’10 things you should do during the Christmas season in Amsterdam’ blog post was first published on Culture Tourist in December 2019 and updated on November 23rd 2021.
With the fairytale gabled houses, canals and a lovely Christmas tradition, Amsterdam is definitely one of my favourite towns to be at during the holiday season. There are so many places to see and events to go to during that time of the year. Here is my short guide with 10 things you should do during the Christmas season in Amsterdam.
Christmas season in Amsterdam
Amsterdam somehow becomes even more beautiful during the Christmas season. It looks even older, almost like you’ve stepped into some past time. Snow and Christmas lights create a perfect setting for that festive time in Amsterdam.
#1 – Visit the Amsterdam Light Festival
Light Festival is the annual event in Amsterdam held from mid-November to mid-January. Artists from all around the world are creating light installations, especially for this event. Selected art pieces are exhibited during the two months and could be seen along the canals. The best way to see them is on one of the special Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise boats or by taking a walk alongside the canals.
2021 Update: After being cancelled last year, the Festival is taking place between December 2nd 2021 and January 23rd 2022. It’s absolutely one of the best things to do in Amsterdam during the Christmas season.
#2 – Join the Sinterklaas celebration
The holiday season in Amsterdam starts with the arrival of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) on the second or third Sunday in November. Each year a huge celebration is organised in Amsterdam. And you can be sure you’ll leave it with your pockets filled with pepernoten (small traditional Dutch cookies).
Although lately the whole celebration is a bit controversial with all the Zwarte Piet discussions, it’s still one of the most favourite holidays and Amsterdam festive celebrations of Dutch children.
#3 – Try some oliebollen
If snowdrops are the first signs of the spring, then trucks with oliebollen are the early signs of the Christmas season in Amsterdam. Oliebollen are similar to doughnuts, only they are made in the shape of a boll. They’re often flavoured with apple filling or simply served with a bunch of icing sugar. Tastes like heaven, but be careful because they’re pretty caloric.
However, be sure to try them at least once during the Christmas season in Amsterdam.
#4 – Go ice skating
In December, Amsterdam is becoming the home of a few ice skating rinks. The most beautiful one is on the Museumplein, and it’s open to visitors already at the end of November. However, the largest one is Jaap Eden, with an outdoor 400-metre rink. It’s a bit outside the city centre but definitely worth visiting if enjoy some ice skating.
#5 – Check out some of the most beautiful Christmas lights
Each year Amsterdam is becoming more and more illuminated during the holiday season. Some of the most beautiful Christmas lights could be found at Damrak, Dam Square and Museumplein.
‘Turn on the lights’ event on De Bijenkorf department store on a Dam Square symbolically marks the beginning of a holiday season in Amsterdam. Although it still cannot compete with the decoration of department stores in London, it’s definitely worth seeing. So be sure to walk next to De Bijenkorf one evening and enjoy the Christmas decoration there, too.
#6 – Visit ICE Amsterdam
ICE Amsterdam is a unique program organised at the Museumplein during December. I’ve already mentioned an ice skating rink, but there is also a nice restaurant there where you can get a glass of hot chocolate or a nice mulled wine. For the full agenda with all the events organised there, take a look at a link here.
2021 Update: After being cancelled last year, ICE Amsterdam is happening in 2021. It’s already up and running. However keep an eye on their website for some possible changes in future.
#7 – Go to the Christmas edition of Museum Market
On Sunday, December 12th, a special edition of Museum Market will be organised at the Museumplein. Designers and artists from all over the Netherlands are displaying and selling their work there. It’s a great place to buy some of the Christmas decorations or presents made by these designers.
2021 Update: Christmas edition of Museum Market is still taking place this year, so put December 12th on your Christmas in Amsterdam agenda.
#8 – Visit some of the smaller Christmas Markets
There are numerous smaller Christmas markets organised around the city during December. Some events mainly focus on delicious homemade or organic food, different destinations (like Finish or French Christmas market), or arts and crafts. Here is a complete list of Christmas markets organised in the Netherlands.
2021 Update: Check out each Dutch Christmas market from the article above to see if it’s still going to be organised.
#9 – Visit Rijksmuseum around the Christmas Day
Museums are especially festive during the holiday season. With beautiful Christmas trees and decorations, Rijksmuseum is one of my favourite places to go. If you’re in Amsterdam during Christmas time, be sure to dress up and pay a visit to the Rijksmuseum on December 24th or 26th. It will really put you in that lovely holiday mood. Watch my Rijksmuseum video before your visit to learn more about some of the fantastic Rijksmuseum highlights.
#10 – Buy Christmas cards inspired by Amsterdam
I’m always so sad that the holiday season lasts for only one month. Well, you can always prolong that festive feeling and a special winter appearance of Amsterdam with some of the Christmas cards inspired by it. Here are colouring Christmas cards inspired by Amsterdam I designed some time ago (check out the link for more info).
So you’re all set up now with this list of things to do during the Christmas season in Amsterdam. The only thing we should still hope for is some snow to get that perfect white Christmas.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam during the Christmas season? What are some of your favourite things to see and do there during the most wonderful time of the year?