Amsterdam brims with seasonal fun during the winter. Downtown is transformed into a fairy tale, fully furnished with skating rinks and Christmas markets.
As the days shorten and the nights grow longer, some cities doze off into hibernation, but not Amsterdam. Winter is beautiful to behold here as the Dutch capital transforms into a giant wonderland. Varying squares in Amsterdam undergo an enchanting metamorphosis halfway through November. With an immense Christmas tree decorating Dam Square, the adorning lights set the tone across town. A perfect backdrop with plenty to see and do!
Ice skating in the heart of Amsterdam
Anticipation is high every winter as the Dutch can’t wait to hit the ice.
Locals in Amsterdam have even been seen skating through its canals! Temperatures do need to be at their lowest however. Frozen or not, the city centre has two rinks set up halfway through November. The large rink on the Museumplein is open daily until February, hosting various activities, live music and ice hockey tournaments. Leidseplein too is fully dressed in winter gear; snow cannon, food stalls and rink with ice skates ready to rent!
Warming up in Amsterdam
After ice skating or taking a brisk stroll through Amsterdam, warm up with a ‘koek & zopie’. The term refers to a treat that has gone hand in hand with ice skating for decades. Originally a mix of warm rum and other spices, ‘zopie’ today is most commonly hot chocolate or gluhwein. From Museumplein, head for additional warmth to the Stedelijk Museum and Rijksmuseum as both are open during the holidays! Another area in Amsterdam to soak up some winter-warmth is the Jordaan. Akin to Amsterdam are the ‘bruin cafes’ (brown cafes), home to a cosy atmosphere and great hospitality.
Amsterdam Lights Festival
The Amsterdam Lights Festival enlightens Amsterdam during the winter months. Light artists from around the globe bundle their crafts during the darkest days of the year. Bright projections and decorative lighting serenade an array of buildings and objects between November and January. Experience the Amsterdam Light Festival via two routes; either by canal boat or city walk.
While Christmas shoppers bloat the shopping streets of Amsterdam, take a stroll instead through the city’s many winter markets. Stalls in popular market areas like Waterlooplein and Albert Cuyp embody the Christmas spirit with colourful themes and trimmings. Christmas fairs are also found on Museumplein and don’t miss out on shopping for trinkets at “De Hallen”. A ‘Local Goods Market’ is held at the warehouse twice a month where you’ll find local produce and Amsterdam-based brands. Another recommendation is the Flower Market, or Bloemenmarkt, where vendors dress up their floating stalls with Christmas flair. Eye-catching ornaments tempt your wallet while Christmas trees fill the streets with their perfume.