be a lotta fireworks ALL day, ALL night and beyond.
With New Year’s Eve on its way, I couldn’t not put an article out about it. It’s by far the most nuttiest day of the year and certainly something unimaginable unless you’re there. So without further ado, what is New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands like?
Here’s a taster 😉
In short: Dutch New Year’s Eve involves a nice glass of champagne, Oliebollen, watching the New Year’s Eve concert on NP01, singing and then setting off hundreds (or thousands) of euros of fireworks.
What’s the Big Deal with New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands?
New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated all over the world. It’s a chance to ‘put this year behind us’ and celebrate a brand new year. Many of us are used to getting together with family and friends, having a party, watching a public display of fireworks or just having our own.
This is just the same in the Netherlands, with a difference. Having your own firework display on New Year’s Eve is literally ingrained in Dutch culture. Some people have ‘firework funds’, where they will put back money each month to blow on large boxes of fireworks (which cost in access of 100 euros each). When the day is finally here, some people will blow thousands of euros worth of fireworks off in pretty much one go.
So? We all love a good firework display – what’s the difference in the Netherlands?
In case you’re wondering why this day gets so crazy – it’s because fireworks are FORBIDDEN 364 days of the year. This is what makes New Year’s Eve particularly special and also particularly mad. Many of my friends come to stay at mine for New Year just to experience it. But I’ll get onto that more in a minute.
New Year’s Eve is certainly different in the Netherlands. The nice and reserved neighbour in your quiet neighbourhood that you rarely see? You’ll definitely see them suddenly become obsessed with fireworks. And a lot of them.
Not Everyone Likes It…
Every year people take to the internet to ask why fireworks are going off every day of the week and people asking where they can take their animals to give them a break away from it all. Every year hospitals have to deal with the influx of people seeking medical treatment for firework-related injuries. It’s certainly not without its controversies. The Netherlands certainly isn’t the only country with this problem. However, you definitely notice just how many people are playing around with them dangerously and it’s all over the internet.
For me, I like NYE, but I’m a pretty nervous person, so I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me on edge. Sometimes it makes it more fun and sometimes it just makes you feel totally uneasy. The first year I was in the Netherlands, I decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam and we headed to Dam Square. I didn’t last very long there as it was pretty terrifying for me (I’m a pretty anxious person at the best of times).
New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands isn’t just a few sparklers
The noise was unbearably loud and there was a lot of smoke from fireworks being set off everywhere. People were just throwing them onto the ground and they were going off all over the place. If you’ve seen the many Dam Square videos on YouTube you’ll get what I mean (one of them shows a guy blowing his hand off – don’t watch if you can’t handle the gore btw).
I also went to Scheveningen in 2018, where one of the bonfires got out of hand due to organisers illegally piling extra wood on top of it to make it taller. The wind caused literal fire tornados, that sent sparks all over the town. It set fire to bus shelters, stalls and even the roofs of people’s houses. We were all evacuated after embers started showering over the crowd. It certainly was a sight walking home, watching fire engines pull up, pulling drain covers off and plugging into the water systems as quickly as possible.
Thankfully no one was hurt, but it really put into perspective how crazy it really is.
What Is the Law on Fireworks in the Netherlands?
Firework laws in the Netherlands are strict. However, they are relaxed at New Year’s. This means that people can only buy fireworks 3 days leading up to New Year’s Eve and they are only allowed to set them off between the hours of 6 pm and 2 am on New Year’s Eve/day. However, while these try to get enforced, it’s impossible when so many people have fireworks. So the rules get ignored by people and nothing is done to stop it. In general though, if you are caught with fireworks outside of these dates/times you face them being confiscated and getting a 100 euro fine. Does this happen often? Nope.
Where I live I start hearing fireworks at the start of November, all the way until well into February. They aren’t the nice pretty fireworks either, they are the really loud booming ones which do nothing but make noise. I’ve lost count of the number of times I was sat in my own living room or my bed minding my own business when someone sets one-off right outside my flat, scaring me half to death and making the windows rattle. This morning I got woke up by them and the baby upstairs was just screaming its head off because of it.
It certainly takes time to get used to it.
Driving on New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands
Just a little tip for you all – when it draws closer to midnight, do not attempt to drive through neighbourhood streets. To protect their properties, people usually set their fireworks off in the middle of the road. Yes, really.
We all know this happens, so it keeps everyone happy. People know that there won’t be cars everywhere, so it’s generally considered acceptable. But don’t be surprised to see small fires popping up everywhere in the middle of the road either – some people like to burn their firework rubbish afterwards. When I asked my Dutch friend at a New Year’s Eve party why my friend’s nice neighbour had started a bonfire in the middle of the road she simply said ‘well, it’s clever – it’s on fire anyway and this way all your rubbish is gone too.’
So, Where Do People Get the Fireworks from in the Netherlands?
Well, being in mainland Europe, there is nothing stopping you from nipping over the border to get your fireworks. With no hard border and police stops a rarity (unless you’re outwardly doing something noticeable to get your stopped), going to either Belgium or Germany is a breeze. Some people also purchase illegal fireworks online or head to a little Belgian/Dutch town, which sits in the middle of Dutch territory. The Dutch part is called Baarle-Nassau and the Belgian one Baarle-Hertog. It’s certainly not particularly difficult to get hold of them and that’s why you can hear fireworks for days, weeks and even months on end. Then, of course, you can buy them a few days before NYE legally, so some people can get eager and set them off early.
Leading up to New Year’s Eve you can purchase fireworks almost everywhere. Online, at some supermarkets and also DIY stores.
Where Can You Go for New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands?
Basically every city in the Netherlands will be celebrating in some sort of way. If you’re looking for anywhere particularly big, head to the larger cities. A few are: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag or Scheveningen, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Groningen etc. So far I’ve done NYE in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and soon-to-be Scheveningen in the Netherlands. Honestly though – you’ll likely see hundreds of firework displays outside your doorstep, with no need to even leave. But if you’re looking for professional displays in the Netherlands, head to the larger cities.
Don’t let the fireworks put you off if you love NYE. Just make sure you keep an eye out for any stray fireworks and anyone just chucking them. If you really aren’t a fan of fireworks, then better to head to a quieter spot. Have a fantastic New Year everyone!
What’s your experience with New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands? Drop it in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe too!