Maritime history comes to life at Sail Amsterdam, a festival that happens once every five years and returns to the Netherlands in August.
There’s a rare opportunity to relive Amsterdam’s great maritime history in August, when Sail Amsterdam brings a fascinating flotilla of historic sailing vessels to the city August 19 through August 23. The event, which happens only once every five years, is a chance to see the city waterfront look much as it did in the famous Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, when Amsterdam was the heart of a global trading empire, thanks to the exotic cargo brought by ships.
Regal Tall Ships in all their glory, from throughout Europe, plus traditional sailing craft, naval vessels, modern ships and replicas of ancient models, sail into town on August 19, along the North Sea Canal, and moor around the IJ harbour.
The stately ‘Sail-in’ will feature a parade of ships some five miles long this year. In the following days, you can tour various ships, visit maritime displays, watch races and battle re-enactments, many of which are accompanied by a full program of events on land, including musical performances and children’s activities.
If you can’t wait for Sail Amsterdam, you can get a sneak peak of the fleet in the days before the event begins at PreSail Ijmond (August 15, 16 and 18) in both IJmuiden and Beverwijk, where the ships gather together before the parade and a smaller festival takes place.
If you’re not in town for Sail Amsterdam, the next best thing is the city’s recently renovated Maritime Museum. Set in a 1656 building designed as a store for the Dutch Admiralty, it houses a great range of exhibits suitable for all ages, and there’s the chance to go on board a replica 18th-century East Indiaman, the Batavia.
Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.