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What To Do For Christmas In Amsterdam?

by Rafal Sulowski

Is there someone who doesn’t like Christmas? I love this time of the year and Amsterdam looks truly like a fairytale town. When people ask me what is the best time to visit Amsterdam I can’t give a clear answer, because the vibe of the city changes all year long and during each month of the year you can taste a different flavor of the city. If you visit Amsterdam during wintertime and there is snow, you’ll really enjoy it. But, what to do in Amsterdam during Christmas?

During the Christmas in Amsterdam, you can visit Christmas markets: Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt, Ice Village, or Amsterdam Winter Paradise. Amsterdam Light Festival also takes place during Christmas time. Visit some famous museums and try traditional Dutch Christmas Foods.

Amsterdam is a very popular destination in the winter. A lot of people travel during Christmas time with their families. During Christmas in Amsterdam Hotels are full and there are many festivals taking place in this beautiful city. Christmas markets and exhibitions are definitely worth recommendation. In this post, I will share with you the most interesting things you can do during Christmas in Amsterdam.

Things To Do For Christmas In Amsterdam

Ice Skate on Canals

Yes, this happens sometimes and I hope that this winter we’ll have a chance to ice skate on the canals in Amsterdam. That’s a great experience because there is over 100 km of canals in Amsterdam. In fact, you can get anywhere in Holland through canals. When canals freeze Amsterdam transform into a winter wonderland and all the world is amazed by the beauty of this place. Probably you wonder how do you know that ice is thick enough. If the temperatures are below 0 for at least a week than the ice if safe for skating. What’s interesting, sometimes when it’s very cold for a long time, and the ice is very thick, Dutch organize “Elfstedentocht”. It means “11 cities race” which it’s 200 km long. I hope that we’ll witness that kind of winter this year 😉 Unfortunately in the last few years we can see a result of climate changes and canals don’t freeze as they used to in the past. I hope that the below photo is not an image of the past.

Amsterdam Light Festival

Amsterdam Light Festival is organized every year in the capital of the Netherlands. It’s a truly amazing experience especially because it also takes place during Christmas time. There are already a lot of lights and decorations around the city, and the Amsterdam Lights Festival adds even more to it. ALF starts at 28.11 and finishes at 19.01, so it takes quite a long time. During this period you can find many lightwork around the city! Definitely worth seeing. It’s a new event in Amsterdam because the first edition was in 2012. Over 240 artworks and 7 exhibitions lighted this beautiful city. Each and every year different artist show their creations.

Amsterdam Light Festival is a free event. You don’t need any tickets. But during this festival, you’ll find many boat trip offers and that’s a truly amazing experience. Viewing this festival from water is a unique experience because some exhibitions are on canals and bridges. The open boat will give you a better view, but for sure you’ll need to fight with low temperatures. Some boat your companies provide blankets and warm drinks! If you want to go for a boat your you find some on this website.

Amsterdam Light Festival PHOTO BY JOHANWIELAND || FLICKR
Amsterdam Light Festival PHOTO BY KISMIHOK || FLICKR

Try Dutch Christmas Foods

There are many Christmas markets and Christmas events during December. Here you can find a complete guide to Christmas markets in Amsterdam. On these markets, they sell some delicious Dutch delicacies. Among them, there are my favorite Olieballen. The best ones are with raisins. Of course, there is much more than this but I always recommend to try Olieballen!

Olieballen with raisins || Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

But Dutch have more traditional Christmas foods. Among them there are:

  • Stamppot: mashed potatoes mixed with one of several vegetables, for example, endive, kale, spinach or carrot.
  • Erwtensoep: A thick pea soup with sausage.
  • Almond Christmas Cake: It’s a cake filled with frangipane, delicious!

Museum Willet-Holthuysen Christmas Exhibition

On this exhibition, you can experience how 19th-century wealthy family celebrated a Christmas Eve. Enjoy original furniture and decorations. What was the lifestyle of the rich Dutch family in the past? This exhibition looks just like a scene from the movie. You can enter Willet-Holthuysen museum for FREE with I Amsterdam card.

Photo Courtesy of Museum Willet-Holthuysen

Warm Up With Jenever

Below I mention Christmas markets that are organized in Amsterdam. When you go for a Christmas market, it’s cold and you often drink a Gluhwine! But in the Netherlands, they also serve a Jenever. Close to the Dam square, there is my favorite Jenever bar, it’s called Wayand Fockink! Jenever is a traditional Dutch gin, in the past sold by pharmacies as a medicine. It’s also a great cocktail ingredient.

Photo Courtesy of Clive G’ || Flickr

Jaap Eden ice rink

Jaap Eden ice rink is the biggest ice rink in Amsterdam with a total length of 400m. Skating season start on 12 October and last until March. There you can sign up for an ice skate lesson, or rent ice skates and show your skills. This place is located in Watergrafsmeer, a lovely area of Amsterdam.

Entrance cost € 4(children under 16 years old) € 6,60 adults
Rent skates for € 6
(to rent skates you need a valid ID)

There is a restaurant, showers, lockers. Every Saturday is disco night, a perfect idea for a winter evening. It’s both indoors and outdoor, open from 10am until 11pm

Visit 9 Streets and Jordaan

9 Streets and Jordaan are two areas of Amsterdam located on the left side of the city center. This is my favorite district in Amsterdam. Especially in the evening, when it gets dark and lights make this place look magical. I am always curious why there are very little people in the evening. Everyone goes to Red Light District or Leidseplein when the real beauty is hidden in these little streets.

I like to go there during Christmas time. I take my thermos with some warm tea and just walk around with friends.

Indoor Attractions

Winter is a great time to visit some of the most popular Amsterdam attraction. If you plan to visit some museums you should definitely consider getting an I Amsterdam Card. It gives you a free entrance to over 44 museums and other attractions. With I Amsterdam Card you also have free public transport, free canal cruise and 25% discount in many bars and restaurants. You can get I Amsterdam card here. I recommend you I Amsterdam Card, I think it’s the best option out there if you are in Amsterdam for a few days. If you want to compare different option you should read an article written by Micaela. She compares 3 most popular city cards in Amsterdam. Read the article here.

If you plan on visiting some museums I recommend Rijksmuseum, Hermitage, Anne Frank House, Nemo, Eye museum, Foam, and Tropenmuseum. You can definitely skip a cheese museum and sex museum. Here you can read about my favorite museums in Amsterdam.

Christmas Markets

Many Christmas Markets take place in Amsterdam every year. The most popular market is Amsterdam Ice Village, just in front of Rijksmuseum. It begins on the 13th of December and it’s open daily until the 26th of December. On this Christmas market, you can find over 50 different stalls selling Christmas related goods, from foods and drinks to clothes and decorations. The ice rink is a part of Ice Village and you can rent skates and show your skating skills 😉 If you’re not a Dutch person, you’ll be surprised how good they skate, all of them. Literally, when I went to the Ice Rink for the first time in the Netherlands, I haven’t seen a one person that couldn’t skate. Ice village ice rink cost 13 euros(the price include skates for two hours) Take gloves with you – they are a must, for safety reasons.

There is also Sinterklaas Market, the Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt and Amsterdam Winter Paradise.

  • Sinterklaas Market open on the 1st of December and the 15th of December
  • Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt open on the 22nd and 23rd of December
  • Ice Village open from the 13th of December until the 26th, included
  • Light Festival starts on the 28th of November until the 19th of January
  • Amsterdam Winter Paradise open from the 21st of December until the 30th of December

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt

It’s a new Christmas market. The first one was organized in 2017 but it is well worth visiting. The entrance is free, and I recommend it especially because I like the vibe of Amsterdam Noord. The northern part of the city is a former industrial district, but you can still feel the atmosphere of the past. It’s a kind of hippie area. Entrance to this Christmas market is free! This fair takes place two days before Christmas, it starts on the 22nd of December and finishes on the 23rd of December.

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt || Photo courtesy of Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt

Amsterdam Winter Paradise

This is a big indoor Christmas market organized in the famous Amsterdam conference center RAI. Every year it attracts crowds. Entrance to this market cost 17,50 per person and there is a limited amount of tickets. If you are interested in it you must get tickets in advance. Amsterdam Winter Paradise starts on the 21st of December and takes place until the end of the month. Below you can find a Winter Paradise promo. It’s such a great place to visit with children! 700m2 full of attractions, ice, snacks, performers, games! It’s fun! You can play curling, slide on the slides, or even dance in the rhythm of Christmas songs during the silent disco!

Amstelkwartier Kerstmarkt

At the 20th of December, you can take part in the traditional Christmas market organized next to the tHUIS aan de AMSTEL. You can try there some typical Dutch Christmas foods and warm yourself up with a cup of Gluhwein. It’s a little fair and thanks to that it feels warm and cozy 🙂

Amstelkwartier Kerstmarkt || Photo Courtesy of Amstelkwartier Kerstmarkt

Castle Christmas Fair

Have you ever been taking part in a Christmas Fair that is organized in a Castle! Of course not ;p but now you have a chance because from 28 November until 1 December it’s organized in Heemskerk. It’s only 30 minutes drive away from Amsterdam.

Castle Christmas Market in Heemskerk || Photo courtesy of Kerstmarkten.nl

Sinterklaas Market

There is a regular Sunday market in Westerfabriek but on the 1st of December, this place turns into a Christmas market. It starts at noon and you can enjoy the lovely Christmas atmosphere until 6 pm. Westerfabriek markets attract local vendors. You can enjoy live music, Dutch munchies, and family vibe. Entrance to Sinterklaas Market is free. You can learn more about this market on Sunday Market website.

Rokin Christmas Market

Rokin is a name of the canal in the center of Amsterdam. It’s also the main street with the beginning on the Damrak in direction to Rembrandtplein. On the 23rd of December, there is a Christmas market organized in this place. If you want to get there, you should go in direction of Rokin metro station.

Sunday Market, Nieuwmarkt, 28 December

There is a market that takes place regularly in Nieuw Markt, but in December there is its winter edition. It’s a cool place to visit. It’s just next to the Red Light District, I really like this area.

Christmas Market at Ruigoord

Ruigoord is a very little village in between Amsterdam and Haarlem. Actually, it’s a part of Amsterdam known for its cultural events. On 16 & 17 December there is a Christmas Market. It’s a unique place, definitely worth visiting. Learn more on their website – Ruigoord.nl

Winter Agenda

On the list below you can find most of the Christmas events, Christmas markets that take place not only in Amsterdam but also in surrounding cities.

  • 19th November until 24th November – Castle the Haar, Utrecht
  • 28 November – 19 January – Amsterdam Light Festival
  • 28 November – 1 December – Castle Christmas Fair in Heemskerk
  • 1 December – Sinterklaas Market at Westerfabriek(normally it’s a Sunday market)
  • 7 December – Kerstmarkt Vreeland
  • 9 December – Amsterdam Museumplein Christmas Market
  • 13 December – 26 December – Ice Village at Museumplein
  • 16 & 17 December – Christmas Market at Ruigoord
  • 20 December – Amsterlkwartier Kerstmarkt
  • 21 December – 31 December – Amsterdam Winter Paradise at RAI (paid entrance)
  • 22 December – 23 December – Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt
  • 23 December – Rokin Christmas Market
  • 28 December – Sunday Market on Nieuwmarkt
Photo courtesy of PersianDutchNetwork

Explore Other Cities Of The Netherlands

Visit Haarlem Christmas Market

Haarlem is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands, and it’s especially unique in the winter. Haarlem related decorations and lights all over the city make this place look amazing. I recommend you to go for a Haarlem Christmas Market. It’s one of the best Christmas markets in Holland and it’s my favorite Christmas market. It’s, in fact, one of the biggest Christmas markets in the whole Netherlands. Haarlem is only 25 minutes away from Amsterdam. To get there you take a train from Amsterdam Centraal Station.

Haarlem Christmas Market || Photo Courtesy of Kerstmarkt Haarlem

Kerstmarkt Vreeland

Vreeland is a little town in between Amsterdam and Utrecht. I must admit that they know how to throw a Winter Market. I especially like winter markets in these little cities because they have a very specific vibe. Kerstmarkt Vreeland takes place on 7th December.

Kerstmarkt Alkmaar

Alkmaar is one of my favorite places in the Netherlands. I’ve been in this city a few times. It’s much smaller than Amsterdam and there are much less tourist. The Christmas market feels cozy and warm. There are over 60 different stalls with handcraft goods, decoration, food, snacks, and drinks. Every year there is also a Christmas choir.

Christmas Market in Alkmaar || Photo Courtesy of Kerstmarkt Alkmaar

Castle the Haar, Utrecht

Have you heard of Castle the Haar in Utrecht? For this fair, you must get tickets. It’s opened from 19th November until 24th November. If you would like to learn more you go to their website.(eng)

Castle the Haar Christmas Market || Photo Courtesy of countrychristmasfair.nl

Winter Village Stadshart Amstelveen

Amstelveen is on the south of Amsterdam. Some parts of Amstelveen are even closer to the city center than some parts of Amsterdam. This Christmas market takes place in the city center of Amstelveen, there is an ice rink, a little one – just perfect for children. For adults, there are over 60 stalls with handcrafted goods.

Winter Village Stadshart Amstelveen || Photo Courtesy of Winter Village Stadshart Amstelveen

Leiden Floating Christmas Market

From 14th of December until the first Christmas Day(25th of December) Leiden becomes a home an amazing Christmas market. Leiden is also a beautiful Dutch city, not that far from Amsterdam. You can get there within 40 minutes.
Here you can learn more about this market -> Link

Helpful Info

  • December 25th is a First Christmas day in the Netherlands and it’s an official holiday, so most of the shops and restaurants are closed.
  • 26 of December is a Second Christmas day, called by Dutch Tweede Kerstdag or Boxing Day. This is also a family day in the Netherlands but in most cases restaurants, museums and shops are open.

New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam

Last year I was celebrating a New Years Eve on the roof of the house next to the Vondelpark. It was horribly cold but the view of fireworks was definitely worth it. Amsterdam is a great place if you want to have some fun on New Year’s Eve but keep in mind that the city center is packed and you can barely walk, it’s that many people. The Party starts at 6 pm with some concerts and at Midnight you can enjoy amazing fireworks.

In the Netherlands, people invert a lot in fireworks. People fire up their fireworks everywhere and Amsterdam becomes in this night a fire zone. I mean, that it can be a little bit dangerous.

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