How Amsterdam Does Halloween
In the Netherlands, Halloween may be a recent Anglo-Saxon import, but that hasn’t stopped Amsterdam from taking the holiday to its heart, with a lively variety of themed events aimed at all ages. Here are some of the events not to miss at this year’s celebration.
The Monster Bash
Amsterdam Spook presents its 15th annual Halloween costume party on Saturday, October 31 at the Panama nightclub. This year’s theme: The Monster Bash, “an ode to sub-cultures Rockabilly and Psychobilly, vintage horror, pop art and B-movie monsters.” The party is part of a four-day festival of events taking place from October 29 to November 1, including gory make-up workshops, a themed dinner, and a family parade for the kids.
For the seventh year running, Amsterdam Halloween hosts its costume parade and party, this time with the theme, Immortal Fame. The costume parade starts at 8:30 p.m. sharp on October 31 at Rokin, and progresses via the Dam to the venue for the party, at WesterGasFabriek. It’s free to join the parade, but you will need to buy a ticket for the party.
Top points for the marketing team of this event for creating a media frenzy by announcing that they would be covering party-goers with gallons of blood, in homage to the opening scene of the hit 1998 horror movie Blade, at the famous Blood Rave. The venue is secret, and whether the blood will be real or imitation is also unknown.
Amsterdam Ghost Walk
Not specifically a Halloween event, but particularly suitable for this time of year, the Amsterdam Ghost Walk takes you on a tour of the haunted city, stopping by sites frequented by “Black Matthew,” a 13th-century highway robber and magician, and other local phantoms. It’s good for older kids (10 or older) and adults.
Another open-year-round attraction, Amsterdam Dungeon (the sibling of the London Dungeon) is simultaneously scary and funny, great for older kids. Atmospheric settings and professional actors tell some of the goriest stories from the city’s past—from the Black Death to the unpleasant visiting habits of the Spanish Inquisition.
On 11 November, the Dutch celebrate their own traditional autumn festival, the feast of Sint Maarten (a Roman soldier who later became a monk, he was famous for his generosity, particularly for cutting his cloak in two so a beggar could have half of it). After Halloween, this is a low-key, non-commercialized event—great fun, however, if you have kids. Amsterdam’s younger children and their parents congregate in the Vondelpark carrying lanterns for a procession; they then do the rounds singing songs at neighborhood houses for candy rewards (like trick or treat, but without the tricks).
Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.