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August Canal Festival (Grachtenfestival)

Amsterdam, Netherlands
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The Sound of Music in Amsterdam Amsterdam  The Netherlands

The Sound of Music in Amsterdam

If you're a jazz and classical music aficionado, you owe it to yourself to visit Amsterdam in mid-August, when the 10-day Grachtenfestival (Canal Festival) brings live music to venues throughout the city. Since 1997, the cultural celebration has drawn over 50,000 visitors annually to the Dutch capital, who come for performances held on pontoons and boats; in 17th-century canal houses, contemporary hotels and historic museums. Other stages include outdoor spaces like Museumplein, Rembrandtplein, Bijlmerplein, Erasmuspark and Vondelpark.

For young musicians, the Junior Grachtenfestival features entertainment and workshops, as well opportunities for emerging talent to perform. Toddlers through school-age children can get interactive with instruments and experience live music performed up close.

The annual Prinsengracht Concert, a concluding highlight of the festival, draws thousands to Amsterdam's 400-year-old canals, where boaters parade and people line bridges to enjoy the spectacle. In 2013—Amsterdam's 400-year Jubilee Celebration—a sea of watercraft and umbrellas appeared as thousands of Amsterdammers, plus a fair share of tourists, turned out on a rainy Saturday eve to watch The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, now celebrating its 125th year, perform on a giant stage spanning the Prinsengracht. Amsterdam's devotion to arts and culture was evident, as folks on land and water hoisted Heinekens to strains of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and rifles fired into the night sky.