Each year on the 4th of May we commemorate everyone that died during the wars. Everyone that died fighting for the freedom we now enjoy and take for granted. The whole country is silent for two minutes at 20.00 that evening, it always gives me goosebumps. And the day after, the 5th of May, we celebrate our freedom because that day is Liberation Day.
During Liberation Day there are different festivals all over the country in each province, some even have two locations. Most cities have at least two different festivals organised. A lot of them are free to enter. The one in Zwolle is the one I usually go to. It’s located in a huge, beautiful park and they have different stages with different kinds of music and there’s also lots of different activities you can participate in. You won’t have a problem getting rid of your money though because there’s always a lot of food stalls and bars that sell overpriced stuff and there’s also a small market.
This year however, my friend and I decided to celebrate in Amsterdam. She lives there now, so it was quite convenient and we were both curious what it was like. We didn’t check out all of the different festivals within the city because we just wanted to relax that day. Which is what we usually do on Liberation Day anyways, just sitting down in the sun instead of dancing. We went to the festival in Westerpark, which is about a half an hour walk away from Amsterdam Central Station. You could of course go by bus, but we decided not to. I’d been to the Westerpark before and it’s a really nice location where lots of festivals are held during the year. It’s not very large though, which made it feel like a downgrade for us because the festival in Zwolle is so huge. There were however three different stages in the park with different kinds of music, a few bars and a handfull of foodtrucks. In order to be able to buy any food or drinks however you first needed to purchase plastic coins, which were incredibly expensive! I guess that’s because you can bring your own food and drinks as well so less people are buying it at the festival. We ended up just having a coke, bottle of water and one waffle. We spent a few hours sitting down in the sun enjoying the music and then left to go have dinner in the city center and drinks afterwards.
So all in all, the Amsterdam Liberation Day Festival was very different from the one in Zwolle. Let me just quickly write all of the differences down for you. Note: these are all based on my first and only experience at the free festival in Amsterdam.
- The free festival is smaller in Amsterdam than in Zwolle
- The plastic coins are more expensive in Amsterdam than in Zwolle
- Which means the food and drinks are more expensive as well
- The free festival in Amsterdam however doesn’t have any security at the entrance, unlike Zwolle where they check your entire bag
- The artists that performed at the free festival in Amsterdam were by far not as well known as the ones that performed in Zwolle
- Apart from not knowing the artists that were performing, the music was also just not very great in general compared to what we’re used to in Zwolle
- One thing that was better in Amsterdam than in Zwolle: it was so easy to find the toilets because they put up enormous signs above them.
- In Zwolle they provide you with a map of the festival and a flyer with the line-up. This is not the case in Amsterdam, but you don’t really need the map anyways because the park is so small. However, if you were to get hurt, you wouldn’t know where the first aid stall was.
- I feel like there were a lot of tourists at the free festival in Amsterdam, there’s usually not many at the free festival in Zwolle.
- There wasn’t really that much to do in terms of organised activities in Amsterdam, whereas in Zwolle there’s always a lot to do.
Based on my one experience in Amsterdam and my couple of experiences in Zwolle (both the free festivals only) I would say the festival in Zwolle is much better and much more fun. I know I’m not the only one that feels that way. My friend told me that most people, no matter what city in The Netherlands they come from, think the free festival in Zwolle is the best.
I know most tourists come to Amsterdam if they come to The Netherlands, but if you are here on the 5th of May I highly recommend going to the festival in Zwolle. It’s about a 1 hour to 1 and a half hour trainride, which is really not that far and costs you about 18 euro for the single trip, and right from when you get out of the station there are lots of signs telling you where to go if you want to go to the festival so it’s basically impossible to get lost. (There were none of these signs in Amsterdam). Please remember that whereever you go, it’s going to be completely crowded.