Who are we?

City Museums XL is a network of Dutch city museums. City museums are more than a classic museum, a building with paintings and objects inside. City museums are meeting points and places for presentations. City museums tell the multi-voiced stories of their city, its inhabitants, businesses, buildings and urban environment. We do this with the inhabitants, visitors and businesspeople. The stories gain strength from objects that bring the past and the link with the present to life. Cities are dynamic, as are their residents and the people who use them. City museums are the heart of the city and a reflection of urban life. City museums feature what is unique about their city and have an active presence outside the museum walls as well as within. No other museum shows the connections between people and the world they live in better than the city museum.

City festivals

  • 31 May 2016

    The Hague City Festival

  • 02 June 2016

    Utrecht City Festival

  • 01 July 2016

    Zutphen City Festival

  • 19 July 2016

    Dordrecht City Festival

Stadsmusea XL

CITY MUSEUMS XL consists of 16 museums spread throughout the Netherlands. Each museum has its own specific identity. Together we are looking for new approaches that will connect residents to their city. We strengthen one another by sharing our experiences, coordinating our collections and organising joint activities that are relevant to our cities.

Celebrating the city: city festivals in the Netherlands

Every Dutch city has memorable events that help shape the identity of the city and its inhabitants, from the carnival in Sittard, the anniversary of the foundation of Amsterdam and the relief of Leiden to Rotterdam’s Reconstruction Day. All these events, both traditional and modern, are an integral part of the identity of the present-day city. City Museums XL has put together a calendar called CELEBRATING THE CITY that lists the long-established and new ‘city events’. The aim is to promote awareness, engagement and involvement with the city. Engaging in a dialogue with residents, adding depth and providing historical content — that is what we do. CELEBRATING THE CITY starts in 2017 and serves to encourage an involvement with the city nationwide, in which everyone is welcome.

  • 31 May 2016 The Hague City Festival

    A fair is held in The Hague every year in […]

    A fair is held in The Hague every year in the month of May. The history of this fair goes back many years. The ‘May Market’ or ‘Court Fair’ was established by Count William IV in 1407. By then an annual market was already being held in Buitenhof, Plaats and Voorhout. Then as now, The Hague was a town of contrasts: the rich and the poor, those living on sandy soil and those living on clay soil. These contrasting worlds met during the May fair, where rich and poor, old and young mixed. In May 1689, King William III of England (who was also the Dutch stadtholder) sighed that he would give two hundred thousand guilders to be able to fly like a bird to The Hague and visit the fair. From 2017, the Historical Museum of The Hague (which is located around the corner from the fairground) will be organising small-scale presentations and activities to bring residents and other interested people into contact with one another and make them aware of the history behind their city’s fair.

  • 02 June 2016 Utrecht City Festival

    Utrecht’s festival date is 2 June, the day on which […]

    Utrecht’s festival date is 2 June, the day on which Utrecht received it’s town charter in 1122. Each year on that date, the city flags are flown with the image of Saint Martin of the Dom (Cathedral) Tower. The institution in charge of the organisation is the Utrecht municipal archives. There is a different theme each year. This year the focus is on the Year of Saint Martin. Shortly after the festival (on 24 June), an exhibition will open in the Centraal Museum Utrecht about the Dom Tower, the symbol of Utrecht, with Saint Martin as its wind vane. The tower is the most distinctive feature of the city with its inhabitants. The festival on 2 June is not that far yet but the connection with Saint Martin and the exhibition shortly afterwards will certainly help to raise awareness of this recently established tradition.

  • 01 July 2016 Zutphen City Festival

    Zutphen’s historic city centre and the attractive outlying area make […]

    Zutphen’s historic city centre and the attractive outlying area make the place picturesque and it has been a popular subject for amateur and professional photographers ever since photography was invented. From 2017, various organisations in the city will be focusing attention each year on ‘the anniversary of the birth of photography’. As a city, Zutphen is one of the hosts of the World Press Photo exhibition (after Amsterdam). Also, many professional and amateur photographers live and work in the city. The Stedelijk Museum Zutphen has the oldest photo taken in the Netherlands (by a Zutphen pharmacist in 1839) as well as a very extensive collection of photos in general. Different activities will be organised around this theme to let residents, aficionados and professional and amateur photographers share their love of the city and its surroundings. The Stedelijk Museum Zutphen has a coordinating role for all activities that involve an exhibition.

  • 19 July 2016 Dordrecht City Festival

    On around 19 July, Dordrecht commemorates the first Assembly of […]

    On around 19 July, Dordrecht commemorates the first Assembly of the Free States, which took place in 1572 in Het Hof in Dordrecht. In this historic meeting, the Dutch towns joined forces to fight against the Spanish. They promised support for William of Orange and agreed that there would be freedom of religion and belief. The agreements that were made then were an important step towards the Netherlands as we know it today. Dordrecht commemorates this day with an open-air service that pays attention to the various religious groups in the Netherlands. In the Hof van Nederland building, which opened as a museum in 2015, the Dordrechts Museum (which includes the archives) pays extensive attention to the Assembly of the States, including with a film about the event. The city and the museum feel it is important for residents to celebrate the freedom we enjoy today and to reflect on this on 19 July. The Dordrecht Museum achieves this by giving consideration to this important aspect of our history. The city of Dordrecht and the museum have also developed a Historical Calendar showing for each year the anniversaries that will be commemorated in that year in Dordrecht.

  • 08 October 2016 Alkmaar City Festival

    Every year, on 8 October, celebrations are held in Alkmaar. […]

    Every year, on 8 October, celebrations are held in Alkmaar. Schools and local government employees have the day off. The festivities are to celebrate the relief of the siege of the town by Philip II’s soldiers in 1573. The attack was repelled and holes were made in the dykes to flood the surrounding area, causing Philip II’s army to fall back. This historical event is ingrained in the city’s collective memory. It is therefore celebrated in great style, with receptions, a lantern procession, floats, a firework show and numerous festivities all over the city. On that day, Museum Alkmaar is the place to be for an account of the story, both in the presentation inside the museum and in the square in front of the museum where the festivities are held. Admission to the museum is free on this day. The celebrations are organised by the 8 October Society.

  • 27 October 2016 Amsterdam City Festival

    The town of Amsterdam was first mentioned on 27 October […]

    The town of Amsterdam was first mentioned on 27 October 1275 in a document signed by Count Floris V. That was the day on which Amsterdam’s history began. A day that should be celebrated! That is why ever since 2013 the Amsterdam Museum has organised the Amsterdam Birthday, an annual event for all Amsterdam families and other interested people. Amsterdam Museum’s aim with this birthday party (which is always held in the weekend before or after 27 October) is to connect Amsterdam’s residents and visitors to the city, their own history and one another. The museum building, which was the city orphanage for 400 years, will relive its past when the inner courtyard is filled once again with children. Of course there will be cake, songs and various party activities. The museum functions as a meeting point. By celebrating the Amsterdam Birthday with Amsterdam families with diverse socio-cultural backgrounds, we create links between the different birthday guests and at the same time connect them to the story of the city where they live. For this city festival, we work closely with other organisations, including the municipality of Amsterdam, the public library and Het Parool, the Amsterdam-based newspaper. For example, Het Parool (among others) hands out the annual prize for the ‘little Amsterdammer of the year’, given to a child who selflessly dedicates themselves to improving the lot of fellow Amsterdam residents. Their portrait is hung up in the Amsterdam Museum.

  • 11 November 2016 Sittard City Festival

    Carnival is the leading annual festival for the southern Netherlands […]

    Carnival is the leading annual festival for the southern Netherlands below the Rhine and Waal rivers, a phenomenon that is an integral part of their identity and that has a long tradition. Each district in the municipality of Sittard-Geleen has its own carnival society. Whether formed by groups of friends, sports clubs or music societies, they take part in the processions, organise entertainment evenings and choose their own carnival prince or princess. The way in which carnival is celebrated differs per region and sometimes even per town, as well as per period. Some say that carnival is a centuries-old Germanic spring festival in honour of Mother Earth. According to others, it originated in the Middle Ages when the Church gave the people three days in which to go wild before the period of fasting and abstinence started. Certain elements, such as the role reversal, denouncing abuses, dressing up and eating and drinking vast amounts, typify the festival and are always found in one form or another. Carnival is always celebrated between 11 November and 21 March. Every year, Museum De Domijnen pays attention to this festival of the people and its origins, organising both presentations and activities on this theme. Carnival goers and fans are introduced to the role of dialect, the process of composing a song, the derivation of societies’ names, and the significance of various figures and honours.

  • 01 December 2016 IJsselstein City Festival

    Since 1992, lights have been placed and switched on in […]

    Since 1992, lights have been placed and switched on in IJsselstein’s 372-metre tall radio tower in early December. The illuminated Gerbrandy tower gives the fairy-tale illusion of a giant lit Christmas tree, the largest Christmas tree in the world. This is an important celebratory occasion for the city of IJsselstein. When the lights are switched on, this marks the start of the Christmas period and creates a festive atmosphere, both in and beyond the city as the radio tower can be seen for miles around. The illuminations help raise IJsselstein’s profile, they make the city feel warm and friendly during the Christmas period and they are a nice surprise for residents and travellers in the central Netherlands. The radio tower is a distinctive, unifying element in IJsselstein as everyone knows it. Over the next few years, in the period when the illuminations are switched on, IJsselstein’s city museum MIJ will be focusing on this special radio tower, its history and its significance for the city. MIJ will do this through presentations in the museum as well as activities organised by the museum such as lectures, evening city walks and workshops. MIJ aims to make residents and visitors aware of their immediate surroundings, to bring people together and to bring the city’s history to life.

  • 22 March 2017 Zoetermeer City Festival

    In 1962, Zoetermeer was officially designated an urban development centre. […]

    In 1962, Zoetermeer was officially designated an urban development centre. It subsequently expanded rapidly and methodically to provide a solution to the housing shortages in The Hague. In the space of five decades, Zoetermeer grew from a small village surrounded by polders into a city of more than 120,000 inhabitants. The first step on this growth path was made on 22 March 1966 with the ground-breaking ceremony for the new district of Palenstein. As of 2017, the city’s expansion will be celebrated annually on 22 March with ‘The City Festival’. The festivities will take place in various locations with the museum as the central point. The theme for the activities is ‘Milestones’. Together with residents and visitors to the city, we celebrate our pride in the brief history of this city, which has become what it is today thanks to its residents and users. The museum acts as a catalyst, publishing a Museum Guide with information on the history of city festival days and organising a mini exhibition about the background to 22 March.

  • 01 April 2017 Den Briel City Festival

    Brielle (Den Briel) holds celebrations every year on 1 April. […]

    Brielle (Den Briel) holds celebrations every year on 1 April. On that day, Brielle commemorates 1 April 1572, when it became the first town in the Dutch Revolt (or Eighty Years’ War) to be captured from the Spanish for good by the Sea Beggars in the name of William of Orange. Brielle became Libertatis Primitiae, the First with Freedom. The capture of Brielle had a domino effect as many other towns then rebelled against the Spanish.
    Every year, on 1 April, a re-enactment of the capture takes place in the city between 9.00 and 17:00 by members of the 1 April Society. Everyone wears sixteenth-century costumes and the day is a local public holiday: the schools are closed. Of course the city museum is involved in the celebrations. Since 2012, Historisch Museum Den Briel has been reorganised to focus on the Dutch Revolt. The central theme is now the Dutch Revolt, with 1 April 1572 as Den Briel’s highlight. The museum helps residents and visitors have more of a feeling for the city where they visit, live and work. On 1 April, museum staff dress up, talk about the historical background to this city festival and organise activities in the city. Admission to the museum is free.

  • 22 April 2017 Haarlem City Festival

    Haarlem is known as the City of Flowers because it […]

    Haarlem is known as the City of Flowers because it was a centre for bulb-growing up to the start of the twentieth century. The bulb fields became a tourist attraction after 1880 when tramlines were built for steam trams. In the nineteenth century, Haarlem bulb-growing families modernised the cultivation of bulbs, which was still on a very small scale back then. In 1947, in an effort to promote Haarlem as the city of flowers, the first flower pageant was organised through the bulb-growing district from Noordwijk to Haarlem. It has become one of the most famous flower pageants in the world, attracting international crowds in the millions every year. The floats covered in flowers proceed along the 40-kilometre route on the first Saturday after 19 April. Along with the museum, various partners (Haarlem Marketing, Frans Hals Museum, Keukenhof) focus on Haarlem as the city of flowers during the period in which the Keukenhof is open to visitors. Museum Haarlem actively involves the city’s residents in the phenomenon of ‘Haarlem, City of Flowers’. A presentation draws attention to the history of bulb-growing, and this is supplemented by activities such as a competition to design your own tulip. Local residents with old photos of the flower pageant can have them digitised and included in the exhibition. Flower growers are asked to develop a new Haarlem tulip. Schoolchildren are given information about Tulipomania, the speculative bubble involving tulips in the Dutch Golden Age.

  • 18 May 2017 Rotterdam City Festival

    Ever since 1947, Rotterdam has celebrated Reconstruction Day on 18 […]

    Ever since 1947, Rotterdam has celebrated Reconstruction Day on 18 May. The festival was established as a way of cheering the people of Rotterdam up as they worked on reconstructing the city centre, which had been devastated in World War II. Under the motto ‘Let’s get cracking’, Rotterdam municipality made great efforts to encourage solidarity and get Rotterdam’s residents rolling up their sleeves. The city is still characterised by continuous change. These days, the focus is on building a new, ‘super-diverse’ community. The mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, talks about building the WE society. In 2016, Rotterdam is holding the ‘Rotterdam celebrates the city’ event, that reflects on 75 years of reconstruction with the aim of looking to the future. Museum Rotterdam is supporting the celebration with the exhibition The New City, which gives a picture of the reconstruction period. On 18 May 2017, 70 years after the first Reconstruction Day, the exhibition will close in style with another Reconstruction Day. The city museum is supporting and coordinating the programme for that day and has set itself the aim of involving a broad group of Rotterdam citizens in the festivities. After 18 May 2017, the plan is that Reconstruction Day will be restored to its former glory and become a major annual city festival.

  • 01 June 2017 Zwolle City Festival

    The summer is ushered in here with a festival entitled […]

    The summer is ushered in here with a festival entitled Zwolle Unlimited. The quaysides, parks and squares are filled with national and international storytellers, street performers, roots musicians, a vinyl market and a large book market. Zwolle Unlimited is an annually recurring festival in the city, created with love for the city, for the region, for the Netherlands and even a little bit for the entire world. The festival brings stories, books and theatre to the public in an intimate setting. The lubrication is provided by international street theatre, singer-songwriters and performers playing roots music. The festival makes intensive use of the fantastic settings offered by the city centre’s historic canals.


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