Amsterdam doesn’t get closer to her Golden Age glorie than she does in winter. When snow (hopefully) falls, canals freeze, life slows down and wandering along Waterlooplein you can just imagine bumping into a warmly wrapped up Rembrandt on his way to his home at Jodenbreestraat. Winter in Amsterdam is about snuggling up, enjoying the lights and getting in some culture. Visit a Christmas market in Amsterdam, join some typical winter festivals or enjoy one of these amazing things to do in winter in Amsterdam.
About winter in Amsterdam
December, January and February aren’t the most inspirational months, maybe, to visit Amsterdam. But visiting the Dutch capital during the coldest months of the year has its advantages. Most tourist will prefer warmer destinations, so you finally won’t have to share Van Gogh’s and Rembrandt’s masterpieces with tons of others. And it’s really the perfect time of year to experience Holland at its best. Visit the Christmas market in Amsterdam, enjoy some ice skating. taste the best Dutch seasonal food and buy the first (!) tulips over the year.
Winter in Amsterdam: plan your trip
- Find the lowest rates for your flights to Amsterdam.
- If you’re travelling from Germany, Belgium, France or the UK, simple take the train to Amsterdam. You’ll arrive at Amsterdam Central Station, in the heart of the city.
- There are loads of hotels in Amsterdam, I highly recommend staying at Lloyd Hotel Amsterdam or Volkshotel Amsterdam.
- To get around Amsterdam, this public transport pass is rather unmissable.
- Alternatively, you can buy an I Amsterdam Card as this will gran you free access to all public transport and to all the top sights in the city.
- Take a look at all the top things to do in Amsterdam.
Winter in Amsterdam: 11x top things to do
Christmas market Amsterdam
From the second week of November until the first week of January, Museumplein turns into a very cute Christmas market in Amsterdam, Ice*Amsterdam. The square in front of the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum is filled with chalets selling drinks and typical Dutch winter food. Rent a pair of ice skates and twirl around in the ice rink taking in the most stunning view of the Dutch capital.
Funky Xmas Market
The Funky Xmas Market is an anual alternative Christmas market in Amsterdam and the best place to buy colourful, fair trade, hand made and funny Christmas presents. Plus, you’ll be able to buy some amazing food from one of the many stalls. The atmosphere will be local and relaxed. This Christmas market in Amsterdam takes place on the third Sunday in December at Westergas.
Het Amsterdamse Winterterras
Okay, so Amsterdamse Winterterras Festival isn’t a Christmas market. But it’s such a fun and wintery festival that I definiely think it does count as a Christmas market in Amsterdam. From the first weekend of November until the first weekend of December, Thursdays til Sundays, you’ll find Amsterdamse Winterterras Festival at in ‘de Gashouder’. You’ll have to buy tickets in advance and then you’ll be able to sample food from the finest restaurants in Amsterdam for very reasonable prices, enjoy live music and dance until your feet hurt.
Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs
Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs is both an indoor as outdoor Christmas market in Amsterdam, which you can visit the last three weeks of December in Amsterdam RAI. You’ll have to buy tickets in advance. It’s actually a great Christmas market in Amsterdam for the whole family to enjoy. There are numerous rides and attractions, like a big ferris wheel and a retro carrousel. Kids can enjoy crafts or a ride on the Christmas train. But there is also loads to do for their parents, who can enjoy nice food and live music by well-known Dutch artists.
Christmas market Zaandam
Zaandam is just a short trainride outside of Amsterdam and it’s one of those typical Dutch town that you simply have to visit. And the Christmas market in Zaandam is just the perfect excuse. During Zaanse Dickens Market A Christmas Carrol comes to life during the second and third week of December. Take a ride on the ferris wheel and enjoy some traditional Dutch food at one of the many stalls. You can combine this Christmas market in Amsterdam with a visit to Zaanse Schans.
Amsterdam Light Festival
What I love most about winter in The Netherlands are the many light festivals. GLOW Eindhoven is probably the best light festival to visit. But Amsterdam Light Festival is definitely one of the top things to do in winter in Amsterdam. Every edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival has its own theme and runs for 6 or 7 kilometers along the canals of the city. You can simply walk the art trail, but it’s more fun to book a Light Festival canal cruise. Amsterdam Light Festival runs from the first week of December until te last week of January.
Fabrique des Lumières
One top thing to do in winter in Amsterdam is to visit Fabrique des Lumières. In this theater at Westergas the greatest artist come to life in a beautiful audiovisual way, you’ll be experiencing their art works like never before.
Spot street art (indoors)
Spotting street art is one of my favourite things to do when I visit a city and Amsterdam has some amazing street art. But when it’s winter in Amsterdam, you’ll rather not be outside for too long. And visiting street art museum STRAAT will give you the opportunity to see the works of world famous street artists, but indoors. STRAAT is Amsterdam’s street art museum located on quirky, alternative NDSM island and will show you over 50 amazing works by wold famous artists.
Try some oliebollen
Winter in Amsterdam is not complete without trying the typically Dutch oliebollen. During the winter months, especially in November, December and January, you will find oliebollen stands all over Amsterdam. Oliebollen are a typical Dutch new year’s treat and the Dutch eat them on New Year’s eve. They’re a bit similar to doughtnuts and come plain or filled with raisins. Oliebollen taste best with some powedered sugar on top.
Winter in Amsterdam calls for visiting some of its top museums. Of course, you can’ts kip Rijksmuseum where you will find the absolute best paintings of all the great Dutch masters. Come face to face with the famous paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer, but let yourself be surprised by some Dutch Golden Age painters you haven’t heard of yet.
Van Gogh Museum
A huge number of the works of Vincent van Gogh are to be admired at the Van Gogh Museum. Visiting the museum is like stepping into Van Gogh’s turbulent life and seeing his work evolve alongside his mental state of mind. It’s both intriguing and a little heart breaking. I found that taking a guided tour in the Van Gogh Museum made me understand the artist and his works a lot better.
National Tulip Day
When the Dutch take down the Christmas tree, tulips are brought into the house to give it some colour again. And if you visit Amsterdam in the 3rd weekend of January, you can even get a free bouquet of tulips on Dam Square during National Tulip Day. Everyone is allowed to pick a couple of tulips for a bouquet from a specially designed ‘garden’. A great way to celebrate the tulip. Read more about tulips in my article Tulips fields Netherlands: 10 things you want to know.