Valentine’s Day is relatively new to the Netherlands and the Dutch have, well, taken it to their hearts. Whether or not you love or loathe the allegedly most romantic day of the year, you may be obliged to celebrate it with that certain special someone in your life. So here are a few ideas that will help you make it to the other side of the 14th.
Hema can serve as your one stop shopping centre for the holiday. They have dozens of Valentine’s Day gifts and other items that include heart-shaped cakes you can have stamped with photos of you and a loved one. If you’re going that route, be sure to put in your order at least two days in advance of whenever you’ll be celebrating.
Looking for sweets that are bit more, well, unconventional? You may have already heard about a certain tompouce-themed “toy” that Hema debuted a few months ago. Those are still around and, at the time of this writing, they’ve been marked down to €28. Too spicy? Your significant other might prefer a few self-heating stroopwafel facemasks instead. There are even goofier Valentine gifts at Flying Tiger. Many have a lobster theme this year (it’s apparently a Friends reference).
Curl up with a good book or two (or ten)
Maybe your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is one that provides plenty of quality “me time.” The American Book Center has special Valentine’s boxes this year the staff promise are “brimming with swoon-worthy narratives that will steal your heart and whisper sweet nothings to your soul.”
But if your favourite bibliophile prefers tomes that chill the heart rather than warm it, there are a variety of other themes to choose from like “crime/thriller” or “science fiction.” The size of the box and amount of books are also customisable. You’ll just need to get your order in by 8 February if you want the Official ABC Booklover Box. Visit the ABC’s website for all the details.
Skip this one if the mere idea of sitting around naked with a bunch of strangers of mixed genders and ages is more horrifying than the last Saw movie. For some, an afternoon or evening in a traditional Dutch sauna would be a complete nightmare. For others, it’s a great way to relax with a partner or, for the truly brave (or merely Dutch), a friend, sibling, or even a parent.
Many Dutch saunas offer onsite cafes, body treatments, swimming pools, and small movie theatres in addition to steam rooms. You can learn more about what they’re actually like in this Dutch News article from last year. If you’re ready to dive right in, try the small but gorgeous Sauna Deco in Amsterdam. Hotel & Wellness Zuiver is newer, highly rated, and hosts swimwear days if you want to give a sauna a try but you’re still feeling shy. Sauna van Egmond in Haarlem is another gem.
If you’d like to exercise your civic pride while you, um, “get down to business” this Valentine’s Day, there’s a good chance a nearby sex toy shop has one that will let you do just that. There are shops both in Amsterdam and online where you’ll find certain items inspired by Amsterdammertjes, the city’s iconic traffic barriers.
Not to be outdone, the mother and daughter team at Cupido are selling red ones emblazoned with Leiden’s interlocked key emblem. In 2021, entrepreneurs in Utrecht were applying to convert chunks of rubble and debris from the restoration of Dom Tower into them as well, but you’ll have to scope out the shops on your own to see if they ever went through with the idea.
Is your ex an expat? Are you starting to think it might be time to try a little local flavour? If you haven’t already considered the potential benefits of having a Dutch partner, now might be the time to look into that whole thing. There are plenty of opportunities for speed dating around the country.
Here’s one organisation that hosts them in Amsterdam and another in other cities around the country. Plenty of dating apps offer their services in Dutch and Lexa is just one. Be sure to bring your wallet if you meet up, though. There’s a reason why it’s called Dutch treat and not British, French, or American.
RTL and chill
There’s plenty of things you could get up to under your duvet this February. Eating ice cream and feeling absolutely horrible about Valentine’s Day and anything even remotely related to courtship while watching romantic movies or bingeing both series of Fleabag is just one of them.
Sadly, the Netherlands-based Professor Grunschnabel is no more, but there’s always Swedish Glace or Ice Cream Factory, a Dutch ice cream maker with several vegan varieties. As for the movies, RTL 8 Is already hosting their annual Valentine’s Day countdown. It began 22 January and here’s the list of what they’ll be broadcasting now through the 14th.
Head out for dinner…
If you haven’t gone on a canal dinner cruise, this might be an appropriate time. Dine on Water in Amsterdam is hosting two Valentine cruises on the 14th. The elegant Restaurant Ambassade on the Herengracht is arranging special dinners for two as well. Restaurant Waves at the Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus in Scheveningen has a special Valentine menu for the entire month of February. Spido in Rotterdam has a dinner cruise along the Maas on the 14th, too.
If you’d rather catch the latest romantic films rather than sit through Dirty Dancing or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the umpteenth time, check the listings at your local cinemas. The new musical version of Mean Girls is a good pick if you’re looking for laughs.
If you and/or your partner prefer romantic tearjerkers, aim for the critical rave All of Us Strangers, but maybe skip Priscilla. The tale of her troubled marriage with Elvis might not be the best choice for a date night.
Lab 111’s agenda for February is also packed with stranger stuff if flicks like Dune: Part One or the weird and wild films of Yorgos Lanthimos are more your sort of thing. They’re doing a retrospective on the acclaimed director that includes, Poor Things, his latest, but you should probably pass on The Lobster for obvious reasons, especially if you’re going on a blind date. That one has *nothing* to do with Friends.
…or a show…
The Concertgebouw will host a movie-themed classical concert on Valentine’s night, but tickets are almost sold out at the time of this writing. Over at Boom Chicago, there’s a Valentine’s Day Improv Spectacular with ticket packages featuring food, drinks, or just the seats.
The Haarlem Comedy Factory is doing their Valentine’s comedy night on February 9. For a much different theatrical experience, aim for Het Nationale Theater in The Hague. They’re staging De Apocalyps, an opera that focuses on the true tale of Jan van Leyden, a 16th century doomsayer who became a cult leader. Opening night is the 14th.
…and maybe a cocktail afterward
The Netherlands is home to plenty of cocktail bars and Hiding in Plain Sight in Amsterdam is one of the most unique, most intimate, and as far as the drinks themselves go, arguably the most clever. As the name suggests, the proprietors like to keep things on the down low and their ever-changing menu is only available at the bar.
Flying Dutchman is another option. It boasts one of the biggest backbars in the country with over 800 spirits. Spikizi in Rotterdam has a speakeasy theme and cool cocktails with names like ‘Poison Apple’ and ‘Dirty, Dirty Chai’. Twintig is a unique cafe and bar in Utrecht with twenty of everything on its drinks menu. Twenty beers, twenty wines, and, you guessed it, twenty cocktails.
If you’re single and want to throw yourself into the deep end of the passion pool, check out Trouwen Voor 1 Dag (Married for One Day). It’s the Dutch equivalent of a Vegas-style wedding.
Their non-legally binding ceremonies will hook you up with everything you need for last minute matrimony. They’ll provide you with wedding attire and even rings you can take home with you or toss out if your true love truly does have a 24 hour expiration date. An Elvis impersonator won’t host the ceremony, but you can always go see Priscilla at the nearest cinema after you say ‘I do!’
…or just get some fresh air
Love can be celebrated in all sorts of ways. For plenty of folks, staying home with a pizza and curling up on the couch with an old episode of Law and Order is the perfect date. For others, it’s a good, old fashioned box of chocolates and a bundle of flowers from their local bloemenwinkel.
Then there’s the stouthearted among us who stubbornly head into the great outdoors this time of year, no matter what the weather. If the sun’s out, you can bet the Dutch coastline will be lined with couples holding hands…or holding on for dear life while they kite surf. If you want to give that a go, check out BLOW. They’re one of many kite surfing schools here in the Netherlands. Their next season of classes kicks off in a few weeks and they’re located east of The Hague on Zandmotor Beach.
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